Who Is Your Solution For? Developing an Ideal Customer Profile

June 8, 2022

This post was originally distributed within our Substack newsletter

It’s Not For Everyone

Your solution was developed with a particular challenge in mind. You understand that challenge well, and you know who can benefit from solving it.

Among that group of companies, a few stand out as likely to benefit most—either because the challenge is particularly acute for them (creating a lot of value-add if it is solved) or because they experience the challenge in more than one place, meaning they will need to purchase multiple instances of your solution.

Those are your ideal customers. They need you and they are likely to contribute the highest lifetime customer value to your company.

Focusing on your ideal customer is logical but harder than it seems.

First, you have to identify who they are.

Second, you have to find ways of attracting and engaging them, so you can communicate your value proposition to them.

And, third, you have to convince yourself it’s okay to devote a majority of your resources to winning their business, rather than marketing generically and blandly to a wider audience.

Identifying Your Ideal Customer

If I gave you a giant spreadsheet listing every company in the world, what filters would you apply to narrow the list down to your target audience?

I find this a helpful metaphor when building an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

You should need about 6-8 filters to reduce that list of millions to one with tens—or maybe low hundreds—of target companies.

For example:

  • They operate in the steel processing industry
  • They are headquartered in North America or Europe
  • They have less than 200 employees
  • Cutting steel into customized shapes and sizes is key to their business
  • They are usually early adopters of new machining technology
  • Their head of technology is active in the steel community
  • They haven’t announced the purchase of a solution like ours

I don’t know whether that would produce a meaningful audience for any real company, but you get the idea.

Your ICP can include a mix of geographic, demographic, psychographic, commercial, and other filters that are relevant to your domain.

If you have existing customers that you consider ideal and would like to replicate, use them to test your ICP criteria. Would the ICP have picked them from the everyone-in-the-world list?

If not, refine the criteria further until you achieve a good match.

Selling to Humans

The second step—attracting and engaging ideal customers—requires a switch from companies to people. After all, we sell to human beings not the enterprise itself (and will continue to do so until AI gets a lot smarter).

So, who are the characters at your ideal customer that will play a role in identifying, evaluating, selecting, and implementing your solution?

We call those folk the Buying Committee, since B2B purchases are seldom made by individuals (unlike B2C purchases, which frequently are).

The buying committee will vary from business to business according to their situation, policies, processes, and team makeup.

However, you can construct an archetypal committee—one that is representative of the group as a whole—using Buyer Personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of a character that regularly plays a role in your ICP’s buying process.

A buying committee might consist of a technical expert (likely to be the primary evaluator of your solution), an end user representative, a financial analyst, a budget holder (likely to be the ultimate decision maker), an environmental expert, and so on.

You will end up with 6-8 buyer personas—a few more if you sell into multiple, different markets or to companies with very different buying approaches.

And Now What?

Your ICP and buyer personas become useful once you analyze them in detail to figure out what they need to hear from you.

Rather than pumping out generic features-and-benefits articles about your company and its solutions, your goal is to publish information that the members of your ICP’s buying committee will find relevant and helpful as they progress through their buying journey.

This is where the heavy lifting happens.

Mapping the buyer’s journey for each persona will give you valuable insight into what they need to discover at each stage of the journey to make progress.

You’ll also discover what beliefs and emotions they experience that can help or hinder their progress, and how you can dial those up or down to your advantage.

It will guide you to key messages that you must share to attract their attention and engage them productively, as well as which communication channels they prefer to use when seeking that type of information.

Your goal is to meet buyers on the channels of their choosing—not necessarily the ones on which you feel most compelled to publish!

Last but not least, you will identify technologies to help you manage that engagement at scale and metrics to track your progress.

Buyer’s journey mapping is a core component of Part C in the MessageUp content management framework. Look for more details on the process in a future newsletter, and give us a shout if you need help implementing it at your company.

Until Next Time

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~ Team MessageUp

Image Credit: Joe Shields on Unsplash

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