B2B Account Based Marketing Agency

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): How to target the right accounts

Here’s a scenario: Your sales team has hit a revenue plateau and the leads in the current sales pipeline are not enough to yield the 10% revenue growth target that’s been set for the next year. Everything that seemingly worked in the past doesn’t seem to be enough to get revenue production up. The team even amplified lead gen with an ad campaign but only 10% of those leads seem qualified. 

Even if this is not your particular situation, chances are that your sales team has hit a similar road block before, or maybe you haven’t hit a revenue plateau, but the company has an aggressive growth goal to hit in the coming months. 

If you asked us, we would take this on with two approaches: 

1) Identify who your biggest customers are based on account revenue, and determine the potential (and likelihood) to increase the account size, and 

2) Identify the top 5-10 enterprise accounts that have the game changing potential to hit your revenue goals if you were to close the deal.

We would start by creating an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) that would guide who and how we pursue the enterprise accounts as detailed in the remainder of this article.

Following the ICP is to orchestrate the account-based marketing (ABM) strategy through either Strategic ABM (1-to-1), Scaled ABM (1-to-Few), or Programmatic ABM (1-to-Many). This latter process is detailed in this post about choosing the right approach for your goals.

Defining your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

An important step in scaling revenue production and converting larger, more profitable accounts is to define an ICP that reflects the “DNA” of your ideal customer. This should be done in collaboration with your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams. 

Given the scenario above, the ultimate goal here is to identify the target accounts with the highest revenue potential. Closing high value target accounts is not a slingshot approach and requires a personalized ABM strategy to influence the account. It’s easy to simply create a wishlist of dream accounts to do business with, but because enterprise accounts require 1-to-1 account marketing, it’s not realistic to have an endless list of dream accounts. That would be an intensive effort to execute. So a Strategic ABM approach focuses on just a handful of accounts (new or existing) for a highly personalized engagement strategic. 

This is why we lead by first defining the ICP. Not only does it narrow down the right types of accounts to pursue, but it also identifies common characteristics among accounts and buyer personas of each key member of the buyer committee. This allows the content, tactics, and messaging to be personal to each persona. We cant also target additional prospects beyond the handful of enterprise accounts but user a wider ABM approach and not personalized engagement. 

For the purposes of illustrating the above scenario, the remainder of this article will only focus on enterprise accounts as the target, since the goal is to scale revenue significantly. However, this process can and should be used for all tiers of target accounts whether enterprise or not.

Step 1: Named Accounts

The traditional sales process doesn’t start by naming specific accounts. That’s because non-ABM approaches typically lead the sales process with demand generation, which is not personalized and is all about casting a wide net to drive leads. In a nutshell, not naming target accounts is like playing Craps at a Vegas casino – it’s a gamble and results in sales burnout.

The ICP process starts with two lists – your current top tier accounts that have been incredibly successful with your solutions AND your dream customer wish list – those accounts you would love to have as a customer. 

Step 2: Common Characteristics 

Having these two lists of accounts is an opportunity to identify the characteristics that are common between all of these accounts. The list of top tier current accounts serves as a model for the types of similar dream accounts to pursue that are possibly larger and with greater revenue potential. Essentially, what’s already working can be scaled by determining the characteristics that the dream accounts share. 

Factors to consider for commonality include:

  • Industry/vertical
  • Team size
  • Geography
  • Account revenue potential
  • Annual revenue
  • Technology they use
  • Number of employees in a particular department
  • Size of their customer base
  • Level of technology maturity

It’s also a good idea to pinpoint what in particular was the deciding factor for each top tier account choosing the company and not a competitor. 

Step 3: Define your ICP

All of the commonalities come together between the top tier accounts and dream accounts to create a definition for your ICP. This statement sets forth the thesis for how to pinpoint and pursue the right accounts. 

Here’s an example of what this could look like:

Our ideal clients are Enterprise SaaS companies in the MarTech and FinTech industries with annual revenues of at least $5M with a developer team of at least 10 people and a customer experience team of at least 5. Their customer base are State and Federal government clients.

Step 4: Identify Buyer Personas

If you’ve ever responded to an inquiry or spent time prospecting an account, only to have your proposal rejected, chances are that it was because there was little engagement of the entire buying committee. Successfully closing the deal requires that you go beyond your main account contact and instead, also engage other key influencers at the account. Essentially, they all need to be sold. Otherwise, you risk going through the entire process, thinking you’re getting to the finish but only to be rejected. The larger the company, the more decision makers that are involved even if you’re only communicating with one or two people at the company. 

You’ll want to understand who makes up the buying committee – the job roles and people that influence the deal inside your target accounts. Doing so allows you to warm up all your buying committee members through ABM to motivate them to approve your deal. Also very important to keep in mind is that the engagement could different for each member of the buying committee since their roles, level of influence, and end use of the solution may be different. 

Consider the following roles: 

  • Champions: in charge of initial product/vendor research
  • Economic decision maker: approves the budget
  • Influencer: has the ear of the decision maker
  • Blocker: not interested in your solution
  • End user: uses the solution and may be the first level of complaint that a solution is needed

The following is important to know about each key buyer or influencer:

  • Role in the purchase decision: champion, economic decision maker, influencer, blocker or end user
  • The buyer’s strategic goals related to your product/service
  • Key KPIs they’re likely measured on
  • Organizational challenges, problems, and pain points that drive them to seek a solution
  • Relevant value proposition and messaging – what should they choose your product/solution?
  • Factors that influence the purchasing decision
  • Common objections; reasons to block the deal
  • Target resources: how they consume content; industry influencers they follow; social networks they use
  • Stage when they join the sales process
  • Talking points

Once the ICP has been created and the target accounts named, next is to tier these accounts into four approaches: Strategic ABM, Scaled ABM, Programmatic ABM, or Demand Generation. These four approaches are detailed in this article to help you identify the approach that is right for your business.  

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