As highly targeted marketing (also known as account-based marketing) becomes more commonplace in business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategies, it begs the question: Are you taking the proper steps to ensure absolute sales and marketing alignment with this strategy? Often, organizations are so fixated on the end goal — the annual revenue figure — that they tend to skip over the crucial steps of aligning and focusing to achieve desired growth.
At this phase, it’s not about the tactics or even the budget, but rather about gaining agreement on who the buyer is and who it should be, depending on the strategic course of the company.
To clarify, these are not simply personas. While building personas are incredibly important to successful growth, defining the characteristics of a “dream” customer — industries, reasons to buy, business states, company size, etc. — must come first. This is called an ideal customer profile (ICP). This is who the company’s offering will provide the most value for and the highest probability of repeatable, scalable business.
Ideal customers also provide value back to the organization, beyond the obvious monetary gain. Growing a company takes a village, and the customer’s participation, not just purchases, plays a major role in this. Ideal customers are more likely to become advocates for your business. Think in terms of referrals, speaking opportunities, press and case studies. I find that these clients tend to be more involved in the overall growth journey, giving valuable feedback on the product, insights into the industry or bringing together partnership opportunities. And best of all, they are often enjoyable and easy to work with, and may wilfully sing praises to the market.
Aside from the obvious points of value discussed above, here are seven ways every company can leverage an ICP.
1. Define who to say ‘yes’ to and who to say ‘no’ to.
When a company is in growth mode, it’s easy to get excited over nearly every prospect. However, there isn’t a single product or organization that can be everything to everyone. Without ICP guidelines, sales and marketing teams can easily become stretched and scattered, with an opportunity pipeline riddled with accounts that will never close. Account management may end up servicing clients who drain the resources of the organization.
It’s critical to reflect on your ICP to determine which accounts are worth the resources and effort by your team.
2. Focus and align all teams on a common goal.
When an organization has a defined ICP, every employee’s role and purpose — developer to chief financial officer — can align to attract and retain the right clients. This inevitably can influence product roadmap development, direct marketing spend, focus sales teams and even guide the types of individuals hired as the company expands.
3. Direct your resources to the most valuable customers and prospects.
Taking on or chasing accounts that are not ideal can drag the organization down in multiple ways. Time spent prospecting accounts that are not ideal means the sales team isn’t opening doors with the accounts that are. Marketing spend is potentially wasted on acquiring leads that should be disqualified, and customer success cannot spend needed time servicing clients who have a higher chance to expand, renew or become referenceable.
Instead, use your ICP to direct your resources more appropriately — it’s all about value.
4. Guide the right strategies and messaging.
Impactful messaging connects prospects’ needs and pains to the value the company’s offering provides in order to alleviate those issues. Without an ICP, your outward messaging is likely riddled with touting how awesome the company or product is.
Instead, use your messaging efforts to connect to the “why” a buyer should care. Create value by earning validation.
5. Create scalable and repeatable strategies to engage and convert top accounts.
Tackling a target list of accounts is no small feat. Most technology buys have multiple decision makers, and engaging them properly takes careful and strategic planning. However, this doesn’t mean companies should have to reinvent the wheel every time a new account needs to be nurtured.
Use your ICP to delineate common traits and trends amongst potential buyers. This will lead to identifying successful programs and approaches that can be repeated so that you can simply focus on personalizing the outreach and messaging.
6. Focus marketing investments on the right channels, people and places.
Every campaign, every event that is invested in, every digital ad that launches, every email list built — it all comes back to the ICP. Without ICP guidelines, marketing will naturally default to a reactive state, responsive to sales commands or inbound leads to the site.
Instead, allow your ICP to act as a leading, strategic arm of the business. Use it to develop proper personas, critical for effective messaging and moving leads through a sales cycle.
7. Drive your target account list creation, segmentation, organizational structure and other key activities.
By outlining all the necessary nuances of an ICP, naming both the accounts and the individuals to target becomes much easier. A named account list allows sales and marketing to map the go-to-market strategy together and helps identify the most productive avenues for reaching those accounts.
Bonus: If your company is making an expansion move into a new industry or new buyer type, your ICP is a must to outline the types of buyers that will help make that shift much smoother.
ICP creation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Bring together leaders from each department and develop it together to ensure internal stickiness and success. Its development is crucial to obtaining a defensible, iron-clad approach to organizational focus, alignment and pipeline development.
Originally published at forbes.com
— Published in ACCOUNT-BASED MARKETING on February 15, 2019