Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats. Sue Grafton
A lot of us think we have an idea of who our ideal customer is. Still, a lot of us are chasing bad leads, so would you believe me when I say this?
You need an ideal customer profile
Why should I write an ideal customer profile? Remember, you want your ideas to iterate across your entire organization. With a well-defined target of who your customer is, you can focus the efforts of all of your lead generation channels, be it inbound marketing or outbound sales. So what is the first step?
Before we start I would like to point out that I am going to use an example from Growbots. This represents only one example of the multiple Ideal customer profiles we use.
Think about the product you sell. Here at Growbots we sell high-quality B2B leads integrated into a quick and easy to use email campaign tool. Our lead search allows our customers to quickly and accurately pinpoint the right leads to target with an outreach campaign.
So how can our example help you design an ideal customer profile?
The first thing to do is to look at what your product is and what problem you’re trying to solve. And I mean go deep. So think about what Growbots sells, the literal things our customers are buying are business leads and software tools. Do you think though that our customers want leads and tools? They do but that isn’t what they are buying. Another way to think about this is from the world of hardware. When you buy a ½ in drill bit, you are really buying a ½ in hole. In other words, your customers are buying a result, not a product.
What was the result we set out to sell at Growbots?
The ability to save time and plan for the future. What does that have to do with leads and emails? By ensuring the quality of leads fed into an outbound sales process, we have been able to turn revenue generation into a dependable process. In fact, it is dependable enough that you can easily estimate your revenue based on the resources that you put into it.
By streamlining the prospecting process and then integrating it with an automated email tool, the man hours that you need to dedicate to outbound sales is reduced to the point that it can be effectively done by one person.
Essentially our customers are buying the ability to secure their future without having to worry about where they will get the resources to do so.
What kind of result are you trying to achieve? Think about what will be different about your customer after they use your product. Don’t just dwell on the obvious things like higher earnings or an improved process.
After all, there are many ways to skin a cat. Folksy idioms aside, there are many ways to gain revenue or streamline a service.
Your customers are buying the thing that comes after, the thing that happens when their problem is solved.
So how does this fit into your ICP?
Your customers are buying different things even if the product is the same.
- A small startup is buying from us the ability to keep the company alive
- a larger company is buying from us the ability to match targets
- Our product is useful to both
That said, you have to agree that the thing we provide is more critical to the startup, who isn’t bringing in many leads from other channels. So when we were starting out we figured that our ideal customer could be smaller startups. Of course, you might sell a product which fits better with a larger company so how can you test your hypothesis?
Look at the customers you have now
So you have built your product. It is designed to do a specific job for the customer. But will your sales pitch work? It’s time to do a study. Most of our initial sales were made by our CEO. He had an idea of the job our product was supposed to do but at the same time, he was looking for anyone who would like to buy the product. What was the result? We developed a scattered data set of who was willing to buy his pitch. By looking at the customers we had, we were able to start seeing correlations in the data. In other words, we saw how they were similar to each other. Here is what we found.
Our best customers were SaaS B2B companies with between 11 and 50 employees. We had success with companies above and below that size but those companies were our bread and butter. Beyond that, we found some interesting correlations which have helped us sell. For instance, we have had much more success with companies that are 4 years old or younger and that have an up to date websites.
- So what correlations can you find with your customers?
- Do they all match a specific vertical or are they all the same age?
- Do they all happen to use a similar technology or are they in a specific area?
One thing to remember is that because your customers are hiring your product for a specific job, situation is critical. For instance, a company that is happy with its sales process won’t go for sales automation. Contrast that with a company that matches the same metrics but has just had two bad quarters. That company will be much more open to a sales automation product than the first company.
So are you ready to fit it all into your ICP? Not yet. There is one more thing that is essential to defining your ideal customer profile.
Just as there are common traits and situations that help you to describe your ideal customer, there are also red flags that you need to steer clear from. In Growbots’ case, we found that there were a few big ones that could scupper our chances of making a sale. One of the most obvious was if a company was B2C. Another was a company with a very narrow scope of potential clients. Since our basic package provides 1000 leads a month, customers with only 1000 potential customers would churn through what we could offer them pretty quickly.
Your business might have its own red flags. Maybe it is a company that uses systems that your product isn’t compatible with. It could also be that they are from a region where you can’t easily offer support. Don’t forget. Your ideal customer is somebody you should be able to sell to easily. If there are impediments to your sale, you should avoid that customer.
How do we create an Ideal Customer Profile?
Let’s put it all together. Now is your chance to build your own ideal customer profile. There is another approach you can use by Lincoln Murphy which takes a more broadly philosophical approach to what makes an ideal customer. Ours incorporates some elements of that but it is more grounded in defining the exact metrics that we want to hit in our ideal customer. I’ve provided the example of one of the Growbots ICPs. You can use it to see how you can use the information for your ICP.
Problem to solve for customers:________________________________________________
Growbots: Customers need revenue in a timely manner, difficult to start generating leads immediately, don’t know how to do outbound sales
Problem to solve for company:__________________________________________________
Growbots: need customer to provide revenue, need customer who will stay on their plan and not churn, customers will refer Growbots to other companies
Willingness and ability:_________________________________________________________
Growbots: customers who want to engage in outbound sales with automation tools, need customers who can make the decision to buy, can afford a year of our service
Growbots: SaaS, B2B,
Growbots: 11-50 people
Growbots: Up to 4 years
Growbots: North America
Growbots: flat structure, still developing hierarchy, less clearly defines sales operation
Growbots: 10,000 potential leads, need for steady amount of leads to fill funnel, geographic region not as important for the clients.
Growbots: lead pipeline running dry, need to scale operation quickly,
Growbots: doesn’t know how to scale lead generation, needs to scale leads quickly, need to establish revenue stream
Growbots: asking for extended free trials, B2C service, narrow range of potential prospects
We should note that this is only one example of an ideal customer profile. As Growbots has developed we have been able to help customers from a number of different verticals who have run into different pain points in their lifecycle. This is simply an example of one type of customer who we have had success targeting.