If you've ever wondered about the magic that goes into creating an Ideal Client Profile (ICP) and how it can revolutionize your business strategy, you're in the right place. We’ve navigated this journey and are excited to share our insights and guide you in crafting your own ICP. So, let’s pull back the curtain and get a glimpse into the world of strategic marketing.
The Persona vs. ICP Puzzle
Imagine a persona as a character in a novel. It's a semi-fictional representation of your potential customers based on market research and actual data about your existing customers. Personas help understand the "who" behind the purchasing decisions - their motivations, challenges, and goals.
Now, enter the Ideal Client Profile. Think of it as the VIP guest list for your business soirée. An ICP zeroes in on the companies that would be the perfect fit for your product or service. It's not just about who could use your offering but who should. This helps us reap the maximum mutual benefit.
Our Path to Discovering the Dream Client
We will take you along on our journey to create our Ideal Client Profile. This is your chance to see how your marketing strategists do marketing strategy :) After our example, we will break down the steps (and give you the resources) for you to create your own ICP.
Starting with Self-Reflection
Our first step was to look inward. We delved into our customer base, seeking patterns and standout qualities. Who were our most engaged clients? Which accounts were true strategic partnerships? This wasn't just about numbers but about understanding the relationships and values defining our best interactions.
We found some interesting insights. Our team agreed that there are specific industries we do not want to work with because they do not align with our personal values system (and some we had terrible experiences with, but that is a story for another day): Adult, Firearms, Gambling, Politics, Religion.
That is not to say that those are no-nos for everyone, but this classification felt right for us. We called those our "no fit" industries.
We then listed those industries with which we have relationships that added much value and measurable ROI to their marketing. Our "good fit" column had SaaS, Education/EduTech, Consulting/ Coaching/Training, Innovators, and Communications.
And then, we have a group of industries we have had success and would like to work with again, but they are not our highest tier. These were Manufacturing, Health/Medical, Building and Real Estate, Nonprofits, and Blockchain.
Demographics and Firmographics: Getting Specific
Next, we got down to the nitty-gritty. For our B2B focus, we considered factors like company size and annual revenue. We noticed that in our world, it was less about the size of the company and more about the size of their marketing commitment (budget) -- and marketing department.
Again, we broke them down into no fit, workable fit, and good fit.
Goals and Dreams: Aligning Visions
We then explored the aspirations and goals of these businesses. Understanding their endgame helped us tailor our offerings to meet their needs and propel them toward their bigger picture.
Pain Points: Finding the Key
Next, we got down to the nitty-gritty. For our B2B focus, we considered factors like company size and annual revenue. We noticed that in our world, it was less about the size of the company and more about the size of their marketing commitment (budget) -- and marketing department. Again, we broke them down into no fit, workable fit, and good fit.
Understanding the individuals within these companies who would interact with our services team was crucial to us. We developed detailed stakeholder personas, considering their professional background, challenges in their roles, and goals. Then, we gave them fun names.
Into our no-fit column, went Weeds Wanda (unfocused and without a commitment to plan or scope) and Tactical Tim (just wants producers and zero strategy) and into our good-fit column landed Jennifer Juggler (CMO who values marketing, has a vision and needs help) and Visionary Vincent (Non-marketing leadership who understands the value of marketing and wants to be educated).
Title of Stakeholder
We also focused on the specific titles of these stakeholders. For instance, knowing whether we were dealing with CEOs, Marketing Directors, or Technical Leads helped us tailor our communication and offerings more precisely.
Gut Check: Sleazy vs. Growth Mindset & Mission-Driven
Finally, we performed a 'gut check.' This involved assessing potential clients beyond what is "good on paper" and basing our assessment on our values and intuition. We evaluated whether they had a growth mindset and were mission-driven, as opposed to being solely profit-oriented or having questionable ethics. This step ensured that our business relationships were profitable and aligned with our principles and ethos.
Making it All Count
We then looked at the total categories we had delineated and gave them points (out of a total 100). Meaning, to us, the prospect's needs were worth 20 points, industry was worth 15 points, whereas the type of audience (B2B vs B2C) was only worth 5.
We then gave a weighting percentage for the fit columns: No fit got 0%, workable got 50%, and good fit got 100%. A prospect in a workable fit industry like blockchain, got 50% of the 15 points of that line item.
We then ran some of our current clients through the process. We wanted to see how many points they would get to determine where our cutoff would be -- would we want to work with those with an overall score of 90? Or do some 40s end up getting a lot of value from our engagement, too?
We found that over 70 points is our sweet spot.
You can download the spreadsheet we use internally here - ICP Docs. And then -- make it your own!
Your Turn: Crafting Your Ideal Client Profile
Step 1: Analyze Your Current Customers
Take a leaf from our book and start with what you know. Look at your existing customer base to find patterns and insights. Who are your stars and why?
Step 2: Get Specific with Demographics/Firmographics
Details matter. But your details may be very different from ours. What are the categories that unite your best clients? These are building blocks of your ICP. Some things you may want to consider (but do not let these limit you): Needs, Goals, Pain Points, Targets, Timelines, Communication Methods, Financials, Motivations, etc.
Make a list of your categories.
Step 3: What Can (and Can't) You Work With?
For each category, add examples to a No-Fit, Workable-Fit, and Good-Fit column.
Step 4: Prioritize
Which categories count the most? Dole out precisely 100 points to all of the categories combined.
Step 5: Test
Take some of your good (and not so good) clients and run them through your categories to see what score they get. If you need to, shuffle around the points per category allocation.
Timing: Identifying the Right Moment for ICP Creation
A common question that surfaces is, "When is the right time in the lifecycle of a business to create an ICP?"
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are pivotal moments when crafting an ICP becomes particularly beneficial.
Developing an ICP early on can provide a clear direction and focus for startups, which is essential for resource-limited environments. It immediately helps make strategic decisions about product development, marketing, and sales efforts.
An ICP becomes crucial for established businesses when they're looking to scale, enter new markets, or when previous marketing strategies aren't yielding the desired results. It’s also invaluable when a company undergoes significant changes, such as a merger or a shift in product lines.
The right time is when your business needs clarity about its target market, or your growth strategies need realignment based on evolving market landscapes. Thus, periodically revisiting and updating your ICP is as important as creating one, ensuring it evolves with your business and the market.
Wrapping It Up
Creating an ICP was a transformative journey for us, and it can be for you too. It’s about understanding not just who your clients could be, but who they should be for mutual success and growth. Remember, this is an evolving process. Stay adaptable, keep learning, and your ICP will become one of your most valuable business assets.