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What’s Your Ideal Customer Profile

by David Brock on August 5th, 2021

Not every customer is “our” customer or even a potential customer. It’s common sense. We know we are supposed to focus on our Ideal Customers, those that are in our Sweet Spot. We develop, or at least we should be developing Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) to help focus our engagement strategies on the customers we can best help. Those that we help best are those that have the problems we are the best in the world at solving.

Too often, however, our “selection” of opportunities we pursue, seems to be based on the criteria like, “They hit on our website…..They downloaded a white paper…..They fogged a mirror.” Regardless of whether they fit our ICP, if, somehow, we have managed to generate some level of interest, we load them into our pipelines, commit them to a forecast and spend time and resources chasing them. Yet too often these are opportunities we have no business chasing, and low likelihood of winning (and if we do win, it’s more likely the customer made a mistake.)

We know we win more often and win better quality deals when we focus on our ICP.

But too often, we define our ICP poorly. For example, recently, I was working with a team of product managers, product marketing, and sales. They said their ICP was “manufacturing companies.”

“That’s interesting,” I replied, “What type of manufacturing companies?”

“What do you mean, manufacturing is manufacturing! Our ICP is manufacturing companies!” responded one of the team members.

“Well, not really,” I said, “Are you focused on discrete or process based manufacturing? Are your target customers those that are high volume, low cost–or the opposite? Are they CPG manufacturers, Consumer Durables, Capital Equipment? What size are you targeting–the largest manufacturers in the world or small companies? What about….”

I continued, “What are the characteristics of the manufacturing companies where your solutions best fit?”

As we dug into things, they found “their customers” represented process based manufacturing companies of a certain size, working on certain types of materials, with a certain “enterprise personality.” They were able to characterize the ideal customer, learning their success rates, sales cycles, and ability to create value were significantly higher than any other customer. As they refocused sales and marketing on these customers, they found results skyrocketed. All of a sudden sales people were much more productive, marketing programs produced much more interest. They stopped wasting their time on opportunities outside this ICP, pursuing only opportunities within their space.

They realized there were thousands of customers they could reach, customers that were more likely to want to engage, customers that had a high propensity to buy. They were missing many of these customers because they were so busy and distracted by everything else they were chasing.

Are you focused on your ICP? Do you have it well defined–beyond just firmographics and demographics. Are you looking at the enterprise personality? Are you looking at their enterprise change maturity? Are you focusing on the customers having the problems you are the best in the world at solving? Are you focusing on customers who want to change?

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