As inbound marketing agency owners, we all talk to our clients about the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), and how laser sharp the focus on the ICP should be.
But not many of us are as focused on our own ICP as much. Why is that? Here are a few reasons:
- Because we don’t know who our ICP is.
- Because we generate leads or get referrals (who are not ICPs) that we know we can help.
- Because we have multiple skillsets that can be leveraged for new prospects
- Because our business is too new to be so focused or niche-y.
- Because we have improved our processes and hence can handle tricky clients.
- Because by being too focused, we run the risk of losing business or missing that “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to hit pay dirt.
Having run an inbound marketing company for years, I have gone through all of those reasons. Perhaps you have a few more.
I don’t know about you, but that has just practically taken me down rabbit holes that were well, not as wondrous as it was for Alice. We have got stuck with clients who couldn’t pay, who loved our inputs but hated inbound marketing, who mistook us for their marketing agency, who hired us for legit content marketing and then questioned us for not having implemented a single black-hat SEO technique.
I could go on. Effectively, the margins dwindled (or downright vanished), and we were left over-servicing a client who should not have been our client in the first place. So what did we learn.
We learned we couldn’t work with startups. We would end up spending all our time working on their business model or positioning (as they were not even close to figuring it out) and had precious little to show as results.
We learned we couldn’t work with ecom players in India, we just didn’t have the right skills for ad-driven marketing.
We learned we couldn’t work with companies whose founders were not truly digitally savvy. Who said they were agile, but weren’t.
We learned that when co-founders have widely differing views, the digital marketing agency will likely have to pay the price.
We learned that when there is no role as a marketing coordinator in a company, we lose time and money in followups.
And so on.
So we decided enough was enough. And we had to get choosy with our customers, and be clear about our ICP.
Since our best results, most profitability and happier customers were in the B2B IT space, it was an easy choice. But to take out the heartache from the equation, we decided to get even more specific about it. With not just the revenue, company size, and number of employees, but also positioning, marketing team size and skills, number of decision makers, dependence on a single person for anything, and many such details.
After we defined this, whenever we would get a B2B IT company lead, it stopped meaning that they were our ICP. More often than not, they were not. But since we had defined the ICP for ourselves, we knew who to work for, who to say Yes to.
Once we decided, firmly, who our ICP was, it immediately became crystal clear what we had to do to generate leads. Instead of having to do so many things for so many different personas, or being all about inbound marketing in general, we got focused on what our ICP needed to know. We built content around that, which would only happen once in a few months earlier. We created a super skyscraper guide, and ran campaigns around that. And by spending a few hundred dollars on LinkedIn, got the SALs we needed.
See what happened? We got clarity. And we got the team aligned to doing focused activities on specific goals for the ICP.
Once you make the choice, it becomes easy. But the tough part is to make that choice. Some get stopped by fear, others by unwillingness to quit something that’s not working, still some others by something else. Is anything stopping you?