Written by Market My Market’s content team, with contributions from Lauren Dominguez, Ryan Klein, Gina Ritch, Amanda Guglietta, Jordan Kimmel, Tyler McNulty, Jessica Unkel, and Brandi Nicklaus
Ask yourself, are your current or prospective clients your ideal clients? When you’re uncertain, you may not be capitalizing on one cornerstone of your business model—your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
Successful marketing messages rely on connecting with your audience. If you’re having trouble generating qualified leads or sales, chances are you’re not reaching your audience in a way that moves them to action. Of course, it’s hard to argue against the adage that more is better when it comes to sales. Having more prospects means more closed deals— if the prospects have been thoroughly vetted, that is. Unqualified leads could guide you astray if you do not screen them carefully.
So, you might ask yourself, how do you make your firm more profitable? In other words, how do you gain more valuable leads than your competitors? The answer is simple: know your clients like the back of your hand. However, executing this strategy is a different story. The trick is to find, engage, and nourish the best type of clients for your business.
What do you know about your ideal client? We’ve compiled all the best information to help you navigate the process so that your ideal client can be found right at your fingertips.
What is an Ideal Customer Profile?
Do you know why some businesses and sales teams fail to meet their quota? Their ideal customer profile (ICP) does not exist, or, if it does, it is not well thought out. Think of your ideal customer profile as a hypothetical avatar. It’s like a detailed representation and profile of your most valuable client.
It’s easy to overlook ICP development since many firms prioritize their brand identity.
Thus, understanding your ideal customer plays an equally, if not more, integral role in building a successful business model. What’s more, it’s hard to produce content that encourages your ideal customer to purchase your product or seek your services when you don’t know who your sales are directed towards. Essentially, if you don’t know who you’re talking to, you end up talking to everyone. The problem with that? You might end up lost in the noise.
Marketing initiatives often focus excessively on facts, features, or how to solve a specific problem. They don’t mention the why?; the so, what?; and the why it matters. The focus is purely on intellectualism rather than connecting deeply with people at their heart.
Start with this: Your ideal clients are real people. They face fears, doubts, and limiting beliefs that can prevent them from achieving the results they are seeking. Assuming you’re the right fit, you may be able to help them overcome their obstacles and move forward. This calls for a deeper understanding of your audience, the challenges they face, and what they are thinking, feeling, hearing, saying, and doing.
Focusing on only one problem and one person ensures that your messages make a greater impact.
Contributed by Amanda Guglietta, Content Specialist
Is an Ideal Customer Profile the Same as a Buyer Persona?
Although buyer persona and ideal customer profile are terms that get used interchangeably, they are distinct terms that represent different concepts. Sure, both terms include a set of guidelines you can use to qualify leads, but the difference lies in when (and how) you use them.
An ICP defines the ideal customer for whom your business provides services. Normally used by B2B companies, it describes the characteristics of a company that would purchase your product or service. When used correctly, having an ICP for your organization can help you:
- Clarify the problems your business helps solve
- Align your services with your customers’ needs
- Better plan future updates or changes to your company
- Sell to more targeted accounts
If you were to send all of your leads to sales, you’d end up wasting valuable resources on buyers that aren’t a good fit for your company – many of whom won’t end up closing a deal.
A buyer persona, on the other hand, is a semi-fictional concept used by both B2B and B2C companies. Based on real data collected on the individuals and businesses that are actually buying your product or service, it focuses more on the individuals behind a purchase. Buyer personas usually include data on your customers, including, but not limited to their:
- Goals or motivators
- Behavior patterns
- Communication preferences
While both ideal customer profiles and buyer personas are used to better understand your market, essentially your ICP will describe the kind of company you should try to sell to and your buyer persona will be an analysis of the people who already buy from you. Buyer personas will help you sell to the individuals that must sign off on a deal, and ICPs will help you identify more viable leads.
Contributed by Brandi Nicklaus, Content Specialist
Do you Need an ICP and a Buyer Persona?
Now that you better understand what an ideal customer profile is and how it differs from a buyer persona, you might be wondering if you need both. While the two concepts are different, they are linked together.
Defining both your customer profile and buyer personas can help one another. Ensure that the ICP you create advises your company on accounts they should target by defining their challenges, goals, and other traits. Your buyer personas then inform your team about the kinds of businesses or individuals they should create content for.
Incorporating both an ICP and buyer persona into sales will be beneficial. Having a well-developed customer profile can assist your sales team when narrowing down leads. When you do not have one, you will waste valuable time focusing on leads that will not sign because of their size, revenue, or other factors.
Additionally, using an ICP at the beginning of a sales cycle will allow representatives to prioritize accounts that will be a good fit for your company. Once they have this information, they can then look at different buyer personas to determine how to sell to the individual –– What challenges are they facing? How do they consume content?
Overall, an ideal customer profile defines who to target, while a buyer persona lays out how to best communicate with them. While they are different, they work together to ensure that sales are talking to the right businesses and marketing is creating content for the right people. Remember, as your company grows and changes, so will your ideal customer profile and buyer personas. Set a reminder to update them yearly, but you can do it as often as quarterly.
Once you successfully define and incorporate both, your company is off to a great start to gaining clients!
Contributed by Tyler McNulty, Content Specialist
How Does a “Fictional” Avatar Provide Value to Your Business?
Understanding who your customer is on a fundamental level means being able to identify the traits about them that make them unique. When you create a “fictional” avatar based on your ideal customer profile, you can accurately visualize who you are advertising to and how you can better understand them. This practice can add additional value to your business in a variety of ways, each of which allows you to broaden your knowledge about the challenges that your customers face and how they interact with your business.
Avatars allow you to hone in on specific attributes of an ideal client. As an example, if your business is geared toward selling orthopedic slippers, you will not need to target any marketing or advertising towards teenagers or young adults in their early 20s. You would, instead, want to focus on adults who are 60 years of age and up. Tailoring your ideal customer into an avatar can save you wasted time, effort, and money by ensuring that you never market towards the wrong audience ever again.
These avatars and profiles should regularly be updated to adhere to the values and goals of your business as it develops and changes over time. If you allow your avatar to stay the same while your business grows, it will only hinder your ability to accurately market and advertise to the necessary audience.
Contributed by Jessica Unkel, Content Specialist
Who Are You Doing It For? Define Your Ideal Client to Influence Their Buying Decisions
It might feel counterintuitive, but the more you focus and limit your ideal customer, the greater a chance you are giving your business to succeed. It can feel overwhelming to limit lead prospects, but you tend to appeal to no one when you market to everyone. People want a product they feel was made for them. When defining your ideal client, looking at demographic and psychographic traits can be highly beneficial.
Think of demographic data as information you can find in the census or other public records. You do not need to have every specific detail, just a general idea. The most common way to define your ideal customer through demographics is based on location, age, and income.
- Location: If you have a physical location for selling products or providing in-person consulting, you are confining yourself to a specific region. Before picking a location, make sure you do thorough market research. You do not want to spend money moving into a location where there is no market for your services.
- Age: Your product might only be targeted toward a specific age group. For example, if you are a probate attorney, consider picking a location with a higher elderly population. Young people most likely won’t need estate planning services for a few years.
- Income: Before establishing yourself in the community, find out what the average income is. If your business is too expensive for residents, they’ll most likely turn to companies that offer similar services at more affordable prices.
Psychographics represent the personalities, values, attitudes, and interests of your ideal customers. Simply put, understanding your ideal customers’ psychographics means understanding who they truly are. To do this, start by identifying your ideal customer’s WHY that drives them to purchase a service or product. Simon Sinek describes the importance of this concept best in his TED Talk based on his book, “Start with WHY”—the third most-watched TED video ever. He explains,
“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it.”
In other words, if you understand your targeted customers’ pain points and motivations that drive them to purchase, you can create content that addresses their fear, helps them overcome their objections, and inspires them to become paying customers. So, how do you accomplish this? Start by identifying the following psychographic traits:
- Personalities: Are your ideal customers introverted or more outgoing? Do they purchase your service or product when they are celebrating or trying to overcome a challenge?
- Opinions & attitudes: What are your ideal customers’ perspectives and opinions on the world, voting, environmental issues, and other political and social beliefs?
- Interests: Find out your ideal customers’ interests by learning what they do for fun, who they hang out with, who they follow on social media, and what their ambitions are.
While it may take time to determine these psychographic details, they are often central to understanding what inspires potential customers to purchase your product or services.
Contributed by Gina Ritch and Tyler McNulty, Content Specialists
What Tools Can Be Used to Create Your Ideal Customer Profile?
Most of us don’t have the time and resources to conduct elaborate focus groups and purchase swaths of professional consumers to analyze. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and vendors that are accessible to everyone in the small-to-medium-sized business space to be able to either construct the persona you’re attempting to target, or get a better grasp on the attributes and behaviors your ideal clients currently possess.
Customer Feedback and Surveys
When eliciting additional information from current or former clients, a tool like Survey Monkey can be used (for free!) to ask questions you believe will help you continue to position your business to get your next ideal client. For example, sending a survey to ideal former clients asking what was great, and not so great, about their experience will help you make the adjustments you need to become more attractive to like-minded individuals.
To take that formula and apply it to a larger group sooner than later, we’d recommend using something like MTurk to create surveys, further asking the participant to include personal information (but not too personal) about their age range, gender, location, and other preferences.
Industry and Competitor Research
Ever wonder why your competition is consistently getting the ideal clients you’ve been after? It may have plenty to do with how they are presenting their firm online. Gauging the types of cases and clients other firms have in your community will give you insight into the positioning and potential marketing they’re doing to attract those clients. For example, if you run a criminal defense firm that focuses exclusively on white-collar crimes, you’ll want to know how the nuances of prominent white-collar crime law firms differ from firms focused on DUI or traffic cases.
You’ll want to take note of the other firm’s:
- Social media activity
- Core values and mission statement
- Type of content they produce, especially on their blog
An alignment of these qualities can start to attract the ideal client you’re seeking.
Firm-Level Analysis: Who Are Your Most Profitable Customers?
Most growth-oriented firms have a CRM (customer relationship management) solution in place. The amount of data these tools can store and access is nearly overwhelming. Most CRMs can organize your clientele by different attributes; so, whether it be by a recorded retainer or settlement (if you run a law firm), you can produce reports that give you this information in ascending order of value and then determine what those clients had in common.
Data and Analytics
Other information, such as Google Analytics and reporting you get from paid campaigns such as Social and Google Ads, will be able to tell you aspects of your ideal client from a behavioral standpoint.
Examples of what you may uncover from Google Analytics can include data like:
- Your strongest leads are those that are on your website 5-10 minutes before contacting you, having read an average of 4.2 pages of content.
- Your best clients come from the immediate suburbs of your metro area instead of a 2-mile radius from your office location
- Your clients normally find your firm via a mobile device, and always have the newest smartphone to boot, meaning they’re often technophiles and appreciate modernized law firm processes
The type of data you might learn from paid campaigns, such as Google Ads and Facebook ads, may include information like:
- Clients are drawn in more from your passive ads than aggressive ads, meaning they may like to do research and find you positioned as an expert instead of aggressively stating a sense of urgency
- Your ideal clients may not even come from a paid platform at all, meaning a lack of interest in social media. They may see through Google Ads listings as paid positioning and may believe legal services advertised via Ads to be of lower quality.
Contributed by Ryan Klein, Managing Partner
How Do You Use Your Ideal Customer Profile?
Now that you’ve gained an understanding of what an ideal customer profile is, how it provides value for your business, and the tools you can use to create it, you’ll ultimately want to determine how you can put your ICP into practice. How do you actually use your ideal customer profile to make a tangible impact on your company’s growth?
In the marketing world, brands and businesses should seek to deliver a message with the highest impact possible. When you can establish your ideal customer profile, this can inform your entire sales and marketing strategy and help you allocate your resources to the prospects who will provide the most value to your company. An ICP can assist with different marketing components such as lead scoring, targeted ads, account-based marketing, pricing, and partnerships, to name a few. Here’s what to know about the impact an ICP can have on each:
- Lead scoring: Lead scoring is a sales and marketing methodology for ranking leads to determine their sales readiness. The shared company characteristics you’ve discovered creating your ideal customer profile should impact your lead scoring mechanism.
- Targeting ads: Ad targeting is an advertisement technique where ads are placed in specific areas of the screen or to specific audiences to increase visibility. Use your new knowledge of your ideal customers to target ads to the right people.
- Account-based marketing: Account-based marketing is a focused technique in which sales and marketing teams work together to target best-fit accounts and spin them into customers. When doing so, ICPs can reveal the perfect-fit characteristics for your targeted accounts.
- Pricing: Those individuals who fall under your ideal customer profile may be comfortable with your current pricing, but there’s also a chance you’re not getting your ideal value based on your ICPs demographic and characteristics. Your ICP reveals how deep your customers’ pockets are and helps you define pricing.
- Partnerships: Consider increasing the impact of your marketing activities by partnering with companies who have a similar ideal customer profile but aren’t your competitors.
Ultimately, the impact of using an ideal customer profile will be evident in all areas of marketing. Even if you’re not utilizing your ICP directly, an ICP will help better inform and direct the way you approach your marketing strategy.
How Many Ideal Customer Profiles Should You Have?
You may be thinking to yourself, “If I’m concentrating on attracting just one type of customer, aren’t I leaving out entire groups of people who want and need what we sell?” This fear of missing out on additional customers is natural. However, it defeats the purpose of having an ideal customer profile, which is that creating one forces you to identify your most ideal customers. Of course, outliers will exist beyond the scope of your ICP, but creating a framework for your “perfect” customer can provide value to your business.
As such, having more than one ideal customer profile isn’t standard. However, there may be a few exceptions in which you’ll want to create more than ICP.
Your Business Serves Customers in Multiple Geographic Areas
If you have offices in both Manhattan and Upstate New York, your ideal customers may share many of the same characteristics, such as age and marital status. However, you may discover that the suburban moms have some very different concerns and needs than the city moms. In this case, you may want to create multiple ICPs for each demographic you serve.
Your Business Offers More Than One Distinctly Different Product or Service
Most companies have different amenities that they offer. For instance, if you’re a dentist, you might provide services that range from general cleanings and x-rays to root canals and implants. In this case, however, because each service will likely pertain to a relatively similar ideal customer, you can get away with having one ICP that blankets clients across the board. Conversely, if your business provides multiple completely distinct services in which the customer base truly and distinctly differs from one another, you may consider creating multiple ICPs for each.
Your Business Offers Different Versions of a Service for Different Types of Customers
If your business offers multiple products or services that are the same at their core but differ such that they target multiple demographics, you should have multiple ICPs for each base you’re trying to reach. For instance, perhaps you offer two versions of an online training course, one aimed at middle school children and the next at college students. In this case, though the service you’re providing is the same, you’re specifically targeting it at different kinds of people.
When Might Your Ideal Customer Profile Be Ineffective?
Just as an accurate ideal customer profile can inform your entire sales and marketing strategy and help you allocate resources to the prospects who will provide the most value to your company, an imprecise ideal customer profile can derail your business. In this case, it’s so important to avoid some of the more common mistakes that businesses make when creating an ICP. Here are three to keep in mind.
You may create an incredibly successful ICP and begin to see immediate results after putting it into practice. But if you stay complacent and keep the same ICP over a long period of time—even as your business is evolving—you soon won’t see the same impact your ICP once provided. Your ICP should constantly be updated and reestablished based on time, situation, goals, and capabilities.
Making Profiles Too Unfocused
One mistake that businesses frequently make when creating customer profiles is allowing them too unfocused and broad. If you try to squeeze too many elements into a single profile, it will likely be somewhat incoherent. On the contrary, having a clear and streamlined ICP can help you better understand who you’re trying to sell to and how you might do so more effectively.
Failing to Talk to Real Customers
When you’re creating a customer profile, you need to give due care and attention to the research behind it. Your personas need to be based on actual input from consumers and buyers, enabling you to put together an ICP far closer to the real-life clients you’re trying to reach.
As you might imagine, the process of building an ICP is tedious and error-prone. It’s easy to make mistakes that can derail your efforts and progress. Fortunately, by following the rights steps and avoiding common pitfalls, you’ll be on your way to honing your customer base and ultimately improving sales.
Contributed by Jordan Kimmel, Content Specialist
How to Connect with Your Ideal Customers
Once you have established an ICP, it’s time to put it to the test. Build your website around your ICP and provide quality content that will keep them engaged as they learn more about your business. Additionally, you can develop a relationship through referrals, offering “lead magnets,” establishing a social media presence, and more. Ultimately, your ideal customer might not know about your company, product, or service just yet, so it’s imperative to put together a multi-pronged marketing strategy that grabs their attention and establishes awareness.
Enticing new customers begins with making them feel important and providing peace of mind. Some ways to encourage them to use your service include:
- Offering promotional items and discounts
- Offering free consultations
- Offering members-only benefits
- Establishing a referral system
“Lead Magnets” — The Key to Prompting Clients to Take Action
What is a lead magnet? This is simply a marketing term for items of value provided to potential clients for free to pique their interest and establish trust. They’re the perfect vessel for bringing home their contact details and other personal information that will help you shape future ICPs.
Popular examples of lead magnets include email newsletters, whitepapers, free consultations, and trial subscriptions. Companies focused around a product may choose to offer free samples as a way to acquaint their ideal customers with their products without them taking any financial risk. You may choose to offer free samples in exchange for customer information, such as their email address and/or phone number.
Other lead magnets can include members-only benefits that they can only receive if they sign up for the offer, free consultations for services, discounts on first purchases, and referral systems. Establishing a referral system –– in which you reward new clients for pointing people they know to your business –– is a top strategy for gaining more qualified clients. If you haven’t set up a referral system, consider testing one out by offering existing clients rewards, such as a percentage of a future sale or a discount on a future purchase.
Communicate With Clients Where They’re Present
While doing your ICP research, you may find that your ideal clients have a wide income range or variety of hobbies. Each lead is a unique individual with varying needs. However, you can count on a significant portion of your ideal clients being active on social media.
Facebook alone has more than 2.6 billion active users, while Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches per day! Your ideal client is online, and that’s why it’s crucial to develop an online advertising strategy. Your Customer Avatar can guide your ad and keyword targeting when you get started on Facebook and Google Ads.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up!
Forgetting to follow up with leads or failing to establish a follow-up process can make all your hard work go to waste. Ideally, a follow-up is needed for every marketing task, and you’ll want to follow up more than once until you convert a lead.
Some statistics show that following up three times is 68% more effective than following up just once, and following up six times is 94% more effective. This may be because most salespeople give up after the third attempt.
Sticking to a schedule when following up will ensure that your follow-ups occur at regular intervals. You should also attempt to follow up using different avenues, and may choose to do so via a combination of phone calls, emails, or text messages. Also, be sure to track digital communications like email click-through rates to ensure that your leads are seeing your follow-up attempts.
Contributed by Lauren Dominguez, Content Lead
Step Into Your Ideal Customer’s Shoes with Next-Level Marketing
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