Creating An Ideal Customer Profile
Updated: Mar 19
Getting to know and truly understand your customers is vital to building a profitable business.
There’s one thing every business needs to be successful – customers.
Without them, you’re not in business.
But many businesses fail because they don’t take the time to truly get to know their customers. They assume their product or service is so amazing that (literally) everyone will want it.
Here’s some tough love – when you’re marketing to everyone, you’re marketing to no one.
Becoming A Customer-Driven Company
If you want your business to be successful, you’ve got to invest time, effort, and energy in getting to know your customer. Trust me when I tell you that those wildly successful brands you buy are investing heavily in getting to know everything they can about you. I know because I’ve worked with many of them and they take being ‘customer-driven’ very seriously.
Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank or spend months conducting complicated research to become a customer-driven company. You can take the first, most important step by creating an Ideal Customer Profile.
Ideal Customer Profile FAQs
Creating an Ideal Customer Profile is a touchy subject for many people. It feels counter intuitive and goes against a commonly held belief that marketing to everyone is the best way to grow a business. So, I’ve outlined some of the frequently asked questions I get around the ‘what, why, and how” of creating an Ideal Customer Profile to help you think about this differently and motivate you to make your sales and marketing efforts work harder for you.
Q. What is an Ideal Customer Profile?
What if you had a customer who was willing to pay full price for the product or service you sell, would go out of their way to buy it (only) from you, and would tell everyone they knew how great your product or service is?
You’d probably want as many of these customers as possible!
This is your Ideal Customer.
Simply put, an Ideal Customer Profile is a verbal and visual personification of your very best customer.
Q. Why do I need to create an Ideal Customer Profile? How will this help me build my business?
No matter how good you are at running your business, you’ve only got 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. You simply can’t afford to chase leads that will never turn into customers.
Creating an Ideal Customer Profile will ensure your marketing works as efficiently and effectively as possible.
At its core, creating an Ideal Customer Profile is an exercise in focus. It helps you create better products and services, streamline your marketing efforts, and write better sales copy and create content that connects more deeply with your customers across all of your sales and marketing platforms.
Q. My product/service really is for everyone. Isn’t an ICP limiting my sales potential?
No product or service is right for everyone.
Even Amazon, the world's largest online retailer isn’t right for everyone. And if you’re honest, you know there are some people who will never buy what you’re selling. Why waste precious time and energy on them?
Identifying the customer who will go out of their way to buy your product or service, then talk about it to everyone they know, is a much faster road to success.
As the name suggests, this is about defining your IDEAL customer, not your ONLY customer.
This exercise will NOT reduce diversity in your customer base or limit your potential for success. In fact, you’ll find it has the exact opposite effect. You'll start to ATTRACT the customers that are right for you!
Q. What if I have different types of customers? How can I choose just one?
Generally, I advise my clients to choose one Ideal Customer and market to them.
In some businesses, you may have to speak to two different customers, but one makes the buying decision and the other does not. For example, if you’re a piano teacher, the customer you serve is the student, but it’s the parent that makes the decision to buy your service. In this case, the customer that’s responsible for giving you money should be your main focus. You should consider them your ideal customer and market to them.
If you truly believe there is simply no way to market to just one ideal customer, there are two methods you can consider – either is fine and you should choose the approach that makes the most sense for your business.
#1. The Doorway Method
The ‘doorway method’ involves using a system of callouts that direct different customers to different messages on your website or through your sales funnel. This allows the customer to choose the message that’s right for them. This works best when a high degree of specificity is important to meeting a customer’s needs. For example, if you sell hair care products, you may offer ‘doorways’ for straight, wavy, or curly hair. Within each doorway are specific marketing messages and products for that customer.
#2. The Unity Method
If you’re stuck on the fact that you’ve got a diverse audience: meaning different ages, genders, backgrounds, income levels, try focusing instead on what unites them. What common need, belief, experience, or world view brings them together? This is the ‘unity method.'
If you think about a company like “Lululemon” for example, it’s easy to see they have a very diverse group of customers. However, what unites them is their dedication to yoga and living an active, healthy lifestyle.
While it might seem like your customers are vastly different, you may be able to group them under the unity method. Ask yourself these questions…
Do they have similar motivations?
Do they share a certain world view or belief about themselves, your industry, or your product or service?
Do they have a similar way of thinking or speaking?
This exercise usually results in finding a way to unite a diverse range of customers into one Ideal Customer Profile.
Q. This feels made up. Shouldn’t I talk to real customers?
Yes! You should make it habit to talk – and listen to – real customers.
I suggest you start creating your Ideal Customer Profile by using imagination and empathy. This will train you to step into your customer’s shoes and see the world the way they do. This skill is crucial for you to create effective sales and marketing material for your business.
Then, develop a list of questions and schedule time to speak with your customers. Listen more than you talk to gather their feedback and uncover further insights into their lives and motivations. Use this information to refine, or add more dimension to, your Ideal Customer Profile. For step-by-step help with this, download my FREE Ultimate Ideal Customer Interview Guide.
Q. How do I create an ICP?
Here's an overview of my four simple steps to creating an Ideal Customer Profile.
Step #1. Define
Start by defining everything you can about your Ideal Customer. I like to use the following framework, but you can customize this in a way that feels right for your business.
Traits – demographic information (age, gender, occupation, etc.)
Tribes – people & media they engage with (hobbies, blogs, influencers, etc.)
Tech – how they connect & engage (devices, social platforms, etc.)
Tendencies – behaviors & purchasing habits (routines, paths to purchase, etc.)
Step #2. Journal
Next, write a journal post from the perspective of your ideal customer. A “day in the life” approach can make this easier. Write in their voice about the challenges and feelings they’re having as they relate to the product or service you sell, and how they go about finding a solution. What’s motivating them? What do they fear? What outcomes are they looking for? Try to use their words and tone, include as many details as you can to bring your Ideal Customer to life.
This exercise will help you tap into your ideal customer’s mindset and make it easier for you to write sales and marketing copy that connects.
Step #3. Visualize
In this step, you’re going to make your ideal customer ‘real’ by visualizing who they are and the world they live in. Use stock images, magazines, google images, etc. to create a collage. Place an image of your ideal customer in the center, then build their world around them. Use the information you captured in Step 1 to help you find the right imagery. You’ll start to see and appreciate your ideal customer’s aesthetic which will help as you design your sales and marketing materials.
Step #4. Validate & Refine
Finally, make time to interview your customers to sharpen your Ideal Customer Profile. If you need help, download my Ultimate Guide To Ideal Customer Interviews. You may need to refine or add new information to Steps 1-3 until you’re sure you’ve truly captured your Ideal Customer.
Make It Your Business To Know Your Ideal Customer
The goal of creating an Ideal Customer Profile is to describe this person so well that you can easily step into their shoes and connect with them at a deeper level. You want to know them intimately so that you can think like them, speak like them, and experience their emotions.
Your Ideal Customer Profile will inspire your sales and marketing materials, help you design and deliver products and services that matter, and positively impact your ability to sell.