The data driven approach to building an ideal customer profile

The data driven approach to building an ideal customer profile
Do not index
Do not index
At the core of an effective growth strategy is a data driven ideal customer profile (ICP). It goes without saying, a well understood and defined ICP enables marketing teams to run effective paid and organic marketing programmes. Sales teams are also empowered focus their time on the most valuable deals.
There is a lot of content out there detailing how to build your ICP. We went through many internal debates when deciding to write this article. As a company, we don’t believe in writing content just to rank and repeat what’s already been said many times over.
So why are you reading this? After reviewing numerous ICP articles, we decided the majority are relatively superficial. We missed something that got into the nuts and bolts of building an ICP. Working with customers to dial their ICP’s is also our bread and butter. We hope in detailing our internal process, you might take some value from it. We hope you enjoy.
So, what is an ICP… Just kidding.

Considerations in developing an ICP

To get started, let’s consider some of the data points involved in formulating or optimising ICP’s.
✅ Technologies used
✅ Deal sizes
✅ Deal velocity
✅ Churn / retention
✅ Upsells
✅ Partner ecosystem
✅ The list goes on
✅ Company industry
✅ Employee count / growth
✅ Revenue
✅ Funding
✅ Specific team sizes / presence
✅ Locations
From the outset, it helps to remember there are stages of ICP maturity, just like growth. If you are going through the first iteration, you may not have much data on hand and a few of the points above will do the job. You can refine as you grow. This probably means you are also still in a scrappy stage of growth, taking all the revenue you can get. Irrespective of the type of company it comes from.
Looking at the variables above may well serve as a wake up call to begin collecting and accurately recording more data points on each of your customers. As competition heats up and it gets harder to capture the attention of buyers, a clearly defined ICP will make it easier to acquire customers. Additionally, it will lead to less scalability problems retaining and servicing customers as you grow.
You may not need to laser focus in on a specific group of customer right the beginning. Or you might believe a broader focus is the smart play, especially if you are still looking for traction and in need of the 💰
It is however important to put a peg in the ground and make a decision. It may seem counterintuitive but according to forbes niching down is the way to go.
As businesses, we are essentially trying to speak our customers language at scale. This arms both new and experienced sales reps with the best chance of reliably uncovering the problem prospects are experiencing. Plus equips customer success or account management teams with a repeatable playbook to create happy clients. The easiest way to do this is with smaller variances in customer types and ecosystems. So you don’t need to solve a different problem with each new client.
Going too broad will ramp up advertising costs, decrease content relevancy, conversions, increase churn and the list goes on. Sales will be spread thin and reps will have a hard time consistently closing deals without a common set of problems and solutions to dig into.
When considering scalability both from the customer and employee growth perspectives. It’s challenging to copy paste marketing, sales and customer success playbooks with vastly different types of customers.

Collecting quantitative data on your ICP

Pull a list of won deals in a relevant time frame. To go deeper you can track change over time, split lists by year, quarters and cyclical changes in the market.
With the current market in downturn, if you have the data, it’s valuable to understand performance through the last recession (if you were around). Did you successfully sell more deals into specific types of companies? Were your customers pain points different or more amplified?
While you are at it, pull a relevant sample list of lost deals. Knowing what not to chase is just as valuable.
This is around the time many businesses realise their data collection is a bit of a mess, without much consistency in fields or objects. If this is the case, it’s probably time to sit down and think which data points need to always be added to deals/company records. Draw up a process and implement it. You can never start to early and you will thank yourself later.
With regards to fixing past data, or at least getting more insights out of it. Consider automatically enriching some of the more basic information. The rest, well, it’s time for a bit of good old fashioned manual work or some AI magic.
Get your data into a well structured format. In essence you are looking to create a snapshot of the deal at the time it was won.
For relevant values, remember to ensure they represent the time at which the deal was won. If you don’t have deal velocity data, you can use the days between contact, company or deal created and the won date.
For an accurate picture on retention / upsells it’s worth splitting data (deals) into two groups. Those at least as old as your average customer lifetime and the newer stuff. After that you will want to smooth the results to factor in won date and avoid skewing your ICP.
You can also just smooth all of the deals but we find the split between lifetime groups typically holds valuable insights. You may also notice discrepancies between this group and the newer group. This can be tracked over time to spot trends.
We like to use deal size, velocity and lifetime value (factors expansion and churn into the equation) as the points around which the data is organised. If a particular factor is more important, you can always add a multiplier or rule to reflect this.
Use a COUNTIF function to organise the records around these values. 
In essence, what we are looking for here is “the largest deals won in the shortest timeframe that remained a customer for the longest time”.
From there, use a multi column sort in google sheets or excel to sort the the rows in quartiles, percentiles or if you’d really like to get into it, a t-distribution curve. With the organised sheet you can the graph the variables and answer some of the following questions.
What are the 5 main industries, sizes, tech etc in the first and second quartiles? What does the bottom quartile have in common?
You can use a VLOOKUP to search for single or multiple values if needed. 
The result is an ICP based on company firmographics that’s driven by data that factors in the most important growth variables.

Gathering qualitative feedback from ICP customers

notion image
It’s time to speak with your customers and sales team to review each deal in the top quartile or two that matches your ICP. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of why, how and what drove your best customers to purchase from you.
We like to use the SPICED methodology when going through this process.
Situation - what was happening in the business at the time they purchased
Pain - Goals and challenges
Impact - how did your solution impact their business
Critical Event - date this needed to happen by + what would happen if it didn’t
Decision - what did this process look like - people involved, legal, finance etc
Group or categorize the answers so you can understand the commonalities across your ICP customers. This will give you a strong framework to build out the qualitative element of your ICP and inform your sales and marketing strategies.
At this stage it’s also valuable to dig into the top performing sources that drove these customers to you. Was it specific channels, partners, outbound sales etc. Keep the timeline in mind when assessing sources as the digital acquisition landscape moves fast.

SPICED persona development

Once again, we aren’t here to tell you how to create a persona/s, there’s more than enough content out there already.
This section just servers as reminder that the stakeholders/buyers involved in each of your ICP customers purchasing processes will form the basis on which you can form a data driven persona program. It’s often worth repeating the SPICED framework with a lens on the people involved and the personal impact purchasing your solution had on them.


ICP development is a core element of a businesses ability to acquire and service customers effectively at scale. We see many businesses maintaining the risk of narrowing focus outweighs the benefit, while we aren’t here to say this is the wrong approach. The evidence points toward niching down being the winning strategy.
Some of the above steps may be a challenge to complete. This might be due to resources or data. So stick to the 80/20 rule if the going gets tough. Remember that even a partial ICP (providing it’s accurate) is already going to serve as a catalyst to growth. You can expand and add complexity as you grow.
Have fun out there! 🕶️

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