Working with clients who are not a good fit for your business can lead to wasted time, lost income, and bad reviews. Such collaborations will likely be counterproductive for your business as well as for the client. Therefore, as you gain more experience in your industry and learn about the market you’re operating in, you must keep track of some key factors, such as:
- Which clients did you enjoy working with?
- Which projects were the most lucrative?
- Which customers left your company a positive review?
- Which type of clients have the highest retention rate?
- What do some of your best, long-term clients have in common?
However, it’s not just the positive experiences that you should keep track of. You should also make note of every project that didn’t yield the desired results, or every client that left you a negative review. This will help you understand which types of clients (and projects) are not well suited for your business. Then, you can either change/improve your business model, or avoid clients who are unlikely to be satisfied with the services you offer.
Using an ICP to Find the Ideal Client
A client who always loves your work, pays your invoices on time, offers valuable feedback, and refers you to others in their network might sound wonderful on paper – but do they really exist? Yes, they do. In fact, that’s what an Ideal Client Profile (ICP) is all about. An ICP is simply a representation of the perfect-fit client who is most likely to buy your products and services, be satisfied with that purchase, remain loyal to your business, and recommend it to others. Most importantly, an ICP is built on the basis of extensive research, data, and feedback. It is not just a wish-list of what you want your clients or customers to be. It is a data-based representation of the type of clients and customers that you should be trying to attract. There are three distinct types of data that you need to gather, in order to create an effective and useful ICP. These are:
- Demographic data: This is a collection of objective and statistical data about your best-fitting clients, such as their (average) age, gender, education level, ethnicity, and economic status.
- Psychographic data: This is a more subjective list of the attitudes, interests, lifestyle, and aspirations of your average ideal client. Their personality, values, spending habits, goals, and hobbies should all be included in this section of the ICP.
- Behavioral data: This section will focus on the business behaviors of your ideal client. For instance, it will list their email open rates, social media engagement, purchase timing, and other data that can help you understand how their behaviors are affecting your sales.
With all this data in hand, you will be able to narrow your focus and dedicate your time, money, and energy to pursue only the most valuable leads in your business. A great ICP will help you craft offers, develop your brand messaging, and create marketing campaigns directed specifically towards attracting the type of client that would be an ideal fit for your business. Knowing exactly who you are talking to will allow you to build relationships and create resonance among your target audience, even when you’re not face-to-face with them. This, in turn, will increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and shorten the sales cycle by a significant margin.
How to Create an Ideal Client Profile?
Now that you know what an ICP is and how it might be useful for your business, it is time to figure out how to create such a profile. Listed below are the primary steps involved in building an ICP for your business.
Expand Your Network
To find the ideal clients for your business, you must first expand your existing network. Getting to know different types of people (and organizations) in your industry will help you identify the ones that you want to work with, as well as the people and organizations that are not a good fit for your business. So, you must spend a few hours every day researching and understanding your target audience. For instance, if you operate a graphic design agency, then you might want to research the local software development companies, advertising and video production firms, and even television studios. You may also look into any large, full-service digital agencies in your area, as they often outsource specific tasks to smaller agencies. Attend events and webinars that are relevant to your industry or line of work, follow some of your prospective clients on social media, and organize surveys to get further insights into their priorities and mindset. This will help you gain exposure to a larger pool of potential clients. As a result, it will be easier for you to identify the ones that would be ‘ideal’ for your business. These are the individuals or companies that have the budget to comfortably pay your fees, and are dealing with problems and pain points that you are uniquely qualified to resolve. For the best results, you should start out by focusing on a particular niche – preferably the one in which you have the most experience and confidence. For instance, if your agency has produced a lot of designs and logos for restaurants, cafés, etc., then you should initially focus your energies on the local food service industry. This is because expanding too rapidly (and in too many directions) could get you flagged as a spammer on social media groups and email databases, which will make it hard for you to reach prospective clients in the future.
Identify and Interview Your Best Clients
Drawing from your own experiences as a business owner is a great way to build an ideal client profile. If you have been running your business for more than a year, then you can create an ICP by identifying and analyzing the traits and behaviors common among some of your best clients. To create an ICP from your existing client list, just follow these steps:
- Make a list of your most profitable accounts.
- What is your average client lifespan? How many of your most profitable clients have been with your agency longer than this period?
- How much time does it normally take you to make a sale? Which of your clients signed on with your agency in less than that time?
- Which of your clients provide prompt and clear feedback, participate actively in your process, and communicate well?
- Which clients make payments on time, and with the least prompting?
- Which of your clients earn the highest ROI from the services that you deliver?
Once you’ve answered all of these questions, you can draw up a list of your top ten clients – those who score highly on all or most of these categories. Then, you can interview each of these top ten clients to gather qualitative as well as quantitative data about their goals, challenges, pain points, decision-making processes, and other relevant information. Comparing the data collected from your ten best clients – and finding out the points at which they converge – will help you create your ICP. For instance, if seven of your ten best clients signed up with you when they were trying to attract their first 1000 customers, then that might suggest that your ideal client is a (relatively) new entrepreneur who has just begun to scale their business.
To successfully create an ICP that will help you target prospective clients and grow your business, you need to understand the importance of budget allocations. An ideal client is one who has identified a need for your services or products, understands the value that you can deliver to their business, and has the financial resources to pay your fees. Ideally, the company should be profitable and growing. This will ensure that they do not need to cut corners, and that they can be enticed with offers for upsells and renewals. A client who can comfortably afford your rates will also be more patient and less demanding when the ROI is a bit delayed (or temporarily lower than expected). A client who can barely afford your services will be quick to downsize at the first hint of a setback. So, your ICP must include a section on the ‘ideal minimum budget’ – or a minimum amount of cash that the company should be allocating to services or products such as yours. Conversely, there might be some prospects who have a hefty budget, but demand more services or features than you can currently offer. This might also be a reason to exclude them from your list of ideal prospects. Clients with bigger budgets are also likely to attract many agencies similar to yours, which would give rise to stiff competition. Therefore, you should not rely solely on the possibility of winning such a contract or retaining that client over the long haul. Smaller budget clients are often easier to retain, due to the lower competition. Information about a potential client’s budgetary constraints (and corresponding expectations) can be essential for determining whether or not that lead is worth pursuing.
Determine their Pain Points
This is part of the psychographic data that you will need to collect, when building your ICP. This type of data can be used to study and identify the subjective, social and psychological aspects of your ideal client. Psychographic data can help you find effective ways to approach (and close deals with) your ideal clients. And there is no single metric more important than the major pain points of a prospective client. All businesses, regardless of their size or industry, have recurring challenges and pain points. And most of them are willing to allocate a healthy budget to try and resolve these issues, as that can potentially make the business more efficient and profitable. If you can identify these pain points, you can figure out which major issues your product or service is solving for your (current and prospective) clients. To better illustrate this point, let us go back to the earlier example of a graphic design agency that primarily serves clients in the food service industry.
Winning Client Loyalty by Resolving a Pain Point
Perhaps you figure out, after interviewing your ten best clients, that one of their major pain points before signing on with your agency was that they struggled to stand out from similar establishments in their area. Being unique and memorable are good ways for a restaurant or café to leverage that all-important word-of-mouth marketing. After all, satisfied patrons will only talk about your restaurant if you can stay at the forefront of their mind. Once the graphic design agency understands that this is a common pain point for their best clients, they can analyze the steps they took to help the client overcome this problem. Perhaps they designed an attractive, instragrammable menu with a unique layout and memorable logo, tailor-made for the restaurant’s specialties. Or maybe they revamped the packaging design for the takeout boxes and paper cups used by the café, which helped increase their takeout or delivery orders.
Using Pain Points to Land New Clients
Whatever they did to solve the problem, the graphic design agency can now use this data to approach new clients who are facing a similar issue. When on a discovery call with a prospective client from the food service industry, they can zero in on the problem and highlight their past successes in helping restaurants and cafés design unique and memorable packaging, menus, etc. to stand out among their competitors. Armed with glowing testimonials from similar businesses, and hard data to back up their claims, it would be much easier for the agency to convince prospective clients that they truly understand their problems, and can help resolve them within a set timeframe. But this is only possible because the agency now knows the common pain points of their ideal client. You too can determine the major pain points of your best clients and use that knowledge to find prospects who are facing similar problems, before convincing them that only you (and your agency) can provide a solution.
Media and Influencers
Sharing common business goals with your client is undoubtedly important, but an ideal client is someone with whom you share more points of commonality than that. In fact, the greater the common ground between you and your client, the more likely it is that they would come back to your agency with new projects. There is more to a business relationship, after all, than just the cold hard numbers. Therefore, your ICP must include the types of influencers that your ideal client typically follows, and the news outlets (including websites, trade/professional journals, etc.) from which they gain their market insights.
Common Ideas, Goals, and Insights
If you follow some of the same influencers or read the same newspapers and journals, this will make it easier for you to maintain an interesting conversation with that client. It will also mean that you probably share some common ideas, insights, and a compatible mental wavelength. Following the same types of media and influencers will also help you better understand the goals, challenges, and motivations of your ideal clients. This, in turn, will allow you to create a more accurate ICP and gain more success in your cold outreach efforts.
Research and Surveys
To learn which influencers and news sources your ideal client follows, you can conduct a survey or interview among your top existing and past clients. The influencers, journals, and newspapers that most people on this list subscribe to are the ones that you should keep an eye on. Other business owners or managers who also follow those influencers and journals might be well-suited to your business and, therefore, worth reaching out to. You can also join industry-specific social media groups and subscribe to popular newsletters in the community, to learn more about the influencers that your clients follow. Subscribe to the news websites that your best clients read regularly, and check out the online forums where they typically socialize with others in the industry. This will help you gain their insights, anticipate their needs, and better follow their thought processes. As a result, you will be able to easily engage with (and retain) your best clients, identify the most suitable prospects, and land new clients that are the perfect fit for your business.
Making the ICP Work for Your Business
Once you’ve followed the above-mentioned steps to create your ICP, you will need to start putting it to good use. An ICP can be used to improve your brand positioning, offers, and cold outreach strategies. Listed below are two of the ways in which an ICP can help you achieve your client-acquisition and business development goals.
You can use your ideal client profile to ensure that your brand messaging is highly focused and personalized – perfectly primed to attract prospects who fit your ICP. A clear and accurate ICP can help you customize your website so that it addresses the challenges and pain points of businesses that have much in common with your best clients. You can also use the ICP to customize your blog and social media pages in the same way. When creating promotional content for your business, you can tailor your message in accordance with the details in the ICP. This will help increase your cold email success rates, as people are much more likely to open and engage with an email that addresses them directly and talks about their specific needs and challenges. Personalization will allow you to attract clients that are a good fit for your business, by ensuring that they can identify with your stories and clearly understand how your services and products can benefit their bottom line.
Effective Keyword Research
Your ICP should contain accurate data about the major pain points of your ideal clients, as well as information about the influencers and news sources that those clients subscribe to. You can use this data to easily identify the language that your ideal clients use when searching for information on the internet (such as common phrases and industry-specific jargon), what type of information they are seeking, and what kind of problems they are trying to solve. You can then create videos, articles, and other resources that will be useful to your ideal clients. Knowing the types of challenges they face and the language they typically use, you can include targeted keywords and phrases in your content, titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags. This will help maximize the chances of your articles/videos being properly indexed by the search engines, and found by your prospects when they’re looking for answers on the internet. You can also use keyword research to identify publications to which you may pitch your articles, in order to reach more of your ideal clients or prospects.
Creating an ICP can help you gain some clarity about what types of individuals or organizations you want to do business with. As a result, you will be able to focus your branding and marketing efforts to attract prospects who will see the value in the products and services you provide, pay your fees on time, and recommend you to others.