Kevin Tate talks about ideal customer profiles and how they can be found, perfected, and used in marketing and sales. Kevin then goes into deeper detail about how a company can set up and use an ICP to drive revenue.
Kevin Tate is the CRO of Clearbit, a company that enables the world’s fastest-growing B2B companies to better understand their customers and optimize their digital funnel. Kevin has had a successful career as a Sales & Strategic Marketing executive with deep domain expertise in Enterprise SaaS, eCommerce, Digital Marketing, Social Media and IoT.
“When we look at the lens of an ICP, we’re looking beyond just leads. So of the customers who enter your funnel who enter your pipeline to become customers.”
“So once you’ve got this group of ICP customers that seem to be exhibiting the behavior that you care about most, then you can look at those firmographic and technographic data points and say okay, what what ties them together and what ties them together with information that I can recognize in in companies I haven’t met yet.”
- What is an ICP?
- How can a company use its ICP as a pillar?
- How can a company operationalize its ICP?
- How can a company measure its results against an ICP?
Hello, Kevin T cmo here at Clearbit, and in this session I’m going to talk about how we operationalize our ICP a Clearbit. Or how do we focus our funnel from top to bottom on our understanding of our ideal customer profile, things we’re going to cover.
First, what is an ICP? So what do we mean when we talk about our ideal customer and how to recognize them? Second, how do you use that understanding as the pillar of your marketing strategy and your go to market efforts? And then we’re going to dive deep into how do you really operationalize that understanding? How do you apply it to each system and process along your funnel and revenue stack so that you can look at the whole thing through this ICP lens? And then how do you measure results in a way that lets you not just see if that’s working, but also see where you can tune and improve both your understanding of your ICP and how it’s applied.
So let’s dive in. So what do we mean when we say ICP, our ideal customer profile? We won’t spend a ton of time on this because I’m sure a lot of us have worked with ICPs before but the highest level it just means who is the best fit? Who’s the best fit business in terms of being able to get value from what you offer? And then also who’s the best fit in terms of providing value to you as a business it’s kind of both sides of the two way street. Typically, the way that that we see companies defining their ICP at this highest level has a lot to do with thermographic data. So what size of company where they’re located, what type of company they are technographic data, what systems or technologies do they use? What other partners or supporting solutions might be in the account? And then of course, intent data, do they appear to care about what you’re selling? And how do you attach to the business problems that are top of mind for them? So that’s one way of looking at the at the ICP from both the buyer and the seller perspective. You can also take a more value oriented view. So doing some some introspection into who ended up being the most valuable customers, or the highest retained customers is also an important way to look at and define your ICP. So we’re going to take a little bit of a look at that as well
for Clearbit This is an example of one of our ICPs so b2b and SaaS companies that have between 50 and 1000 employees, and those who in particular have technologies like Salesforce Marketo, HubSpot, or segment in their Mar tech stack. Those are a really good sweet spot for us. And just for fun, we added in here, VC backed companies who’ve raised more than $10 million. So this is the ICP we’ll be looking at in this section, and we’ll talk a little bit about how we arrived at that in the first place. We think about putting ICP to work across the stack, it really starts with strategy.
So how do you let this understanding of your ideal customer act as a lens and a driving force behind your your go to market and so let me talk about how we’ve seen that work for us, and then how it how it cascades through. When we look at the lens of an ICP, we’re looking beyond just leads. So of the customers who enter your funnel who enter your pipeline to become customers. Which ones represent the most and best revenue, right? So which ones are are more likely to provide value for your business? And this helps get away from some of the vanity metrics. Sometimes more pipeline isn’t necessarily good. It keeps you from being able to focus on your best pipeline. The other the other key piece here is to use I think the ICP lens as a focusing mechanism. So if it helps you understand which opportunities to prioritize or which accounts to address first, that’s a great lens for the ICP. It’s important to note that sometimes that doesn’t mean to the exclusion of all the others. It just may mean these are the ones to address first, or to help make sure that your team gets engaged to it in the most efficient manner. And then finally, in terms of buying ICP at the strategic level, it’s a lot about goals and goals, not just with the marketing team but goals. That extend to the sales team and the customer success team. If everybody has a shared definition of what the ICP is believed to be, and why then we can look across those organizations and see where we right and how’s that panning out. And what have we learned that might inform how we approach ICPs in the future.
It also helps with with alignment in terms of things like messaging, and customer development, when you’re focused on the things that make those good fit customers in the first place from front to back. So let’s start with how to find your ICP. I need to figure out what your version of an ideal customer profile is. A few steps.
The first is take a look at what success criteria is going to be most meaningful for you. This could be those with the highest ACV or annual client value it could be the ones with the most expansion opportunity or cross sell opportunity. It could be metrics link to speed to deal or lowering conversion hurdles. All these are very reasonable ways to weight your ICP but as you look back to your existing customers, and think about which ones you want to make more of think about it through these different lenses and perhaps give them different weightings to arrive at an ultimate ICP score.
The second is look back. So once you once you’ve got a sense for what you’re looking for, what can you see from your historical data around the win rate among those customers or the speed with which they move through the funnel or the close rate or how long it takes a deal. To move through the various stages, the more quantitative data and qualitative data you can gather about those customers. experience through your funnel and and what that customer journey looks like. The the more rich picture you’ll be able to paint up and down the chain for how you’re tailoring those ICP customer journeys.
Then you go looking for shared traits. So once you’ve got this group of ICP customers that seem to be exhibiting the behavior that you care about most, then you can look at those firmographic and technographic data points and say okay, what what ties them together and what ties them together with information that I can recognize in in companies I haven’t met yet. So what industries are they in? What kind of business model they have? How big are they revenue? And especially back to this technology to use, right? What are the complementary technologies and solutions that I would sit alongside if they were to use my solution?
So these traits are important not just because they define your experience with your ICP so far, but because these can be applied to nearly any company, given the right data set to figure out whether or not they’re likely to be an ICP for you. And then finally, you use that set of traits to create what we call a silhouette. So that’s, that’s how we arrived at the ICP I described earlier. And you can see it has elements of all these things, what type of company it is, how big is it, what technology they use, and then really specific things. In some cases, something like being venture backed and having more than 10 million in funding can be a really nice focusing function for a specific set of your ICPs. And it’s okay to have more than one. But that’s another the more specific, the better when you’re looking at what what makes a best fit customer truly best fit. It’s worth noting that it’s very helpful to have a tool or a platform to capture that ICP.
So in our case, we use Clearbit. So this is how Clearbit captures what we call an audience for an ICP and you can see that same criteria I just described here in our in our audience builder and in our case we can we can pull in all the firmographic and demographic data that we have in the Clearbit data set, as well as anything that’s available in our other customer systems.
So this could be great information contained in your HubSpot or your Salesforce or your your other systems of record to pull those into and make sure you have a place to to capture that ICP. And it’s fine to apply that lens right away. So one of the things that we do with that is in this case for us, that is matches a set of 6196 companies and I can even see which of those have been on my website in the last two hours. So as soon as you start looking through this ICP lens, it gives you a way to start thinking about and reacting to and maximizing the potential of those companies up and down your phone.
So it’s nice to have a system another useful tool may be something we created called the total addressable market calculator. So one of the things that’s fun to do early on in ICP definition process, it takes some of these high level level filters like company sizes and regions and business models and just see what is the whole market that that starts to represent. It’s helpful to make sure you’re not getting so specific with your ICP that you’re significantly restricting your your tam before you before we even go out of the gate. So I invite you to give the Clearbit tam calculator a try as you go through your own ICP process and that’s a that’s a free tool we offer.
The thing to look for as you’re defining your ICP and think about it a high level is look for these kinds of 8020 trade offs Right. So in our case, it was pretty easy for us to see that 18% of the leads actually entering our pipeline. Were driving 80% of our 86% of our revenue over the next three years and so being able to see what made those special and what were the traits that we could use to recognize more of them is the type of you know, 8020 rule that you’re looking for when you do your own ICP strategy and calculations.
So next up, let me talk about how we put our ICP to work, at least different stages of the funnel. For us, this really starts at the top. So the first thing we did Based on this definition of the ICP is to make sure that definition is now known by and can be used by all the different tools in our go to market stack. So for us, that’s systems like Salesforce and segment and mad kudu which we use for lead scoring. So all those need to know about the ICP criteria and be able to put it to work for their particular function. And so we share that across all of our different systems. And whenever our demand gen team is putting together a campaign, and maybe even going after specific roles and like an ABM style campaign, we can really increase our response rates by focusing in on those ICP criteria.
Second thing we do is we measure everything, I do mean pretty much everything against that ICP lens. So when we’re looking at the success of a webinar or an event or dimension campaign, the main thing we look at is how much how many of our ICP customers and again, there could be more than one ICP that we’re applying. But how many of them matched an ICP for us. And that really gives us a much more useful metric for how effective or how cost effective that that effort was.
And then finally, the process doesn’t end. So we’re taking what we’re learning about the actual outcomes. Did these companies go on to be customers? Did they go on to retain and expand? What do we learn about their experience with Clearbit to refine our understanding of ICPs and, and this is also important, I think, so that you don’t just focus on the sort of narrowing part of the ICP. There’s a lot of power in focusing in on a specific segment. But there’s also the ability to expand your business and to create new ICPs for new segments and new customer types.
So that’s also part of the ongoing piece. As we recognize new types of customers and segments that are good fit tip of the hat to Robert Bethel. So his group at our studio, I believe, I know coined the term operationalize your ICP. He talked to us about that as a way that they use Clearbit and you can see here he talks about mapping their ICP criteria, and all of their different go to market operation. So,thank you for that, Robert. But you’re working with your team. We think about Robert says operationalizing that ICP we tend to break it up into three buckets, using it to create demand, using it to capture intent and using it to optimize pipeline and all those fit together. But we find it helpful to think about those as distinct parts of the funnel and ICP lenses impact on that funnel. And it might be helpful at this point just to have a high level overview of how clearbit works. I’ll spare you the full clear bit commercial. But so when we talk about applying data to these different parts of the funnel, what that means from a clear bit perspective is we have 100 plus data points about every company with a website. So we’ve got all that techno enfermo and geographic data about companies. They also have data about their activity with your website and properties. So we know which ones are coming to your site and what they’re doing, even if they haven’t filled out a form.And then we use a system like the one you saw earlier to define these audiences. And then we use that audience definition across the systems that handle things like ad placements email, across the website and integrated chat features and then on down into the systems of record. So that’s what we mean when we when we talk about applying data to these different aspects of the funnel and and that’s sort of how clearbit works.
So onto the application. We look at the funnel, let’s start at the bottom, we talk about how the ICP understanding can be applied to optimize pipeline really starts with the top of the funnel and using that understanding to identify and activate the markets and the market segments that you’re most interested in. And it goes to capturing intent. So making sure as those prospects come through your systems and to your website, you prioritize your engagement with them. And then once they hit say, the lead status or their into your CRM, making sure that they’re again prioritized through the qualification and lead routing and engagement with the sales team. So let’s look at those things in more detail.
A lot of the ability to identify and activate comes down to the ability to describe that ICP in some way you can tag and apply across your system. So Salesforce is a very common one, and so will often take that ICP definition and use it as a tag or a flag in Salesforce, not only so that all of our sellers and customer success team can see it but also so that through clearbit we can apply that tag or flag to all the other systems as well and becomes as easy as asking, are they of type ICP? Or they included in that ICP segment?That comes to the prioritization. A lot of this depends on visibility into their engagement or their expressed intent. So one of the things that we do is looking back at this a list like this one of how do you know who’s been on your site and engaging with your content most recently? This is ultimately about about prioritizing and so we also work with third party intent providers who can bring in expressed intent signals and then we can hold those up to the ICP definition and again, create a prioritized list for both sales and marketing.
And then finally, the qualification routing piece is really important. So one of the things that’s nice about being able to do this at a segment level or with an ICP definition, is that you don’t necessarily have to apply all the criteria again and again, you can just ask, Hey, this company fit in my ICP criteria and that speeds up the process and automates the process of getting the highest bit leads over two reps, and making sure that they’re going to be able to act on them before they go on to a competitor site. So lead routing and scoring, we found speed matters.
Next, let’s look at this from a conversion perspective. So now we’re focused on capturing intent more effectively. And there are a number of things we can do. Again, up and down the funnel. We’re going to talk about website personalization, form shortening, and then the ability to send real time alerts to sales.
It comes to website personalization. As you probably know, things can get pretty complicated. But really just even a little bit of personalization or content content tailoring can go a long way with your ICP in mind. So a common example would be if you are focused in on customers that are smaller mid sized businesses showing them well first, knowing when those types of ICP customers come to your site. And when they do showing them logos and case studies and examples that pertain to small and medium businesses will go a long way to telling them that you’ve got solutions that are a good fit, right and then you can imagine tailoring some of the value propositions are some of the highlighted content, it doesn’t take a time, be able to create an experience is more likely to connect with your ICP based on some of these key relevance points.
Form shortening is always a good idea. But it’s particularly helpful when you’ve got an ICP where you know what data is gonna, can be used to make that form more optimized and less of a hurdle. So here’s a common example, a typical form on the left, but once we autofill the data that a company like Clearbit can make available about that company. out of the gate. And we just get down to three questions. It also gives you the opportunity, as you see here to ask questions about that ICP company that are really specific to their needs are specific to other qualification criteria, in this case payments volume that you wouldn’t be able to get from from a graphic or or technographic data. So really making the most of those forms and also increasing the conversion rate, often dramatically by asking less of the prospect.
And then finally, sales alerts and this is the fun one. So once you have defined ICP, and you know instantly when companies that meet that are on your website, you can decide what to do about that opportunity. One of the things that our customers often do is send a Slack notification instantly to the sales team so that whoever’s responsible for that account knows they can pop the chat window and start a real one on one conversation right away. Other customers will collect that information for the day, and then send a daily digest email to each salesperson. Hey, by the way, here are the ICP fit accounts that were on the website and your territory today. These top ones are already prospects, but these others aren’t engaged yet. So here’s some here’s some NET News, showing intent for you to follow up with a lot of power in sales alerts and how you combine that with an understanding of your ICP.
Now finally, let’s talk about the top of the funnel. How do you use this understanding to create more demand and more high quality pipeline? We’re going to talk about prospecting, conversion optimization, and ultimately accelerating the whole pipeline, prospecting campaigns oftentimes this means using an ad platform, Facebook or Instagram or Google to reach your ICP out out in the wild and couple of key pieces here. If you can use your ICP definition, to target both on company criteria, and also on titles, then you’re able to do look alike. Audiences that helps you reach a much much broader audience that still within your ICP criteria in a big place like Facebook. So we found this really effective when you can hone in on on the company segment you’re most interested in with that ICP lens. And on a related note. These systems the ad systems are much more effective if they can train and optimize based on outcomes and one of the capabilities really to look for and we find this very helpful with Clearbit is the ability to train and optimize them based on b2b buying criteria. So what I mean by that is a lot of the initial ad platforms would train based on more b2c outcomes. Did they click and did they buy? But that’s not really applicable necessary to a SaaS business where they might They might buy two or three months or six months down the road even. So, what we let them do is trained based on conversion criteria more like did they make it to the pricing page? Or did they engage with more than three pieces of top tier content? So use that use those ICP conversion criteria to train and optimize those ad platforms, and you’re going to find that they get better at getting the attention of ICP customers who are more likely to convert.
And finally, I find acceleration campaigns are an interesting example of using your ICP definition in an automated way to provide air cover for prospects who are already in the cycle. So for example, you can target ads that maybe reinforce the value your company brings. Maybe it’s the the analyst report that you scored really well in or an award he received recently, making sure that the executives and decision makers at a current prospect are seeing that as they go about their day while you know that they’re in the funnel. And of course, it’s easy to turn that off once they become a customer because define your ICP did not include current customers. So thinking about how to you automate and optimize the role of of advertising and awareness is something that we’ve learned a lot about doing through these integrated ad platforms through the lens of the ICP.
So that’s a lot of different ways to operationalize your ICP. To briefly recap, we looked at how you can from top to bottom of the funnel, use this ICP lens to operationalize and a lot of case automate how you’re more effectively acquiring, converting and conducting your go to market operations around that lens of ICP. And I would also encourage you as you as you do some or all of these things keep in mind that a big part of it is that ongoing measurement and analysis and and letting that ICP definition evolve. So looking at how your ICP lens is being applied to and yielding results or not at all different not all these nine different steps can be a nice way to figure out okay, where am I perhaps seeing the most bang for my buck, and where do I need to think about refining my ICP in certain areas.
Hopefully that was useful. And if you do want to learn more, a couple of resources for you. The first is we wrote a whole book about finding your ICP and invite you to check that out from Clearbit and you can also create a free Clearbit account. If you want to try out any of these tools I mentioned. The tam calculator can be a very helpful one. And we actually have something called the weekly visitor report that will give you a preview of what it looks like and you can tell the companies coming to your website every day. Appreciate the time.