What your ICP marketing may be missing and what to do about it.

Thinking about the environmental and behavioral elements of your ICP takes work. Unlike firmographic characteristics, where there are a few common factors, there is no common set of factors for environmental or behavioral characteristics. But the effort you apply now to understand these added dimensions of your ICP can literally be a game changer for your business.

Most B2B business leaders understand that they need an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Unfortunately, many only look at firmographic characteristics, such as type of firm, size, industry, location, etc to define their ICP. 

And that might be the end of it. ICP. ✔ Check.

But if you’re only relying on firmographic descriptors to build your ideal customer profile, you may be missing out on an opportunity to make your product or service offering even more appealing. After all, an ideal customer profile is a way of establishing product/market fit: What are the characteristics that are a best-fit for our offering? It’s even better to think of it as an expression of value/market fit: Who can get the most value from our offering?

Having a well-conceived ICP for your offering brings three key advantages:

  1. It enables a more-targeted value offer. The more specific your value proposition is to the felt needs of your customer, the more likely you are to attract them.
  2. It enables more effective marketing. Marketing to your ideal customer means you can save money, not trying to attract those who are not ideal.
  3. It enables a faster selling cycle. Sales teams that understand what makes an ideal customer ideal can more quickly demonstrate the value drivers that are most important to your prospects.

Don’t be afraid to narrow your focus. 

Developing an ICP can be an anxiety producing exercise because, to do it correctly, you must decide who is your ideal customer and why. Even more importantly, you must decide that others are not ideal and you won’t spend money or sacrifice the clarity of your value proposition for them. 

This may leave you feeling like you’re missing out on revenue opportunities by narrowing your focus, but you are, in fact, choosing to spend your marketing spend on your most valuable customers.

And here’s the thing: choosing to market to ideal customers doesn’t mean you can’t sell to non-ideal ones. It just means that you don’t waste your marketing budget to reach them. 

Too many companies create an overly generic value proposition, so they can be everything to everyone and appeal to as many buyers as possible. But this wastes your sales team’s time when they spend hours tracking down not-so-valuable leads, running up against mobilizers who really aren’t interested. It also burns through your marketing budget when it’s not targeted to find the most valuable customers possible. 

Go beyond the firmographics.

Developing the firmographic description of your ideal customer is usually not very difficult. And it can be gratifying to easily find list sources that give you a long list of prospects that match that profile. 

It’s tempting to just leave it there and kick off a marketing campaign to reach them.

That would be a mistake. 

Because you’d be leaving out two critical ingredients that can lead you to an even better value offer.

The first are the environmental characteristics of the ideal customer. These describe the operating environment they work in that are a good match for your product or service.

Think of these as the “what” your customer has to work with to do their job (the tools and structures they work in). Here are some examples:

  1. Technologies they must be utilizing for your offering to be helpful.
  2. Specific challenges they may be facing (like a shortage of skilled workers) that make your offering valuable
  3. Regulatory issues that may drive value for your offering

The second is your ideal customer’s behavioral characteristics. If environment is the “what” (their structure), think of these as the “how” they work in that structure. Examples of behavioral characteristics include:

  1. The way in which purchase decisions are made
  2. Degree of investments being made in the problem or opportunity area your offering addresses.
  3. The degree of autonomy between business units.
  4. Preferences to a specific delivery model/approach
  5. Sensitivities to specific issues like security, fraud, etc.
  6. How they perform a task related to your offering.
  7. Associations they may belong to or get advice from.

While they are more difficult to develop, gaining a clear profile of the environmental and behavioral elements of your ideal client profile is critical to creating a distinctive value proposition to those buyers.

How do you discover your ideal customer profile’s environmental and behavioral characteristics?

First, start with what you already know about your current customers. 

What makes a customer ideal for your business? What is firmographically true about the customers that are your most profitable, that have the highest lifetime value for your firm? Or those that best represent the type of customers you want to attract in the future?

Next, identify your current customers that fit that firmographic profile. What can you learn from those customers about their environmental and behavioral characteristics that accelerated their adoption of your offering? 

Remember, the purpose of having an ideal customer profile is to focus your marketing and sales efforts to speed your time to sale, so look for those factors that created a favorable condition for buying your product or service. You don’t need a lot of elements in an ICP, you just need the ones that are most likely to advance a sale.

Now that you’ve examined your customer base for environmental and behavioral factors, it’s time to look at the flip side–those prospects you lost in a sales cycle, particularly those who firmographically should have been a good fit. Many of those losses may be because their environmental or behavioral characteristics weren’t ideal. But it may also be that there are those that have different environmental or behavior factors that you’ve not yet considered. 

Find those and you’ve found gold, because it’s likely those characteristics were missed in your past marketing and sales efforts. And often, making small adjustments in your sales and marketing engagement to account for them can help snag those customers in the future.

We recently worked with a client that had developed only a modest firmographic profile of their ideal client. We helped them examine the environmental and behavioral characteristics of their ideal customer and discovered a regulatory requirement that was both a high economic driver for their customers as well as one perfectly suited for their offering–once a modest change was made to better align the offering to that specific pain point.

That discovery was key to the entire value offer we crafted for them which gave them a competitive distinction in their market and a key selling point in the sales nurturing process. All of that courtesy of broadening their ICP to include those additional dimensions.

Thinking about the environmental and behavioral elements of your ICP takes work. Unlike firmographic characteristics, where there are a few common factors, there is no common set of factors for environmental or behavioral characteristics. But the effort you apply now to understand these added dimensions of your ICP can literally be a game changer for your business.

So, how well developed is your ICP? 

How well does your ideal customer profile represent the most valuable customers for business? And, how well does it capture the environmental and behavioral characteristics we discussed above? 

The bottom line: How satisfied are you that your ICP accurately represents those customers most likely to advance a sale?

If your answer to that question isn’t 100%, then today’s the day to rebuild your ideal customer profile.

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