[Template] How to use an ideal customer profile template to develop your ABM strategy

March 20, 2019 Caroline Van Dyke

We’ve all been there. You’re tasked with a new marketing initiative to implement, so you jump in immediately to try to show ROI as soon as possible. After all, you want to impress leadership and don’t want to lose your budget.

The catch? Sometimes this leads you to skip some critical steps or overlook a few yellow flags. In the world of account-based marketing (ABM), this can result in target accounts with little to no engagement and sub-optimal pipeline and revenue. Not the ideal outcome!

What went wrong?

If you want to build an account-based strategy that helps you win big, developing a strong ideal customer profile (ICP) is critical. Ultimately, if you don’t invest enough in your ICP, you could end up with a false list of target accounts—leading to wasted sales and marketing dollars. (Spoiler alert—that’s why we’ve created an ideal customer profile worksheet.)

After all, the core tenant of ABM is focusing resources on a smaller pool of potential customers rather than the traditional inbound demand-generation program. That’s why you need to be far more methodical about how you select these lucky accounts. Even the most targeted, highly-personalized campaigns won’t help you close new customers if you’re not speaking to the right accounts.

But how exactly do you know who those right accounts are? Luckily, we’ve developed an ideal customer profile template to help you out. Let’s get started.

What is (and isn’t) an ideal customer profile?

According to the TOPO 2019 Account-Based Benchmark Report, of the most successful account-based organizations, more than 80% say they have a strong ICP. For the other companies, only 42% say they do. Not to mention, organizations with a strong ICP also reported 68% higher win rates. Simply put—a lot rests on your ICP.

Before starting, it’s important to understand what an ICP isn’t. Despite some confusion in the ABM world, it isn’t your total addressable market (TAM), target account list (TAL), individual buyer or buyer persona, or above all, just any company that might want your product.

Instead, it’s a persona of an enterprise that’s an ideal fit for your product. That enterprise persona provides the strategic framework to manage resource allocation and activity across the entire business.

In its most basic form, an ICP defines the firmographic, technographic, and behavioral attributes of the accounts that are expected to become a company’s most valuable customers. You’ll develop this through both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and possibly some predictive analytics. Your ICP ultimately drives target account list creation, segmentation, organizational structure, and other key activities.

How do you build an ideal customer profile?

Since a strong ICP is the foundation for a successful account selection process or campaign set up, you’ll want to have a well-designed method for getting started. To develop a winning ICP, you need to take a detailed look at your most successful closed-won customers of past and present. That’s why we’ve built this ideal customer profile template to guide you through the process. Download your copy, and we’ll talk you through the rest. 

Your ideal customer profile template

There are a few basic steps you’ll need to follow to fill out your ICP worksheet:

1. Ensure you have helpful customer data
 
Before you can begin analyzing your best customers, you need to make sure you have the required data to build a validated ICP. Depending on your organization’s maturity and level of historical sales data, this will likely be a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. 
 
This can look like pulling data from your sales funnel, website visitors, customer calls, NPS, financial data, or business intelligence teams. For most organizations, beginning with sales funnel data is a great place to begin developing an ICP. 
 
This is the stage to begin conversations with your internal business operations, sales operations, or business intelligence teams to access the data you’ll need to fill out your ideal customer profile worksheet. Alternatively, you can look to an ABM platform to fill in the gaps if need be. 
 
2. Look for patterns in your data to identify firmographic and technographic attributes of closed-won accounts
 
Once you have the data you need, you can start to ask some interesting questions about customer acquisition. The data you’ll analyze are usually firmographic and technographic in nature. Here’s what you need to know—and some questions you might start asking.
 
  • FirmographicFirmographics are descriptive attributes of companies that can be used to aggregate individual organizations into meaningful market segments. Essentially, firmographics are to businesses and organizations what demographics are to people. Some examples are:
    • industry (e.g., investment banking, financial services, accounting)
    • geography (e.g., U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland)
    • company size (e.g., 500-5000 employees)
    • revenue (e.g., $10MM+)
  • Technographic—Technographics are a set of attributes that give insight into the tech stack of customers, including contract lengths and other details. Some examples are:
    • marketing automation platform
    • CRM
    • direct mail vendor
    • website hosting vendor
Identifying these patterns and questioning your assumptions are important in this information gathering stage.
 
Tip—In your ideal customer profile worksheet, make sure your closed-won attribute percentages add up to 100% for each attribute like ‘company size’ or ‘industry.’ You’ll want to see the complete distribution for your next step. You can also edit all of the fields to make the firmographic and technographic sub-categories fit your unique use case.
 
3. Isolate top patterns and define your ICP 
 
Now that you’ve organized your sales funnel data based on firmographic and technographic attributes, you'll have a clearer picture of your ICP. You'll want to begin identifying patterns to see if you have any sweet spots that prove most successful.  
 
Based on the data you’ve compiled, here are some questions you might ask:
  • When looking at closed-won accounts, is there a certain type of company size or industry that is most prevalent? Does it surprise you in any way? 
  • Do your best accounts fall within any specific categories? If there are no clear patterns, you may want to find an ABM partner who can do a deeper analysis for you.
  • Can you pull out the top few categories and plug them into Step 2 of your ideal customer profile worksheet? What story does this data tell?

Once you've pulled these patterns into your template, you'll have a defined ICP. To make it easier to communicate to your team and leadership, we suggest you fill in Step 3 of the ideal customer profile worksheet to clearly articulate your new ICP. 

 
4. Begin building your target account list or running campaigns based on firmographic attributes
 
Armed with an ICP, you can create a target account list that aligns to it and tier/prioritize accordingly. Now that you have a list of clear attributes, you can plug these into a database to pull relevant accounts that are a match. This can still be a challenging process for many ABM marketers, but having a strong ICP makes running campaigns far easier. If you have trouble building a list, you may also begin to seek an ABM vendor or partner. (Stay tuned for our target account list template coming out soon!)
 
To further advance your account-based strategies, you can go a step further to begin sourcing contact information for those in the buying committee at your target accounts. After all, it takes 6.8 people to reach a purchase decision for B2B sales. Whether you have your sales team source this data on their own or partner with an ABM vendor, finding the right people to get in front of can make your ABM campaigns far more successful.
 

What’s Next

Since so much rests on your ICP, it’s critical that all relevant parties are brought into the development process as early as possible. This should be a top-down strategic decision, pulling from various data sources and agreed upon by all. This may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you rely on the right data and our ideal customer profile worksheet to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. 
 
It’s important to remember that developing your ICP is never a “done deal.” You should continuously be evaluating data to adjust your ICP so that your target account list and campaigns get better and better.
 
Here at RollWorks, we’ve iterated our ICP a number of times, and most recently, settled on a clear set of ICP traits. This means our entire organization focuses most of our resources on building products and closing deals that fall within our ICP. This gives us some flexibility to focus on accounts outside of our ICP, yet ensures we are all working toward the same goal. 
 
Stay tuned as we’ll continue to bring you the best tips and tricks for winning ABM strategies. Learn more about how our ICP Insights product can give you the data you need to build a winning target account list and take the lead with ABM.

About the Author

Caroline Van Dyke

Caroline is a seasoned B2B content strategist with a love for actionable storytelling that helps build brands and inspire buyers. With her own experience launching a start-up’s very first ABM program, she now focuses on helping teams leverage account-based strategies through content at RollWorks. When she’s not busy typing a million words a minute, she can be found getting overly competitive at trivia, hiking with her dog, or watching the latest standup special on Netflix.

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