“Not everyone is your customer”. – Seth Godin
Most companies spend a considerable amount of resources on acquiring and converting customers in the hope that they will remain profitable for years.
To generate revenue you need to create a successful marketing and sales strategy and keep customers in the forefront. Whether small or large, customers will always be omnipresent.
However, it is to mention that not everyone in the market is your customer. “A customer is a customer. Any sale is a good sale” is a very common mistake among many marketers and marketers who believe they should cater to everyone.
Every product or service has ideal and not so ideal customers. Selling to the wrong people will make it difficult to connect with these and their pain points.
In fact, if you keep operating under the assumption that everyone needs what you offer, it will be very difficult for your future customers to appreciate the value of your products, services or content since it will not be focused on their real interests.
The magic ingredient for a successful sales and marketing strategy is a well-defined ideal customer profile (commonly abbreviated as ICP).
Building a suitable ICP ensures that your new customers feel valued and supported. In addition, it also determines whether existing customers fit well into your long-term business (reducing the dropout rate).
If you spend enough time researching and creating your ICP, you’ll be able to solve potential customer problems now and in the future. This way, you’ll win.
Defining the ideal customer profile
An ideal customer profile (ICP) includes information about individuals in a company who would want to make the most of their product or service. Define the most valuable prospects and customers who are most likely to choose your solution.
Simply put, an ideal customer profile is a list of attributes that your best customers in a specific market segment have in common whose goal is to focus on selling to customers who fit the capabilities of your products/services.
Regarding these attributes, we could divide them into two fundamental factors:
Standard attributes include revenue, team size, subsidiaries, geographic locations, technology stack, and advertising spending, among others.
Non-standard attributes: on the other hand, there are attributes that are particular to each business and being unique cannot be standardized.
These are quantitative and qualitative analyses based on data from various organizational sources to create a strategic document, creating a customer or ideal customers focused on the laser.
Before proceeding, it is important to point out the mistakes that most B2B professionals usually make when developing their PCI:
- Forget that each segment is unique.
Defining an ICP is the equivalent of tracing a segment that has individual needs and particular reasons that lead them to consume a product or service. Because of this, it is advisable to create separate ICPs for different market segments.
2.Don’t focus on your best customers.
As mentioned above, each customer is different. If you mix and match all of your customer data, you will only result in a universal customer that fits into a “one size fits all” for nothing strategic. Use the data assertively, and hit the target!
Importance of an ideal customer profile
Running a business without an ideal customer profile will not yield fruitful results. A successful business involves having long-lasting relationships with customers and that is only possible by addressing the right ones.
If you do not have an ideal customer profile, you will end up focusing your efforts in different areas of the market. At the same time, your sales and marketing reps will be running after potential customers who will never buy from you. That’s a waste of time, money and effort.
We can summarize its importance, highlighting the main 4 purposes of the customer profile idea:
The ICP helps focus your marketing and sales team on prospecting for high quality accounts rather than pursuing the entire market. As a result, your company generates better opportunities with a much higher average value of deals and reaches the revenue quota more often.
You’ve heard all your life about the importance of personalization, but what does “personalization” really mean?
It’s a process of adjusting marketing to a particular group of customers, so they feel that this product is made for them. How can you achieve this level of customization? Adjusting all your marketing content, website, ads, landing pages to the needs, challenges and goals of your ideal customers.
- Targeting leads generation channels
Should you advertise on LinkedIn? Or write a guest article on TechCrunch? Or attend the Berlin exhibition?
ICP’s goal is to eliminate this question and help you define sales channels to generate more leads similar to your best customers. The only way to find out these channels is to conduct in-depth interviews with customers.
- Consider marketing qualification criteria (MQL)
The fourth purpose of the ICP is to find out the essential points for marketing qualification (MQL).
The marketing qualification helps define whether the leads generated from any marketing campaign fit your iideal customer profile and should be fed, transferred to sales, or conversely, if they should be disqualified.
Now, at this point, it is important to understand fundamental concepts before continuing.
What is the difference between an ideal customer profile and buyer personna?
Marketing terminology often has concepts that are easy to confuse, which leads to the creation of strategies based on ignorance. That’s why it’s best we put a stop to it and end the mess.
As a reminder, the first thing you should know is that the B2B sales experience cannot be addressed in the same way as the B2C. Therefore, the concepts are adapted to business environments and not to people.
So, all you need to know is that PCI for any B2B organization consists of two parts:
- Description of the ideal account (or ideal client profile or ideal client avatar).
The ideal account description is a list of features (such as income, equipment size, location) that you will use for qualification and prospecting.
- Purchasing committee (or B2B Buyer People).
These are the working roles that usually influence your agreement within the target accounts. Below the definition of each of the roles that make up this committee will be revealed and its functions will be described in detail.
What is a purchasing committee?
It is a group of people who, somehow, influence their agreement within their target accounts. B2B marketers define four general functions within a purchasing committee, such as:
They are the people who usually carry out the initial product/supplier investigation. They attend discovery calls with you, prepare comparison reports and provide information with personal call conclusions to decision makers.
If you target SMEs, you will often find that the promoter and the decision maker can be the same person (for example, the Director-General). We often receive requests from SME CEOs because they are personally interested in getting results for their organisation.
In medium and large companies, advocates are often the end users of your product or the people who will collaborate with you.
In our case, the champions are usually domestic sellers. In the case of software development companies, the champions could be the product managers, because they are in charge of product development, and your team becomes their team extension.
- Decision makers
This role is obvious. Decision makers sign contracts and approve the budget.
While in SMEs decision-makers are actively involved in research negotiations, in medium-sized companies and companies they often delegate it to champions.
Champions must provide a thorough investigation, a personal opinion on the best solution and the benefits that your organization could get with the purchase.
In most cases, decision makers are C+ people who approve the agreement and budget. Now let’s talk about the two least obvious categories of the purchasing committee: influencers and blockers.
- Influencers or influencers
Influencers are members of the purchasing committee who do not participate in research or negotiations, but are the people whose opinion decision makers can ask.
It usually happens during team meetings, where influencers share their opinion about the product or supplier. In this way, they can influence the agreement in a positive or negative way.
Consider the following example:
Imagine you’re selling an account-based advertising platform for businesses. The head of marketing (Champion) is enthusiastic about the product, but the general manager (Decision maker) wants to hear the opinion of the external business consultant (Influencer).
The consultant (Influencer) demonstrates that this product could help to heat the target accounts and make them know their solutions. The CEO approves the deal.
In this case, an external consultant was an influencer who positively influenced the agreement.
Now, let’s talk about blockers.
Blockers are members of the purchasing committee who are not interested in their solution or who might see a danger to themselves.
Let’s add some context to our recent example:
Imagine selling an account-based business advertising platform. The marketing manager (Champion) is enthusiastic about the product, but the general manager (Decision maker) wants to hear the opinions of the sales manager (Influencer).
The Head of Sales (Blocker) doubts that this product is worth its price. He says that it would be more effective to arrange a private meeting with key clients for the same budget.
In this case, the sales manager becomes a blocker.
Benefits of defining the purchasing committee
There are several reasons why it is necessary to define the purchasing committee, these are the two fundamental advantages:
- You will avoid the “black box factor” and you can influence the purchase process (customer journey).
The “black box factor” is a situation where you have made several discovery calls with the champion.
You see his enthusiasm, you get a consult, and you send the proposal in hopes of closing the deal, but then you hear a “no” without having any idea why you lost the deal.
When you know the typical structure of the purchasing committee, you can:
- Warm up all members of the purchasing committee,
- Prepare content that could motivate them to approve your agreement and…
- Commit to them in time.
- You will improve the efficiency of your lead generation campaigns.
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers and MBDs often make is that they only target decision makers in medium-sized or large companies, forgetting, for example, Champions.
And, you know, no one likes salesmen running over them.
In addition, it is much easier to get a meeting with decision makers through the Champions.
In fact, if a Champion sees the value of your solution, the transparent and personal benefits of the company/department, you’ll get a lot of inside information. At the same time you will know how to influence other members of the purchasing committee and close the deal successfully.
Now, it’s time to move on to the core elements of an ideal customer profile.
The basic elements of the ideal customer profile
As we have mentioned, the data we need to create this profile are very different from the one taken into consideration when making a buyer persona of a B2C company, in this case, the information that is required must be adapted to the description of a company.
These are the most important elements:
Once the target market segment is defined, you need to understand which subindustries generate more revenue and are more profitable for your business.
In the following example offered by fullfunnel.io, it will help to illustrate it:
As a consultant, I work mainly with two market segments: B2B service companies and the SaaS B2B.
In my case, niche software development companies generate much higher revenues than other subindustries in the B2B services-based segment. At B2B SaaS, my best customers are software companies.
Knowing the subindustries you’re targeting will help you create a better list of leads and update your positioning and value proposition accordingly.
Knowing the regions your most profitable customers reach will not only help you improve your prospecting. It will give you an essential insight into how to adjust your team’s schedule.
If you are a European company and you are targeting American companies, don’t forget the time difference. When their workday is coming to an end (17.00 CET), people in Seattle will start working during the day.
Therefore, you need to adjust your customer service schedule and all your marketing activities, such as outreach emails, social media newsletters or ads, to your best customers’ time zone.
It sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many companies neglect it.
In addition, it makes sense to know better the festivals and customs of your target markets.
For example, you will not be able to reach anyone in Israel on Friday for Shabbat (the weekend in Israel is Friday and Saturday) or the people of the United States on the fourth Thursday of November (Thanksgiving Day).
If you want to focus on a specific geomarket, research thoroughly, think of local representatives and location. You will be able to better understand the unique characteristics of the market, the typical buying process, the factors that influence, the local resources that your target audience goes to and use it to their advantage.
For example, if you want to penetrate the German market, you should know that the Germans use their own “LinkedIn”, called Xing, and appreciate that your company has a solid track record.
Annual income and equipment size
Revenue and equipment size are essential to narrow the focus. When you know the revenue range and team size of your best customers, you can use data enhancement software like UpLead to make a relevant list of prospects.
You must also add to the ICP the total revenue of each customer you analyze. Remember, we’ve mentioned that not all your customers are the same. When you develop the ultimate ICP, you need to look at your best customers.
Companies hire you or buy your product to solve a specific challenge that they can’t do at the moment, either because of a lack of knowledge, resources or technology.
The most common case when companies hire me as a consultant is that they hit a revenue plateau, have no marketing experience, lost money on ads and outreach, and want to scale. They don’t want to keep experimenting and wasting time and money, but want someone with a solid track record to join their team as an extension, develop an exit strategy and create a marketing and sales machine.
When you know the challenges you’re facing, you can address and articulate them, and improve the effectiveness of all marketing campaigns: ads, reach, or content you’re creating.
Reasons to buy
Why do your customers choose your solution?
Is it because you offer a lower price, for the positioning in your niche, for the content you publish or for case studies and testimonials?
As with the challenges you solve, you can leverage the answer to this question to improve your unique value proposition.
Again, as with the challenges and reasons customers buy from you, you need to know what goals they want to achieve with your product or service.
Startups don’t hire software development teams just to code. They want to have a partner who is able to understand the needs of the business and create an MVP that the market expects at an affordable price and term.
SaaS B2B companies do not hire digital agencies to create a website.
So what do they need?
Require a partner to create a website that converts traffic into free trials and customers.
B2B sales teams don’t buy proposal software just to send them or because they love clicking buttons.
They want to have a professional look, emphasize the brand and be aware of when customers have opened the proposal to be able to make a timely follow-up.
Again, the only way to find out is to conduct in-depth customer surveys.
Unique features (or non-standard criteria) come from market segmentation. It can be a stack of technology, advertising expenses or whatever makes sense for your business.
For example, for a customer selling Fintech enterprise software, the unique features we selected were:
- Low profitability.
- Costs operated in a volatile local currency.
Characteristics of the purchasing committee
It doesn’t make sense to speak in the same way to the younger generation and those over 50 years. These two categories have totally different values, decision processes and purchasing criteria.
Consequently, it is important to adjust the marketing message according to its own characteristics.
As additional advice, it is recommended to add working roles to identify a typical purchasing committee structure within your best customers.
Just as it is impossible to market in the same way to different age groups, it is impossible to address stakeholders and middle management in the same way.
Each one has different factors that influence their purchase decision, they value different kinds of benefits they can get from your product, and the reasons why they might reject your proposal, are also different.
The best way to achieve better results is to analyze:
- The personal benefits that each of the purchasing committee members gets from your product,
- The reasons for blocking the deal.
- The objections or concerns you have encountered in dealing with them.
With this information collected, you will be able to update all your marketing and sales content and improve the lead nutrition program to increase the number of qualified leads for sales.
Consult the guide on the sales channel if you want to learn how to optimize and accelerate the sales channel by consistently overcoming objections and doubts during lead nurturing.
Target resources are places your target audience visits regularly. They can be social media communities, blogs (such as the HelloMrLead blog), content curation platforms, or niche news portals (such as Hackernoon).
Target resources give you a clear view on:
- Where you can reach your target audience.
- What content your audience consumes and what content they demand.
- What social media you should use to build contacts and what social media you should avoid.
- As a result, you can avoid guesswork when working on a new marketing plan.
The acquisition of leads, or new customers is the central theme of B2B companies, however ignorance of concepts such as the Ideal Customer Profile causes the failure of their sales and marketing strategies.
By confusing them with definitions like the buyer persona, they lose sight of the actual data they require to target prospects that are closer to making the purchase.
Many are attracted to obtaining a large volume of customers, however, if they do not meet the conditions of an ideal customer, however abundant their database and contact efforts, sales will not reach the objectives.
This is one of the cases where less, could be more. Targeting ideal customer profiles correctly will be more assertive and productive than launching a strategy for uninterested consumers.
In this article we discuss how an ideal customer is, the characteristics of the purchasing committee and the most important data that we must analyze at the moment.
In our next article we will focus on explaining the 7 steps to create an Ideal Customer Profile, follow our news so that you become an expert in sales strategies and B2B marketing.