You’re certainly no stranger to the tectonic shift happening in eCommerce: from clicks to relationships, from acquisition marketing to lifecycle marketing, from one-time customers to long-term relationships.
Whether you agree with the changes and are happily jumping the train, or you’re still resistant and focus your efforts on the acquisition, one thing is sure: you have to attract the right customers if you want to grow in the long term.
Yet, attracting the right people requires you to do your due diligence in terms of researching and adapting your messaging to suit your desired target.
At the center of it all lies the ICP – Ideal Customer Profile.
In today’s article, you’ll discover how to define your ICP and apply it in your acquisition & retention campaigns – to ultimately increase your overall margin.
What is the Ideal Customer Profile?
An Ideal Customer Profile, ICP in its abbreviation, represents the profile of the most important customers in your business.
The ICP reveals who brings the most value to your business and helps you focus your efforts on that particular segment – smarter acquisition and more effective retention.
The idea with ICPs is to recognize consumers who are most likely to buy and continue to use your product and focus on retaining them better.
By identifying them, you can increase your margin since ICPs are the bread and butter of your business.
Why do you need an Ideal Customer Profile?
In 2022, retention is the game’s name. Yes, acquisition is essential and is the stepping stone for your eCommerce business.
Yet. your efforts shouldn’t focus on acquisition alone – not when the CAC is going through the roof and the competition is fiercer than ever.
Retention is the growth path since it offers you plenty of opportunities and strategies you can deploy to get each customer to buy from you more often.
And in the middle of all strategies for retention, you will find your knowledge about who your customers are:
- How do they behave?
- How much money do they spend?
- How often and why do they buy from you, as well as what might make them stop buying from you?
This way, you can help these people meet their goals and progress in their lives, so you won’t lose customers anymore or waste your money on wrongly placed marketing efforts.
The ICP encapsulates all this knowledge, providing crucial information and data about your most valued customers: customers who frequently buy your products, use them and get real value from them.
Here’s where the Ideal Customer Profile steps in: to help with your targeting and retention while saving resources that would otherwise get wasted on wrong assumptions or fictional buyer personas.
Shoppers will buy from the brand that is most likely to solve their needs.
Why are Ideal Customer Profiles so important?
Ideal Customer Profiles come in handy for your sales and marketing teams.
It helps you find better leads.
Regarding leads, it’s best to focus on quality, not quantity.
An ideal customer profile helps you define what the word “quality” means to your business. After you identify the qualitative customers you need so you can grow, you can proceed to target these customers with your marketing efforts.
Look at your current customers and the traits shared by the best customers. It’s all there in the customer data: location, revenue, industry, vertical, number of employees, etc.
All this information gets lost in an ocean of data, and the ICP helps organize and make sense of said data.
When you identify the traits your target customers share, you can focus your efforts on prospects sharing the same characteristics.
It helps you retain the most critical customers.
Not each customer is created equal, so it’s not smart to treat every customer the same.
Your customer base can contain one-time customers who only bought from you because you rolled out a discount campaign. But you also have die-hard fans who buy frequently and bring significant monetary value to your business.
Interestingly, one ICP brings more value than 300+ bad-fit customers. So it makes sense to identify ICPs and do everything in your power to retain them and increase their Lifetime Value:
- Prioritize their tickets
- Reward their loyalty
- Listen to their feedback
It helps with the acquisition as well.
Once you’ve identified the ICP, you can use it as a template for your next audiences and create lookalike audiences for Facebook, Google, or other platforms. This improves the algorithm and brings down your acquisition costs.
Moreover, you can avoid spreading too widely with advertising and only select the channels/ locations that have already bought you the best customers.
Besides the technical part of digital marketing, you can also use the ICP to improve the creatives as well. Use the Jobs of your ICP to adapt the copy and visuals (video or design) to attract new customers similar to your best ones.
You can separate your prospects by their pain points and create USPs for every single one.
You are more likely to convert if you prove that your product/ service can help with different pain points.
ICPs bring fewer expenses and increased ROAS – as long as you devise a framework around it and apply that framework to your sales and marketing tactics.
Let’s see how you can create your ICP using the data you already have.
How do you create an Ideal Customer Profile?
There are roughly four steps you need to take to define your Ideal Customer Profile.
Just like with a buyer persona, it requires planning, research, and validation, so it’s essential to start with the right expectations – and be vary of the eventual changes in the market.
Step 1 – Look for the shared traits of your Soulmates*
*in RFM analysis, your Soulmates are the MVP of your eCommerce. These customers buy the most often and frequently, bringing your business the most monetary value. Your end goal is to retain them while attracting more like them.
Select from your existing customers the happiest ones (long-term clients with continued loyalty) and identify their similarities.
Segment your customer base on revenue, industry (or verticals), location, and buying behaviors.
You can use automated software like Omniconvert Reveal to dive into your customer data and crunch the numbers to get an overview of your key customers’ shared characteristics.
The more similarities you find, the easier it is to build your ideal customer profile templates.
Once you’re done with the quantitative research, it is time to go to step two and begin the qualitative part of your research.
Step 2 – Talk to your customers.
Why go beyond company data?
Because no amount of data can deliver the nuance of human sentiment and emotion.
After you segment your customers into specific groups, filtered by shared traits, it’s time to select people from each group and conduct individual interviews with them.
Your most satisfied customers will help you identify ways of targeting prospects that might share the pain points of your loyal customers.
The motivation behind these interviews is to get a glimpse of nuances and subtleties you couldn’t get from customer data.
Ask subjective questions like “why did you decide to buy from us?”, “what were you hoping to achieve with the product?” “how do you use our product?”.
These questions aim to understand your customers deeper while grasping how they verbalize the need for your products.
The Jobs-to-be-Done interviews help you better understand the context behind your customers’ buying decisions. Here’s a detailed guide on preparing for these interviews and more about the methodology.
Step 3 – Combine the data into an ICP.
After completing both qualitative and quantitative research, it’s time to compile all your data and learnings into ideal customer profile templates.
Remember – while you can have multiple customer profile templates, you should treat each one as a separate account. Each customer profile needs specific targeting options, messaging, and offers.
Pick profile templates that best suit your needs, and don’t overcomplicate them.
The idea here is to find customers who had the most success using the products you sell and bring the most monetary value to your brand.
Keep your eye on the prize, and don’t forget to chase the value, not only the profits.
Otherwise, you might attract people compelled by the novelty of your products, spend a ton on the acquisition, but lose on the retention side.
Step 4 – Apply the insights to your business.
Now that you have identified the main characteristics of your Ideal Customer Profile, it is time to use the information you gathered to improve your eComm business. You can:
Empower your Customer Care department to prioritize the issues raised by your ICP and make sure you solve them.
It will be impossible to offer the same level of attention to each individual, so this way, you make sure your best customers won’t leave you because of bad experiences.
- Optimize Product assortment
Many eComm owners tend to push the products in terms of sales volume – but the quantity doesn’t necessarily guarantee that these products generate satisfied customers.
However, the ICP helps you identify products that generate repeat purchases (sticky products).
Sticky products are most likely to keep your customers returning and spending ever more on future purchases, so obviously, you want to identify them and invest more in promoting them.
How to use the Ideal Customer Profile to find sales prospects?
Now the ICP template is finished, and you know who you’re going after, it’s time to take your ideal customer profile for a test drive.
First, use the Ideal Customer Profile to align the Product, Sales, and Marketing departments.
Set the goal and direction for each department:
- The product team can refine and upgrade the product assortment to meet ICP pain points.
- The marketing team delivers tailored content and messaging.
- The sales team prioritizes the accounts that best fit the Ideal Customer Profile.
This alignment narrows the focus of your company and empowers all your departments to become laser-targeted in your efforts.
Now that your business is aligned across all departments, it’s time to search for new leads that share the same criteria as your ICP.
The criteria differ depending on your products/ services and your business strategy. So you must decide what’s essential and not in the Ideal Customer Profile.
Maybe their location is relevant, while turnover is irrelevant, and vice-versa. Perhaps you need to pay attention to company team size or market longevity. Whatever the case, selecting leads according to ICP criteria helps you weed out businesses without the need or the budget for your products.
After you get a broad list of prospects, you can narrow down the most qualified leads by looking at secondary criteria: such as the tech they’re using, opening an office, or restructuring their departments.
Identify as many data points as possible your outreach will be more targeted than ever.
Targeting businesses that already fit your offers brings you in front of sales prospects most likely to convert.
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Differences between an Ideal Customer Profile and a Buyer Persona
Of course, the idea of tailoring your marketing efforts to suit a specific profile (and target accordingly) isn’t new to you.
You’re probably already familiar with the term buyer persona ever since Alan Cooper came up with the concept, and it has become part of the lexicon of marketing language.
You might even be tricked into thinking they’re the same concept, so be mindful of the ideal customer profile vs. buyer persona concept.
Buyer Personas are fictional characters you create after brainstorming and researching different personalities that might use your product or services.
Buyer Personas are quite practical in helping you recognize the different needs and expectations of various customer segments.
However, the downside with Buyer Personas is that you create them by observing your audience or other qualitative research methods.
While it’s a good starting point, Buyer Personas are often highly misleading and usually create incomplete or phantom targets.
The Buyer Personas can’t reveal the deeper motivations and triggers behind your customers’ buying decisions.
For example, let’s say you’re an eComm owner focused on selling professional equipment for photographers and videographers.
Your Buyer Persona is a professional Wedding Photographer, so all your marketing revolves around selling your products to pros:
- Use specific terminology in your Ads and Product Descriptions
- Promote expensive products that are in the price range of professional photographers
- Attending a few offline events (like wedding fairs) and neglecting the rest of the market
While these are solid techniques that might work on your buyer persona, you still need to look at the data and interview your customers to confirm your instincts.
You might realize that you were wrong in your assumptions and your Buyer Persona wasn’t in tune with your actual customers.
- Amateurs getting better at photography who want to improve and challenge themselves
- Content creators trying to deliver more qualitative content on Social Media
- Beginner photographers who can’t invest so much in gear as their more advanced peers
Imagine how valuable this information is when drafting your strategy.
Your whole marketing approach looks different if you target all segments needing your products instead of focusing on the pros you assumed were your Buyer Personas.
The Jobs-to-be-Done methodology can help you discover the jobs people are “hiring” your products for, their motivations, and the goals they’re trying to accomplish.
Identifying your ideal customer sets the direction for your sales & marketing strategies – the end-goal being keeping your most valuable customers happy while attracting more like them.
The more you know about your ideal marketing personas, the more accurate you can talk about things that matter.
The better you speak to the real people that will benefit from using your products, the better your conversion rates will be.
The Ideal Customer Profile, ICP as we abbreviated it, is an excellent tool to save time on targeting prospects and simultaneously retain more customers while increasing their overall value.
It’s important to remember that identifying your Ideal Customer Profile is not a “set it and forget it” task. You will need to gather data from your current customer base and update the profile regularly.
However, constant monitoring pays off since the ICP gives you a crystal clear picture of the landscape your ICPs operate in, the pain points that bother them, and the goals they’re chasing.
This gives you plenty of data and information to nail your marketing and sales efforts, make irresistible offers to your prospects, and create stellar customer experiences.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Ideal Customer Profile
An Ideal Customer Profile represents the profile of the most important customers in your business.
A typical customer profile should contain purchasing behaviors, pain points, and demographic data. The purpose of the profile is identifying your best customers and retain them better, as well as targeting similar prospects in your acquisition campaigns.
Your Ideal Customer should make real progress with you products, buy them frequently, and bring significant monetary value to your business.