How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile
By Josh Baez, Client Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing
What is an ideal customer profile?
Terminus says it best. “An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a description of the company—not the individual buyer or end user—that is a perfect fit for your solution.” You can think of your ICP as a framework that highlights the specific, relevant characteristics of your ideal buyers. In application, an ICP enables sales, marketing, and customer success to have a far more accurate, consistent approach in what they say and do. And this consistency in both who they engage and how they engage facilitates a far more frictionless experience for your customers.
Before you can get to work on any of your content, messaging, or campaign initiatives, you should first have a well-defined, agreed upon ideal customer profile.
What is an ideal customer profile not?
An ideal customer profile is not an exhaustive list of characteristics from every single company you’ve ever done business with. And just because you work with a wide array of companies, it doesn’t mean every single one of them is part of your ideal customer base. Some will have more favorable attributes, while others possess less-than-favorable ones.
Your ICP should be a thoughtful, non-exhaustive list containing the best of who you want to do business with.
An ideal customer profile is not a buyer persona. Where an ICP is more focused on the fit of an account, your buyer personas will go into much more detail on the individuals that make up those accounts. That being said, we’ve found it particularly useful to identify a few employee demographics in the ICP as well.
Details such as key titles, buying decision roles, and job functions—while at the individual level—help us gain a better picture of an account’s maturity, sophistication, and readiness. Plus, having this information up front will give you a head start when it comes time to build out your buyer personas!
How to create an ideal customer profile
Now comes the fun part: creating an ideal customer profile! Luckily, getting started is easy. And once you have agreement on your ideal customer profile from sales, marketing, and customer success, it becomes much easier to not only go to market, but also to make refinements as you learn more about your customers, their needs, and their goals.
We like to think about the ideal customer profile in 4 distinct blocks:
- Company Firmographics
- Employee Demographics
- Account Technographics
- Company Psychographics
But before we get into the specific attributes of an ideal customer, it’s helpful to first think about 4 preliminary questions. These questions are designed to help you associate your ideal customer with an actual entity, rather than simply listing attributes in a table.
- Who is my ideal customer? First, write a few sentences about your ideal customer summarizing who they are. Think about this description as something you could easily provide to anyone in your organization, new or not, to give them an immediate, clear picture of who you’re selling to.
- What does my ideal customer do? Second, think and write a few sentences about the work your ideal customer does. What do they make? What do they sell? This helps further develop a profile of who your ideal customer is.
- What does my ideal customer value? Third, write a few sentences describing what your ideal customer believes are the most important values, skills, and/or traits of a new solution or purchase. This part is important because it helps ensure your content, message, and processes align with the values of your ideal customer.
- What does my ideal customer aspire to? Lastly, write a few sentences describing what your ideal customer aspires to. What is their grand company vision? Where do they want to be in the next 1, 2, 5, 10 years? This will help ensure you’re working with companies who share similar visions to yours, facilitating long-term relationships and alignment.
Now that you’ve answered those preliminary questions, let’s break down each block below.
We described the importance of firmographics up top, but for those who skimmed: firmographics allow you to gauge whether an account is a good fit for your solution. When thinking about the company firmographics of your ideal customer, think about characteristics like geography, industries and verticals, employee headcount, budget, and annual revenue.
Here are a few questions to help you determine what criteria should be included:
- How much does our solution cost?
- How many people does our solution require to implement and manage?
- Where does a majority of our business take place?
- What industries do we serve best?
We like to identify employee demographics in an ideal customer profile because buildings don’t make decisions—people do. Not only that, but having certain roles and job positions filled could indicate some level of maturity, sophistication, or commitment relevant to your solution.
So when it comes to employee demographics, think about the individuals involved in the decision making process at an ideal account. Consider things like key titles, roles, functions, departments, and buying committee responsibilities of the employees that work there. Here are a few questions to get you thinking:
- Who has final decision authority for a purchase of our type of solution?
- Who has technical authority for a purchase of our type of solution?
- Who has financial authority for a purchase of our type of solution?
- Who helps influence the purchase decision?
- Who uses our solution day to day?
Account technographics help you identify the profile of an ideal customer’s technology stack. This is useful to know for a few reasons. First, if your solution relies on another technology to function (like CRM or marketing automation), it’s probably important you know about that up front. Second, if a specific kind of technology enhances what your solution does, you can (and should) leverage that in your campaigns as well. Lastly—and similar to the point made about employee demographics—certain technologies may indicate some level of maturity and sophistication at the account you’d want to act on.
As you think about the technographics of an ideal customer, ask yourself these questions:
- Does our solution rely on another technology?
- Is our solution enhanced by other technologies?
- Is our solution redundant to existing technologies our ideal customer already has?
The last block of an ideal customer profile consists of company psychographics. These are details like a company’s grand vision for the future, and their goals and aspirations, and their attitudes, maturity, and values.
These traits help to round out the ICP and are useful in ensuring the values and vision of your brand aligns with those of your ideal customers. Defining an ideal customer’s maturity in the market is also key here. Because while they may be a good fit in every other area, they may not even be ready to run—let alone walk—with a solution like yours.
Using company psychographics, you can craft messages and content that align more closely to the customer. Your materials become more relevant, and your solution may become a much more valuable investment if it can deliver on its promises.
Here are a few questions to get you started on company psychographics:
- What do our customers value most?
- What do our customers aspire to?
- In terms of maturity, what kind of companies do we serve best?
- How committed are our customers to solving the problems we address?
- What phase of growth are our customers in?
- What internal challenges are our customers facing in relation to our solution?
Creating an ideal customer profile is a fundamental piece to build a predictable, profitable pipeline. It informs the way you go to market—who you reach, what you say, and what you offer.
It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. Yet all too often even the most mature companies lack this central resource. And as a result, you see sales barreling down one direction, marketing moving in another, and customer success going in yet another—all towards completely desynchronous goals.
But at the end of the day, these three business units must be united as a single revenue team. And with a clear, documented, and agreed upon ideal customer profile, you become that much closer to creating that unity.
Once your ideal customer profile is created, the next step is to begin recognizing and defining the buying committee. But more on that in a future blog post… For now, work cross-functionally with sales, marketing, and customer success to create an ideal customer profile that everyone agrees on and is proud of. And start the work of building predictability into your pipeline.