You have probably heard of the best-selling computer game of 2000—The Sims. First created by Maxis, it quickly gained popularity around the globe and became one of the most well-known life-simulator games of all time.
The series has four different versions at this point but all of them have the same starting point – character creation. As a gamer, you are able to give the character a name, choose their walking style and voice, appearance, aspirations, traits, and household. The combination of these characteristics, among the other ones, builds an individual identity, a persona that neighbors and other characters in the game can interact with.
In real life, we engage with some of those characteristics when building friendships, looking for employees, or… selling goods and services. Businesses use this information to develop effective sales strategies and marketing materials relevant to their best types of clients often referred to as Ideal Client Profile (ICP). You have probably heard this term being frequently used in B2C discourse but, unfortunately, it’s often overlooked when the discussion comes to the B2B industry.
In Demand Gen Report 2021, it was discovered that when it comes to B2B marketing, the top two challenges are 1) understanding buyers’ changing needs and business requirements and 2) engaging buyers at the right time through the right channel. To conquer these challenges, it is necessary to have a clear vision of what client you are working with. It is the foundation that establishes the success of future work.
Creating an ICP is a small step that doesn’t take too much time and effort. It can significantly improve all processes in the company, starting from content creation to sales performance.
By reading this article you will learn:
1. What is ICP?;
2. Why B2B needs to know their ICP;
3. Dangers of not knowing your ICP;
4. Information needed for creating ICP;
5. Where to start gathering information.
What is ICP?
In the article, HubSpot describes ICP as a focused sales strategy that tells you which potential clients are actually good prospects—and which ones aren’t. In the B2B industry, the client becomes a company that could gain maximum value from the products or services you provide, and in return would offer significant value to your business.
? WARNING: Ideal Client Profile is not the same as Buying Persona (BP)! While ICP is a description of a fictitious company with qualities that make them a perfect fit for the product or services you provide, Buying Persona is a semi-fictional representation of the people who buy from you. This representation includes detailed information about demographics, goals, education, income, motivators, and challenges the clients are facing. ICP is one of the first steps for the lead generation process, and it is usually determined at the beginning of the sales funnel. Buying Persona, on the other hand, is used throughout all stages of the marketing funnel. Although both ICP and BP are closely related, they target separate issues and thus need to be differentiated.
What information you need to create ICP?
Just like with Sims, you cannot move to the next level until you go through all the steps of character creation. Giving your Sim a name and choosing their hairstyle is not enough! Needless to say, when it comes to business, there are more aspects to keep in mind.
Here is the list of essential points to consider when developing your ICP:
- Pain points
- Business goals
Look at this list as a starting point for building your ICP, a living document rather than a final manuscript. Depending on the industry, you should add more characteristics relevant to your company and the area of your expertise.
At Respect.Studio, for instance, one of the ICP qualifiers for lead generation service is a positive experience with outbound sales. This information helps us ensure that the client has enough resources to further our work and close the leads. If your company works with artificial intelligence, you will probably want to know what technology your target accounts are using and how high their level of technological maturity is. For some, knowing the size of their client’s company is enough, whereas, for others, the size of the customer base might be more important.
Just like with the pumpkin pie: once you get the pie crust ready, you can move on to the filling!
? WARNING: Ideal Client Profile doesn’t equal ONE perfect company! As much as you try to narrow down your focus, make sure to stay flexible and give yourself some space. For instance, the company size can be between 100 and 130 employees, not 123 people sharp!
At this point, you might be thinking, “I see how it could be useful, but I don’t think it’s necessary for my business!” You could be right. Many companies get away without clearly defining their ICP. Yet.. there are a few common traps those companies frequently run into, and the truth is, they could be easily avoided!
Dangers of not knowing your ICP
- Lack of personalization
Do you have that one friend who would never eat vanilla caramel fudge ice cream because they only like chocolate chip cookie dough? Ben & Jerry’s, no exceptions! Paying attention to such details and showing the person you keep their preferences in mind is a small way to let them know how much you value this friendship. The same thing applies when it comes to business! Personalization is what helps to build your clients’ loyalty and establish long-lasting relationships. When companies don’t know who their ideal client is, they put themselves in danger of bringing the wrong ice cream to the wrong audience.
The Conversica 2020 Sales Effectiveness Benchmark Report data shows that although many companies tried to give a more human-like touch to their content, the majority still made minimal attempts to personalize their responses.
- Difficulty with content creation
Content creation does not only help companies increase their visibility in the market. It has a more complex function. Forbes highlighted 10 reasons why content creation matters:
1. Customers trust you more
2. Makes you look like an expert
3. You can build a library of content
4. Helps SEO
5. Attracts new viewers
6. Supplement to inbound marketing
7. Establishes your brand
8. Can increase market share
9. Helps inbound lead sourcing
10. Drives web views
These perks are quite nice, aren’t they? However, when you don’t know your client well, how do you know what content would work for them? What culture does your client come from? What language tone is appropriate for your specific client? Which channels do they use to gather information? The list is long! Content creation matters only when the clients’ needs and preferences are taken into account.
- Poor segmentation
The rule “quality over quantity” is still a thing, and proper segmentation is a must when establishing that quality.There are so many great companies to work with and It’s easy to forget that all of them have different needs that need to be taken into account. Even if you work with a few companies within one industry, proper segmentation helps to find a personal approach to each company considering all their differences.
- Poor Keyword Research
Doing the keyword search without knowledge about your ideal client is nothing but a shot in the dark. The keywords are the messengers between what people are searching for and the content you provide. Thus, they are a vital part of SEO and determine how much traffic you will get on your website.
- Ineffective Sales Performance
Poor sales performance is a result of various factors but not having a clear definition of your ICP is often the root of the issue. According to Forbes, “marketing spend is potentially wasted on acquiring leads that should be disqualified, and customer success cannot spend needed time servicing clients who have a higher chance to expand, renew or become referenceable.” Creating ICP will save the time and effort of everyone on the team, for it directly or indirectly influences all the sales processes.
Undoubtedly, those issues will occur sooner or later. The question is, how prepared are you to face them?
How to start gathering information?
- Make a list of your best clients
You can begin your search process by thinking about the clients you already have. These questions will guide you to the right direction:
1. Which accounts bring you the most profit?
2. Does the client make payments on time?
3. Does the client give constructive feedback on the work you do?
4. Does the client delay projects?
5. Which clients have relative longevity?
6. Do you get a high ROI when delivering the services requested by the client?
7. Which clients have made upgrades and purchased additional services?
8. Do you enjoy working with the client?
- Conduct Client Interviews
The interviews with the clients are helpful for both parties: you will get a better picture of the organization and how it works, and the client might notice a few gaps that need to be bridged. Make sure to discuss the following points:
1. Decision Maker information – what roles exist in the organization, how the decision-making process looks like;
2. Company Data – industry, size, location, budget, sales cycle, etc.;
3. Goals & Challenges – what they are, how they are measured;
4. Information Search Process – what sites and publications are used;
5. Identifiers – communication style in the organization, how the conflicts are addressed/solved;
6. Purchasing Decisions – how the client chose to work with your agency, what qualities they were looking for.
The Ideal Client Profile is a strong foundation to build on. When all the information is gathered and analyzed, you will have a complete picture of where you are at and which direction you want to move. Meanwhile, the second part of the ICP article is coming very soon! You will find out how to apply the knowledge about your ICP to achieve the best results. Make sure you follow us on LinkedIn not to miss any updates!