How to develop a winning B2B ideal customer profile

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Generating revenue growth is the ultimate goal for any B2B founder. While many other metrics matter, revenue is what enables success.

Do you know what drives revenue growth? Focusing deeply on the customers you serve. Winning your clients’ loyalty brings you much more revenue. Satisfied customers don’t just come for more, they’ll spread the word about you.

This is where an ideal customer profile (ICP) comes in. An ICP identifies your best-fit target customers that you can serve exceptionally well.

Let’s look at exactly what an ICP is, how to create an effective one for B2B and common mistakes to avoid. 

ICP vs. buyer persona: Which is the way to go?

ICP is more of a big-picture strategic direction or target market and high-potential accounts, while buyer persona is more of the people behind it and closing deals with specific individuals. The table below outlines the key differences between an ICP and a buyer persona.

ICP Buyer persona
Focus Company level: Industry, size, revenue, location, budget Individual level: Job title, demographics, buying behaviors, motivations, challenges
Data Quantitative: Firmographics, financial data, web analytics Qualitative: Interviews, surveys, social media, psychographics
Level of detail High-level overview of the ideal customer segment In-depth profile of individual decision-makers
Influence on decision-making Guides resource allocation, market segmentation and product development Informs content creation, customer engagement and sales tactics
Example SMEs, startups and enterprises in the USA, Canada, European Union and Australia. Sectors like software development and IT services, fintech, ads and marketing, hardware manufacturing, construction and health care. Key decision-makers are founders, heads of sales or heads of marketing and C-level executives in the same fields. These companies aim to streamline their sales, enhance in-house sales departments, save resources on lead research and qualification and acquire a stable and predictable flow of appointments that will likely convert into sales. Scott is the VP of sales at a $50 million tech company. His team is great at closing deals, but lead prospecting is time-consuming and costly. After a stagnant quarter, he’s considering outsourcing appointment setting, a strategy he’s tried with mixed results. His main concerns are the quality and source of leads. Before committing, Scott connects with the CEO for budgetary approval, ensuring that this move will help hit their annual targets.

Also, many B2B companies have a buying committee of 6–10 people each having a specific role. This means you need to take into account all of them.

But why is it so important, after all? Simply put, the number of closed deals directly depends on who you approach. If you haven’t identified your target market correctly, you can face several challenges, including:

  • Lack of qualified leads and a dead pipeline. You won’t move further than the first call if you approach the wrong industry or company. You can even get no appointments at all. The geographic location can play a vital role here, too.
  • Low-level titles. You will hardly get any results if you target the wrong person within the right company. Sometimes, people who are not the decision-makers can get you to the actual decision-makers. But they often don’t even care whether their company might need this product or service.
  • Short-term contracts. Even closed-won deals can go wrong. For example, if you target startups in search of specific software, they can buy from you. But they are more likely to churn because they no longer need your services or have a limited budget.

So, if you’re looking for long-term quality relations, choosing the right ICP and buyer personas to target is better.

Dig deeper: How to make your ‘ideal customer profile’ more ideal

Advanced ways to build precise customer profiles

While general demographic, firmographic, psychographic and behavioral data can be enough to create an ICP, not all companies are sure who exactly they want to target. To retrieve as much data about the client’s prospects as possible, we send a client a form with the list of key questions, grouped into four major categories:

  • Total addressable market (TAM) and ICP that covers high-level details about companies our client wants to target.
  • Value proposition, including pain points.
  • Sales information and materials.
  • Additional information — any crucial details not mentioned in the previous answers

When we have the answers, we start analyzing them and researching. This helps us to better understand our client’s products, pains and needs, likewise to picture their dream clients.

Drawing from our expertise in the same niche, we recommend different strategies. While every business is distinct, we try out these approaches, examine the data we gather and tweak the campaigns based on what works best.

One of the general rules we follow is to take a realistic look at the situation and apply our expertise and common sense. Here are two examples of such cases:

  • A small startup that offers a CRM solution says they want to go for a Fortune 500 company. We’ll try to explain why this won’t work and offer a list of more relevant companies who might need their services.
  • A client wants to target a nationwide manufacturer. In this case, we’ll discuss targeting lower titles, as C-level executives in such companies often ignore outreach messages.

So, we rely on clients’ insights, previous experience with similar businesses and real-time campaign analytics. But there are always exceptions and room for unconventional experiments if they are justified and supported by data.

Dig deeper: What is account-based marketing or ABM and why are B2B marketers so bullish on it?

Examples of how the right B2B ICPs boost business growth

Here are a few examples of how refined ICP became a game-changer for different businesses.

Winning new markets and getting 97 appointments in 10 months

Celerway is a strong telecom player. At one point, they realized they needed to scale. However, they had little experience in market expansion and wanted to try out new acquisition channels.

The ICP was specific enough, but we altered it to get even better results and adjusted each campaign to each location and company we targeted. This account-based approach brought a client a regular flow of highly qualified prospects and resulted in 97 appointments within 10 months.

Launching a new SaaS solution and generating a robust pipeline

JourneyDXP tried to market its new digital sales solution but struggled to penetrate the market. They encountered several challenges: 

  • Ineffective pitching due to the novelty of JourneyDXP’s product.
  • Difficulties in market positioning for a unique offering.
  • Inconsistent lead generation because of targeting large enterprises.

After segmenting their ICP into four categories based on role titles (innovation, marketing, sales, digital and revenue titles), we noticed a significant boost in engagement that brought 8–10 quality appointments monthly.

Common mistakes to avoid

Some pitfalls were already listed in the examples above, but let’s summarize them and add a few more strategic mistakes.

Wrong company size and titles

For example, targeting C-level titles in enterprises is ineffective as they tend not to engage with outreach messages. An optimal way out here is to focus on lower titles, such as VPs and heads, but not C-suite.

Still, if you need to go for C-level executives, try a referral approach, asking people with lower titles to forward your message to the decision-makers.

Irrelevant titles and industries

For example, if you are selling computers and targeting the financial department. Instead, approach people with more relevant titles, such as procurement or IT. Always try to figure out who is really making the purchase decision.

Lack of industry expertise isn’t a mistake but can make competition more difficult. Without case studies and reviews, it’ll be challenging to get started. As an option, test and reach different companies within the industry where you have a proven track record.

Not diving deep into pain points

Sending generic messages to every title in the company won’t bring you many conversions into deals. While it can sometimes be beneficial, personalized offerings are usually more effective. You can divide the roles and identify the challenges they commonly face.

For example, the pain points of the CEO and COO could be related to optimizing processes in the company, integrating a solution into the company or reputational risks. Based on this, you can build a more compelling value proposition.

Integrating ICPs into high-level marketing strategy

We have long since stopped considering marketing as a way to shoot at everyone and hope something sticks. In B2B, the spray-and-pray approach simply doesn’t convert leads into deals.

By understanding your ICP and buyer personas, you can build targeted communication that resonates. Ask yourself: 

  • Which channels will you use to reach them? 
  • What value propositions will speak to their needs? 
  • How will you weave these propositions into key messages that capture their attention?

Focusing on your prospects’ real needs and pains will inform broader marketing strategies, including market segmentation, product development and personalized marketing. Check out how ICP can influence your strategic moves.

Market segmentation

Use your ICP to define clear segments based on shared characteristics like industry, company size, pain points and budget. This allows you to effectively tailor your messaging and outreach to each segment.

Then, analyze the potential lifetime value (LTV) of each segment and prioritize those with the highest return on investment (ROI). Focus your resources on attracting and converting customers within these high-value segments.

Product development

Analyze the common pain points and challenges faced by your ICP. This lets you prioritize product features and functionalities that directly address their needs, increasing your product’s appeal and market fit.

Launch pilot programs targeting specific segments within your ICP to test new product features and gather valuable feedback before a wider rollout.

Personalized marketing

Develop messaging that resonates with each segment’s specific needs and motivations within your ICP. This personalizes the customer experience and makes your communication more relevant and impactful. You can even use platforms that dynamically adjust content and ads based on user data and ICP criteria.

What’s more, you can nurture leads with relevant drip email campaigns tailored to the specific interests and challenges of your ICP segments. Offer valuable content that guides them through their buying journey and positions your brand as the solution they need.

To put it short, well-thought ICP and buyer personas will:

  • Guide your choice of acquisition channels.
  • Align your content and marketing materials around real client needs.
  • Streamline launching new products and expanding to new markets.
  • Save your sales team time pitching to the wrong people and help them handle objections better.

Dig deeper: How B2B marketers can help sales overcome customer indecision

What’s next for B2B customer profiling?

The future looks bright for brands willing to invest in long-term customer loyalty through relevant, value-driven engagement with their ideal customers. 

Take an account-based approach to understand decision-making dynamics, power structures and internal influencers. Companies that profile the entire account will develop more effective strategies for engaging with the right people at the right time.

Remember to continually test new strategies to stay ahead of the curve. Let the insights uncovered in your ICP inform decisions at both strategic and tactical levels. When your marketing is infused with a deep understanding of who you serve best, their needs and their journey, sustainable B2B success will follow.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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