The importance of Ideal Customer Profiles!

(Hint: it will make your life easier)

Why you should care about your Ideal Customer Profile!

Why do we need an ideal customer profile? What is it? And how is it different from buyer personas? Let’s try illustrating it with a little example:

Imagine the following: you just hired an ambitious new person for your sales department to propel your business to the next level. You want her to go out do some business development and close deals – many deals. She asks: “Who should I approach? And how?” to which you will reply: “As many as possible. And the approach is up to you. You can do this…”. Easy, peasy, melon squeezy (ever tried squeezing a melon?). Surely, you will be in for a treat! Chances are high that the new person will be frustrated after the first week because of the following reasons:

  1. Doesn’t know who to approach
  2. Doesn’t know how to approach
  3. Low success rate

Give people the right tools and they will work wonders!

Your lovely new salesperson really has great potential to give your company that needed boost. But without providing the right tools and information, work will be really (and unnecessarily) cumbersome for her. Just imagine you hire a programmer to develop the next big app and the only thing you give him is a Notepad and a clammy handshake. For some magical reason, he might get a result. But on the way there, he will have crossed Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell. You don’t want to do this to people.

Coming back to the example of the salesperson: wouldn’t it be helpful for her to know who to approach? What kind of company? What industry? Etc., etc… And that plus a few more details is basically what we would call Ideal Customer Profiles. With that information the sales person could start to create profiles, lists and subsequently develop a plan who and how to approach. Sounds much less frustrating. So now that we know that ICPs are actually quite helpful, let’s dive into it a little more.

How do I create my first ICP?

You need to ask yourself a few questions to establish suitable ICPs for your business. The following 4 questions will provide you with a good starting point.

  • What kind of company is your ideal customer?
  • Which companies fall into that category?
  • What do these companies do? What kind of tools are they using? Are they using similar products or services such as yours? Where do they get them?
  • Who is the key decision maker? Who will use your product or service? What does their org-chart look like? How much money do they make?

What kind of company is your ideal customer?

You need to be clear on the type of company you want to sell to. Is it an MNC, a local SME, fintech or public school, B2B or B2C? It is advisable that you create individual ICPs for each type of company. Your product might appeal to MNCs and SMEs, however your approach should be different between the two. 

Which companies fall into that category?

You defined what type of company you want to sell to. Great! Now in the next step start collecting information on companies that fall into that particular category. If you defined fast-food restaurants as your ideal customer, your next step would be to find all fast food restaurants that fit the description. Do your home work and scrutinize these companies until you found all information available to you. Think revenues, headcount, regions they operate in, etc.

What do these companies do? What kind of tools, products and services are they using? Are they using similar products or services such as yours? Where do they get them?

Show me your website and I show you who you are. After you know the basics about the companies you will want to know about their operations as much as you can. And nowadays websites can tell you quite a lot about that. Tools such as BuiltWith, Wappalyzer or W3Tech can give you good bits of information on the things your potential customer is using and paying for. Does your product or service match, complement or potetially replace these? Good! Get to work!

Who is the key decision maker? Who will use your product or service?

If you know who the shot caller is, it’ll be easier for you to craft the right approach. If you’re selling hosting space and your customer is a multinational conglomerate with 20,000 employees, you most likely don’t want to speak to the CEO or CFO but rather someone from middle management. If the company consists of 10 staff, the CEO might be the exact right guy to talk to. Even though, many times the user will not be the one who pays for the product (i.e. makes the final decision), it is always advisable to know about them and understand their pain points and needs. It might give you a bit of an edge when justifying your solution.

After you covered the basics, you can always add more information to get a better picture of your ideal customer. Your sales or BD team should know more about your existing customers and will be able to help you to clearly define criteria to look out for.

Difference between buying persona and ICP

 A buyer persona provides insights about a person you might potentially be dealing with (“Karen, the soccer mom” or “Marketing Martin”)  – say your perfect customer for B2C, or the typical decision maker within a company for B2B. The ideal customer profile (ICP) will tell you more about the company you want to do business with.

ICP and buyer persona complement each other and are both crucial tools to understand your customer to optimize your offerings and marketing efforts.

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