Well Qualified to Represent the ICP: A Beginner’s Guide to Ideal Customer Profiles

“It’s Summertime, and the living’s easy” if your marketing strategy is continuing to find success through the change in seasons. Digital marketing relies heavily on the details about a business and how it serves the industry it targets. One of the best ways marketers can be aligned with a B2B client’s goals and reach is by building and refining an Ideal Customer Profile, otherwise known as an ICP.

It’s not uncommon for marketers to be without an ICP. I was surprised by the number of clients I’ve worked with that do not have a detailed ICP, even though our collective teams had all the tools and insights at our disposal to create one.

In this guide, I’ll cover what an ICP is, its importance in marketing, how it’s different from a buyer persona, how to build one, and why Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) strategists may rely on it.

What is an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)?

Ideal Customer Profiles (or ICPs) outline a business’ attributes that your product or service is the best fit to reach and do business with. These ICPs include traits your business finds the most success with, whether that’s return or retention.

Here’s an example of what a typical ICP looks like.

ICP example from Cognism Blog.

Common traits ICPs include:

  • Industry
  • Location
  • Headcount
  • Referrals
  • Pain Points
  • Growth Potential
  • Goals

You may already see from the short list of attributes above that an ICP includes firmographic data, behavioral traits, and performance insights. This list is purposely built to distinguish itself from customer and buyer personas, which I’ll cover in a later section.

Before getting there, let’s examine how ICPs are vital to marketing success.

Why is an ICP important?

Summarizing your most successful clientele is essential to connecting with the right prospects. ICPs allow your marketing and sales teams to align on who your most valued customers are and where to find more of the same.

Identifying Prospects and Impactful Messaging

Digital marketing teams will use ICPs to identify the type of lookalike audience or prospect who will purchase from or partner with your business. That’s a kind of potential more valuable and purposeful than targeting a broader audience with only a few shared attributes.

Not only will an ICP clarify who to target, but also how to send an effective message to those prospects.

Improving Conversion Rates and Retention

Leads earned from optimized campaigns stand a better chance of being retained customers if their needs can be met. ICPs establish the value propositions and levels of expectations an account manager would rely on to nurture leads through their sales process.

What’s the difference between ICPs and Buyer Personas?

To put it bluntly, buyer personas are to individuals as ICPs are to business organizations. Both are valuable assets to have for sales and marketing initiatives. Still, if your product or service relies on buy-in from a prospective organization, an ICP is a critical must-have.

When to use an ICP?

Most commonly, ICPs are used in B2B. An ICP helps your business find the best prospective organizations that will value your products and services to meet their needs. For example, your ICP might tell you to target specific sizes of companies within a certain locale looking for the unique services you are offering.

When to use a buyer persona?

A user or buyer persona allows you to target specific people within an organization. This could be executives within that business that make decisions on spend and budget. Due to how buyer personas would target specific individuals, they are commonly used in B2B and B2C.

Another example of when a buyer persona would be used is targeted marketing for an end user within a company that could benefit from your services.

When to use both an ICP and a persona?

Using an ICP and persona in tandem for your marketing strategy will never be the same for any clients you work with. Using the examples mentioned above, you may combine them to build a clear outline of the prospects you should target campaigns and messaging for. 

A combined ICP and persona report is powerful, whether intended to meet an organization’s needs or the expectations of its decision-makers.

ICP and Persona examples from Hubspot Blog.

How do I create an ICP?

Building an ICP relies on several techniques, many of which digital marketing strategists already know how to do. Data-driven marketers are skilled in collecting insights and deriving certain traits about who they market toward. Some of these skills and techniques to unearth ICP and persona data can be learned and practiced, while other insights may come from resources you already have.

In this section, you’ll find links to blogs from other Portent digital marketing strategists exemplifying how we find the essential details that complete an ICP.

Learn from Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Your analysts and researchers have access to reporting and outreach to gain critical insights that can be used in an ICP. Those familiar with Google Analytics can use Audience insights to spotlight traits that can be used in an ICP or buyer persona.

CRO, UX, and Content strategists may be familiar with qualitative research methods that would clarify motivations, behaviors, and intentions needed for an ICPs anatomy.

Know Your Prospects with Social Listening

Social listening fills the unknowns in a marketing strategy and replaces the guesswork of how a campaign or landing page should sound or feel to your prospects. That’s right. Your social media professionals can contribute to your developing ICP by mining insights from “a treasure trove full of easily-accessible, real-time customer feedback that you can use to inform your marketing strategies.”

Connect with your prospects, too! Use the information you find in social listening to determine how your prospects learn and interact within the industry. Observing their interests will paint a clearer picture of how your ICP will look.

Check Your CRM to Round It Out

Your customer relationship management (CRM) platform is an excellent tool for discovering some of the basic details of your current customers and prospects, like budget, engagement, or level of consideration. If you’ve integrated your paid ads campaigns with your CRM, your insights have become richer with information on how some of your existing customers or prospects came to be from as early as a raw lead.

Find your most valuable leads along the conversion process, and you might just discover recurring themes or traits among them that would make for a great ICP. Hubspot has a great Ebook for creating an ICP with an interactive worksheet to help with the process!

How does CRO use ICPs?

As in product and UX design, conversion rate optimization thrives off all available insights to make their work more efficient and purposeful. Like other strategists who optimize their campaigns, content, and analysis, CROs use an ICP the same way they would a buyer persona to ensure their experimentation ideas will resonate with the audiences for maximum return.

Without an ICP, there’s the potential for misalignment between sales and marketing initiatives. This will sometimes fall on CRO strategists when a variation needs particular verbiage or vernacular for a copy change test. 

Below is a brief example of an ICP and buyer personas with details CRO strategists may use toward testing copy on a landing page.

ICP Corporate Ops Persona Executive Persona
->650 employees
-Based in N. America
-$3k budget

>Reporting Upgrades
>Customer Support

“Director Dana”

>Worried about ease of navigation
>Prefers a demo
>Advocates to executives

“V.P. Pat”

>Efficiency focused
>“Industry Leader” aspirations

The following table shows how the above detailed ICP and buyer persona intended for corporate operations or executives would best inform the kind of Variation header and CTA we would use in an AB test.

Current Header & CTA Variation Header & CTA; Corporate Ops Persona Variation Header & CTA; Executive Persona
Header Grow Better Prospects Today Seamless Reporting Integration in Minutes Increase Lead Quality with Modern Solutions
CTA Learn More Start a Free Trial See Pricing Details

To conclude…

ICPs are an efficient way for your sales and marketing strategists to go after your highest-valued prospects. If your team is new to building an ideal customer profile, let this post guide your journey toward optimized targeting.

Remember that buyer personas differ from firmographic information regarding the details considered for your ICP. Use both ICPs and buyer personas for a richer insight into who your target audiences are and how to best connect with them. We hope to connect with you when you’re ready for CRO’s help at any stage of your ICP progress.

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