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Episode 18: The Ideal Client Profile: Who's Your Who & The Single Most Important Question Your Business Can Answer

by Hannah Rose | Mar 16, 2022 12:00:00 PM

Is it 2023 yet? Because it sure feels like it and we’re only in the middle of March! That’s okay though because good news: baseball is back! Doug is extremely excited about this. If you’re watching the video today you’ll notice he’s wearing a Reds hat. So before we can get into the episode on ideal client profiles, it’s crucial that everyone knows the full lineup of the Reds, only because it’s debated throughout the episode:

Pete Rose - LF
Johnny Bench - C
Tony Perez - 1B
Joe Morgan - 2B
Dave Concepcion - SS
Starting Pitchers - Jack Billingham, Don Gullett, Ross Grimsley, Fred Norman, Gary Nolan
Pedro Borbon and Clay Carroll were the closers out of the bullpen

Now that we got that out of the way, the topic for today is in fact not baseball. Today’s topic is all about the ideal client profile (ICP). This has come up in a few places on the podcast and Doug likes to reference the fact that people think they have ICPs and in fact they don’t.




Additional Resources: 

Show Notes:

Before we can talk about what an ICP is, we have to talk about the why. Why an ideal client profile? 

Doug believes that the most important question that a company can ask itself and answer on a daily basis is who do we want to be a hero to? Who’s your who? (If Dr. Seuss were to say it.) Start with who because you can’t have a why without a who. Realize, you are not the hero. Your customer is the hero. 

Luke Skywalker is the hero. You are not Luke Skywalker; you are Yoda. Whoever the business or provider is, is Yoda. Skywalker is the hero, but Doug would make the argument that to Luke Skywalker, Yoda was Luke Skywalker’s hero.

This gets to strategy and making decisions. From a marketing and messaging standpoint, you can’t market or message without a clear, ideal client profile. If you can’t define yourself by your why, you can’t define yourself as a whole. If you can define yourself by your what, you’re going to be commoditized. 

From a revenue operations perspective, when we’re optimizing for how we sell, we have to optimize for how people buy. We have to enable how people decide which involves how we provide. Your ideal client profile in so many ways is the center point of “Who are we solving for?” If you don’t know who your customer is, you can’t solve for them.

If you don’t have a clear, full understanding to who your ICP is, you don’t have empathy which means what you designed for is yourself. 

Marcus Andrews wrote a post on LinkedIn saying “Pineapple is my favorite food, but when I go fishing, I use worms.” A lot of marketers miss that concept. Doug doesn’t care what works for you, it matters what works for your customer.

What is an ideal client profile? 

An ideal client profile is a detailed description that addresses/outlines the demographics, psychographics. It’s an empathetic abstract of who you want to be the hero to. In a B2B context, this is usually an organization. The most important part of a strong ICP is that it not only creates a clear articulation of who is and is not your ideal client profile.

When selling to people, there’s a group that you sell to and there’s a group that you’re happy to let buy. The ideal client profile is who you sell to. That’s the group that doesn’t know it yet, but they need to be working with you. They’re the ones who you build and design for. 

Everyone and every organization is different. You need to account for that. Your messaging is designed to appeal to the group you’re selling to.

Think about it this way, have you ever gone bowling? When you’re at the top of the land and you have the ball in your hand, what’s your goal? To knock over all 10 pins. To get a strike, do you aim at all 10? No, you aim at one (well more like one and a half). By hitting that pocket clearly and distinctly with momentum, that generates more momentum. That’s how you expand. Jeffrey Moore calls this the Bowling Alley. The ICP is your head pin.

How do you know when your ICP is done? If you ever think it’s done, you’re in trouble because it’s never done. It’s something you’re always tweaking. It shouldn’t be changing dramatically.

What are some misconceptions about ideal client profiles? 

Doug mentions that sometimes an ideal client profile is your company persona, but your ICP is not a sales aid. It’s not a marketing aid either. Having a segment of your ICP laid out is not an ideal client profile; it’s a step to one.

Doug’s Hot Take: The single thing he hates the most about sales and about the way sales is taught is that it’s taught with an idea of qualification. This creates a transactional relationship to begin with. If you’re going to qualify someone, screw you because qualifications are not a judgment. It’s a statement of fact. If you fit the profile, you’re qualified, and if you don’t, you’re not qualified. 

There are attributes that if you hit a score you’re qualified and if you don’t hit a score, you’re not. If a profile fits and they’re working with your number one competitor and you’re a fan of that competitor, there’s a chance they’re never going to work with you, but they are not disqualified. They meet the criteria of a company that should and could be working with you. They aren’t a prospect, but they are qualified.

The ideal client profile also alerts us to when a company fits and they have no interest in us. At that point you have to figure out what you’re getting wrong or what they are getting wrong. There’s tremendous opportunity for learning that’s there.

Qualify the company, never qualify the contact. 

Where do you start with putting together your ideal client profile? 

Your ICP is not your best current customer description. A lot of people say to start with your best customers, and Doug says start with the question, “Who do you want to be a hero to?” Who do you need to be a no-brainer to? That has to feed your economic engine. You have to narrow who you work with. Chalk the lines, build the box. Who do you want to be a hero to and then build from there.

Ask yourself, if you could only sell to one type of customer, what would they have to look like? That’s where we started our ideal client profile exercise. The way to test your ICP while you’re working on it is describe things that don’t fit. 

How often should you review or modify it?

If you ever have to ask yourself that question, you don’t have an ideal client profile. It’s always being reviewed. You’re always tweaking it. If you’re completely changing your who, then you’re changing your company.

Next Steps: