B2B Sales is one of the fastest and most competitive aspects of business right now. Companies all over the world are scrambling to find the right team, technology, approach, and process to get their product or service in front of the right business. One of the biggest misses I experience when working with brands is that early work of identify the target market and ideal customer. It’s a daunting task. Most organizations see their solution or product as capable of helping tons of businesses, or the people in them. The struggle is clarifying who the most optimal companies are. The companies that will be responsive to your offering. This starts with identifying the TAM (Total Addressable Market), SAM (Serviceable Available Market), and then SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market). By taking the time to identify these three spheres of connection, a brand is able to begin identifying a real obtainable target. If you have no target you have nothing to aim for, or hit.
Once the data is collected and target audience developed the next step is to find the ideal customer or company profile within the target audience. This is essential to success in B2B sales and marketing.
What Is An ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)?
An ICP describes the kind of company that could realize the greatest benefit from your service or product. It’s related to company size, budget, industry, and similar factors. An ideal customer profile is not the same thing as a buyer persona. A buyer persona, on the other hand, is about the kind of individual person who’s employed by that company. Personas are based on factors such as role, job title, function, seniority, and income. The buyer personas are who your sales people will specifically target after the ICP is fully developed. These are in the next step of the process of developing a sales approach, but for the sake of this article we are sticking with the ICP.
(Depending on the service or product being sold, some factors may be more relevant than others. For example, a HR software supplier might be especially interested in companies above a certain employee headcount.)
What is the value of an ICP?
An ideal customer profile is valuable because it defines where you win, not just where you sell. It’s a difficult acceptance but the truth is that your solution can be purchased by people but they may have no real use for it. If you sell your product to every single company that can potentially afford it, you’ll experience higher churn and negative feedback because of the false-fit. When you have a solid ICP, you know what types of companies are worth pursuing for a successful, long-term business relationship. This saves you money because you will see faster, smoother sales cycles, happier customers, and will benefit from higher average Annual Contract Values (ACV) and more importantly Lifetime Values (LTV).
As an added bonus: Success at selling from your desired price is far higher because you aren’t trying to strike deals with cash-strapped companies that might benefit from your product, but don’t fit the profile of a company that can realize the optimal benefit.
So, you may be asking, “How do we develop our Ideal Customer Profile?”
Start looking at your past successes and failures. Which accounts have seen the most success with you? What do they have in common? Which attributes made them such a good fit? Then, go down the components list from the previous section and identify the other attributes of your ideal account based on past experience. Creating a solid look-a-like outline is the best way to start.
Warning, you will find yourself getting fearful of eliminating potential customers with the narrowing down process. Don’t let that stop you. It’s natural to feel this way but you have to push through. Think of it as clearly identifying someone to speak to in a crowd of millions. If we try to target and talk to too many people the message gets muffled and no one hears us. The second thing to keep in mind is that you can always build multiple ICPs. It’s not a one-and-done thing.
Example 0f an ICP For A Cyber Security software and hardware company that provides on premise or cloud security for companies’ digital information and intellectual property:
“Our ideal client are North American based organizations who carry a CMMC / NIST mandate. They have over 25 employees interacting with multiple touchpoints all over the world, leveraging multiple projects, with an average revenue of $10M. Ideally decision makers are prioritizing security.”
How To Use Your ICP For Audience Development?
Once the ICP is defined, it can be used to develop content that’s relevant and interesting to people at the companies you want to reach. Certain topics of interest will come up repeatedly among firms that match the ICP. Some of those topics are peripheral and others are more direct. The goal is to create content and conversations around those topics to draw in the right audience in, or to be relevant in those direct conversations with a sales person. Then, as conversions continue and are tracked, you can measure the success to determine what potential customers are responding to most by verticals, industries, positions, etc. to help in expanding the conversation and improving conversions to drive revenue.