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Sales - 6 min READ

How to create an ideal customer profile (ICP)

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Author photo: Shabnam Kakar

Shabnam Kakar

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Imagine having to create ads for the customer journey without knowing who they’re for.

A marketing campaign without an ideal customer profile (ICP) is essentially just that. In other words, a shot in the dark. You can’t effectively target your ads if you don’t know who your audience is.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your covered. In this ideal customer profile article, we’re going to walk you through what an ICP is and how to create your own (using this template).

While you’re following the steps for ideal customer profiles, you’ll also learn different questions to ask along the way. Once you’ve defined who your ideal customer is, you’ll be able to use your ICP to laser-focus your business efforts to target these customers more effectively and earn more sales.

The results? More deals closed closed with prospects, more money made, and more growth accomplished.

What is an ideal customer profile?

An ICP is exactly what it sounds like: a profile of your ideal customer.

It’s the customer in the back of your mind when you’re thinking of product development, marketing (whether to prospects or customers), or sales strategies.

Your ideal customer is the one who benefits the most from what you’re selling and gives you a lot of value in return.

What exactly defines your ICP is something that only you know (which is what we’re about to cover).

ICPs are often confused as user personas—these are not the same thing.

Both are important and you’ll definitely want to develop and use both during marketing campaigns, but your ICP is actually what your user personas are based on. Basically, ICP is the “type” of client (or company) and user personas are examples of people that fall under that type.

For example, if you’re a SaaS company, your ideal customer might be businesses within the B2B tech industry. Your user personas will then be examples of specific employees you want to target among this group, like Bob the VP of Sales or Cynthia the CMO.

If you’re an American clothing retailer, on the other hand, your ideal customer might be consumers within a certain age range living in the United States. Your user personas would narrow this down further, allowing you to target potential customers like Paul the hipster.

Makes sense, right?

Why you need an ICP in your life:

While ICPs are meant to serve as an overview of your ideal customers, don't shy away from making yours as detailed as possible. The more detailed your ICP, the better you can identify and target your ideal customers as you focus on marketing efforts. The more detailed your ICP, the better you can identify and target your ideal customers.

Here are a few more benefits you can get from creating and using an ICP during marketing campaigns:

  • It’ll make you more money. Because you’ll know exactly who you’re targeting, your marketing spend will be allocated accordingly so no dollar is wasted chasing the wrong leads. You’ll also rake in leads that are more likely to become customers, increasing your win rate and helping you close more deals and make sales.

  • It’ll increase customer lifetime value. Knowing who you’re catering your sales process to will allow you to streamline your acquisition efforts and reduce customer churn.

  • It’ll get you more referrals. Building positive relationships with your customers from your target has never been more important than it is now. One of the reasons for that is when a customer is truly happy with your brand, they’ll tell their friends about it—who just might fit your ICP as well.

How to create an ICP: a step-by-step guide

Step 1: Make a list of your “best” customers.

Take a look at your existing customer base before you start creating ideal customer profiles. If you had to narrow down the list to 5-10 “best” customers, who would they be?

Pro-tip: If you’re just starting out and don’t have a whole lot of customers from your target audience to work off of, think about the type of potential customers that would most benefit from your product. Who needs your product or service the most?

You should (hopefully) have a lot of customers who love your brand. You can narrow this down to around 10 existing customers by looking at who’s getting the most value out of your product or service: value not only in terms of how you impact their bottom line directly (in the case of B2B companies) but indirectly as well, such as by alleviating pain points, increasing productivity, or otherwise helping them achieve their objectives.

In other words, how much does your product or service contribute to their overall success with existing customers?

Some questions to ask yourself to help you narrow down your customers are when you use marketing efforts:

  • Which accounts are your most profitable with customers?
  • Which accounts have been with you the longest?
  • Does the customer make significantly more money using your product than they spend on it? (Aka. return-on-investment or “ROI.”)
Image for post Need ICP help?
Pro-tip

Need ICP help?

Download this ICP worksheet to start identifying and sharing your ideal customers with your team.

Step 2: List their attributes.

Looking at your list of “best” customers, next to each one, list all the notable attributes about them.

For example:

  • Industry
  • Geography
  • Number of employees
  • Number of customers
  • Budget

As you’re writing these attributes out, you’ll notice you have more information about some current customers than others, or that you’re missing some details that would be very helpful to include in your ICP such as budget or the number of customers they serve.

That’s where customer interviews come in, which we’ll go into next.

Step 3: Interview them.

Remember, these people love you!

So, they’ll probably be more than happy to agree to hop on a call where you can ask them a few questions about their experience with your brand or product.

Shoot them an email asking if they have time to chat. For example:

Hey {First Name},

Hope you and the whole team at {Company Name} are doing well!

We just want to say we appreciate you being a long-time customer, and would love to set up a few minutes to chat with you about your experience with {your product or service}. We’re always looking for ways to improve, so we want to hear what you’re liking the most and where you think we can improve.

Let me know if one of the following times works for you:

  • Thursday, March 28 at 10:00 am PT
  • Friday, March 29 at 11:30 am PT

Looking forward to getting your feedback!

Cheers,

{Your Name}

{Your Company Name}

The goal of this call with the perfect customer will be for you to fill in any missing information and get a detailed account of their buying experience, from how they discovered you to why they decided to buy from you, and their experience with your product now.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask during this call:

  • How did they hear about your company?
  • What was their buying process like?
  • Who was the decision-maker for this product?
  • What were their primary pain points they were trying to solve?
  • What are their objectives now?

Step 4: Compile data and fill in ICP template.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your top customers, listed all their attributes and what makes them “the best” and interviewed them to get the full story, compile and organize all your findings together into one universal document—this will be your ICP.

Finally, after talking to the perfect customer, it’s time to fill out that ICP template we mentioned with the data you gathered.

Use your ICP to start targeting better today—here’s how.

Having an ideal customer profile in place will benefit multiple departments within your company, helping them to help your customers.

Here are just a few ways you can use ICPs to improve your business operations with new and current customers:

  • The Product team will be able to ensure the features and functionality of their products accommodate these profiles.
  • The Marketing team will have a better idea of what kinds of ads to produce, using language to evoke emotions that would cater to these profiles. They’ll also be able to use them to develop user personas to target ads even better.
  • The Sales team will qualify leads more effectively with a more detailed description of what they’re looking for, and know how to prioritize them.

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