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How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile (+ Template)

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Your ideal customer profile (ICP) embodies a B2B brand’s target customer with factors like their location, industry, and budget. Buyer personas are fictional models portraying ideal customers (individuals) by demographics, pain points, occupations, and more.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What is an ideal customer profile?
  2. What is a buyer persona?
  3. ICP vs. buyer persona: what’s the difference?
  4. How to create your ICP and buyer personas: 8 steps
  5. How to use ICPs & buyer personas in your marketing strategy: step-by-step
  6. ICP template
  7. Buyer persona template

B2B brands struggle with longer sales cycles and picky companies as their audience. On the other hand, B2C brands need ample time to convert more abundant yet lower-value customers and create relationships with individuals as their audience.

That’s why we base marketing tactics on ideal customer profiles and buyer personas before launch.

We chatted with Joe Leija, a Senior SEO Account Manager at HawkSEM, who brings a roster of content marketing, advertising, and PR experience to his work. He breaks down ICPs versus buyer personas, a template for each one, and how you can use them to streamline content creation, boost lead generation, and reap more ROI.

What is an ideal customer profile?​


Your ideal customer profile (ICP) is the group of people you most want to attract to your product or service. It’s a common term in B2B marketing that usually refers to a company profile as your target audience.

For example, HawkSEM is a digital marketing agency that targets businesses in a wide range of industries. Our most common ICP is a mid- to enterprise-level company in the B2B or ecommerce space within the finance, retail, tech, and other industries..

So, how do you map out an ICP for your business? We’ll walk you through it.

Ideal customer profile attributes to consider​


Shrek famously said that ogres are like onions, and they have layers — well, so does your ICP. Leija helps us peel back those layers with key attributes that make up your profile:

  • Geography: Does your brand cater specifically to certain countries, states, or cities? If you have an online SaaS product, location might matter. If not, where are most of your existing clients located? How about your competitors’ clients?
  • Annual revenue and budget: Figure out how much revenue your ideal customer brings in each year. How much can they realistically allocate toward your brand’s service?
  • Industry: Finance, education, and transportation are a few of many examples of industries your ideal customers might work in.
  • Size: Look at how many employees your ideal target customer has. Do they have a single brick-and-mortar office or multiple locations worldwide?
  • Pain points: Consider the problems your ideal customer struggles with. What issues do your offerings address?
  • Job function: Every company has a person responsible for purchase decisions. What is your decision-maker customer’s job title (vendor manager, VP)?

But wait — what if you’re a B2C company and your ICP isn’t another business, but an individual? You still need to map out a profile, but it’s for a person, not a business.

What is a buyer persona?​


Buyer personas (also called marketing personas) are fictional representations of your ideal customers as real people. They represent specifics about your target buyers, like where they live, what problems they face, their personal goals and beliefs, education, and income.

You use buyer personas to create targeted marketing content for the entire sales funnel and create a roadmap to reach them for optimal ROI.

Generally, companies have several buyer personas because audience demographics are diverse. With only one, you’d limit your reach. But have too many, say, more than five? And you risk sending mixed messaging trying to catch everyone and appealing to no one.

You build buyer personas based on specific data collected from your existing customers. Or, if you’re a new brand, you’ll look at your competitors’ customers for inspiration.

Ideal customer profile vs. buyer persona: what’s the difference?​


ICPs typically refer to profiles of companies as the target audience of a B2B brand.

On the other hand, buyer personas are built around real customers.

Naturally, ICP attributes will speak more to the audience as a company, including details like revenue, budget, industry, and size. Buyer personas, however, speak more to the individual, with details like age, gender, job title, and more.

In short: ICPs are for B2Bs and buyer personas are for B2Cs.

How to create your ideal customer profile & buyer personas: 8 steps​


While ICPs speak to B2B’s enterprise clients and buyer personas to B2C’s individual customers, the processes to create each are quite similar.

Just tailor these steps to your brand’s business model, and you’re well on your way to ICPs and personas that’ll help you create killer marketing materials:

  1. Start with your customers
  2. Examine purchase history
  3. Monitor your website audience
  4. Send out some surveys
  5. Leverage the right tech
  6. Map out your ICPs or buyer personas
  7. Create multiple ICPs or buyer personas
  8. Review ICPs and personas regularly

First order of business? Get to know your target audience.

1. Start with your customers​


Who are your current customers? How do they interact with your brand, and what can you gather from their history? Leija says your customer base is an invaluable place to start:

“There is a big benefit to having a strong existing customer base regarding data and creating customer profiles,” explains Leija. “It’s important to look at data from different places and recognize any trends in customer behavior or actions.”

He recommends the following sources for customer data collection:

  • Interviews: Offer an incentive to get one-on-one interviews with customers to learn more about their needs.
  • Purchase and return history: Don’t just focus on what they buy, but also how much they spend, how frequently they buy from you, how long they’ve been a customer, and their total value to your business (customer lifetime value).
  • Sales & support teams: Review chat logs and call history from your customer service team for frontline insights.
  • Feedback requests: Solicit feedback through emails, pop-ups, and forms for qualitative insights.

Leija also puts profound emphasis on your customers’ purchase histories as a trove of useful data.

hawksem blog: ideal client personas

(Image: Unsplash)

2. Examine purchase history​


If you want to sell to your customers, you first need to understand how they buy.

Leija says to specifically look at past purchasing behavior like:

  • What they’ve bought
  • How often they shop
  • Types of offerings they prefer

He highlights these as the linchpin to understanding your customers’ needs and motivations:

“Purchase history unveils insights into your customers’ preferences, habits, and interests,” explains Leija. “This knowledge allows us to craft tailored marketing strategies, recommend relevant products, and offer personalized customer experiences that resonate with them, ultimately fostering stronger customer relationships and driving repeat business.”

Just ask our finance client, New Century Financial. With a little market research, we personalized the company’s landing pages and tweaked audience targeting segments to better meet their ICPs. The results? A 5X increase in lead volume and 6X increase in conversion rate.

Now, what if you want to target a broader audience? After all, your goal is to gather more customers, and you might not have their data within your existing customer base.

3. Monitor your website audience​


You might have people who peep your website, but have yet to make a purchase. Sure, they might have sized up competitors, but they’re certainly not out of your reach. Study your overall audience to eventually include them in your customer base:

  • Web behavior tracking: Analyze how your existing and prospective customers (web audience) interact with your website, where they bounce to, and where they linger.
  • Social media: Monitor comments, likes, and shares from your audience on social media to learn more about their pain points and how they communicate.

Analytics offer crucial insights, but sometimes you need direct feedback for the full picture.

4. Send out some surveys​


Ask, and you shall receive — in this case, details about your audience’s demographic information and preferences. You can plug a customer survey onto almost all of your channels, including:

  • Email: Send one out after your customers make a purchase, or perhaps include a 10% discount for newsletter surveys.
  • Pop-up: You might add a survey pop-up to your website, but make sure you offer an incentive to mitigate the annoyance that comes with pop-ups!
  • Landing page: Lead forms are ideal to gather information on your audience because the people who end up here are usually bottom-funnel prospects ready to convert.

As for what your survey should include, consider these questions:

  • What’s your age range?
  • What are your primary job responsibilities?
  • What’s your highest level of education?
  • How many employees does your company have?
  • What publications and social media platforms do you most often read and use?

5. Leverage the right tech​


Surveys, purchase history, and customer call logs take a while to sift through. Fortunately, there’s tech to help streamline the process.

Leija recommends the following types of software for seamless audience data collection:

  • CRM systems: Customer relationship management software like Salesforce and HubSpot might already have easily exportable data on your existing customers.
  • Marketing automation: Gone are the days of manually plugging customer details into Mailchimp for automated email campaigns.
  • Web analytics: Tools like Kissmetrics and Google Analytics share details like the location and demographic of your website visitors (aka, potential customers).
  • Heatmap tools: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes with heatmap tools like Hotjar, which show session recordings of visitors’ website activity, including where they click, navigate, or bounce.

6. Map out your ICPs or buyer personas​


Data collection? Check. Now, it’s time to turn those insights into ICPs and personas to paint a picture of your ideal customers.

For B2B brands creating ICPs, Leija recommends mapping out these details first and foremost:

  • Company size and industry
  • Job title of person who makes purchasing decisions
  • Decision-making process
  • Sales cycle length
  • Specific needs for tech or software
  • Legality (legal considerations or regulations in this industry)

For B2C businesses creating buyer personas (including ecommerce), he recommends writing down these attributes:

  • Job function
  • Pain point
  • Demographics
  • Purchase history
  • Online habits

Check out our ICP and persona templates toward the end of this article for quick reference.

From there, you can use a tool like Hubspot’s Make My Persona to bring your persona, figuratively, to life. You can give them a name, face, job title, personal details, and more. Our advice? The more specific you can get, the better.

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7. Create multiple ICPs and personas​


Unsurprisingly, personas aren’t one-size-fits-all. Most brands don’t rely on a single ICP with one specific job and set of demographics. Rather, they have various personas they target that cover different regions, industries, or other attributes.

By creating multiple personas, you don’t pigeonhole your targeting too narrowly or overlook potential customer segments that are well worth your time.

It can also be beneficial to create a few “negative buyer personas.”

These are the personas that may seem like those you want to target, but they’re actually not the right fit for one reason or another. Maybe they work at too big of a company, have too small of a budget, or just aren’t at the right stage of their career.

Once you’ve modeled your customers, share these personas with your team and discuss how to implement them in your marketing processes moving forward.

8. Review ICPs and personas regularly​


As your business evolves, so too might your personas. That’s why it’s wise to revisit your ICP regularly. You can do this quarterly, semi-annually, yearly, or as frequently as it makes sense for you and your team.

When revisiting, look at your current ideal client persona and ask questions like:

  • Are these still the job titles we want to target?
  • Is this still the business size we want to go after?
  • Are these still the platforms our audience is using?
  • Have our ICP’s business goals changed?
  • Does our ICP line up with the majority of our clients? If not, how can we get better aligned?

When your personas are fleshed out, you can create content that better pinpoints their problems, aligns with common goals, and takes each buyer stage into consideration.

Just remember to make adjustments informed by new audience characteristics and performance.

Our unique performance analysis system, ConversionIQ, tracks revenue attribution from every piece of content and keyword to every audience based on demographics, location, and more.

hawksem: ideal client persona blog

(Image: Unsplash)

How to use ICPs & buyer personas in your marketing strategy: step-by-step​


Ready to make those ICPs and buyer personas work for that ROI? Let’s break down how to use them in your strategy.

1. Test out new audience targeting for PPC campaigns​


PPC ads not converting? Now that you have updated ICPs or buyer personas, you can put them to the test. Google Ads lets you create custom audience segments based on:

  • Interests
  • Web behaviors
  • Similar audiences

Regular audience segments allow targeting based on life events, affinities, purchase intent, demographics, and CRM data.

Update all these targeting parameters with the information on your ICPs and personas. Just remember to A/B test different targeting changes to be certain that it’s effective in reaching your ideal customer.

Beyond ads?

2. Tailor content channels and formats​


Did you find your LinkedIn strategy falling short last year? A quick glance at your buyer persona, and you notice a trend of customers spending more time on Instagram. There’s a channel switch you can make to better target them. Leija also recommends adjusting your formats:

“Some personas might prefer long-form articles, while others may prefer video tutorials or interactive infographics,” says Leija.

So if your B2B audience has a website history of watching SaaS tutorials on YouTube? Perhaps you can leverage live interviews and feature walkthroughs, then share them on the channel where your ICP most frequents.

3. Reflect pain points in your content​


Your ICPs and target personas document clear pain points that your business can solve. Leija recommends that brands reflect that authority with content that identifies key pain points:

“Provide solutions, tips, and resources that demonstrate how your products or services can alleviate their specific pain points and improve their lives or businesses,” says Leija.

ICPs and personas should inform all your content, including:

  • Sales pitches from your sales team
  • Landing pages and ad copy
  • Blog articles
  • Video tutorials
  • Social media content
  • Whitepapers and ebooks

4. Create segmented content​


Remember how we mentioned it’s possible to have more than one buyer persona or ICP?

For example, Quickbooks has over 7 million clients across different business sizes, types, and verticals. They might have an ICP for startups under five employees, as well as one for large corporations with over 5,000 employees.

Similarly, you need to consider your profiles in terms of your customer journey. Some clients might even have the same ICP but be in different stages, and Leija says you should create content accordingly.

“Craft messaging, imagery, and offers that align with their unique demographics, behaviors, and preferences,” he explains.

Ideal customer profile template​


Budget

Company size

Company age

Geography

Tech needs

Employee number

Legality

Buyer persona template​


Age

Gender

Communication methods & social channelgs

Job title

Pain points

Education

Industry

Goals

The takeaway​


Ideal customer profiles (ICPs) help inform marketing efforts for B2B audiences, while buyer personas do the same for B2C audiences. They’re valuable pieces of any marketing strategy as they help you understand your audience enough to successfully sell your products to them.

But combing through tech databases, surveys, and purchase history can feel overwhelming when you already juggle a packed schedule. Pair that with a content overhaul to appeal to your new profiles? Your task list just got a whole lot longer.

No need to panic; HawkSEM has your back.

Our team is stacked with a roster of PPC and SEO strategists who live and breathe digital marketing for diverse industries. We’ll create a profile of your ideal customer or buyer persona and handle all the audience research, targeting, and content creation, so you can finally sign off at 5 p.m.

Once we’re through? You’ll reap a steady stream of quality leads and convert them on the regular — just take that first step and we’ll handle the rest.


This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.


The post How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile (+ Template) appeared first on HawkSEM.
 
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