Building Your Ideal Customer Profile

Who is your ideal customer?

No, really, think about it. We often quickly abandon our criteria for ideal clients at any prospect of a sale, but the truth is that a targeted approach often proves to be more effective. Account-based marketing, for example, continues to trend in the new year. And as a highly-focused approach, the Account-Based Marketing method, or ABM, relies heavily on your Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP.

If you’re adopting ABM, then you hopefully already know who your biggest client targets are. But, that information alone is not enough. The hyper-personalized nature of ABM demands an extremely thorough understanding of your ideal customer. Enter the ICP, your constant companion and reference for the ABM process.

 

What is an Ideal Customer Profile Really?

Tom Searce, who is Senior Analyst for Demand Generation at TOPO, describes the ICP as a “critical, strategic document” that serves as a roadmap to “identify the accounts most likely to become high-value customers.” These high-value customers then become the focus of your ABM strategy.

The ICP, according to Searce, is “critical to sales-marketing success,” especially in an account-based system where sales and marketing work closely with one another. A great ICP paves the way for “compelling business results,” like faster sales cycles, higher conversion rates, and greater annual and lifetime contract values.

Most importantly, an ICP is a plan for action, not just a series of brainstorming sessions or an elaborate thought exercise. Upon completion, Searce insists that it should be “shared across the entire organization and embedded in sales and marketing programs.” In fact, it shouldn’t just be embedded, it’s part of the framework for successful sales and marketing programs, particularly those that choose account-based strategies.

 

How to Build Your ICP

Each company’s ICP is unique, so it’s difficult to imitate anyone else’s framework. However, the intentional process of building the ICP always requires the same essential elements:

 

Cross-Departmental Input

When it comes to ABM, departments should already be working side-by-side. It’s important to make sure that input for your ICP comes from a variety of sources. The ICP according to a salesperson may look different than one according to a marketer or an accountant.

Make sure to collaborate so that you get the basis of your ICP and a better idea of the data that composes it.

Collecting ICP Data

Just like you’ll need all kinds of input regarding the ICP, you’ll also need a few different kinds of data. Basic firmographic data is an obvious choice, such as identifying a client's revenue, number of employees, or market share. However, the ICP goes deeper than just those surface characteristics.

You should also consider internal data, drawing from past experience and even looking up some closed-won accounts on the CRM. What do those highest value accounts have in common? What accounts are noticeably good candidates for growth according to their information and your interactions with them?

There’s also some more extensive research to be done about what Hubspot’s Aja Frost refers to as “Technographics.” What kinds of solutions and tools are clients already using? Could your product complement their current process? Are they looking to transition from one product to another? (SalesIntel can help both with researching your ideal customer and finding similar companies since we offer full firmographic and technographic data on all our company profiles.)

Then, the ICP also pays attention to behavioral data. What are common behaviors among your customers? What are the “trigger events” that commonly lead high-value accounts to you?

 

Segmenting Categories

Once you’ve collected all of that juicy, useful data, you can sort it into categories. Then you can choose the targets that are most aligned with your current sales strategy. When using ABM, it’s common to segment by high vs. low value, though depending on the volume of your data, there may be more categories.

Overall, remember that the focus of ABM is a more precise vision of the ideal customer, so while the variety of input and types of data is absolutely necessary, don’t let yourself drown in it. If you get too busy categorizing, you’ll lose sight of the action aspect of your ICP

 

And an ICP is Born!

Yes, sorting through all of that customer data may seem like quite the ordeal, but it’s entirely worth it for the results that highly specialized, account-based selling can provide. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the prospect of building your ICP. Using a variety of resources and departments, come together to nurture your ICP, bring it to life, and put it into action

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