First things first. What exactly is an ideal customer profile (ICP), also sometimes called an ideal buyer profile?
It outlines the perfect customer for your manufacturing company, for which your business is a perfect solution. An ICP is a fictitious company that has all the qualifications that make them the best fit for your business. ICPs are to companies what buyer personas are to individual people within the companies.
Why is forming an ICP helpful? It can be useful in applying an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy, which is about connecting with multiple stakeholders within a company. ABM strategies can also help improve the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts since they prioritize targeted accounts, companies that fit the ICP profile, and therefore de-emphasize the pursuit of poor-fit companies.
Your manufacturing company’s ICP also allows you to align your products with your customers’ needs. It may help you plan out future products to manufacture or determine how to update the products you currently produce.
Narrowing Down Your Manufacturing Company’s ICP
You could send every lead you get to your sales department, but not all of them may be a good fit. This ends up wasting everyone's time and is therefore not a very wise use of valuable resources.
To keep this from happening, your ideal customer profile can define what a good fit looks like for who you are as an organization and the products you manufacture. What should factor into your ICP?
- Budget, revenue, and company size: What is the lowest cost threshold that a customer can pay for your products? How is this affected by the size and revenue of their company?
- Geography: Do you sell to a particular region? Do you manufacture farm equipment for a unique crop that is grown in a specific region, for example?
- Legality: Are there limitations on who your customers can be? Are there government restrictions on where your product can be sold?
- Product or service limitations: Are there service-level agreements with customers to meet response times? Do you have potential clients who need a response time that exceeds the limitations of your manufacturing capabilities?
You can use questions like these to begin to sketch your ICP as you uncover who they are.
Creating Your Ideal Customer Profile
When your team sits down to develop your ICP, keep in mind that different people may have very different competing visions of who your business as a whole should target. From sales to marketing, to the engineers who develop your products, everyone will likely have an opinion about who your ideal customer is, and all of their opinions might not be the same.
Your goal when creating your ICP is to come up with a single common vision for your brand. One definition of the ICP that represents the interests of each of your teams. How is this achieved? What goes into the actual creation of one?
ReadWrite suggests that your ideal customer profile needs to meet the following criteria:
- It’s clear and specific so everyone is working with a common understanding.
- It’s connected to actual customer data and not just rooted in hypotheticals.
- It includes data points that serve all parts of your organization and are compatible with your business systems, including your customer relationship management tools and marketing automation systems.
- It’s also a good idea to set the tone by bringing unbiased data to the table.
What’s next? It’s time to get started!
How to Make It Happen: Developing Your ICP
When it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work, there are a series of steps to take to create your ICP that start with the gathering of data. You already have a lot of valuable information at your fingertips to create your ideal customer profile; use the data of your existing customers.
To begin, identify which existing customers are the most profitable for your company. You can then refine this list further to see which of them seem to be the happiest and most satisfied. This gives you a clear picture of who is getting the most value from the products you manufacture. It also provides you with a list of customers to contact for the next step in creating your ideal customer profile.
Next, it’s time to gather even more information that can help you develop your ICP. For each customer, you’ll want to record the following things about their company:
- The size of their business.
- The number of contacts you have at the company.
- Their annual revenue, which gives you a better idea of the scale of the companies that already work with you.
Don’t be shy about contacting customers if you are having trouble tracking down some of this information. Just let them know that you are using their brand as an example of your ideal customer; it’s an opportunity to further connect with them. Chances are they are already loyal to your manufacturing business. You can also tell them that this information will help you serve them better in the future.
Talking with contacts at your ideal customer profile sample companies is an opportune time to find out why each customer does business with your manufacturing company. You should ask them the following questions:
- How did they find out about your brand?
- Do they have any thoughts on what it’s like to interact with your company?
- Within their business, who has the final say on determining who to purchase from? Who are the influencers within the company?
- What is the research and decision process like?
- How are they using your products?
- How well do your products meet the needs of their business?
- Are there relevant or related needs that your company doesn’t yet satisfy?
Once you have all of these questions answered, it’s time to put all your data together, analyze it, and search for correlations and commonalities. Think of it as finding the least common denominators. What do each of these companies have in common? This is the time to comb through your data and find patterns.
Once you’ve synthesized and analyzed your data, you can begin to build your ideal customer profile. Your ICP should be crystal clear and spell out the following specifications:
- The industry you are targeting.
- The location you are targeting.
- The company’s average budget.
- The average size of the business.
- The three main reasons people at that businesses choose to purchase the products you manufacture.
- The problems the relevant products you make solve for them.
- The most frequent ways potential customers find your firm.
- How many people are involved in the decision-making process for each buying journey.
- Why your ideal customers choose you over your main competitors.
A carefully curated ICP can help strengthen and unify your entire team. An ICP empowers your manufacturing company to work from the same clear vision; you’ll know who to market to, what they need and how you can help them.
The next step is taking action to drive growth with what you've learned.
Utilizing Your Customer Profile: What You Can Do With an ICP
Ideal customer profiles can give your company a great deal of control over where and how you direct your manufacturing company’s marketing resources. They also give you the power to align your sales and marketing teams, which is the very tenet of ABM. They help you to personalize the buyer’s journey, your communication with customers, improve your return on investment (ROI), and boost customer loyalty.
What does this look like in actual practice and execution? Here are some things you can do with your ICP:
- Define who to say 'yes' and who to say 'no' to. Not every company is the perfect fit for what your company manufactures. You don’t want to try and please customers that aren’t a good fit for your company and what you make. It would be a better use of time and resources to work with companies that can directly benefit from what you create.
- Direct resources to valuable customers and prospects. Don’t waste time chasing accounts that aren’t ideal for your company. Would it be cost-effective to start making a new product for one client? If not, you can focus on directing your resources to other customers.
- Focus your marketing investments on the right channels and with the right people. Every marketing campaign should come back to your ICP. These guidelines keep you from creating reactionary marketing strategies. When your ICP takes the lead, you can develop the best personas and employ them to create responsive sales commands.
- Drive your target account list creation. Additionally, you can bolster your segmentation practices, organizational structure and other key activities. When you develop a nuanced ICP, it becomes easier for your sales and marketing teams to identify the best accounts to target. You can also create more targeted ads to reach the right organizations—the ones for which your products are the right solution.
Your ICP will streamline your sales process, embolden you to make wise business decisions, and refine your account-based marketing strategies. There’s truly no downside to investing the time for your manufacturing company to better define who you should focus on marketing and selling to. You want to attract, engage, and delight the right customers. An ideal customer profile helps you do that.
We can help your manufacturing business clarify who their ICP is and create personalized marketing campaigns that target the right people at the right companies.
Want to learn more? Request a consultation today.
Posted by Jackie Connors
Jackie Connors is the Founder & CEO of Digital Marketing Direction, a top-tiered HubSpot Solutions Partner agency based in Texas. She provides inbound training, consulting, and content marketing services to mid-market companies.