To better reach sales goals and gain a deeper understanding of your core customer base, agencies should begin their business development program by creating an ideal customer profile. This provides your sales and marketing teams with a clear, well-defined set of characteristics of the best clients for your agency’s services.
But, be realistic about what you can actually do for prospective clients. Sure, in order to grow and expand you sometimes need to take on “stretch” clients that require you to extend your capabilities… but you have to be realistic about the type of stretch you can handle. Ideal customer profiles help you do just that.
What is an ideal customer profile?
The ideal customer profile is a description of a fictional client that gets great value from your agency and provides significant value to your agency. Think of it as the profile of that dream client. The relationship between your agency and this ideal client is mutually beneficial and meaningful.
Targeting your best customers
Often agency executives forget they have a choice. Agencies can and should choose the clients with which to do business. If you don’t choose with whom to do business, clients will choose you, instead. Unfortunately, those clients may be less than ideal. An ideal customer profile is not limiting… it’s empowering.
Why create an ideal customer profile?
Creating an ideal customer profile helps you narrow your target prospects. The process forces you to determine which are the prospects most likely to retain your agency’s services and serve a healthy profit.
This focus lets you quickly qualify the right prospects as opposed to impulsively chasing the wrong prospects that will not or cannot retain you.
This concept can be a scary notion for some agencies. There is the fear of missing out on potential business. Some executives think that if they focus on only one type of prospect, they’ll miss out on all the rest. But the reality is when you don’t focus, and instead try to be everything to everyone; you end up making a connection with no one.
Determining your ideal customer is not about determining the only type of client you’ll ever do business with, ever. It’s about determining the ideal customer for a particular situation.
Creating an ideal customer profile
Let’s take a closer look at the steps to take to create an ideal customer profile.
Step 1: Identify your strongest clients
The first step is to identify your strongest clients, past and present, based on the value they bring to your agency.
Gather as much information as you can about these clients. Some of this information is quantitative and some is qualitative. Here are some questions to answer:
- What is the cost of acquiring certain clients?
- How many referrals have they made for you?
- How much revenue (and profit) have they provided?
- What is their position of influence in their market and vertical?
- Does your staff enjoy them as a client?
Step 2: Find commonalities
Once you’ve identified your best former and current clients, look for patterns in the data you have collected. Here are some things to consider:
- How many employees does the company have?
- Do certain job titles exist across these organizations?
- Which industry or niche are they serving?
- How long have they been in business?
- What services did you provide them?
- What market(s) did you target?
- What goals do they or did they want to achieve with your solution?
- What’s the main pain point with their current approach?
- Where are they located?
- Were there any personnel changes, restructuring or other events in the company that trigger the engagement?
- What’s the culture like, what values do they practice?
- How do they position themselves in the market?
- Are they more driven by a desire to be innovative or to reduce risk?
Looking at this list, ask yourself what these clients have in common. Dig deep and come up with a list of shared attributes. Recognize similarities and you’ll see a picture of your ideal customer emerge.
Do not let your assumptions influence you. Use numbers and review the contracts associated with these clients. Be as objective as possible.
Step 3: Create your ideal customer profile
Now that you’ve found the commonalities, create a template that can be easily updated and make it a part of your marketing and sales planning. Include the following sections:
- This information includes the company’s business sector, number of employees, revenue, location and stage of business
- Culture and Organization. What are the company customs, positioning, trigger events, market share, and pain points?
- Consider buying patterns, prior and current objections and concerns
Step 4: Create buyer personas
You’ve identified your ideal company. Now create a supporting buyer persona for your ideal customer profile.
You need a buyer persona for each decision-maker type in your ideal customer’s company. For example, a digital agency may consider having one persona for senior leaders like the CMO and VP of marketing and another for the specialists such as the director of digital and social.
Complete the personas with details such as typical age range, job title, core responsibilities, experience, pain points specific to their position, motivations and questions they may ask.
Don’t over-complicate with too many personas. And keep them short. Each buyer persona should be 1 page or less.
Test, Test, Test
Once you have an ideal customer profile and buyer persona, you should test it against each of the following:
- The rest of your client base
- Prospect funnel
- Customers that churned
- Current churn threats
- Prospects that didn’t convert
Use whatever time-frame makes sense, but three or six months are generally a good amount of testing time. Less than that is likely not enough. But feel free to use a different duration if you have a valid reason for the timeframe you’ve chosen.
The key is to be specific with the overall time-frame and also to identify milestones along the way where you can check-in to see if the proposed ideal customer profile is proving accurate or not. Should a 90-day ideal customer profile test prove inaccurate half way through, adjust your tactics or change course.
An ideal customer profile is a critical and often overlooked step in your business development program. It will make your outreach program more efficient and guide you to the business sectors, companies and prospects within the companies that are most likely to derive value.
Use the ideal customer profile to find leads that match the characteristics you’ve identified through databases like Winmo.
Knowing not only the ideal company, but also how to better communicate to each decision-marker type within the company, will help your messaging be more targeted and personal. Your agency will stand out to prospects and lead to more qualified meetings.
Applying rigor to your ideal customer profile’s creation and use, allows your agency to become better defined, strategic, and effective.