Back to blog

Table of content

hello world!

4 steps to create an Ideal Customer Profile with actionable data

4 steps to create an ICP for lead generation

Ideal Customer Profile? Say what?

Are you outreaching your leads and the efforts are just not paying off? Chances are you’re targeting the wrong crowd and your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) isn’t right.

Andrea, our Head of sales, says that pitching to the wrong crowd only means wasted time and resources. Luckily, we are here to help you create the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This article will show you:

  • A 4-step guide with actionable data to create your ICP
  • The difference between an Ideal Customer Profile vs. Buyer Persona
  • A template for Ideal Customer Profile
  • How to use ICP for lead generation
  • How to improve your ICP if you already created it

Our teams have worked hard to do the research, and now we present our findings, so pay close attention. 💡

What is an ICP?

The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a firmographic description of companies that would benefit from your product/service the most. These companies should have the fastest sales cycle, highest LTV, and retention rate. ICP guides your targeted marketing and sales strategies to attract and keep valuable prospects efficiently.

Your ICP is a company that:

  • Will become a long-term customer that you can easily upsell
  • Loves your product/service because it solves issues seamlessly
  • Becomes your brand ambassador

Pro tip: From our research, an Ideal Customer Profile can be positive and negative. We will focus on the positive ICP, but creating a negative ICP can help you outline all prospects that are a poor fit for your product/service. By keeping an eye on the negative ICP, you’ll surely avoid wasting your budget and time on the wrong companies.

The difference between an ideal customer profile and a buyer persona

ICP and Buyer Persona are crucial documents for sales, targeting, and prospecting on LinkedIn. Despite being similar, they serve different purposes.

Firstly, an Ideal customer profile combines firmographic and demographic data that best describes a company ideal for your business. This data can include: 

  • Location,
  • Average company size, 
  • Revenue,
  • Pain point, 
  • Industry, etc.

Secondly, a Buyer Persona is a document that describes an individual profile of a person involved in the buying process. While ICP outlines the perfect company, Buyer Persona details the individuals within. The data from your ICP might mention the decision-makers and their positions, but the data we need to create a Buyer Persona is a bit more personal:

  • Job title
  • Social media and communication channels used
  • Annual salary, etc.

Basically, the Buyer Persona focuses on more psychological and personal details, while the Ideal Customer Profile focuses more on the company itself and the metrics.A single ICP may contain several Buyer Personas, which means you can target multiple roles within a single company. Additionally, businesses can have various ICPs, which typically differ by industry, highlighting a layered approach to market segmentation. Here’s how it looks:

Image that describes difference between ideal customer profile and buyer persona

Now, back to the ICP and Buyer Persona. Here is a simplified example of their main differences.

Image demonstrating difference example between ideal customer profile and buyer persona

Pro tip: If your company is new, it’s better to start by creating an Ideal Customer Profile and then move on to a Buyer Persona.

Key Benefits

Now, let’s look at how your outreach will change after clearly defining your ICP:

  1. Personalize your outreach - The main and most obvious benefit of customer profiling is that it can help every sales team personalize communications for each prospect. This can only lead to more engagement, a better experience for your prospects, and improved sales.
  2. Target a relevant audience - You will target more relevant prospects for your business that actually have a need for your product/service.
  3. Improve response rates - When you’re speaking to the right crowd in the right way, you experience better results and boost lead nurturing. A tailored approach can boost response rates significantly.
  4. Optimize customer acquisition - A good ICP can help you understand your best customers so you know what characteristics to look for in the future, helping boost customer acquisition.
  5. An informed market expansion plan - With a good ICP, you can easily determine your current market share and plan to expand your reach and discover untapped revenue, only to grow your business even more.
  6. Nurture brand loyalty and profitability - Knowing your audience and presenting a solution to their problem at the right time can help boost your brand image, thus attracting more loyal customers.

Image of CTA banner 2 for watching Skylead - LinkedIn automation and cold email software demo

How to create an ideal customer profile?

An Ideal Customer Profile needs to be as detailed as possible to identify all aspects of your target companies, create a good base for your Buyer Persona, and help your LinkedIn lead generation activities. Here is how to create an ICP in case you:

  1. Already have an Ideal Customer Profile as your customer
  2. Don’t have an ICP as your customer or customers at all.

If you already have an ideal customer profile as your customer

1. Analyze your current customers' data

When creating an ICP, data is your best ally. You can easily spot patterns and anomalies from which your business can benefit. In this case, you should start with your existing customers’ data.

What we’ve learned from our experience is that the trick is to pinpoint your best customers. Here’s a list of questions you need to answer to find them:

  1. What company became your customer the fastest?
  2. Who are the customers that have the highest retention rate?
  3. What customers have the highest LTV?
  4. What company did refer your product and service elsewhere?

2. Identify the patterns

Once you have a list of companies that are your current customers according to previous criteria, it is time to analyze. The key here is to notice patterns and similarities between these companies.

Here is the list of patterns to keep in mind when analyzing:

Analysis pattern for creating an ICP

Pro tip: Open Google Sheets for this step, note customers listed in rows, and put patterns in columns. Once you have them neatly written down, you can find similarities more easily.

ICP Google Sheet table with noticeable patterns

3. Have a chat with your customer

By now, you should have rough data, which means it’s time to get personal and go deeper into the analysis. To gather more personal information, you can book online meetings and chat with your existing customers.

Here’s a list of questions you can ask:

Image of template questions to ask current customers to create ideal customer profile

Keep in mind that not all customers have time to talk to you, or your meeting may not be their priority. If you did the social selling part right, you would have instant positive feedback because of your well-established relationship with them.

From what we have learned so far, you need to find an alternative motive for the customers so they are willing to hop on this meeting. This is where discounts or gift cards come into play. You will get valuable information, and they will gain something in return—a win-win.

4. Assemble information about your ICP

You are almost done. The last step is to assemble all this information in one place. As we mentioned before, it would be easier to start with ICP industry segmentation and go on from there. 

Now that you have defined an Ideal Customer Profile, you can adjust your sales and marketing efforts to target the right companies for your business. If you create an ICP in this way, you’ll have actionable data to find your profile right away and pointers on how to personalize outreach, but more on that second part later.

Note that later in this blog, you’ll get a chance to download our ready-made template you can use, so keep reading. 👇

Image of CTA banner 1 for Skylead salesbook - ready-to-use outreach template that can be applied to our LinkedIn automation and cold email software

If you do not have an ideal customer profile using your product or a service

In this case, we don’t have much data to go on, so we will create the ICP from scratch. If you don’t have an ICP as your customer or any customers at all, follow the steps below to create the profile.

1. Identify your ideal customers 

One of the best ways to start creating an Ideal Customer Profile in case you don’t have any customers is to zero in on the companies you believe will most benefit from your product or service. You can do this by identifying a couple of things on your end:

  • Product or a service benefits
  • Problems and solutions your product or service offering

Now, choose a group of ideal companies to research. Follow their founders or other decision-makers and discover what they write about. Are there any pain points they often talk about? Visit their websites or check out their LinkedIn pages. This approach will help your sales and marketing team narrow down the target group and be more effective in their activities.

2. Identify the key aspects

Similarly to the previous approach, you should add firmographic and demographic data to the companies list. Here is the information you can gather about these companies and add to the list next to the companies’ names: 

  • Industry 
  • Location 
  • Company headcount
  • Revenue
  • Challenges on the company level
  • Decision-maker
  • Technology used
  • Goals and objectives
  • What is their product or service
  • What is their status on the market

Pro tip: When creating an ICP, our best advice is to make your ICP as detailed as possible since it will provide the best options for LinkedIn lead generation targeting. 

3. Finding personal information about the company

To make your ICP as detailed as possible, you need to find more personal information about the companies, which means you need to reach out to them. 👋

Do not underestimate the power of LinkedIn - most people will be glad to chat with you and share experiences. You can go one step further and use this opportunity to reach out to their decision-makers and start your social selling while you gather data.

Here’s a template example of a conversation starter invite to connect and a follow-up:

Hey {{firstName}},

Your profile struck a chord with me, particularly your role as {{occupation}}. How about we connect and share a few unscripted insights since we work in similar fields?

From there, you can continue the conversation like this:

Hey {{firstName}},

Thanks for welcoming me into your network! I noticed your impactful role at {{currentCompany}}, and I'm curious—what challenges do you face in your position? I'm in the midst of creating a solution tailored for professionals like you, and your insights could be incredibly useful.

Looking forward to hearing your perspective!

Here are a couple of questions you can ask if they are on board:

  • What is the process of decision-making in their company?
  • What are the pain points in the field of your product/service?
  • If they were looking for a solution, what features would they love to see?
  • What are their goals and objectives?

4. Build an ideal customer profile

The last step is to assemble the information you gathered, which we will show you in our template below. 👇

Note: If you choose companies that work in different industries, start with industry segmentation first, and import the rest of the data to create multiple ICPs. Otherwise, you will have only one.

Ideal customer profile template

Here’s what an assembled Ideal Customer Profile should look like for a fictional company that offers a time-tracking system to other companies.

ICP template

If you want to download this template, be sure to click here and make a copy.

How to use ICP for lead generation

Now that we have an Ideal Customer Profile, it’s time to use it to identify your ideal leads. Note that, from what we have learned over the years, companies that don’t perfectly match your ICP are still worth a shot. The retention rate will possibly be lower or the buying experience longer, so optimize and adjust your efforts accordingly.

The Ideal Customer Profile is easy to apply for lead generation. The idea is to search for and create a company leads list to match your ICP and then reach out to them. Here’s how to do it. ⬇️

Step #1 - Find your ICP via LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful lead generation tool. So, what you need to do now is use your ICP by going to LinkedIn and doing a similar companies search. Here’s how:

Go to your LinkedIn account and research the industry or type of companies defined in your ICP document. Then use additional filters available to narrow down the search according to your ICP.

LinkedIn basic search example

When the search is complete, make sure to jot down all the companies. Then, continue from there by clicking on every company page in the People section, as shown below, to find your qualified leads. 

Company profile, People section

Create a CSV file with every lead’s first name, last name, profile URL, and email. And then save this file for the next step.


Hacks to find leads using Sales Navigator

There are two ways you can filter your leads if you have a Sales Navigator subscription.

1. Find leads from the company profile

Go to your Sales Navigator search, apply Sales Navigator filters, and see the results. Find your ideal company from this list, and click on the three-dots button. Then, click on “View Similar”. 

"View Similar" is a useful Sales Navigator feature that will try to find companies most similar to the company you choose according to industry, company size, etc. It will show you up to 50 similar companies.
You can also usethe existing customer you selected as your ICP, type theirname in the Sales Navigator search bar, and click on the “View Similar” button for that company.

Sales Navigator search 1

From there, click on the company you are most interested in, find your decision-maker, and save them to the lead’s list. Repeat the process for every company.

Sales Navigator search screenshot 2

Step #2 - Create an outreach campaign

You can reach the leads you find manually, but to make this process even easier, you should use a sales engagement tool to do it for you. Let’s take Skylead, for example–a LinkedIn automation and email outreach software.

First, to create a campaign, choose your lead source. If you've written down all the decision-makers from your ICP in Google Sheets, you can upload it as a CSV file. However, if you used LinkedIn or Sales Navigator filters to find them, copy the search URL and paste it into Skylead. 👇

create a campaign in Skylead, step 1 screenshot

The next step is to adjust the campaign settings, such as start date or LinkedIn and email settings preferences, and click on the “Create sequence” button. 🧰

Create sequence screenshot

Note that what makes Skylead’s first-to-market Smart sequences special is that you can combine LinkedIn and email action with if/else conditions. This will help you get to your prospects one way or the other while maximizing touchpoints with leads. 

How? Through a carefully thought out and placed a set of actions. Here’s what you can drag and drop in the sequence builder to create an outreach flow 👇

Actions and conditions

A clear ICP will allow you to determine which steps or communication channels to use in your outreach campaign. Plus, you can use personalized visual elements that match your ICP thanks to our Image & GIF personalization feature to increase your response rate to 63%.

Image and GIF personalization

Lastly, once you’re done combining elements and personalizing, your sequence will look something like this:

Smart sequence example

Image of Free Trial CTA banner with Skylead's smart sequence that demonstrates multichannel outreach using LinkedIn automation and email steps with if/else conditions

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

How do you measure the success and accuracy of an ICP over time, and what metrics are most important?

To measure the success and accuracy of an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) over time, companies should track conversion rates, sales cycle lengths, customer lifetime value, and retention rates. Adjustments to the ICP may be necessary as these metrics are analyzed to ensure alignment with market conditions and customer needs.

Are there industry-specific variations in creating an ICP, and how should companies in different sectors adapt the template provided?

Industry-specific variations in creating an ICP do exist. For instance, the factors that define an ideal customer in the technology sector may differ significantly from those in the manufacturing sector. Companies should consider their unique industry trends, challenges, and customer behaviors when adapting the ICP template.

How can small businesses or startups with limited data or customer interactions effectively create an ICP?

Small businesses or startups with limited data can still effectively create an ICP by leveraging industry reports, competitor analysis, and qualitative feedback from initial customers or stakeholders. These insights can form the basis for a preliminary ICP that evolves with more customer interactions and data accumulation.

Ready to find your ideal prospects?

In conclusion, an Ideal Customer Profile allows you to narrow down, analyze prospects, and optimize your approach. It shows precise challenges—valuable information to help you adjust unique selling points and offer tailor-made solutions to your prospects’ problems.

To jog your memory once again, here are the 4 easy steps you need to take to create an ICP:

ICP table

Pro tip: After creating an ICP, the next step is to create a Buyer Persona

Did you make your ICP? Good, then use Skylead to get to your prospects faster and save up to 11 hours of manual work per week. Come, say hi via chat on our website, and test our all-in-one tool during a 7-day free trial. Let’s get to those perfect prospects together and enjoy the results of hard work. 🤝

Launch your first outreach campaign today!
Start free now Start free now

You might also like