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A misguided founder is asked who the ideal customer is. “Everyone!" That’s the genius of it! Everyone in the world will need this product!”
The same applies to eager early-stage B2B startup marketers, founders, and sales leads. “We will sell to every company in the industry.” Revisit a few months later… and you’ll find are still in the same place. Trying to sell to everyone - SMBs, midmarket, enterprise - without much success.
But those who narrowed their focus on a particular, specific type of customer will usually be further along. They’ll have evidence of traction, be starting to build their ‘mini-brand’, and a pipeline to match.
Why? Niching down brings a multitude of value to early startups: improving alignment, reducing ambiguity across all teams, and bringing people from product to success together to build for the right person. The priority is velocity.
Many startups are reticent to get niche and narrow. “We’ll lose too much time,” or “we need to sell to anyone who’ll take it,” overpowers target-focused teams. And in six months, they wonder why they aren’t seeing any patterns in their data, let alone closed won deals.
Enter the Ideal Customer Profile.
What’s an Ideal Customer Profile?
An ICP is a hypothetical representation of a best-fit customer for your business today. Let’s break it down:
Hypothetical - a method for testing and iteration, not a hard rule
Representation - a depiction, caricature that’s easily recognisable
Best-fit - objective assessment of the type of customers that you can market to, sell to, and support effectively
Today - that you can market/sell/support today (or in the very short-term)
ICPs aren’t personas - they don’t describe a person. They describe the company, the firmographics, and any identifying information that makes it easier to recognize them in the marketplace.
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