What's an ideal customer profile, and how do I create one?

Customers communication

Building your ideal customer profile is among the most important steps you can take when building a successful sales strategy. However, to be able to do that, you need to learn what’s an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) first.

Whether this is the first time you’ve heard of an ideal customer profile, or if you’re simply not sure you need one, it can be hard to figure out how to get started. We’ve put together this helpful guide to answer all your questions about ideal customer profiles and how they can help your business, and offer step-by-step instructions on creating a customer profile.

What is an ideal customer profile (ICP)?

An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a detailed portrait of your dream customer, whether that’s an individual or another company. It’s who you think of first when asked the question, “Who is your product for?” It’s a way to think carefully about potential customers and what problems you’re solving for them.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself when coming up with your ideal customer profile are:

What are ideal customer profiles for?

The goal of creating an ICP template is to help your sales and marketing teams become more effective. An ICP is also a great way to sift through the “clutter” in your given market and prioritize the areas that are most relevant to your business. For instance, if you’re not sure what your ICP persona is, you might be focusing too much attention and energy on parts of the market you don’t need to pay attention to.

Remember: if you’re chasing down leads for customers that are so far from your ICP that they’re never actually going to buy, that’s not a good use of your time or energy!

What’s the difference between an ideal customer profile and a buyer persona?

If you’re new to the concept of an ideal customer profile but familiar with the idea of a buyer persona, you might be wondering what exactly the difference is between the two – and why it matters.

As we’ve already laid out, your ideal customer profile (ICP) identifies basic facts about your potential customer (who they are, and what they do).

Meanwhile, a buyer persona is concerned with the psychology of a potential customer. A buyer persona takes an ICP one step further by considering a customer’s motivations, what kinds of decisions they make, and – most importantly – why they make those decisions.

Why create ideal customer profiles?

1. Achieve more accurate targeting with an ideal customer profile

If you don’t know who your ICP is, how can you be sure you’re targeting the right customer? The first benefit of creating an ideal customer profile is confidence in the accuracy of your understanding – and targeting – of your target market.

Once you’ve built out your ICP, you’ll have a more accurate view of who to target. An ICP can also be a great way to help you create better (and more effective) segmentation. Finally, an ICP means you can see which parts of your current targeting strategy are so off-base from your ICP that you can start scaling them back – or eliminating them entirely.

The result? Your focus is where it needs to be: on the leads that deliver.

2. Creating customer profiles helps speed up conversion

A speedy conversion process is an exciting benefit of the accurate targeting that comes from taking the time to create an ideal customer profile. The faster you covert, the more clearly and distinctly you’re speaking to your customers – what’s not to love?

3. Increasing brand loyalty through ideal customer profiles

When customers feel accurately seen and understood by a business, it helps increase brand loyalty. This is one way in which an ICP has a cumulative effect: a way for you to stand out among the competition: if you’re the best at speaking to your customer (thanks to your thorough ICP persona), you won’t need to rely on quick fixes like flash sales to retain your customer base.

Brand loyalty is one of the most powerful currencies in marketing – anything you can do to increase yours is a worthwhile endeavor.

4. Improve your keyword research with an ideal customer profile

One of the most important aspects of choosing strong keywords is considering the metric of not just search volume but search relevance.

Improving the search relevance of your keywords is best achieved by understanding your target audience, their needs, obstacles, and preferences. Creating ideal customer profiles gives you greater insight into the customer you want to attract, making it significantly easier to select specific keywords that will be relevant to that particular customer.

Remember: when it comes to keywording, not all site traffic is created equal. Site visitors are great – but site visitors who are actually interested in your product and what you do? Even better.

5. Improving the product itself by creating customer profiles

A good ICP can be a fantastic indicator of the ways you might want to make improvements to your product. Understanding your customers’ needs more completely (as well as why they have those needs) gives you valuable data which you can use to make relevant updates to your products or services.

This could be as simple as updating the language you use on your product’s menus to better match how your audience sees themselves, or as extensive as removing or overhauling an entire segment of your service.

How to create a customer profile?

1. Define your need for an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) persona

Setting a clear goal for your ideal customer profile can be a good first step to making sure it’s as useful and focused as possible. You’ve already seen just how many things a good ICP can help you achieve – and that’s just the start! Prioritizing the tasks you want to accomplish will help you zero in on the kinds of specific information you want to research.

2. Select mutually exclusive variables to create customer profiles

This step helps you start breaking your target audiences down into discrete groups. For instance, if you own a shipping company, ask your audience how often they ship products and whether they mainly ship domestically or internationally. Asking where they primarily ship helps avoid people answering with both – even if they may only ship internationally very rarely, for example.

Asking specific questions helps separate your customer base into more distinct, segmented groups. Next, you can craft specific questions for each group. Returning to the shipping example again, you’ll probably have very different questions for domestic shippers vs. those that ship internationally.

3. Apply demographic filters to create a customer profile

Once you’ve got at least two groups of potential customers, you can start looking at them through demographic filters to define them further. Doing so can help you see patterns among variables like age, gender, and geographic location, all of which can help bring your customer profile into focus.

4. Create ideal customer personas

Once your data has been collected, it’s time to start making sense of it and transforming your data into a readable profile. You’ll want to sort customers by their polarizing variables to start and look for areas of overlap among the rest of the data you collect. Then you can piece together robust customer profiles and figure out which is your ideal.

Once you’ve got your ICP locked down, you’ll want to start creating custom microsites that speak directly to them, their needs, and the challenges that your product can help them overcome. Not sure what a microsite can achieve, or how you might build one? That’s where Zoomforth comes in.

Put your ideal customer profile to work with Zoomforth

Zoomforth is the perfect microsite builder to help you create custom pages and content for your ideal customer profiles. Not only is Zoomforth incredibly easy to use, but you can track engagement analytics for your site visitors, allowing you to refine your page as you collect more data about how your ideal customers are engaging with them.

If you’re ready to dive into building your ICP, request a Zoomforth demo today!

Photo by Adobe Stock

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