In this guide, I’ll give you a step by step process and template how to create an ideal customer profile for B2B companies.
But before we’ll dive in, I want to tell you about the biggest misconception.
If you’ll open any marketing book right now, in 99% of cases you’ll read the same advice on the first pages: create a customer profile before planning any marketing campaign.
Sounds obvious but this advice is actually a pitfall which leads to problems with lead generation – you don’t need a customer profile. You need an Ideal customer profile (or ICP for the future abbreviations).
What’s the difference?
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.
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?
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.
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.
You should agree that it is 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.
One is mandatory elements in the ideal customer profile is the geographical location of your target audience.
I'll list several obvious things why location is so important but still, I'm surprised how many companies neglect them.
Alignment of marketing activities to prospects timezone.
That is the most common mistake why some companies don't succeed with lead generation.
Just a quick example.
If you are targeting US companies, don't forget about the time difference.
When you target audience start work day in New York (e.g. 9.00 AM) people in Seattle might be sleeping (e.g. 6.00 AM).
But you'll be surprised if I tell you how many companies do not take this into account.
The same counts working hours.
If you are in Europe and are prospecting companies from the US, don't forget to align your working hours. This means you should have somebody who'll work on the second shift in the evening hours.
Especially, it is important for the support and sales teams.
Adopting your marketing message to the target market.
Like with examples of the age of the ideal customer, different markets have the different mentality, negotiation and decision-making process, different features and values.
Still, English is a universal language for сommunication in the whole world, I can't fully describe the benefits of localization and target market research.
Not only you'll be able to learn more about prospects, their needs, purchasing and negotiation process, factors that are important for them when purchasing the product like yours but you'll be able to find local target resources where your target audience hangs out.
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 point of view, such approach is their omission.
After all, men and women have different approaches to decision-making.
When making decisions, men are more often oriented to their mind, women - to intuition and their feelings, to their emotional impressions.
That's why your proposals can't be universal: sell benefits to men, and emotions to women.
Of course, you shouldn't take the advice literally but if you'll see that specific gender dominates among your customers, you should adopt your marketing materials to this gender features.
Target resources are resources that your target audience regularly visits (websites, social media groups, forums, blogs, etc.).
Target resources are important to know:
+ Where we can reach our target audience (TA)
+ What content does TA consume and what content is in demand (their current challenges)
+ A dominant social media for lead generation
This information helps to avoid guesswork when creating a marketing plan and choosing what marketing channels you should work on.
I’ll cover the exact process you can get this information from your customers a bit later in this post.
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-collars.
These categories have different factors that influence a purchasing decision, different purchasing power, different purchasing process.
That’s why focus on specific job positions will help you to personalize your marketing message to this group of prospect and create effective pricing policy.
Job position is also good criteria for marketing qualification 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 of their problems, the more high-quality leads you’ll be able to generate.
The same counts proposals.
Leads want to see how your product will solve their problems instead of listening how great it is and 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 to 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 and lead nurturing sequence to overcome them beforehand.
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.
Check this guide where I cover the details how to properly segment your market.
#2 – Find in your CRM 10 key customers from that market segments
Let me answer first the most common question: why I call the document we are working on ideal customer profile? Not simply customer profile or buyer persona?
Because your clients aren’t equal!
Few of them can generate as much profit for your company as other 50% of customers.
But the most common and the biggest mistake I see is that companies don’t devote these clients the time they deserve (I mean they don’t devote them around 50% of their time).
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 by revenue. Then, select top-10 clients.
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.
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 CSV file 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 websites your customers share content 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 is to your surprise is missed by so many companies.
In 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?
I bet you understand the importance of this information. Never brainstorm it, just call and interview your core customers.
It will help you to improve your product, generate more referrals, improve unique selling proposition and personalize marketing materials.
Another tip: create a buyer persona questionnaire from this questions and give to your marketing team (or sales, if they will be in charge of interviewing customers).
#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, target resources, reasons why they buy your product, you should put here as maximum information as possible.
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 control 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.
Remember famous quote by Theodore Levitt said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole”?
The same approach you should use when answering this question.
This will help you to figure out who might be a potential buyer persona 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.
Of course, 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 or social media communities, 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 answer to this last question will help you to figure out the basis for unique selling proposition (USP) and USP amplifiers.
Instead of conclusion
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, one time per quarter. For stable businesses, you should update ICP, at least, one time per year.
As I mentioned, the ideal customer profile is one of the core elements of the system B2B marketing.
Learn more about system B2B marketing in free email course by clicking the image below.