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3 Steps to Define Your Ideal Customer Profile

Think about your marketing strategy. Are you guilty of trying to be everything to everyone? Do you have a fear of missing out on potential business – so you target every possible vertical, audience, and industry? Or is your strategy underperforming? You may have a misalignment of targets and content.

You may think that by casting a wide net, you’ll catch more fish. But the truth is that you’re missing out on the opportunity to make a real connection with your most valuable target audience. If you have performance concerns with your current targets, you might be having a similar challenge. To get the full benefits of ABM, you need to create an ideal customer profile (ICP), use it to prioritize your targets, and align to their needs.

Personalized content is an essential part of account-based marketing – yet 40% of B2B marketers find it challenging to develop the right content for their target audience. That’s because you can’t personalize and target content without an ideal customer profile.

What Is an Ideal Customer Profile?

An ideal customer profile is a list of characteristics that make up your ideal customer. This customer is ideal because they are a good fit for your business: They will benefit from your product or service, creating loyalty and LTV, and you will benefit as well in terms of revenue and referrals. Ideal customers are extremely valuable, which is why defining them is so essential.

Developing your ideal customer profile happens pretty early in the ABM process – even before you identify your target account list (TAL) or create your buyer personas. So how is an ICP different from a buyer persona? The ICP describes your ideal account while buyer personas describe the individuals within that account that make up the buying committee.

An ICP is never one-size-fits-all. Your ideal customer profile template is meant to focus your sales and marketing resources on the best potential customers at any given moment. You can have more than one ICP, and you can also review and revise your ICPs at any time as your customer list, sales objectives, and growth goals change. Creating an ICP is a starting point, not an end game. So don’t feel boxed in!

How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile

Creating a good ICP is about synthesizing qualitative and quantitative data inputs to better understand who your best customer is, what they need, and how your product helps them. It starts with your current customer list and your goals. Then you apply it to your market and voila – you have an ideal customer profile.

Step One: Determine Your Best Customers

Any goal needs to be defined before it can be achieved, and that goes for your ideal customer profile, too. First, define the traits that make a good customer: better ROI, reduced churn, low onboarding costs, high referrals, and so on. These criteria are very dependent on your goals as a business, for example:

  • Reduce churn by X%
  • Increase revenue by X%
  • Improve contract value by X%
  • Gain X customer referrals
  • Reduce onboarding costs by X%

You’ll also need to determine a time frame – three to six months is often a good amount of time, but can be adjusted based on sales cycle.

Next, ask your sales, marketing, and executive team about the customers they think best deliver on those criteria. Use your CMS, CRM, and analytics programs to find historical data on your customers, see what worked and what didn’t, and determine which customers ultimately had the least churn, most revenue, etc.

At BOL, we do this via qualitative sales discovery interviews and quantitative closed-won deal analysis. The more customer information you have, the better and more complete your ideal customer profile will be.

Step Two: Determine the Traits of Your ICP

Now look at the list of your best customers and determine what they have in common. For example, you may find that customers in a certain industry or vertical tend to have the shorter onboarding time you’re looking for, or that customers with a certain revenue will be more loyal over time. Look at traits like:

  • Target market
  • Annual revenue size
  • Number of employees
  • Distribution of the workforce
  • Geography/location
  • Verticals
  • Technology used
  • Routes to market
  • Marketing strategies and ecosystem
  • Vertical/market disruptions that might be a trigger

These are the characteristics you’ll want your ideal customer profile to have.

Step Three: Put Your ICP into Action

Taking an ideal customer profile template and putting it into action means using it to create and prioritize your target account list. Which companies should you be going after in order to achieve your goals? Now is the time to do market research to determine who fits your ideal customer profile. Your ICP will also help you find in-market accounts that are not on your current TAL, but should be, because they match the profile and are giving off buy signals.

As you research your potential market, remember to look at your product or service from their perspective.

  • Would they know they’re your ideal customer if they looked at your site?
  • Would they feel comfortable with your app, product, or website?
  • Would they feel like your service was designed for them?
  • How easy is it for them to see your products as a solution to their problems/goals?

If the answer is no, they may not be your ideal customer.

Ideal Customer Profile Template

We have several ideal customer profile templates we like to use here at BOL to create and prioritize our ICPs. The table below is your sales checklist. It should highlight all of the characteristics your team agreed on that are important to the success of your organization, and more importantly, to the success of your prospects.

Category

Characteristics

Target Market

B2B; Sells to enterprise-sized customers; sells across specific industries and sales territories; marketing/sales departments

Marketing Strategy

ABM; Targeted paid media campaigns to A+B accounts; Demand-gen inbound campaigns to A+B accounts

Annual Revenue Size

$50m to $2B

Geography

CA, Las Vegas, Phoenix, NE

Verticals

B2B IT/Tech, B2B SaaS, B2B Manufacturing, B2B Tech targeting healthcare, B2B FinTech

Attributes

Uses salesforce or another CRM platform; early adopter of ABM

Routes to Market

Mostly direct but some accounts will have partnership or reseller opportunities

Marketing Ecosystem

Mostly enterprise (long sales cycle, lead based) but in some cases, especially SAAS software, transactional as well

You can then use your ideal customer profile to prioritize the accounts on your TAL using the table below. Take each of your verticals and rank them on a scale of 1 to 3 (1 being the highest) for the following criteria. Remember, this will be in a constant state of flux based on sales cycle as prospects come in and out of market.

Criteria

Vertical 1

Vertical 2

Vertical 3

Urgency: How badly does this customer need your services right now? How much pain are they in?

1

3

2

Resources: Do they have the resources (money, time, energy) to invest in your services at this time? 

1

3

3

Acquisition Efficiency: Is it cost effective to get in front of decision makers at this company? 

2

1

3

Growth Potential:

Are there cross-sell and upsell opportunities?

1

3

3

Lifetime Value: How long will they use your product? Will they refer other high-value accounts?

2

2

1

Add up each column and now you not only have an ideal customer profile template, you have priorities. You’re ready to start building buyer personas and brainstorming your first campaigns. 

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