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How to Define Your Ideal Client: Developing a Client Profile (Template & Tips)

How to Define Your Ideal Client Profile (ICP) for Marketing Agencies

Do you struggle with attracting ideal clients?

Have you ever wondered why other agencies seem to win your dream accounts? Let's be honest, growing a marketing agency is more challenging than it looks.

There's likely not a day that goes by that you don't try and figure out how to get the right customers to notice your company and what to say to win them over.

In this post, I'll show you how to do both.

You'll learn how to define and create your ideal client profile. You will then use this information to improve your sales and marketing and finally attract and win your best accounts over.

Let's get started.

You Absolutely Must Have a Client Profile; Here's Why

Let's not beat around the bush here—most agencies struggle to get clients regularly.

For example, 60% of Hubspot's Agency's Growth report respondents named it as their agency's most significant pain point:

Biggest Marketing Agency Pain Points Graph

Similarly, The State of Inbound report by Hubspot confirmed that lead generation remains the top marketing challenge for businesses:

marketing challenges

Not to mention that many agencies regularly complain about their struggles with positioning in the market. And if you ask me, the primary factor behind this is a lack of understanding of who your ideal clients are.

Now, I admit that most agencies would have some idea about their target audience. It could be an industry they typically work with or company size, but such targeting is simply too broad and makes it difficult to grow.

For one, as research shows, only 1 out of 10 people in your target market would actually require your help. Although meeting the general target characteristics, the remaining nine are unlikely to need an agency's help.

Targeting a broad audience can often use a significant portion of your resources, but the question is: can it deliver any meaningful return?

It's doubtful—after all, if 90% of your marketing message is being ignored, you'll be spending money and time reaching potential clients that will never convert.

And so, defining that one lead most likely to become a client will help you:

  • Plan and launch more successful marketing campaigns.

  • Optimize your marketing communications, including your language and how you communicate relevance to your prospect's needs.

  • Reduce the marketing spend and the customer acquisition cost (CAC). Specifically, you'll achieve this in two ways: one, by not wasting resources on audiences that will never convert; and two, by attracting ideal clients with whom you can build long business relationships. 

  • Improve your sales process and sales strategy. For your sales team, understanding your ideal client's pain points means knowing precisely what to say to a prospect to win them over.

  • Create more relevant content. Every blog post or guide is targeted only to attract the most qualified visitors.

  • Boost lead generation and save time on low-quality leads and tire-kickers.

So how do you define them? You guessed it; by creating a profile for your ideal client.

You've probably heard of buyer personas or customer profiles. Creating a client profile isn't that different. It simply focuses on specific characteristics important to the client & agency relationship. 

Not only will this help fine-tune your client acquisition strategies, but doing so will also help with some of the other common marketing agency pain points, such as client reporting, client retention, and meeting deadlines. After all, once you know exactly what kind of client your agency is targeting, you’ll have a more transparent lens to focus on acquisition and client management processes. 

So, let's get started on creating your client profile.

Download our free client profile template

Use this template to build your ideal client profile

Let’s Go!

Creating the Ideal Client Profile: What Information to Include

1. Professional Profile

A typical business misconception says that when selling, you target companies.

The reality is, however, that every business is made up of people. They work in different positions, have various responsibilities, and so on. The key to your sales success is simply connecting and engaging with these individuals—not the entire company.

That's why it’s best to start with understanding who your target personas are. To uncover this information, define the following:

  • The person's role

  • Skills they require to do their job

  • Typical responsibilities and how is their work measured

  • Who do they report to?

  • Who else might be involved in the decision to hire you?

For example, let's say I'm targeting VPs of Marketing at construction companies. Their professional profile would look like this:

  • Role: VP of Marketing

  • Skills: Planning, persuasion, writing, and diplomacy to help navigate through office politics.

  • Typical responsibilities: Developing and implementing a marketing plan, managing long-term goals for various teams, and so on.

  • Reports to: CEO and CFO

This information would then help design both the sales message and the sales process to engage these prospects better.

2. Problems, Challenges, and Pain Points

Remember, your goal is to learn enough about a person to engage with them more effectively. The next step is to understand the problems, challenges, and pain points that would drive your client to hire an agency.

Let's use the VP of Marketing in a large building company as an example again. The person would likely face several challenges, including:

  • Generating more inquiries that convert into sales-ready leads

  • Prioritizing marketing strategies

  • Measuring marketing effectiveness

  • Demonstrating the value of their work to the C-Suite

However, a managing partner in a small, ambitious law firm would have different needs. They might want to increase the number of open cases without being actively involved in the process or position the law firm as cutting edge in the industry.

You also don't need to limit these customer drivers to marketing goals. Keep in mind that clients look for an agency for many other reasons.

Is your target client an entrepreneur running a business on their own? Their primary driver may be that they're simply too busy to manage all marketing tasks. When you understand this and pitch your services as a way to reduce their workload, it will resonate with the prospect much more.

Understanding their drivers will be crucial to how you pitch yourself to prospects. When you know why specifically they are looking to hire you, you'll be able to align your services with their goals in the sales process.

3. Personal Characteristics

There is an undeniable correlation between how well you connect with clients and your agency's success.

Michael Port explains it this way in his amazing book, "Book Yourself Solid"

"When you work with the clients you love, you'll truly enjoy the work you're doing; you'll love every minute of it."

And for that reason alone, your client profile must include characteristics you value in people.

A few questions that will help you gather the right information include:

  • What do you value in people in general?

  • What are the personal characteristics of your best clients?

  • What do you have in common with your best clients?

  • What makes you excited about the prospect of working with them again?

4. Company Information

Finally, consider where your ideal clients work. Particularly, look for similarities that define a niche or specific business type to whom you deliver your best work.

For example, consider the following:

  • Is there one industry you deliver your best work in?

  • Common company sizes?

  • Location?

  • Revenue level?

  • What is their typical sales process? This information will help you design a campaign aligned with their buying process.

  • How do they look for vendors, and what process do you need to start working with them?

When defining the company information, this is the time to consider whether you will be a niche or general marketing agency.

There are countless examples of SEO agencies that focus on a specific niche with enormous success.

When you work within a niche, it's easier to pitch yourself as a marketing expert in that industry.

You'll also know where to focus your attention. What Facebook groups or trade shows does your target client participate in? What type of events cater to this industry?

Of course, there are downsides to a niche agency too. That being said, use your client profile template as an opportunity to explore and define your industry.

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Where to Find All This Information?

You have two sources at your disposal. One delivers the most accurate insights unquestionably, and the other requires you to assume a lot about your clients.

Nonetheless, let's discuss them both.

The most valuable data source for your client profile is, of course, your best clients—current and former.  

If you want to attract similar people, it makes sense to mirror the client profile of the best clients you've ever had.

You have several ways to gather the information you need about them:

  • Interviews: Call these clients and ask them about their pain points and characteristics directly.

  • Email conversations: If you can't talk to them in person, review your emails, meeting notes, etc., to find answers to the questions above.

  • CRM data: You should be able to see a lot of insights about them in notes, deal comments, and emails saved there too.

However, you might just be starting. As a result, you don't have any client history to draw insights from. Or you want to shift your focus and attract completely different customers from now on. In that case, use a Google search to learn more about those people.

Although you may not find the most accurate insights, the following sources might help you learn more about your target audience:

  • Industry research or reports. Ideally, focus on documents published by industry associations and other professional bodies.

  • Customer discussions on online forums, industry communities, Q&A sites, etc.

  • Job sites. Reviewing relevant job descriptions will help you discover your ideal client's responsibilities, skill sets, and challenges.

Ideal Customer Profile Vs. Buyer Persona—What’s the Difference?

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re distinct tools. Here’s how you can distinguish between the two. 

What Is an Ideal Customer Profile?

An ideal customer profile (ICP) outlines organizations your agency is most interested in doing business with. To create this profile, consider quantifiable characteristics such as the number of employees, annual revenue, geographic location, and industry type. Create a hypothetical ICP for new ventures, or base it on a current client type if expanding in a niche you’re already familiar with.

Equipping your agency with these insights guides your business development pursuits and narrow outreach efforts to highly targeted, relevant leads. This ensures the best use of your agency’s time and increases the likelihood of onboarding clients you actually want to work with.

What Is a Buyer Persona?

On the other hand, a buyer persona goes a step further by identifying the decision-making executive(s) at that organization and factoring in more personal characteristics such as pain points, goals, personality traits, and demographics. 

By doing this exercise, you’re grasping the humanized side of the equation that guides your marketing efforts (such as messaging and content creation) and even other vital elements such as call scripts for your sales team.

There may be more than one buyer persona at any given organization. For example, a VP of Marketing and a Social Media Manager may both have hiring power but entirely different experiences. By understanding the characteristics of each persona, you will be able to create tailor-made proposals, relatable content, and conversational insights when cold calls are made.

Coupling the quantifiable characteristics of an ideal customer profile with the emotional insights of a buyer persona will steer your agency towards the right type of client. 

The Limitations of Creating an Ideal Customer Profile

I’m all for creating an ideal customer profile because it can really help you to make informed, strategic decisions. There are a few limitations to keep in mind, but don’t let this deter you from getting the most out of this critical exercise.

Be sure that you don’t:

  • End up with an ideal customer profile that’s too broad by casting too far of a net. If you make too many generalizations and insufficient specific inferences, you’ll end up with an ideal customer profile that doesn’t capture the essential details you need.

  • On the other end of the spectrum, getting too hyper-focused and excluding important details will end up in a customer profile that’s not ideal. Those insights are invaluable, but use your discretion to know how much detail is too much.

  • Because an ideal customer profile is heavily based on real-life company characteristics, some clients may have privacy concerns about using their data in any extrapolation exercise. Wherever possible, try not to use characteristics identifiable to a specific company. You want something as a general representation, so avoid adding enough particular details that someone could go, “that’s THIS company.”

  • While creating an ideal customer profile has tremendous benefits, it may also come with a significant financial investment if it’s being outsourced. Don’t rule it out, though. A dedicated internal resource with in-depth knowledge of customers can do the trick here. Alternatively, explore supplier options that can work within your agency’s budget.

Remember that creating an Ideal Client Profile doesn’t mean your agency is turning away business. If your agency were to market a particular client’s product to a 35-year-old female living in New York, you know there is still a chance that a 42-year-old female living in New Jersey might still purchase the item. The point of an ICP is to provide focus, not necessarily exclusion.

However, there are certain areas where exclusions may apply. For example, your agency could decline the opportunity to work with a client that is too far outside your geographic comfort zone, but that is something your team can decide on a case-by-case basis.  

In summary, evaluate where your agency is and how much investment is realistically feasible (both time and financial). Also, strike that balance between outlining customer profile characteristics without being too vague or tunnel-visioned so that the overall picture is closer to reality.

Example of an Ideal Customer Profile

Let’s continue with our construction company example above. Say your agency is trying to onboard more clients within this industry. Using a handy client profile template helps you understand who you’re trying to target. Having had a longstanding client relationship means you know the ins and outs of their experience. You’re also able to make inferences about this type of client. An ideal customer profile would look something like this:

An Example of How To Define Your Ideal Client in Construction

As you can see, we’ve outlined the key decision maker at XYZ Construction Group to who your agency can reach out for a pitch opportunity. 

Next up, consider what a VP of Marketing may be experiencing in their role and why the services of an agency would be needed in the first place.

How to Define Your Ideal Client - Customer Drivers Example

Outlining these challenges helps your agency have a tailor-made, strategic approach while showing that you’ve done your research. Based on the above, your agency emphasizes its years of experience in reputation management and even current case studies that show successful outcomes.  

Also, consider the characteristics of your ideal client within this sphere. While your agency actively pursues new business opportunities, it can be tempting to onboard any client that comes your way.

However, you’ll want to ensure alignment between your agency and new prospects to avoid any difficulties in the future. That’s where outlining value synchronicities come in handy. 

How To Define your Ideal Client Example - Personal Characteristics

Finally, consider the firmographics of your ideal customer. This further streamlines the type of client you should actively pursue.  

How to Define Your Ideal Client - Company Information Example

And there you have it! A well-thought-out ideal customer profile helps your agency streamline outreach efforts and get the most out of your new business ventures. Not only does it narrow down a niche to target, but it also gives you specific pain points to align with your agency’s product offering.

Putting It All Together: The Client Profile Template

I know. Creating client profiles—from collecting all the information and drawing necessary conclusions—can be challenging at first.

To make this essential task a little easier, we've created a client profile template to guide you through the process.

Download our free client profile template

Use this template to build your ideal client profile

Let’s Go!

The document lists all the information you need to collect, and then, organizes it for you into relevant insights.

Give it a try, and start landing more of your ideal clients!

Written by

Joe Kindness

Joe started his career as a developer and since has created many internet businesses. He has now moved on to the position of CEO and has enjoyed all the challenges it has brought.

Read more posts by Joe Kindness ›

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