If you could build the perfect B2B customer in a lab, what would they look like? What industry would they be from? How big would they be? What technologies would they use?
Building an ideal client profile helps answer these crucial questions and more — albeit with fewer beakers, and more data-driven market research.
The following article highlights everything you need to know about ideal client profiles: definitions, differences, benefits, and most importantly, how to build one for your company.
Let’s dive in.
An ideal client profile (ICP) is a detailed representation of a perfect customer for a company based on a range of characteristics including demographics, firmographics & technographics.
Building (and iterating upon) an ideal client profile helps businesses better understand what their main audience looks like. This results in more effective targeting, outreach & conversions.
If you’re selling chicken eggs, you probably don’t want to run ads to online vegan communities. They’re hardly a good fit for your business. Instead, you’ll find better luck running ads to fitness enthusiasts looking for a protein-rich diet. Certainly, targeting the latter will result in a superior return on investment and happier, more satisfied customers. A win-win!
Ultimately, your ideal client profile should be the type of customer you can provide the most value to and, in turn, can generate the most value for your company.
Unfortunately, defining an ideal client profile isn’t as clear cut in SaaS as it might be in the poultry industry. In later sections, we explore how to go about constructing your ICP in detail.
Ideal client profile and target audience are closely aligned, but distinct terms nonetheless. Generally, target audience refers to a broader audience that shares certain high-level commonalities such that they may benefit from what a company offers. An example of a target audience may be something like: mid-sized companies in healthcare and financial sectors.
Ideal client profile picks up on this and goes the extra mile to cover what this “target customer” may look like in far greater detail — including the nature of use-cases, pain-points, technologies, and decision makers involved. In a way, your ICP is a subset of your target audience.
Let’s take an example. Factors is an account intelligence software that helps B2B teams identify, qualify, and convert anonymous accounts visiting their website. This empowers better outbound efforts, retargeting campaigns and pipeline growth.
At an immediate glance, the target audience would be GTM teams from SaaS companies. Taking it a step further, however, we can say that Factors’ ideal client profile — that is, clients that will derive and provide the most value from our work — would be SME SaaS marketing and sales teams with significant ABM efforts, marketing spend & high-quality anonymous website traffic.
This gives us a specific market to go after.
Here’s an example of an ICP from Cognism:
There are several benefits to identifying the characteristics that make your ideal customer, ideal. Here are a few.
1. Better personalization: A deep empathic understanding of your ideal market’s traits, motivations, pain-points, and everyday workings will empower a far more personalized, tailor-made buying experience. Relevant campaigns, content, and conversations will go a long way in building fruitful relationships with potential customers and a positive brand image.
2. Better GTM performance: Without knowing who to target, marketing and sales teams often resort to expensive, ineffective spray & pray tactics — spammy blast emails, tangential cold calls, irrelevant ad campaigns. By building out a detailed, well-researched ICP, we can ensure thoughtful, more persuasive go-to-market efforts resulting in better ROI and pipeline growth.
3. Better internal alignment: A clear, internal alignment as to who you’re targeting will result in operational efficiencies across marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams. An ICP provides unequivocal direction as to who we’re helping and how we’re helping them.
Defining your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) isn't a one-size-fits-all process. It's a journey that involves careful consideration of various factors, including your company's goals, vision, and the stage of growth you find yourself in.
What remains constant is the core principle of defining your ICP: It's all about value
Defining your ICP should solely focus on how a potential customer participates and generates value for your organization. This value can be in the form of revenue, but it can also extend beyond the financial aspect, impacting your company in various other ways:
For example, in early stages, especially before the creation of a minimum viable product (MVP), you should seek early adopters who are willing to experiment with your solution. These customers may provide valuable feedback, helping you refine your offering. However, many companies struggle to cross the chasm and identify their most valuable customers at this stage.
As you progress to the growth stage, your ICP shifts. Now, you're looking for buyers who can provide testimonials and help you gather social proof, building trust in your product. You start evaluating the value these clients bring, factoring in Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) to test product fitment. It's a stage focused on customer satisfaction and building credibility.
But in the later stages, your ICP evolves yet again. Here, you're targeting customers with high lifetime value, those who not only contribute revenue but also showcase unwavering loyalty. These are the customers who become your advocates, providing referrals and further strengthening your brand.
So how do you write an ideal client profile? Here’s the 4-step process:
Start by making a list of 5-10 of your best, most-valuable customers. This list should be made up of accounts that actively use and derive value from your product. They should be made up of relevant stakeholders — i.e. decision makers and end users that are familiar with the problem your solution solves for.
If you’re at an earlier-stage, simply reach out to your network and marketing communities to request a quick conversation (remember, you’re not trying to sell them your product here. Simply learn more about what makes them tick).
Dig deep to learn everything you can about these customers. Raid websites, LinkedIn pages, Slack communities, competitor product reviews and anything else you can get your hands on. Look to identify your customers:
Once secondary research sources have been exhausted, set-up interviews for qualitative conversations on the motivations, pain-points, and everyday routines of your ideal buyer. Remember, this is your chance to get personal. Avoid generic, or worse yet, leading questions. Here are some questions to consider asking:
The Mom Test is a great read on how to structure interviews to be effective and unbiased.
At this stage, consolidate all your learnings across research, conversations, and anecdotal evidence into a big fat document. Carefully study your findings on your ideal customers and refine the results until you’re left with a masterpiece: an ideal client profile!
Defining your ideal client profile is an ongoing process that must never end. As markets, consumers, businesses, and products continue to evolve, so will the characteristics and expectations of your perfect customer.
It’s important to regularly go back to the drawing board and refine the details of your ICP. This will ensure you keep up with the times and stay perpetually relevant, fresh, and successful.
Ultimately, your ICP should be simple to understand, align with your marketing and sales strategies, and help you achieve your goals.
You have your ideal client profile all-set. Now what? Factors is an account intelligence and analytics solution that helps identify, qualify, and convert anonymous ICP accounts engaging with your website.
Only about 4% of website traffic reveals itself through form submissions. We can’t let the remaining 96% of anonymous pipeline go down the drain, can we? With Factors, you can:
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