Bonus material: Ideal customer profile template, ICP checklist and survey template .
In this guide, I’ll give you a step by step process and template on how to create an ideal customer profile (or ICP) for B2B companies.
But before we dive in, I want to tell you about the biggest misconception.
If you open any marketing book, in most cases on the first pages, you’ll read the same advice: create a customer profile or buyer persona before running any marketing campaign.
While this is true, it leads to a trap many companies get in.
When I start working with a new client and ask to share their ideal customer profile, I hear:
Our target audience is marketers from US tech companies who need … (add your product or service).
While I expect to get a detailed description of their ICP.
Would you be surprised why do 63% of B2B companies (according to Hubspot) name lead generation as their core challenge?
All leads and customers aren’t equal.
The 80/20 principle tells that 20% of customers generate 80% of revenue. If we apply the rule once more, we’ll see that 4% of customers make 64% of revenue.
The real problem here is that most companies never devote this 4 % of customers and leads the time they deserve. They generalize all customers they have and try to satisfy everybody applying a “one size fits all” approach.
The ideal customer profile focuses on attracting high-quality leads who are similar to your best customers instead of prospecting everybody who might buy your product.
Now, when the difference is clear, let’s dive into the step by step on how to create an ideal customer profile.
Ideal customer profile definition
So, what is an ideal client profile?
An ICP is the impersonation of your key customers from a specific market segment: age, location, job position, industry, team size, yearly revenue, factors that influence their purchasing process, etc
I'd like to underline once more that every market segment you are prospecting is unique. That's why you must create separate ICP for different market segments to avoid the problems with marketing I mentioned in the story above.
Ideal customer profile focuses you on attracting high-quality leads who are similar to your key customers instead of prospecting everybody who might buy your product.
There are 3 purposes of the ideal customer profile.
First one is to adapt and improve your marketing materials like unique selling proposition, ads, proposals, landing pages, etc., according to the needs of your core customers and the factors that lead them to buy.
The second one is to figure out lead generation channels you can start focusing on the early beginning instead of guesswork.
The third one is to figure out important points for marketing qualification (MQL) so you’ll be able to analyze the quality of leads from every marketing campaign you’ll run.
The more detailed will be ICP, the easier will be to generate high-quality leads for your business.
There is a popular fable about the legendary company Procter & Gamble (the world leading producer of household chemicals and hygiene products) amongst marketers.
Marketers use to say that in P&G office you can see buyer persona examples – pictures of the core consumers of their products with a short description like:
"Jane Smith, 35 years old housewife, secondary education, three school-age children, makes purchases at Wal-Mart, loves the Oprah Winfrey show."
Despite this example is about a B2C customer profile, you got the point.
Even the undisputed market leader dive deeply into learning more about the customers and regularly updating ideal customer profile.
The core elements of Ideal Customer Profile.
Let's talk about the core customer characteristics we should add to the ideal customer profile.
Age is one of the most important factors to consider when planning marketing campaigns and preparing proposals.
It’s impossible to deliver equally the same marketing message to young people and people over 50. These two categories have completely different values, process, and criteria for decision-making.
While young people tend to experiment, try new tools and consider new opportunities the elder people prefer robust and reliable solutions, are more conservative and not tend to experiment.
By knowing the average age of the target audience, you will be able to tailor and personalize your marketing message to their needs and features.
This means not only leveraging the language your target audience speak but also apply to their influencers and idols, leverage target resources where they hang out.
The geographical location of your target audience of your ideal customer is very important.
That is the most common mistake why some companies don't succeed with lead generation.
If you are targeting US companies, don't forget about the time difference.
When you target audience start their work day in New York (e.g. 9.00 AM) people in Seattle might be sleeping (e.g. 6.00 AM).
Sounds obvious, but you'll be surprised if I tell you how many companies do not take this into account.
Understand normal working hours and don’t forget to take into account holidays specific to that region.
If you are in Europe and are prospecting companies from the US align your working hours.
This means you should have somebody who'll work on the second shift in the evening hours. This is especially important for the support and sales teams.
Adopting your marketing message to the target market.
As with examples of the age of the ideal customer, different markets have the various mentalities, negotiation, decision-making processes along with different features and values.
Even though English is the universal language for сommunication in the whole world there are huge benefits of localization and target market research.
You will be able to learn more about prospects, their needs, purchasing and negotiation process and factors that are important for them when purchasing a product like yours. You'll be able to find local target resources where your target audience hangs out and use that to your advantage.
Localization will help you to generate more high-quality leads from the target market and avoid silly marketing mistakes like Clairol did with their curling iron in Germany. The iron was named "Mist Stick" without realizing that "mist" means manure in German.
Or like Colgate did with their toothpaste in France named "Cue" – likewise the name of a French porn magazine
The next important element of ideal buyer persona is gender.
Many marketers neglect the gender when preparing ads, outreach emails or proposals but from my experience this is an important aspect to take into consideration
After all, men and women have different approaches to decision-making.
When making decisions, men are more often oriented to their mind and women lean towards intuition and feelings or their emotional impressions.
That's why your proposals can't be universal: sell benefits to men and emotions to women.
Be careful not to literally always apply this advice, but you should take note to see if specific genders dominate among your customers.
If so, you should adopt your marketing materials to appeal to these gender features.
Target resources are resources that your target audience regularly visits (websites, social media groups, forums, blogs, etc.).
Target resources are important to analyze for knowing:
- Where we can reach our target audience
- What content does your audience consumes and what content is in demand (their current challenges)
- Deciding with dominant social media you should pick for lead generation
This information helps to avoid guesswork when creating a marketing plan and choosing what marketing channels you should work on.
Just as it is impossible to make an equally effective universal proposal for different age groups, it is impossible to create a universal effective proposal for founders and blue-collar workers.
These categories have different factors that influence a purchasing decision, different purchasing power and different purchasing processes.
This is why, focussing on specific job positions, will help you to personalize your marketing message and create effective pricing policy.
Understanding the job position is also good criteria for marketing qualifications so you can dismiss leads who don’t fit your target job position.
When you know the answer to this question, you can skyrocket the efficiency of your lead generation campaigns.
The more you’ll draw the attention of your target audience to the solutions for their problems, the more high-quality leads you’ll be able to generate.
The same counts for proposals.
Leads want to see how your product will solve their problems instead. Not hearing how great it is and what awesome features it has
This information will help you to create relevant content to build relations not only with leads but with the existing customers.
I bet you’ve heard for life about new marketing mantra – delivering value.
The question is how you can deliver that value?
The answer: by helping your target audience handle existing challenges.
This is a very important element which not so many companies focus on.
When you figure out what objections and doubts your ideal customers have, you can update your content, sales pages, ads, case studies, lead nurturing program and provide helpful solutions to overcome them beforehand.
Check the sales pipeline guide if yo want to learn how to optimize and accelerate sales pipeline by consequently overcoming objections and doubts during lead nurturing.
The step by step process how to create an ideal customer profile
Let's dive into the step by step process how to create ICP.
#1 – Select a specific market segment
Like I mentioned earlier ICP is the impersonation of your key customers from a specific market segment.
This step is the most common mistake companies make when working on ideal buyer persona. They select customers from different market segments and try to create a universal customer avatar.
Customers from different market segment have different reasons for buying and using your product. That’s why versatility only harms your marketing instead of simplifying.
More about the marketing segmentation you can read in the B2B marketing strategy guide.
#2 – Find in your CRM 10 key customers from that market segments
Let me answer first the most common question: Why do I call the document we are working on an ideal customer profile and not simply customer profile or buyer persona?
Because your clients aren’t equal!
A few customers can generate as much profit for your company as the other 50% of customers.
But the most common and the biggest mistake I see is that companies don’t devote these profit producing clients the majority of the time they deserve .
The same counts lead generation.
Companies focus on broad groups of prospects instead of targeting the most profitable segments.
That's why the second step is to filter your CRM by market segment and revenue. Then select top-10 clients.
If you don't have a CRM yet or use another tool for CRM, check my marketing stack to find a suitable one.
Our goal is to generate more leads like these clients.
#3 – Fill the ideal client profile template
Now it's time for some manual labor.
To fill in the ideal customer profile template you'll need to collect data from CRM, analyze social media profiles of your customers and interview them.
Let's start with the easiest one.
In your CRM you should look for the full name, sex, location, job position, team size, year turnover, etc.
If some data is missed, you can collect it during the next steps.
Also, I recommend listening to the conversations with these customers (both phone and email).
You can figure out their objections and doubts, so you'll be able to improve your proposals, lead nurturing content, sales pages and ads.
#4 – Collect additional information from social media
Additional information about your clients can be gathered from the social media.
If you can’t find your clients by first name, last name and company search (which would be a bit weird), you can export their emails to a CSV file (a plain text file that contains a list of data) and upload them on LinkedIn.
Go to My Network –> More Options –> Upload file and upload a file with contacts of your customers.
LinkedIn will show you their profiles.
On Facebook, the process is more sophisticated.
Click on Find friends button and, then, click on other email and enter your Gmail.
You might see the error message.
Don’t worry, just skip it and click on Find friends button. You’ll be redirected to the page where you’ll be able to upload a list with your contacts.
Now you can manually analyze every client profile and collect the necessary data, or use the tool called Stalkscan.
In this video, I'll show you how to use Stalkscan for collecting the data about your customers.
Besides the basic information about the job position, age, sex, the location I personally recommend to take a look at the websites your customers share content from on their profiles.
What influencers content do they engage with.
What communities are they in.
This will help you to figure out target resources you'll be able to use for content promotion, PR and lead generation.
#5 – Interview your customers
This is the most important step which surprisingly is missed by so many companies.
In the previous 4 steps, we collected the basic information which can help us understand better who is our target сustomer and where we can find him.
In this step, our goal is to talk to our key customers and learn:
- what leads them to buy products like yours?
- what factors influence their purchasing decision?
- what are their current challenges that are related to your business?
- what are the problems your product solves for them?
- what might happen if these problems won’t be solved?
- why did they choose your company?
- what they love most about your product?
- are they satisfied with everything (quality, service, support, results, etc) or something can be improved?
- what features they’d like to see in your product?
- can they give you a testimonial or recommend your company?
- what social media do they regularly use?
- which industry blogs, websites or influencers are they following?
- who is also involved in their negotiation process or with whom they consult before buying products like yours?
Understanding this information is so important. Make a list, be prepared and interview your core customers.
It will help you to improve your product, generate more referrals, improve a unique selling proposition and personalize marketing materials.
Another tip: create a buyer persona questionnaire from these questions and give to your marketing team (or sales, if they will be in charge of interviewing customers).
If you have enough customers, have already completed these steps and just want to regularly get insights about your audience, you can implement my approach.
I have an automated weekly newsletter for the new subscribers and leads. In the middle of the sequence, I send an email asking about the feedback.
Here is a screenshot of my survey.
Feel free to adapt and leverage it in your business.
#6 – Define ideal customer profile from existing data
The last step is to analyze all the data you’ve collected from your 10 best customers from the specific market segment and create an ideal customer profile.
Sometimes you’ll be perplexed with what you should put in front of some points like age or job position.
Don’t trick yourself.
Did you notice in the template 2 columns: customer share in your company’s revenue and customer share in the company’s revenue from the specific market segment.
When you’ll be perplexed, just take a look at the customers with the biggest share and put this data into the template.
When it comes to points like doubts and objections your customer have, identifying target resources, reasons why they buy your product, you should put as much information as possible here.
Now you might be wondering this next question.
What to do if you want to enter new market segment where you don’t have customers?
Here is what I recommend to do when creating buyer personas for a new market segment or a new product:
1. Make a list of top 100 customers from this market segment
2. Brainstorm who is the decision-maker at these companies (job position)
3. Find them on social media and collect available information (check the Step 4)
4. Send them a friend request and invite for a lunch (if you are in the same city), or ask are they available for the quick chat about problems your product solves
5. If they didn’t reply, send several follow-up emails and send a private message on social media
6. Interview them with the questions from Step 5. Of course, instead of asking: «What do you love most about our product?» ask: «What do you like most about the products that solve these specific problems?» 🙂
When you’ll get your first customers, return to this guide and repeat the steps from 2 to 6.
5 questions to check your ICP
One of the most common questions I get about ideal customer profile: how can I be sure I did everything the right way?
The first solution is to hire me as a consultant to check it and give you a feedback.
Just kidding :).
Here are 5 control questions that will help you to evaluate the correctness of your ideal customer profile.
Theodore Levitt is known for the famous quote when he said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
This is the same approach you should use when analyzing what problems your product solves.
This will help you to figure out who might be a potential buyer of your product.
After you’ve figured out market segments that might benefit from your product, be sure you know who is a decision-maker.
When you are prospecting accounts where several people are involved in the negotiation process, you should mention all of them but underline the core person with whom you are negotiating mostly.
This information will help you to answer the next question.
When knowing this information, it is much easier to plan marketing campaigns and choose target resources for PR and advertising.
Target resources include professional websites, specialized forums, social media communities and professional organizations.
These resources can be used for publishing press releases, banners, advertisements, guest posts to attract the attention of your target audience.
This information is necessary to focus marketing materials on solving these challenges.
The best part?
People love to talk about their problems, all you have to do is ask the right question and listen up.
The answer to this last question will help you to figure out the basis for unique selling proposition (USP) and USP amplifiers.
In this guide, I gave you a step by step process to create an ideal customer profile, showed the most common mistakes and underlined the importance of ICP.
If you are entering new market segments, I recommend you to update ICP, at least, onсу per quarter. For established businesses, you should update ICP, at least, once per year.
As I mentioned, the ideal customer profile is one of the core elements of the system B2B marketing.
Have any other ways you create ideal customer profile?
Feel free to share them in the comments below. Would love to hear from you and discuss the best practices.
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