Think of your ideal customers… What do they look like?
- They found you organically. They cost next to nothing to acquire.
- They have the problem you’re solving… When they land on your site, they go: “Oh, that’s for us.”
- They experience the value of your product right away; it gets them the business outcome they seek.
- They barely use your support. Everything makes sense for them.
- They don’t churn. They want more of your product. More features, more seats, more usage. More, more, more.
- They can’t help but talk about your product… with other companies, at conferences, on their blogs. They’re happy to give you insights into new opportunities.
- Their business is growing. They don’t ever think that your product is too expensive because it delivers the expected value.
- They provide a never-ending stream of feedback. it motivates your team; your product can’t help but get better.
Sounds amazing, no?
Well, those customers do exist. They’re your ideal customers.
As a founder or marketer, it’s your job to define your ideal customer profile in B2B (your product’s ICP), find customers like them, and then, find more and more of them.
Criteria to Create an Ideal Customer Profile in B2B
They know they have the problem you’re solving. There’s a sense of urgency that can be leveraged to sell your product.
They’re ready to solve that problem. There’s a champion in the organization and a catalyst for change: a merger & acquisition, an investment, a request for proposal, a pressing need, etc.
They have the money and authority to solve the problem. Ideally, you want as few decision-makers as possible because the longer the sales cycle, the more money you’ll need to raise early on.
- Capable of success
Your solution is not held back by technical limitations; it can solve their problem. Your Jury – the decision-making unit – personally stands to win. Someone might get promoted as a result of implementing your solution. There’s a clear return on investment (ROI).
Success can mean a lot of different things to different organizations, but delivering value and making businesses successful is key to growing a product business.
- Cost-effective to acquire
User acquisition is never an afterthought. You always need to know how you’re going to acquire customers. If you need to speak to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to get a deal done, you won’t be able to ramp up as fast as if you’re selling a more transactional solution to the CEOs of SMBs. It’s important to make sure that you’re able to effectively reach the right decision-makers in organizations.
- Potential expansion accounts
There’s an opportunity to land and expand to sell more seats, licenses, features, products, etc; upsell and cross-sell opportunities are available. You don’t want to be locked in simply with the value of the initial deal.
- Potential advocates
If made successful, customers could spread the word to their friends or colleagues, refer your business, write testimonies, etc.
Ultimately, it’s your role to define your organization’s criteria for what makes a great customer.
To go fast, ask yourself: who could receive the most value from our current product, or the product we’ll have within the next 3 months?
Don’t look too far ahead. In the words of serial entrepreneur Ryan Kulp, you should really look for an RCP – a Reachable Product Profile – the ideal customer for your current product.
The Importance of ICPs in B2B
Signing 10 customers that fit your ideal customer profile will be significantly more impactful than signing a large number of customers that fall across many segments and have different profiles.
Customers will always ask for product enhancements. These requests need to align with your company’s vision of the future.
Initially, you must be laser-focused on a single market, a single problem, and a single B2B customer profile. Absolute focus is the key to accelerating sales and reaching product/market fit in B2B.
Startups fail when they try to attack multiple market segments (sometimes believing that they’re focused on a single customer segment) or target every imaginable market segment.
To focus your efforts initially, create an ideal customer profile in B2B around what prospects and customers share: a Job to be Done, a need, or a business problem.
How to Create a B2B Customer Profile (Creating Buyer Personas)
Looking at the information you gathered while interacting with your customers, identify common patterns and average the differences for your demographic data. For example, if eight of your 15 prospects were women, you’ll create the profile of a woman.
Go through the customer data and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is their common role?
- What are their responsibilities?
- How many people report to them?
- With which department are they affiliated?
- How long have they been working in this company?
- What character traits do they share?
- What are their common objectives?
- What other problems do they share?
- What tasks are they trying to accomplish?
- What are their personal and professional goals?
- How do they measure themselves?
- How do they define success?
- Who influences them?
- Who do they work with?
- What technologies do they use?
- What values do they share?
- How are decisions made in their company?
- What is their work like?
- What is their day like?
- What is their lifestyle (married, single, urban, suburban, etc.)?
- Are they decision-makers?
- Do they have a budget? Who do they have to work with?
- How are they evaluated?
- How would they calculate Return on Investment (ROI)?
- How comfortable are they with technology?
- How mature is their company?
If you feel the same problem is shared by customers of different profiles (it’s often the case), you can create additional B2B customer profiles.
Good ideal customer profiles communicate the essential information, are quick to update and create and help your team make quick decisions.
You can use a B2B ideal customer profile template to present them (as shown in the ideal customer profile example below) or a simple one-pager:
An Ideal Customer Profile Template for B2B
Your ideal customer profile will evolve as you keep learning about the needs and motivations of your ideal customers and the market. For now, it’s an important definition that helps to focus your marketing, sales, product management, and customer development efforts around a single target profile.
An Example of an Ideal Customer Profile in B2B
Rahul Vohra has been working on email products since 2010. Before creating the email client Superhuman, he found success with Rapportive, an email add-on that displayed social media information about contacts inside a user’s inbox.
He subsequently worked at LinkedIn after they acquired his company. There, working on integrations, Rahul was able to observe the gradual decline of the Gmail user experience. Not only was it becoming slow, it didn’t work well offline, and was becoming cluttered with plugins.
Gmail was free, it was a mature product, and millions of users had already been using it for 5-10 years. They would have to create a product so good that users would want to switch over.
It was a massive challenge. Two years in, they had few customers and Rahul was struggling to explain the issue to his team. Although, at a high level, they knew what PMF was, they didn’t have a clear way to evaluate the progress they were making towards it. It was difficult to iterate without a clear metric.
“The PMF definitions I had found were vivid and compelling, but they were lagging indicators.”
This all changed when Rahul discovered Sean Ellis’s PMF survey.
His team could ask users “How would you feel if you could no longer use the product?” and measure the percentage who answered ‘Very disappointed.’ As per Sean’s benchmarks, they would know that they had found PMF when 40% of the respondents answered that they would be very disappointed.
To get started, Rahul and his team sent the four-question survey to their entire user base. Only 22% of respondents indicated that they would be very disappointed.
Instead of letting that score stop them, they began segmenting the data.
Focusing only on the roles of the people who had indicated that they would be very disappointed (founders, managers, executives, and business development), they realized that the responses of these professionals brought their score closer to 33%.
Digging through the answers to the survey’s second question: “What type of people do you think would most benefit from Superhuman?”, they were able to clarify and define their ideal customer profile:
Superhuman’s Ideal Customer Profile
Nicole is a hard-working professional who deals with many people. For example, she may be an executive, founder, manager, or in business development. Nicole works long hours, and often into the weekend. She considers herself very busy and wishes she had more time. Nicole feels as though she’s productive, but she’s self-aware enough to realize she could be better and will occasionally investigate ways to improve. She spends much of her work day in her inbox, reading 100–200 emails and sending 15–40 on a typical day (and as many as 80 on a very busy one).
Nicole considers it part of her job to be responsive and she prides herself on being so. She knows that being unresponsive could block her team, damage her reputation, or cause missed opportunities. She aims to get to Inbox Zero, but gets there at most two or three times a week. Very occasionally — perhaps once a year — she’ll declare email bankruptcy. She generally has a growth mindset. While she’s open-minded about new products and keeps up to date with technology, she may have a fixed mindset about email. Whilst open to new clients, she’s skeptical that one could make her faster.
Since the score for that segment was still under 40%, they wanted to understand why ‘Nicoles’ loved Superhuman.
By digging through the segment’s answers to the third question: “What is the main benefit you receive from Superhuman?” they realized that the core benefits ideal customers got from Superhuman were speed, focus, and keyboard shortcuts. From then on, these benefits helped to guide product development.
Knowing that happy Superhuman users enjoyed speed as their main benefit, Rahul and his team went on looking for dissatisfied users (the ‘Somewhat disappointed’ group) who were also looking for a faster email experience—maybe they could find ways to win them over by addressing their concerns and hesitations.
How Superhuman Used Their ICP
Moving forward, the team focused its development effort 50% on improving the experience for the ideal customer profile, and 50% on filling gaps expressed by the ‘Somewhat disappointed’ group. Doing so allowed them to both improve the product experience and expand their market fit.
The PMF scores they got quickly improved. Within three quarters, they had nearly doubled the score for their ideal customers (58%).
Although they have since expanded their target with over 300,000 people on their waiting list, the team still uses the PMF survey to guide their progress.
Acting on The B2B Customer Profile You Create
As Superhuman did, you can focus your product improvements on meeting the needs of your ideal customer profile in B2B.
Unfortunately, when startups and larger companies create ICPs, they often get one more document collecting dust on a desktop. To get real value from an ideal customer profile in B2B, it needs to change how your company:
- Talks about the product in sales calls and on the website
- Qualifies leads and prospects
- Prioritizes product improvements and features
- Produces assets and content to attract new leads
- Supports customers and drives the success of existing customers
To get the true benefits of focus, it’s essential to align the team and plan for rounds of testing and iteration. It can be hard work.
That’s why we launched Sliced, a done-for-you customer research helping growing tech companies find the best customers for their products.
If you need help creating your ideal customer profile in B2B or implementing your ICP in your organization, book a strategy call, and we’ll help you sort it out.
More on ICPs
- How to Create a Compelling B2B Value Proposition With Early Hypotheses
- The Lean B2B: Build Products Businesses Want Course 🔥
- The Lean B2B Canvas – A Free Tool to Iterate Value Propositions
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