When companies need to focus their marketing and sales efforts, they create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
An ICP is a fictional representation of the perfect customer for a company’s products or services. It includes information like demographics, behavior patterns, needs, and pain points.
This profile helps businesses to target their ideal customers and create marketing and sales strategies that are more likely to be successful.
What Is an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)?
An ideal customer profile (ICP) describes an ideal customer for a business based on common attributes like demographics, behavior patterns, needs, and pain points. The purpose of an ICP is to help businesses focus their marketing and sales efforts on the customers that are most likely to convert.
Creating an ICP can be a helpful exercise for any company size. Even if you don’t have a large marketing budget, an ICP can help marketing teams focus their efforts on the right channels and create content that resonates with their target audience.
For sales teams, an ICP can be a valuable tool for identifying and qualifying leads during sales prospecting. By understanding the characteristics of an ideal customer, sales reps can save time by quickly disqualifying leads that don’t fit the profile.
- ICP: The abbreviation for “ideal customer profile,” ICP is the more commonly-used term within businesses.
- Ideal Buyer Profile: For DTC companies, ecommerce brands, and some business-to-business (B2B) companies, “ideal buyer profile” is a more accurate term since customers are typically the ones making purchasing decisions.
- Ideal Client Profile: For services businesses, “ideal client profile” is better to use because clients are the ones who engage with and pay for the company’s services.
Benefits of ICPs
Throughout the sales process, the ICP acts as a North Star for sales and marketing teams. By having a shared understanding of the ideal customer, businesses can make better decisions about where to allocate their resources.
Here are some specific benefits of ICPs.
1. ICPs help prioritize marketing efforts
When creating a marketing plan, businesses need to decide which channels and marketing strategies will be most effective for reaching their target customers. An ICP can help with this by guiding where to focus their efforts.
For example, if the target customer is a young professional who is active on social media, it would make sense to send marketing messages on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. But if the ICP is an older adult who prefers traditional forms of communication, businesses should focus on strategies like direct mail or television ads.
2. An ICP can improve lead conversion rates
By definition, an ICP represents the ideal customer for a company’s products or services. Early in the sales cycle, sellers can use an ICP to identify and qualify leads from market segments that best match their business. By focusing on these high-quality leads, sales teams can increase their close rates and improve the overall efficiency of the sales process.
3. Using an ICP makes it easier to create targeted content
One of the most important aspects of content marketing is making sure that the right people see your content. An ICP can help with this by providing guidance on who the target audience is and what type of content will resonate with them.
For example, a B2B company that sells software to small businesses might create blog posts, infographics, and ebooks that explain how to use the software to solve common problems. Since B2B sales is largely a consultative process, bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content that educates prospects about a company’s solutions can be very effective.
4. ICPs improve account-based marketing efforts
Out of all marketing strategies, account-based marketing (ABM)—sometimes called account-based selling—is the one that is most closely aligned with an ICP. In ABM, businesses take a targeted approach to marketing and selling to specific accounts that are more likely to generate revenue.
Since an ICP is essentially a target account list, it’s the perfect starting point for an ABM program.
5. ICPs can be used to develop personas
A persona is a fictional character that represents a segment of a company’s target audience. Personas are often used in marketing and sales to help teams better understand the people they’re trying to reach.
Whether the persona is used to develop a new product, sell a service, develop a website, or even just to help new employees understand the target customer, it’s an effective tool for bringing the ICP to life.
6. ICPs can help with product development
The goal of any business is to create products and services that their customers want and need. An ICP can be very helpful in this process by providing insight into what potential customers are looking for.
Since user research is so critical to product development, an ICP can be used to guide user interviews and focus groups. This type of feedback can help businesses validate new product ideas and ensure they’re on the right track.
7. Demand generation is easier with an ICP
The demand generation process is all about creating awareness and interest in a company’s products or services. An ICP can help with this by guiding the type of content that will be most relevant to potential customers.
Ideal Customer Profiles vs. Buyer Personas
While both ideal customer profiles and buyer personas are used to identify and connect with a target audience, the two terms have a few key differences.
An ideal customer profile is a description of the type of customer who is most likely to buy from a company, whereas a buyer persona is a fictional character that represents this target customer.
ICPs are typically used by sales and marketing teams to help them identify and qualify different types of customers, while personas are mostly used in marketing to help create targeted content.
A few ideal customer profile examples include:
- A small business owner who is looking for ways to improve efficiency and save time
- A marketing manager at a large company who is responsible for lead generation
- A startup founder who is looking for investors
- A web designer who is always searching for the latest trends
- An ecommerce store owner who is looking for ways to increase traffic and sales
While an ICP provides a general overview of the target customer, a persona is more specific and can include things like demographics, interests, motivations, and even a name.
Usually, they are target markets represented by an entire overview of one specific person. The persona might be based on real data, but the character itself is fictional.
For example, a persona for a small business owner who is looking to improve efficiency might be named “Susan Smith,” and she might be 38 years old, have 2 kids, and live in the suburbs.
She might be interested in productivity hacks, time-saving tips, and organization.
Her primary motivation might be to find ways to free up her time so she can spend more time with her family.
Core Customer Attributes
Let’s take a look at a few of the most important attributes that should be included in an ideal customer profile.
Particularly for location-specific products and services, it’s important to target customers in the right geographic area. A software company that helps American business owners navigate tax laws, for example, wouldn’t want to market their products to customers in the UK, but would need to focus on different accounts based on which state the customer lives in.
Some companies sell expensive products that require a large budget, while others sell more affordable products that are within the budgets of small businesses and individual consumers.
When creating an ICP, it’s important to consider what type of customer can actually afford your products or services. There’s no use trying to sell a $10,000 piece of software to a small business owner and vice versa.
Enterprise software won’t necessarily work for small teams that don’t need advanced features and customizable solutions. On the other hand, small businesses and solopreneurs might not need enterprise solutions that are designed for larger organizations.
When creating an ICP, it’s important to consider the target customer’s team size and what product they would need.
When creating content or designing a product, it’s important to consider the target customer’s challenges. What are their pain points? What are their goals?
These can be used to guide sales teams through the sales process. And marketing teams can use them to create messaging that resonates with the people they want to attract.
Reasons to Purchase
Challenges are one reason to purchase, but others include things like wanting to improve efficiency, save time, or make more money.
These needs are both emotional and logical, and they should be considered when creating an ICP.
Goals are the things that customers want to achieve. They can be short-term or long-term, and they can be personal or professional.
Some examples of goals include:
- Starting a business
- Having better data
- Making more money
- Saving time
- Improving efficiency
- Getting more leads
- Increasing traffic
The decision-maker (or decision-makers) is the person (or people) who will be responsible for making the final purchase decision.
In some cases, the decision-maker is also the user, but that’s not always the case.
When creating an ICP, it’s important to consider the role of the decision-maker and what might influence their decision.
How to Build an Ideal Customer Profile
Let’s examine how you can build an ideal customer profile step-by-step.
1. Make a list of your best customers
By starting with your existing customers, you can better understand the type of customer you’re looking for.
This is especially helpful if you don’t have a lot of data to work with yet.
Start by making a list of your best customers. Include as much information as you can, such as:
- Company name
- Size of company
- Average order value
- Annual revenue
- Number of employees
2. Research common characteristics by talking to your best customers
Talk to your best customers and ask them about their business.
What challenges do they face? Why did they choose your product? What needs does your product meet?
This information can help you determine which other customers might benefit the most from using your product. You can also use it to craft your sales playbook, further improve your product, and create marketing messaging that resonates.
3. Determine the problems customers are trying to solve
Chances are, you’ll find some commonalities among your best customers.
From there, you can start to determine the problems they’re trying to solve. This will help you create content and products that are designed specifically for their needs.
Once you have similarities that you’ve identified and you can group them into buckets, you can start to create your ICP.
4. Document your ICP
Using an ideal customer profile template, document all of the information you’ve gathered. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page.
Your ICP should include:
- Demographics: age, gender, location, etc.
- Challenges: what are they trying to accomplish?
- Goals: what do they want to achieve?
- Decision-making process: who is involved in the decision, and what are their roles?
To help guide this documentation, you can use customer profiling tools that are available online.
5. Share your ICP with your organization
Before you can implement your new ideal customer profile, you need to share it with your organization. This includes your sales team, marketing team, and anyone else who might be involved in the customer acquisition process.
To share it across your organization, you can use a customer profile template. This will help ensure that everyone has access to the same information and that they understand how to use it.
Then, you can distribute it across your organization and make it available to everyone who needs it.
Using Your Ideal Customer Profile to Find Sales Prospects
There are numerous ways sales reps find potential customers and decision-makers who match their ICP.
- Use online search tools like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to target potential customers who match your ICP.
- Use market research tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find potential customers with a boolean search.
- Find referrals from existing happy clients or customers.
- Take a look at your website traffic and leads to see which companies are already interested in what you have to offer.
When using an ICP in sales, many teams also use CRM software to track and manage leads throughout the buying process. This software can automatically segment leads based on criteria like company size, location, and industry.
People Also Ask
Why do I need an ideal customer profile?
When you’re running a business, it’s important to have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is. This can help you to focus your marketing efforts and ensure that you’re targeting the right people. It will also give you a good baseline to work from when you’re crafting your marketing strategy.
Having an ideal customer profile can also help you to create more personalized messages that resonate with your target audience. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s essential to stand out from the crowd, and tailoring your marketing approach to your ideal customer is a great way to do that.
What are three techniques you can use to profile customer needs?
1. Top-down sales strategy: focuses on selling to high-level decision-makers.
2. Bottom-up sales strategy: focuses on selling to lower-level employees who have a need for your product and will raise awareness to high-level decision-makers.
3. Inside sales: direct selling techniques that are done over the phone, internet, or in person to the most probably decision-makers.
What are the 4 questions to ask when creating an ideal customer profile?
1. What are the customer’s demographics?
2. What are the customer’s challenges?
3. What are the customer’s goals?
4. What is the customer’s decision-making process?