There are different reasons why a company should create an ideal customer profile, but this post is about creating an ideal customer profile so that you can focus your sales and marketing efforts on generating high-quality sales leads.
Pretty much every week, I speak with founders and sales directors who struggle to reach their sales goals because they haven't nailed their ideal customer profile yet. Many of these are very small teams, but in some cases even startups with millions of dollars in funding aren't clear of who their ideal customer is.
So let's start with the basics ...
What is an ideal customer profile?
It’s basically a description of a fictitious organization (company, government agency, non-profit organization …) which gets significant value from using your product/service, and also provides significant value to your company.
Let’s further examine three parts of this ideal customer profile definition.
1. How does this imaginary organization provide value to your company?
- First and foremost, they pay you for the value you provide them. But there are many other secondary ways a customer could benefit your company.
- They might help refer you to other companies.
- They might become advocates for your company.
- They might give you access to resources to grow your business.
- They might provide you with valuable insights into new opportunities.
- They're pleasant to deal with and don't require excessive amounts of support.
- They might let you use their logo and provide a testimonial that you can use in your marketing materials.
- They might just be a constant and never-ending stream of positive feedback and encouragement for your team.
2. How does this imaginary organization get value from using your product/service?
- You help them make more money.
- You reduce their expenses.
- You alleviate pain points.
- You increase productivity.
- You raise morale.
- You help them better service their customers.
- You help them to become more successful.
- And a thousand other ways …
But ultimately in B2B, it's about how you affect the bottom line, and if your solution doesn't have a direct correlation with profits or expenses, you should be able to demonstrate how it indirectly will affect the organization's finances.
3. Now we said it’s an fictitious organization, but the fiction is based on some solid facts and real data
You don’t just fabricate an ideal customer profile out of thin air. Instead, you systematically identify shared traits and characteristics of real customers who are succeeding with your solution. We’ll talk in more detail about how to do this, but first, let’s look at some of your real customers.
Make a list of your "best" customers
Create a list of your 10 best current customers.
You should be able to call these customers and ask them: “How much are you paying us for our solution? And how much value are you getting out of it?”
The second number they tell you should be a multiple of the first number. So if they pay you $100 a month, they should be getting at least $200 of value in return from using your solution.
It’s not enough that they pay for your solution. They need to actually get significant value from it and be aware of the value derived from your solution.
Sell to your customers in three stages
Don't assume that this magically happens by itself. You should take charge of making this happen by selling them in three stages:
- Before they buy, you need to sell them on the promise of your solution. You need to convince them that your solution has the potential to make them successful, and is worth investing in.
- After they buy, you need to sell them on actually implementing your solution. It’s not enough that they just paid you for it—they actually have to invest time and resources into utilizing it, so that the promised value is actually created.
- After they've received the value, you need to sell them on realizing that it’s your solution that has created the value. You need to ensure that the people in the organization are aware of the value your solution has created. This is not something that happens by itself, it’s something that needs to be engineered and directed. (Especially in large organizations, where there will always be individuals and departments eager to claim credit for achievements.)
Don't have 10 ideal customers yet?
If you can’t come up with 10 customers, drop everything else and focus on getting these 10 ideal customers. Either support some of your existing customers over to the top until they reach that level of success with your solution, or bring in new companies and onboard them to ensure their success with your solution.
Find common attributes
Now look at this list of your ideal ideal customers, and ask yourself: what do they have in common?
This is where you have to brainstorm and do your research. Dig deep and come up with lots of attributes for each of these 10 companies so that you later find commonalities.
Your ideal customer profile template
The best way to go about this is to identify which questions are worth asking your ideal customers. Here are some ideas to get you started in different directions:
- What’s the size of the organization? (Measured in revenue, number of customers, number of employees, etc.)
- What’s the size of the relevant department?
- Do certain certain job titles exist in the organization?
- Which industry or niche are they serving?
- From which academic institutions did they recruit their employees?
- Which companies have current employees previously worked at?
- Do they largely promote people from within the organization, or do they mostly bring in experienced leadership from outside? (e.g. in the first case, they might value training their personnel higher, versus in the latter they have more demand for recruiting services)
- How long have they already been in business?
- What’s the number one reason that would prevent them from buying your solution?
- What’s the number one reason that would make them decide to buy your solution? What makes your offer appealing to them?
- What goal do they want to achieve with your solution?
- How are they currently trying to achieve this goal?
- Why did they decide to try this approach? (What was the decision making process that led to this choice?)
- What’s the main pain point with their current approach?
- What are the three most important features for them?
- What’s their buying process like?
- Did they ever make a purchasing decision to fulfill the need? If yes, how often did they already do this?
- Which industry publications, blogs or websites are they following?
- What kind of tools or services are they using?
- Where are they located? (Geographic region? Rural vs. urban area?)
- Any recent personnel changes? Restructuring? Other recent events in the company?
- Seasonal or temporal factors? (e.g. Spending remaining budgets before end of year? Selling remnant advertising before going to print? Having to meet goals before end of quarter? Low demand during summer?)
- How have they been affected by changes in the economy or other developments outside their sphere of influence?
- What kinds of social media platforms do they use?
- What kind of usage patterns do they show?
- What’s their culture like, what values do they practice?
- How do they position themselves in the market?
- What words do they use to describe their product or service?
- In which directories do they get listed?
- Which associations or trade groups are they members of?
- Are they more driven by a desire to be innovative or to reduce risk?
- Which trade shows or industry events do they attend?
- How technically sophisticated are they?
- Where do they source their materials?
- What distribution channels do they use?
- What’s their awareness stage? Do they already know your product and just aren’t motivated enough to buy? Do they know the end-result they want but not that your solution is capable of delivering it? Do they know that they have a problem, but have no idea how to solve it? Aren’t they even aware of the problem, and need to be educated of the fact that they have a tremendous opportunity for improvement?
As you can already see, there are hundreds of questions you could be asking, and it's impossible to provide an exhaustive list. That doesn't mean you should be answering all of these.
Don't get stuck in generic templates which try to define your ideal customer in terms of broad demographic, psychographic and behavioral attributes. These fill-in-the-blank customer profile templates are no basis for creating highly targeted lead lists.
Get together as a team for a couple of hours and brainstorm which questions are relevant to your ideal customers.
3 ideal customer profile examples
These profiles come in different shapes and sizes. Some are very elaborate and in-depth, others consists of simply two or three telltale signs of being a great fit for your solution.
If you want three examples of what an ideal customer profile can look like, just enter your email address below.