What is an ICP?
If you say your product is for everyone, you’ll have a message that interests no one. Sure, you have your niche, but inside that niche you’ll find some prospects are better customers than others.
In order to better speak to that audience of “perfect fit” customers, you’re going to have to identify as much as possible about them. You need an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
Why do I need an ICP?
The ICP is your guiding beacon. It informs you on what your messaging should be. It defines how you speak to your target audience.
Especially if you are starting out, you need to be solving one problem for one type of business only.
Ultimately, an ICP gives your company the potential to work with the customers you love and make the most profit doing it.
How do I create my ICP? Some guidelines to consider
The 7 qualities of an ideal customer
According to Lincoln Murphy, author of the Customer-Centric Growth blog, here are 7 traits that you should be looking for when engaging with prospects on a potential solution.
1. Ready: they are aware of the problem they are facing and wish to solve it
2. Willing: they want to solve the problem now and are ready for the organizational change that comes with it
3. Able: they can afford to pay you and have sign off
4. They can be made successful: what you have to offer solves their problem and meets their need
5. It’s cost-effective to acquire them: this has to be ex
6. There’s ascension potential: there are further opportunities for upsells, cross sells and/or further growth on the existing deal
7. There’s potential for advocacy: they may spread the word, offer testimonials or refer
Your ICP is unique to your business
Don’t try to copy and paste this from somewhere else, like a company you admire or that operates in the same space. No two companies are the same. You need to do the work and establish what works best for you.
Your ICP is not a person
Remember that in B2B more often than not you’ll be selling to entire teams. That means your message and sales process will need to consider the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders.
Before getting into the weeds of individual roles, you need to be considering the characteristics of the companies you wish to serve – the firmographics. These are attributes such as company location, size, revenue band, size of the team that would use your solution, etc. The firmographics that matter to your company will vary on an individual basis and you don’t need to get overly complex.
If you’re uncertain what metrics matter most to your business, companies like ScaleUpSales can help you get clear on who you’re selling to – and then help you sell to them.
Use real data
I really wanted to type “don’t make stuff up” for this heading. This practice of dreaming up an imaginary unicorn customer is more common than you would think. You should use real data that you have either researched from prospective good fits, or from interviews from existing customers.
A great time to gather this information is during the onboarding process, where you’re capturing the details you need to execute.
Another method is to simply phone your customers up and ask them. Find out why they chose you over your competitors, and what value they perceive from your services.
As you start to listen closely to all of your customers, you’ll identify trends and commonalities that you can roll into your ICP and refine it further.
It’s not all about money – but it mostly is
In B2B, money talks loudest.
If you’ve ever had a nightmare client that you had to fire, or fantasize about firing, or felt deep relief when they canceled, you’ll understand that money isn’t everything. And if you haven’t experienced this yet, don’t worry, your day is coming.
If a client drains your time and resources whilst paying the same as everyone else, you might be better off closing that relationship off to focus more on finding more clients like those in your ICP.
Usually this problem comes about from not having an ICP, or not adhering to it.
Aside from direct revenue, other ways customers can bring you success include partnerships, connections, brand evangelism, referrals and social proof in the form of case studies.
The ICP is not one-sided
Yes, it’s lovely to have all these desirable attributes documented so that you can hunt them down in your future customers, but your offering exists to provide value and make other businesses money. Secondarily, it exists to make their lives easier or improve their process in some way.
If you have particular success in one area or with one particular type of client,, can you push a message that allows you to replicate that success for similar companies?
Update your ICP routinely
Nothing stays the same forever. The companies you serve will evolve, as will you. Creating an ICP is not a one-and-done venture. You’ll need to revisit the exercise at least yearly in order to update and adapt to changes in the market, and in your company.
Defining your ICP is integral to acquiring the right kind of client for your business. Without an ICP, literally anyone with a pulse is a target and that’s no way to do outreach!