When it comes to marketing your business, any good marketer will tell you that a significant focus of a marketing strategy is based on identifying who your customer is. If we start to talk about customers for B2B businesses, you may need to dive in a little deeper to understand exactly who you want to target. This is where creating an ideal customer profile or ICP comes into play. This article will help you understand what an ideal customer profile looks like and how to make one for your B2B business.
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What is a B2B ideal customer profile?
An ideal customer profile is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. They are that customer who would be a perfect match for your business. If you could pick out a company to work with, your B2B ideal customer profile is that company. The products and services you offer will help this company to alleviate any pain points your ICP might have, making your company the right one for the job.
To qualify this business to be a good fit for your services or products, you need to identify various characteristics that they possess. We’ll dive into those characteristics in a minute, so keep reading.
If you are in the B2B realm, you’ve also likely heard the term ABM or account-based marketing. An ideal customer profile ties in directly with an ABM strategy because it helps your company identify what type of target accounts will best match your business’s goals.
Identifying your ideal customer profile(s) will help you ensure your marketing and sales efforts are aligned, laser-focused, and intended to reach specific customer acquisition goals.
Why use an Ideal Customer Profile?
An ideal customer profile doesn’t look at the characteristics of a person. Instead, your ideal customer profile looks at the characteristics of a company. When talking about landing B2B clients, this is a very different distinction because it allows you to tailor your marketing efforts to be very specific to that business as a whole.
Based on the set of criteria you outline for your ideal customer profile, you have an opportunity to craft marketing and sales efforts that will meet your potential and existing customers exactly where they are.
Your ideal customer profile will include all of the traits of a “dream client.” These clients will be lucrative to you because they will help you hit your financial goals. In turn, you will be equally important to them because your services or products will allow them to scale and grow. Your ideal customer profile draws a picture of a win-win situation between your company and the company you want to work with.
Attributes of a B2B Ideal Customer Profile
To write out your ideal customer profile, there are several different metrics you’ll want to take a look at. Keep in mind, you want to create your B2B ideal customer profile by identifying the company as a whole vs. specific people within that company.
Here are a few sample metrics that you can use to get started. You may want to consider more or fewer of these metrics, depending on your overall goals with identifying your ICP.
- Size of Company
- Company revenue
- Company structure
- Company strengths
- Company weaknesses
- Customer base size
- Where they are located
- How they make purchase decisions
- Limitations of products or services
- Marketing budget
Keep in mind that it’s often a good idea to loop in both your sales and marketing teams when creating your B2B ideal customer profile, so each team can weigh in on what attributes will be important to focus on. This will also help to make sure both teams agree on who you are targeting so you can distinguish good leads from bad ones.
Ideal Customer Profile Example
For this ICP, we’re going to focus on a SaaS company who makes software for hospitals and large medical facilities. Therefore, the B2B ICP example will more so fit that of the medical facility, so the SaaS company knows who to target. The SaaS company’s software assists hospitals in making billing transparency easier for the patients of the hospital to understand by providing clarity between the insurance company, the hospital, and the attending physicians. The software ties in with major EHR systems. Using some of the metrics above, here’s how that would look.
What is the difference between a B2B ideal customer profile and a B2B buyer persona?
If you’re new to creating fictional representations of your customers, then both of these terms may be new to you. However, if you’ve been in marketing for a while, you may have already heard of the term “buyer persona.”
While both ideal customer profiles and buyer personas relate to your target client, they differ because an ideal customer profile is a description of a business. In contrast, a buyer persona is a description of an individual.
So do you need to implement both of them into your B2B marketing strategy? It certainly won’t hurt. Your ICP can have various buyer personas tied to it, which will really help with crafting your ABM strategy. For example, suppose you’re targeting business XYZ because the characteristics of that business match your ICP. In that case, you could drill down further with your ABM efforts to target a buyer persona who is the regional marketing manager of XYZ. This will allow you to be laser-focused in your marketing efforts, tailoring content specifically to prospective customers’ needs.
What is a Buyer Persona?
I know, I know. This is an article about ideal customer profiles. However, it would be negligent not to talk about buyer personas for just a minute since they are closely related and tie in directly to our ABM strategy.
Like an ideal customer profile, a buyer persona is also a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Here’s where a buyer persona and an ideal customer profile differ. A buyer persona is typically a fictitious representation of a person. They are the specific decision-maker of a company or the person you will have the most meetings with. Your buyer persona could be the decision-maker who you’ll need to woo to close a sale.
When you think of a buyer persona, you should be able to picture a specific person in your head who matches the qualities that your buyer persona holds.
Attributes of a Buyer Persona
While you could certainly go more in-depth than those listed here, this is a good place to start.
- Educational background
- Where they live
- Annual income
- Any relevant family information (married, children, age of children, etc.)
- Type of home/living situation
Business pain points
- Where they struggle in business/what their company struggles with
- Where they struggle in business/what their company struggles with
How do they make purchase decisions personally?
- Do they purchase due to price?
- Do they purchase based on trust?
- Is location important in purchase decisions?
- Do they search online first?
- Anything else?
Role in the purchase decisions for her company
- How do they go about working with outside vendors? (referrals, online search, etc.)
- Does a supervisor need to OK their business purchase decisions?
- Are they the purchaser and decision-maker?
Marketing adaptation (how do they respond best to marketing messaging?)
- Social media
- Brands they are interested in
- Sports teams they support
Buyer Persona Example
While you may write your buyer persona up using bullet points or convert it into short paragraphs about the individual, you can also create visual representations of your buyer persona like we’ve created here.
How To Create a B2B Ideal Customer Profile
Now that we’ve gone into more information on what a B2B ideal customer profile is, it’s time to drill down into how you might go about filling out the attributes for that company. Here are a few simple suggestions to get you started.
Identify your specific products and services and how they help customers
Performing an internal audit of your products and services is a lucrative first step to identifying your ICPs. What services do you really want to focus on? What products could potentially make you the most money?
Think about who is the ideal company to use your product or services. What needs are you specifically solving for a customer in the services you provide or the products you sell?
Of your products or services that you want to sell the most of, is there a common type of customer or client who purchases these from you?
Keep a running list of these companies and begin to track attributes of these companies that could make up your ICP.
Look at your existing customers
Take a look at your CRM or client roster and go through each and every client for the last few years (at least). Identify clients who were your “ideal client or customer.”
Make a list of each of those clients and then begin identifying common characteristics of them. Are they all in the same industry or few industries? How many employees do they have? What’s their marketing budget?
Take a look back through the attributes of an ideal customer profile we discussed earlier to understand better what characteristics you should chart out. Create a comprehensive list of these clients, identifying their key attributes.
Once you do this, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your marketing team and your sales team agree on the characteristics chosen.
Talk to your existing clients
If you already know the types of clients you’d like to work with but you’re missing some pieces of information about them, use your existing client base to learn more. This could include sending your clients a short survey, conducting an interview with them, or taking them out for coffee or lunch to learn more about their needs and how your company could better position itself to help them out.
As you do this, take notes on what they tell you in the feedback they give you. Take this feedback into consideration with identifying your B2B ICP because it will help you solidify these clients’ potential needs while honing in on their fit within who you should be targeting as ideal clients.
Use social media
Social media can be a great way to identify and target your ICP. While you certainly could research any of the social media networks, since we’re talking specifically about B2B clients in this article, let’s focus on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has advanced search capabilities so that you can narrow down your search criteria based on a handful of specifications.
We added “hospital” in for the search criteria that we thought would produce the clients closest to our intended ICP. We specifically searched companies (vs. people or groups, for instance) and then targeted only companies in the United States. We also selected the medical category, which we felt could match our hospital ICP. Also, since we will likely be a good fit for companies with a large employee base, we narrowed that search result.
As you can see, LinkedIn produced a result of a few hundred different companies. While not all of these will be an exact match, this is a great start to do more thorough research into those target companies.
If these search results yield companies that don’t look like they’d fit your B2B ideal customer profile well enough, then adjust the search parameters accordingly.
Research your B2B ideal customer profile at your local library
Libraries? What? I thought I could just borrow books from there?
Hear me out. If you haven’t taken some time to get acquainted with your local library system, now is the time to change that.
We are very fortunate to have an incredible resource called the Spokane Business Library in our area. This features a website that lists out multiple databases where you can do industry research. For instance, A to Z Databases or Business Source Complete both provide you with a myriad of business information to sort through and get more ideas on who could be a great fit for your B2B ideal customer profile.
The databases you may have access to might differ from those in our local library systems. Still, it could be worth giving your library a call, asking for the business librarian, and seeing what sort of tools they have available for you to use.
Create your ideal customer profile
Once you’ve gone through the above exercises, you should have pretty clear metrics identified to list your B2B ideal customer profile. Use the metrics from the data we shared above to write out clear and concise ICPs.
From there, you should be able to drill down further into buyer personas, and you’ll be well on your way to implementing a well-thought-out and researched ABM strategy to convert those ICP clients into long-term paying clients.
Are you ready to start diving in a little deeper with your ABM marketing strategy?
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