Three Simple Steps to Creating an Ideal Customer Profile

April 19, 2016

Your sales team hates chasing unproductive leads. If only they had a crystal ball that would tell them when someone is a poor fit or just not ready to buy yet. Good news: your sales and marketing teams don’t need training in the mystic arts. They just need some guidelines to keep them focused on the right target audiences. They need to document an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), as well as buyer personas, in order to wrap their heads around who your business should sell to and how to sell to them.

Let’s talk about how to build an ICP that will help your sales and marketing teams know who they should invest in and who’s not worth their time.

What is an Ideal Customer Profile?

According to HubSpot: The ideal buyer profile defines which companies are a good fit for your offering and which ones are not. If you are a B2B company, the definition should be at the company level, not the contact level.

What does that mean for you? Well, here’s a quick example. If you’re a mid-sized electronics engineering consultancy with between $5 – $20MM in revenue and somewhere between 50 – 200 employees, your ideal customer profile might be:

  • Tier 1 manufacturer
  • $20 – $100MM revenue
  • 1,000 – 10,000 employees
  • Located west of the Mississippi

The midwestOr, you’re us. We’re a digital marketing agency located in the Midwest with a small but mighty team specializing in helping oft-neglected industries selling unsexy products (hey, we think you’re sexy) with inbound marketing strategies, website development, and HubSpot. Our ideal customer profile is not a global manufacturing giant like Samsung or General Electric.

Instead, our ICP might be:

  • Mid-size manufacturing company
  • $1 – $20MM revenue
  • 1 – 500 employees
  • 1 – 2 person marketing staff (or no marketing staff)
  • Interested in HubSpot
  • Located in the Midwest

Remember – embracing this kind of specificity is not limiting. There are plenty of fish in the mid-size manufacturing sea. Being specific about our ICP is EMPOWERING because it ensures that we’ll be working with companies that really need us, can afford us, and are capable of working with us to achieve their goals. And that’s a whole lot better than wasting our resources chasing rainbows, or Samsung. 

Should I Develop an Ideal Customer Profile?

You should develop an ICP if you need help knowing when to say no and when to say yes. Saying no to types of customers who are a poor fit will save your team time, money, and aggravation. In fact, saying no will help you better determine to whom you should say yes.

Yes or noSaying yes to the right customers will feel empowering for everyone in your company and help significantly shorten your sales cycle. Having an ideal customer profile will also help you develop the right strategies and messaging as well as where to most effectively share that messaging.

How to Develop an Ideal Customer Profile in 3 Steps.

Here’s a step-by-step outline of the way the Hivehouse Digital team develops ideal customer profiles for our clients.

icon of an arm flexing 1. Definition of You.

The first thing we do with a client is get clear on who you are as a company. We conduct a workshop to gain understanding and alignment on your company, its perceived strengths and weaknesses, and its systems and capabilities. Our goal is to mine key pieces of information that make your company unique. This will guide the content positioning for overall marketing and sales activities as well as entrance into new markets.

icon of a bullseye

2. Definition of Your Buyers.

Next, we conduct a second workshop to gain understanding and alignment on the target audiences and buyer personas. Together we document the current target market(s) as well as the potential markets for expansion. Each market (Ideal Buyer Profile) is defined and documented following this framework:

  1. What size of company is a good fit, or not a good fit, for your product?
  2. How do you define company size? Number of employees, revenue, customers, or another metric?
  3. Which industry verticals are ideal and not ideal?
  4. What use cases are ideal or not ideal for buyers of your product?
  5. Which geographic locations are ideal or not ideal for your product?
  6. Are there any other attributes to consider that make your buyer ideal or not?
  7. Where do they hang out?
  8. What do they read? Both online and offline?
  9. What do they search for online?

Develop your own
ideal customer profile.

use our FREE template

icon of 3 squares and an arrow3Prioritize the Target Markets

Now, select 1 – 2 target markets that you want to develop into buyer personas.

Buyer personas are fictional characters with names like CEO Charlie, Marketing Manager Mary, or Project Manager Pete. They represent the typical people who are the researchers and/or decision makers for the buying process in which they’ll (hopefully) decide to work with your company.

Personas help you get into the head of your customers, understand their pain points, their motivations, and how they make purchasing decisions. They help you choose the right words and imagery. They’re a sanity check for anyone writing a sales email or sending a tweet.

  1. Would Project Manager Pete like this?
  2. Would he find it valuable?
  3. Would it make him want to know us better?

Personas are the foundation for all of your tactical marketing and sales strategies and plans.

Key inputs for developing the buyer personas are:

  • Typical Roles/Titles
  • Goals/Motivations
  • Challenges/Pain Points
  • Where do they educate themselves about products/services?
  • What are the best ways to communicate with them?
  • What do they value?
  • What is their main challenge?
  • When these personas engage with you what are they looking for?

B2B companies should also think about:

  • Do they make purchases by impulse?
  • Will they need approval by a committee before making a purchase?
  • How will variables like supplier diversity affect their vendor selection process?
  • Do they seek out referrals?

At last, we develop what we call The Core Messaging.  Based on the information gathered in the discovery sessions, we develop overall messaging and position statements for your company. In addition, each target market will have more specific messaging identifying unique positioning statements and key items that will be used by sales and marketing. Messaging and key statements will change based on what stage of the buyer’s journey the persona is in.

The buyer’s journey is broken down into three stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Each stage is a unique opportunity for you to deliver the right content at the right moment. Imagine getting high-level information about your industry in front of people who are just beginning to research a problem that your company solves. Or delivering a service offerings matrix to a prospect who is making final decisions about you and a competitor. Or better yet – sliding a free demo to a prospect who’s ready to buy. That’s meeting them where they are. And that’s how most people want to buy these days.

Before We Go

How to make a good marketing foundation even better:

  1. Verify your hunches about your ICP and personas by conducting interviews with real people. Happy customers are a great place to start.
  2. Next, marketing teams should work closely with sales teams to make sure that content is developed for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
  3. Finally, we know this is a lot of work, so if you need to consult with marketing pros (like our team!), grab time on our calendar. We’ll help you make sure you’re asking the right questions and are on the right track to developing solid buyer profiles and personas. We’ll help you bring your ICPs to life so you can maximize your marketing efforts and drive sales results.

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