By Brian Carlson, Founder, RoC Consulting
In a recent article on developing customer personas for data-driven marketing, we discussed how marketers can leverage customer personas to improve the efficacy and efficiency of their data-driven marketing programs. In recent years, the development of customer personas has become a foundational step for organizations that want to map strategies using actual customers. Personas can help businesses understand their customers in a more complete and unified fashion, providing a detailed background on customer segments’ behaviors and attitudes.
The need for customer personas to inform data-driven marketing campaigns has only become more essential since the Covid-19 pandemic. Today’s customer is savvier than ever and is most likely a digital-first consumer who has high expectations regarding brand interactions. The pandemic has only increased such expectations for more relevant messaging, as well as more consistent and authentic experiences from any channel they are in.
But how does a marketer deliver more authentic experiences to their customers? An authentic customer experience is one that addresses the whole person, not just discreet business needs. The reality is that customers are complex people, with interests that go beyond their immediate productivity goals. And they are not just interfacing with brands only on digital; today’s customers live in a variety of hybrid environments—some digital, some physical, some both.
Delivering authentic experiences to customers requires marketers to not just understand the customer holistically, but to be able to deliver those experiences, both digitally and physically, where and when the customer wants. For modern marketing campaigns to be successful a true hybrid approach is called for, one in which more proven forms of traditional marketing, such as direct mail, are seamlessly integrated with digital. By integrating direct-mail functionality into your marketing technology stack, you can fuse traditional and digital marketing for a hybrid experience that will provide one-to-one personalization at scale.
In order to take the next step in developing these more authentic customer experiences, another step is called for. Once the process for developing customer profiles is complete, marketers who are trying to sell into any size organization should develop an ideal customer profile (ICP) as a target for entry.
What is the Ideal Customer Profile?
Creating your ICP from your persona development is an important step in the process of determining the right individuals to target when trying to establish entry into an organization. Anyone that has worked in large enterprise groups or other types of insular businesses, or tried to sell to them, knows you simply cannot gain entry without the right people sponsoring you. Also needed is someone who can marshal internal resources and support for whatever you are selling to them. Whether it is technology or services, without the right person sponsoring you, you are not going anywhere.
The ICP, therefore, is essentially your champion at a business. It can be a single person or two for a small business, leading into a larger buying group of four or more people in the enterprise. Typically, your ICP is a strategic manager who can bring the right people into the buying process to ensure buy-in and alignment with their team. Your ideal customer should be able to manage up to VPs or C-suite to obtain needed budgets and funding. This strategic manager can also involve non-management specialists, including coordinators, technical resources, procurement, and legal. For your ICP, look for managers with the right titles who will drive the strategy, obtain input and alignment, and can either fund themselves or sell the strategy internally to get budget for the initiative.
Eva Jackson, Director, Demand Gen Marketing at PFL, explained: “The way we established the ICP was by looking at our best customers through historical data. Who’s spending the most money, who is our biggest champion in the market, and who is giving us maximum referrals? From there we looked at more demographic details, such as age, gender, and job titles. In addition, we also did soft research into things like hobbies, marital status, and even homeowner status. We use the ICP as a key alignment initiative for our team.”
ICPs Deliver Improved Sales
Developing an ideal customer profile isn’t just about getting a deeper understanding of your ideal customers’ personal habits and interests to gain entry into an organization. By using an ICP to supplement your standard customer-centric persona development, you can improve business as well as sales.
“We craft a lot of our messaging and campaigns around our ICP,” said Samantha Patterson, Product Marketing Director at PFL.com.” We take the next step and get data from a tool called Gong, which monitors all our sales calls and emails involved in open opportunities and deals. We received data this week that said we see much better success closing business when there are four or more people involved from the prospect side. So, we want to pinpoint who those other players are beyond the ICP. What do the other players care about? By having a more holistic view of these other players, just like the ICP, will help improve sales.”
Modeling the Ideal Target
Using ideal customer profiles to model the best person to target in an organization work everywhere, according to Jackson.
“This is an exercise any company can do,” she said. “Regardless of the size of the business or the industry, you want to model out an t ICP. In the enterprise, the tactic is to target the entry point and expand, but this is replicable to any business.”
The reality is that today’s consumers might have moved towards digital as a primary form of interaction with brands, but many still have one foot firmly in the physical world. The ability for a brand to interact with a customer physically—and that often means direct mail (something that arrives on the desk in an envelope or box)–allows the company to capture a customer’s full attention. Hybrid marketing programs that incorporate digital and physical help to develop more authentic experiences when direct mail can be informed by the same types of behavioral data that typically inform digital tools. And, really, in the end, it is all about knowing and servicing the customer as authentically as possible.
“You can’t create an authentic experience if you don’t know who the person is that you are trying to interact with,” concluded Patterson.
Brian Carlson is a digital experience expert focused on the intersection of content, technology, and marketing and how they affect the overall customer experience. He is the founder of RoC Consulting.