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Land More of Your Best Customers With a Laser Focused ICP

A good match is hard to find—ask anyone on Tinder or Bumble these days. Every day, millions of dating app hopefuls filter potential partners by factors like age, location, and political leanings before they start swiping in search of the right person.

Brands do the same thing. But instead of creating a dating app profile, they define their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). An ICP comprises potential customers who have a problem the product can solve. They’re the best possible (and most likely) buyers.

The right ICP helps B2B brands strategically target everything from their demand gen campaigns to outbound sales motions.

How do you identify your ICP and make sure it’s a great fit? I asked three GTM pros for their take — and these experts busted the most common myths and shared best practices for defining and refining ICP:

Are you swiping left on every possible opportunity? Let’s revisit that.

The do’s and dont’s of finding ICP fit

Somewhere along the line, we lost the thread on why ICP matters, how to define it, and when to update it. Jarod, Trinity, and Adam set the record straight with these dos and don’ts.

❌Don’t focus on intent over ICP fit

What’s more effective: data on who appears to be interested in buying, or data on who’s the best fit for your product? For Adam, the answer is clear: “B2B marketers have spent way too much time and energy on this idea of intent signals and not enough time on ICP fit.”

Intent data isn’t magical — marketing can’t just pass it along to sales and hope it turns into a closed deal. “It sounds really cool. But when you interview most sellers, they’ll tell you, ‘Intent is completely marketing BS,’” Trinity explains.

If you’ve clearly defined your ideal customer profile, you can have a real conversation with your sales team about who could become customers:

  • What do they do?
  • What are they about?
  • Are they somebody that you want to serve?

Intent can’t answer those questions for you; ICP fit can.

Jarod Greene
Chief Marketing Officer, Vivun
“Fit trumps intent by so many magnitudes.”

✅Identify your best customers

According to Adam, the smartest companies zero in on their best customers to define their ICP. They ask questions like:

  • Who do we serve best?
  • Who’s renewing?
  • What kinds of customers have high NPS scores?
  • What’s working for them?
  • Why is our product a great fit for them?

“Look downstream of the prospecting and the closed-won deals, and figure out what’s really working,” Adam advises.

Your ICP helps you focus your time and budget by deciding which of your potential customers to prioritize — and they probably look like your current best customers.

❌Don’t use huge TAM numbers without getting specific

A fine-tuned ICP whittles down a huge total addressable market (TAM) into a much smaller number — which can be scary.

It might feel like your ICP is in conflict with what you told the market, your investors, or employees about your TAM, Jarod notes. “But if you really want to tell the truth about who is poised to buy your stuff, use it, adopt it, deploy multiple use cases, renew, and expand, your ICP are the ones you focus on,” he says. “They’re fewer and farther between, but they’re really important.”

Trinity Nguyen
VP of Marketing, UserGems
“When you’re going to market, you prioritize the TAM in different tiers. You say, ‘These are the Tier One that we want to prioritize now to optimize for our spend and resources.’”

Keep that TAM slide in your investor deck, Adam advises. But you need to trim the number down into your serviceable market and ICP, so marketing and sales can aim for best-fit customers.

✅ Revisit your ICP regularly

Defining your ICP isn’t a one-and-done effort. You need to review and assess your fit regularly — ideally, every six to 12 months.

When Trinity started at UserGems in 2020, her first goal was to understand the ideal customer profile for asset creation and planning, so she began tracking ICP criteria in Salesforce over time.

Every six months in planning sessions, her team discussed recent churn and changes in the market. The patterns they uncovered helped them identify when and how to adjust their fit criteria, especially as a younger company trying to grow.

While churn rates across the SaaS industry are way higher today than they were three years ago, UserGems’ efforts to refine its ICP have helped Trinity’s team prioritize and focus on customers they can keep.

How to define ICP fit: 4 best practices

Now that we’ve busted some of the myths about ICP fit, let’s get tactical. Trinity, Jarod, and Adam share their advice on how to define your ideal customer profile in the first place — here are four of their best practices.

Define clear parameters around ICP

Adam’s team at Keyplay sees the full spectrum of ICP implementation. Some customers use four or five attributes, while others look at what he calls a “soup” of 30 or 40 elements to determine if someone is an ideal customer.

When setting these parameters, you shouldn’t ignore factors like geography, industry, or headcount altogether: “That’s your serviceable market,” Adam explains. “But when it comes to ICP, you’re trying to get more fine-grained. Where do I want to focus? What’s the priority?

Adam Schoenfeld
CEO, Keyplay
“You want some depth. You want to be able to get at the customer’s mindset, business activities, strategies, and priorities.”

Without a clear definition of the ICP, misalignment reigns — product, customer success, and sales might all understand the ideal customer differently. When that happens, Jarod says, “We’re in trouble.” But GTM teams that hone their focus with a shared understanding can align sales and marketing efforts.

Jarod’s team has refined their attributes, but they’re also learning when to deviate from the ICP. “You don’t want to be so rigid that you’re missing signals and opportunities to learn, expand, and refine,” Jarod explains. “When new attributes and signals come in, what do you do with those? You can’t ignore new data and new information.”

Rely on historical data

Over her four and a half years of adjusting ICP fit at UserGems, Trinity and her team have gained a lot of data on what worked in the past, what didn’t work, and what’s changed in the meantime.

They frequently review their pipeline and classify previous deals based on whether they were ICP or not. When recently closed deals shift in the direction of non-ICP, that feedback prompts them to proactively address how the audience is evolving.

Historical data helps you sort out the signal from the noise. Jarod says that figuring out which messaging didn’t resonate is a feature of rolling out your ICP, not a bug: “If it wasn’t the right target or the right person, you were never set up for success to begin with.”

Early-stage companies don’t usually have much historical data, especially if they’re leaning on founder-led sales or investor intros. But your ICP inputs don’t have to number in the hundreds or thousands: “You can form a starting point from a small number,” Adam explains. Try looking at your late-stage ops, gut instinct about the kinds of logos you want, or gold star customers.

As your revenue and customer base grow, you can build a more well-defined ICP using historical data. It won’t be perfect at first, but each quarter, you’ll gain more insights to keep refining. Start with what you have, and grow from there.

Look to wins and losses

A lot of GTM teams focus all their attention on closed-won data, and there’s obvious value in understanding the people who have spent money and deployed your product. But the yeses aren’t the only place you should look to understand ICP fit. As Jarod points out, “There’s a lot of value in the not-nows and the nos,” so learn from your closed-lost deals, too.

Examine the prospects who took the meeting because they thought your product did something different or those who see the value of one use case but not others. These details can clarify the value proposition of your product and the audience you need to target.

Jarod Greene
Chief Marketing Officer, Vivun
“Win data’s phenomenal, but the closed-no decision and the closed-lost data is just as valuable to inform what the ICP could be.”

If you don’t have a lot of historical win data, shift your focus to the nos and not-nows. Use the insights you glean to shape your ICP.

Give new strategies time to take effect

Good things take time, but a lot of companies test a new GTM strategy or ICP and then pivot before they’ve assessed whether it’s working.

I’ve experienced this myself at previous companies. In some instances, we probably were heading in the right direction, but we changed tack mid-experiment and didn’t see things through.

Trinity empathizes with this instinct to pivot quickly. If you think a strategy isn’t landing with your audience, the anxiety is real — but it doesn’t mean you should pull a 180 right away.

“Realistically, people just have to wait it out. You need to let the market absorb,” she says. Give your ICP experiments time to bear fruit, and don’t switch things up until you’ve learned what’s working.

Trinity Nguyen
VP of Marketing, UserGems
“Give it some time — stick with your new ICP until you can learn. Let it breathe.”

How much “breathing time” should you give a new ICP? It depends, but Trinity recommends at least one sales cycle — for the mid-market, this typically means two to three months.

Use that time to build what Adam calls a “learning loop.” “You have to feed your ICP from strategy into your operations. It might not be perfect, but if you don’t use it, you’re never going to know anything.”

He recommends testing the new ICP in your ads, outbound, and territories. Run a comparison on your account-based LinkedIn ads to see if the target audience shows up in top-of-funnel metrics like clicks and form fills.

Tl;dr — Data + strategy + time = ICP fit.

Meet your match when you find ICP fit

When you market to everyone, you sell to no one.

But a clear, well-defined ICP lets marketing and sales teams prioritize their time, hone their message, and operate like a well-oiled GTM machine.

Once you’ve figured out your ICP (at least, for now!) you can gather evidence from your best customers: specific proof to convince other ideal-customer companies that your product is for them. Those efforts can be expensive and time-consuming unless you have a platform designed to help you capture, curate, and share customer evidence.

If you’re looking for your partner in customer proof, let’s talk — UserEvidence is here to help.

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