How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile in B2B (Template and Examples)

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. In fact, 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 on 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. It’s your job define your ideal customer profile in B2B (an ICP). To find customers like them, and then, find more and more of them.

Criteria to Create an Ideal Customer Profile in B2B

On his blog, entrepreneur and consultant Lincoln Murphy talks about the 7 criteria that define an ‘ideal customer’. He says that ideal customers should be:

  1. Ready
    They know they have the problem you’re solving. There’s a sense of urgency that you can use to sell your product.
  2. Willing
    They’re ready to solve that problem. There’s a champion and a strong catalyst for change: a merger & acquisition, an investment, a request for proposal, etc.
  3. Able
    They have the money and authority to solve the problem. You want as few decision-makers as possible because the longer the sales cycle, the more money you need to raise early on.
  4. 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 may get promoted as a result of implementing your solution. There’s a clear ROI. Success can mean a lot of different things to organizations, but delivering value and making businesses successful is a key part of growing a business.
  5. Cost-effective to acquire
    User acquisition is never an after-thought. 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 sell a more transactional solution to the CEOs of SMBs. You want to make sure you’re able to reach the right decision-makers quickly.
  6. Potential expansion accounts
    There’s an opportunity to Land-and-Expand to sell more seats, licenses, features, etc; upsell and cross-sell are possible. You don’t want to be locked-in simply with your initial deal.
  7. Potential advocates
    If made successful, customers can spread the word with 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: how can you have maximum impact with the product that your business is currently selling, or could realistically have in the next 3 months?

Don’t look too far ahead. You’re looking for the lowest-hanging fruit; 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 across several segments.

Customers will always ask for product enhancements. These requests need to align with your vision of the future.

It’s about being very focused on the problem you’re solving, your exact customers, your total addressable market, your beachhead market, and then executing on that.Scott Barrington, Modlar CEO

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 selling fast 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, but your startup’s solution is not for everyone. Choosing an entry market is a decision you must make if you are to Cross the Chasm.

To focus your efforts initially, create an ideal customer profile in B2B around what prospects and customers share: a need or business problem.

How to Create a B2B Customer Profile (Creating Buyer Personas)

Looking at the information you gathered interacting with customers, you’ll 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 has influence over them?
  • Whom 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 budget? Whom 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 potential customers of different profiles (it often is the case), you can create additional B2B customer profiles.

Good ideal customer profiles communicate the essential information, are quick to create (and update), and help drive towards action. You can use an 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

Ideal Customer Profile Examples in B2B
The Buyer Persona Canvas by Tony Zambito (Download here)

Your ideal customer profile will evolve as you keep learning about the needs and motivations of your ideal customers, but for now, this is an important step that can help focus your sales, product 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 users’ 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.

When Rahul, Conrad Irwin, and Vivek Sodera launched Superhuman in 2014, they knew they had their work cut out for them.

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 actually 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:

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 typically 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.

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 targeting with over 300,000 people on their waiting list, the team still uses the PMF survey to guide their progress.

As Superhuman did, you can focus your product improvements on meeting the needs of your ideal customer profile in B2B.

More on ICPs

Download the First 4 Chapters Free

Learn the major differences between B2B and B2C customer development, how to think about business ideas, and how to assess a venture’s risk in this 70-page sampler.

Working on a B2B Startup?

Learn B2B customer development with our free email course: