Defining your ideal customer profile: What is the process? : Episode 8

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An ideal customer profile is different than a buyer persona. It defines companies that are the best fit for your products and services. It focuses on key characteristics of an organization, major buying triggers and other things that indicate they are an ideal fit for your solution.

If you’ve done your homework and created a good one, you’ll know exactly what type of companies are the best fit for your products and services. You can then use that information to create content that is highly relevant to this audience and attracts the right buyers to your

[00:00] Show intro

[00:23] Welcome and intro to today’s topic

[00:54] What is an ideal customer profile?

[02:30] Buyer persona vs. ideal customer profile

[06:25] What goes into an ideal customer profile?

[08:08] The steps to creating an ideal customer profile

[16:26] How far should you narrow down your target?

[20:50] How to use your ideal customer profile

[29:46] Leverage your ideal customer profile when developing your story for the market

[32:24] Key points from the episode

[32:53] Outro

The Demand Gen Fix is hosted by GrowthMode Marketing. Visit to learn more about us.


Hey everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You are listening to The Demand Gen Fix the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in HR tech industry.


Welcome to The Demand Gen Fix podcast. This is episode eight. I’m Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing and I’m back with Erica and Deanna. Today we’re going to talk about how you can define an ideal customer profile. If you’ve done your homework and created a good one, you’ll know exactly what type of companies are the best fit for your products and services. You can then use that information to create content that’s highly relevant to this audience and attracts the right buyers for your solutions. Let’s jump right in by talking about what exactly is an ideal customer profile.


In the most basic description, it’s your best fit customer.


It’s the company or the profile of companies that you feel are most likely to buy your products or services. Ultimately, it’s a representation of your ideal client, focused on that company or that account versus the person or the profile within.


When you’re thinking about ideal customer profiles, it’s important how you use it. Typically, these are going to be used at the beginning of a sales and marketing process. It’s going to help you identify and hone-in on who that best fit target audience of prospects is that you should be going after. It looks at things like business triggers, product use cases, and key organizational characteristics. You find those companies and you create content that attracts those type of companies to you.


At GrowthMode Marketing we have a lot of clients that have created buyer personas, and they’re going to ask, what’s the difference between this buyer persona that we have and this ideal customer profile?


It’s important to realize that the ideal customer profile is focused on the company. Your buyer persona is focused within that company, who’s the individual buyer or that profile of person within the company who is going to be making the decision or influencing the decision. The buyer persona is focusing on the person and not the company. There’s a fine line between the two, and we find this conversation really comes up a lot at the beginning of a project.


Both of them are important and play a role in what you do with that data. Think about it at a really high level, the ideal customer profile is about the type of companies that you’re targeting and you’re trying to attract. The buyer personas are the individuals within those companies. How they think and operate, and how you work through the sales process with them. You need to find those companies before you worry about the individual buyer.


Your ideal customer profile is important to identify at the beginning of the process.


In a really cluttered market such as the HR technology space, narrowing down your focus can really help you increase your traction. There are over 21,000 HR technology vendors out there, and they’re all competing for a piece of the HR tech budget. Someone might look at it and say, well, that’s a payroll company and we don’t compete against that platform, we work on recruitment solutions. But it might be the same budget, so in a sense, you are competing against all these other platforms when that Chief HR officer is determining what their budget is and how they’re going to use it throughout the year. Your messaging can get lost in the crowd. People can be overwhelmed by that when they are out there in the market looking at all the solutions out there. An ideal customer profile really can be valuable in those cases because what it’s helping you do is focus in on your audience to allow you to get hyper-focused with your messaging, so it stands out in that sea of sameness.


Highlighting the fact that this is an ideal customer profile and is allowing you to get hyper focused and switch your messaging towards that particular audience. It allows you to come up with a message that resonates directly with those ideal customers versus trying to be everything to everybody and getting in front of this huge total addressable market. It allows you to hone-in and key your message towards those people that you feel like are the best fit for your company, for your products and solutions.


Is it the same type of information that goes in into an ideal customer profile as a buyer persona, or is it slightly different?


It’s a little bit different. You’re taking a look at the firmographic and those are details about the ideal company that you want to target, including the size of it, the revenue they bring in, their industry, their location, their customer base. Then you’ve got the technographics, and that focuses on systems integration requirements, the keys to making the product work often. These also include details about the complimentary technologies that make your product work even better. And then there’s the buying triggers. These traits are often time bound or situational, the indicator readiness to convert. Some examples of buying triggers are a new round of funding, or a merger or an acquisition, a new CEO at the helm, expansion of the company. These are things that you’re looking at when starting to think about who your ideal customer profile is.


As you dig in and you do the research for your ideal customer profile, you’re going to find different companies depending on what your products and services are. Who you’re trying to target may have different triggers than some of these obvious ones, like the companies expanding or going through an acquisition.


What are the steps of creating an ideal profile?


You need to analyze the numbers. Think about the numbers that you already have in your database. Analyzing your quantitative data, and that’s your past clients, your present clients. There’s all kinds of different numbers that you can dig into.


What is the length of the sales cycle, what is the quicker end of that close, your customer acquisition, cost satisfaction level, starting to look at some of that. Does the company do any sort of surveying to see satisfaction levels or net promoter scores? What is your overall length of a relationship with a client? Those are some other things to think about.


If they renew business with you on a regular basis, the first thing to look at is the size of the deal, the profitability, anything that you can put down in numbers. But then there’s so much more to it too. We also want to talk about the qualitative data. That is something that you reach out to the rest of your team for.


Before we jump into the qualitative data, let’s talk a little bit more about the quantitative data. A lot of organizations will say, how do I get that? The reality is sometimes that information is easier said than done. It’s really important to make an effort to try to get it. However, the reality can be that your data is only as good as what’s been entered into your sales CRM. If you don’t have sales reps who are accurately recording when they first start talking to a lead, it’s going to be really hard to indicate the length of sales cycle and dig into that. If you don’t do customer satisfaction surveys, you’re going to have a really hard time looking at each individual client and saying, here’s the customer satisfaction level.


It’s a matter of going and figuring out how much of this data can we capture and how can we slice it out by client to really have something to compare client over client with. Look at your past and present clients, because the more data you can have you can start to look at the numbers and compare these different companies to each other and say, this company, with their length of sales cycle, they actually close pretty quickly. When you’re behind on revenue, what are the type of companies you want to be targeting? Not the ones that are going to take 18 months to close, but the ones that are going to take three months to close because it’s going to be a faster way to add revenue to the bottom line.


It’s important not to gloss over the numbers, but to find the data and where there are commonalities across clients and where there are standouts. Then you take it to that next level, collecting that qualitative data from your internal team. If we just look at the numbers, these types of clients seem to be our best, let’s go talk to our team that actually works with them to see. If you’ve got someone that’s really hard to work with, they’re probably not the kind of client you want to continue to attract.


Everyone deals with people that are hard to work with. And then you have other people that you work with that are amazing and you just absolutely love working with them. And obviously that’s the kind of client you want to attract.


One could argue there’s a personality factor there, and you can’t pick companies based on personalities. When you’re looking at it and saying this client’s hard to work with, or this one’s really easy to work with, it’s more about the org structure and the roles that you have access to and how political those organizations are. Companies love to sell to Fortune 500 companies, sometimes there’s so many layers of management and roles within those organizations that they can be more difficult to work with simply because you have to navigate all those things as a vendor of that organization. Whereas smaller organizations, might be simpler to make a sale in there and to have day-to-day contact with that organization.


It comes down to asking some of the questions, who are the best customers to work with? Who’s the most difficult customers to work with? Or maybe it’s more of the ongoing support that causes difficulties, but not just asking these types of questions, but also asking why. Really starting to uncover why do you feel like this about certain groups of customers? Get as much of a comprehensive look at what your internal team is feeling in order to start to complete that picture that you’re painting.


Think about how companies think about you too. It’s not just about what you think about working with them, but do these companies like working with you and do they like how your processes work?


Do you have clients that are out there advocating for your products or services or who are a promoter or an influencer of your solutions, somebody that you can rely on for that kind of thing to reference your products in different ways. You should be looking at that and asking why. Who’s putting the most value on your product? Who feels the strongest about the value that you’re offering, whether it’s in your technology, your HR technology platform, a software platform, or it’s a service. Who puts the most value there and feels strongly about the value that your company is bringing to their organization.


Digging deep and understanding if they’re an advocate for you, if they’re going out and they’re a raving fan. Are there situational things about their experience? Is it because they have a certain technology that your HR technology platform integrates with really well? It creates more excitement around it, not just, my account manager has a great relationship with me, therefore I love your company. It has to go deeper than that. If you start looking at these companies and finding out where companies are similar in their organizational structure, in the technology that they have in the industry. That’s where there’s really powerful knowledge to be able to hone-in on your ideal customer profile, because it’s not about the individual personalities working in an organization and the ability to have a good customer service rep client relationship. It’s much deeper than that.


Once you’ve looked at the quantitative and qualitative data, how do you narrow it down or how far do you narrow it down? Is there a perfect number of ideal clients that you have now that you want to take a look at? What is the best way to take those two things and start to identify who your best customer is?


It depends on how big your client portfolio is. Some organizations are going to have hundreds, maybe thousands of clients that they can evaluate the data and really find the trends. If you’re more in startup phase or younger as a company, you’re not going to have as big of a database of information to go after. How many customers you identify or companies that fit that ideal profile is really going to depend on what you have to work with. Find ten companies that seem to have common themes that are aligning where you’re like, if we could have more companies just like this, let’s understand what it is about them, how they were thinking on their side to help us refine that ideal customer profile even more.


It’s not always going to be your biggest customer, let’s identify your target audience. They might decide to go after airlines because they’re working with Delta Airlines and they’re the biggest client. It would be amazing if we could go after them. But just because they’re your biggest client doesn’t actually mean that they’re the best one to consistently go out and try to find. When you’re looking at your ideal customer profile and you evaluate all the factors, you want them to be easy to sell to. For example, they have the right issues, they have big enough need or pain points that they feel they must address it, and they know they need a solution. There are other factors to consider as well.


One of my favorites would be that they’re easy to manage. Once you’ve sold to them and you start to work with this customer, are they easy to manage? Do they see and experience the value in your products or solutions? Are they happy and is it a breeze to work with them? What makes it easy to work with these people?


Not just looking at the revenue they bring in to say, they’re profitable. Sometimes these really complex clients actually require so much handholding and so much staff resources beyond what you would expect should be needed, that they’re not as good of a client as somebody that pays less in revenue but is much easier to work with. I think another thing from a profitability standpoint is how likely are they to renew with you? Are they going to question when renewals come up, or are they looking at this as a long-term relationship? Because those long-term partners, the total lifetime value of that customer is going to be a factor that you should think about as you’re looking the profitability of a company.


Once you’ve identified these best customers from your ideal customer profile, what’s the next step? What do we do?


Once they are identified and you feel the organization has come to an agreement that they are who you feel is the best fit, then you want to start to identify contacts within and start to talk to those people. Find out what reasons they have that they choose solutions like yours or what happens within their organization that triggers the search of these different types of solutions or products. Ask them how they learned about your company, start to understand a little bit more from that client’s perspective.


How did you learn about our company and what industry and resources are you going to find your information? Because when you’re building out a demand generation strategy, you want to get focused content that was designed specifically to attract this ideal customer profile out in all of the places that these companies and the individual buyers within these companies are going to for their resources. It’s not always a Google search, it’s much more nuanced than that. They might have gone to a conference and had conversations with their peers. How do we get the word out and make sure people at that conference are talking about us or they’re listening to a podcast or they’re going to G2 or Trustpilot or some other review site.


There are a lot of different places that people go for information. If you can find themes across these companies that you’ve identified that fit into that ideal customer profile, you can start to weave together a picture of the places we need our content to be showing up so that they know we exist. Create brand awareness and we’re going to be everywhere they’re going. Building trust because we’re in the places and we are a part of the conversation where they’re going to look for advice and we understand what is out there and available to them.


You can also start to ask them about what was most important when they were evaluating solutions. Not just our current solutions or products, but when you’re looking at us against other people, what were they looking for? What were they evaluating us against? Talk to them about who within the organization was involved in these conversations and decision making.


Find out their org structure because what if you find HR departments or technology departments that are arranged a certain way or have certain roles? What if you find themes there such as an HR position that other organizations don’t have. You start finding organizations that have this particular position are more likely to buy your product, that needs to be part of your ideal customer profile.


As them how they use your product or what made them choose your product and why they might recommend it to somebody else in their industry. What do the competitive products and solutions lack that yours has? Narrow down what made them choose you in the long run?


The deeper you can dig, the more information you can gather from these people, the more informed you can be in really refining out that ideal customer profile. You don’t need a five-hour meeting with them, you can cover a lot of information if you ask the right questions within an hour of having a conversation with them. Where do we find the themes? Then you take all this information from the conversations you had with your internal team, the conversations you had with those companies that you identified as ideal fits and the quantitative data that you collected, and you marry it all together. Then you should be able to define a really clear profile of buying triggers, key characteristics of organizations and details that you need to know to be able to clearly outline that this is the ideal customer to go after.


Then you can start to build your marketing around those people and start to drive your content to those people and those companies that you’ve identified as your ideal customer.


Now we really know this audience, we know exactly what their pain points were, we know the types of things that came up in that buying process when they chose your solution, what are their buying triggers? We can start to create our own content around that and really focus in on their pain points, focus in on those topics and messages. Knowing those buying triggers makes the whole content creation aspect so much simpler for an organization. At GrowthMode, if we have an ideal customer profile whether we’ve built that out for a company or they have one when they come to work with us, it makes it so much easier to get up and running with a content strategy and then to form a demand generation strategy around that audience specifically. Rather than guessing as we start to create content and building and testing all these different messages, we really know which message to focus on. It makes that process a lot simpler from the get-go as far as content creation goes.


What happens a lot of times in organizations is they go and build ideal customer profiles or buyer personas, and then they put it on a shelf, and they never actually do anything with it. The way we recommend using it with clients at GrowthMode Marketing is we’re taking this living breathing document and we’re making sure we’re applying it as we’re building out your content strategy. Everything that we’re going to create for you or that you are going to create from a content perspective needs to be targeted and very focused to this ideal customer profile. And with that, you’re no longer going out there and trying to be everything to everybody because the whole point of having an ideal customer profile is you get more focused with your messaging to talk specifically to those people with the goal of attracting more of those best fit companies to use as a catalyst to growth for your organization.


Not only the creation of the content, but really understanding where to distribute the content and getting the message out to the right channel. Interview clients and ask them questions to understand where they’re finding information, where they’re searching for these types of products. Based on those conversations, we know where these prospects are going for their information and that’s where we need to be. From a demand generation perspective, that makes our lives a lot easier. Understanding where these channels are, where our prospects are going to be, and then catering that message and tone of those different pieces of content appropriately for the channel. Whether that’s social peer review sites, a podcast, conferences, trade shows, etc. Being able to understand where to distribute your content also becomes a lot easier.


The next step is to develop your unique point of view. You need to resonate with these companies that you’ve now identified. To do that you need to develop a unique and impactful point of view that you can cut through that crowded space that we talked about before. You need to get through to them so that your prospects know you and remember you and value your name and your company when it’s time for them to buy.


When we’re working with clients, we will start with the ideal customer profile. The next thing we look at is that unique point of view and how do you build out that story very intentionally targeted to that ideal customer profile. Then we get to the content stage where we build out a solid content engine using the framework we developed for your unique point of view. We start to push that content out there in all the places that we found during our ideal customer profile exercise where people are going to find their content and it’s all working together.


Once you’ve done this work and you identify that ideal customer profile, it makes being able to build a list for account-based marketing or ABM a lot simpler. You’ll be able to say, this is the ideal customer profile. Now I know what these traits are, I know the different characteristics of the best fit companies for me. Then we can go out and actually build out a list of companies that we want to target specifically and then build that our ABM strategy around that.


As you build everything else out and you get to the time to do account-based marketing, who do we target? That ideal customer profile is the first place I’m going to look because you start to build out a list of companies that fit into that ideal customer profile. Now your ABM strategy compliments everything else you’re doing and takes things to the next level. There are a lot of things that you should be using your ideal customer profile for. The first step is creating that ideal customer profile and really doing it well. From there, there’s so much you can do with that data to be a smarter marketer and to build the demand generation engine that will get results for you and will help you get on that journey to high growth.


Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.

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