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Best Practices in ICP Development: Qualitative Analysis

In a previous post, The Framework for Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Development, we defined the Ideal Customer Profile and provided the framework for ICP Development. In this post, we provide recommendations for the key questions to answer when collecting qualitative data in the ICP development process.

Before diving into the qualitative analysis guidelines, it’s important to review the Ideal Customer Profile:

“The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) defines the firmagraphic, environmental and behavioral attributes of accounts expected to become a company’s most valuable customers. It is developed through both qualitative and quantitative analyses; and may optionally be informed by predictive analytics software. Unlike the term “target customer,” which is often used to describe any company that might buy a product or service, the ICP is focused on the most valuable customers and prospects that are also most likely to buy.

The Ideal Customer Profile should also not be confused with the Total Addressable Market or Total Available Market, which are calculations or estimates of the universe of potential target customers. The ICP is a foundational, organization-wide decision impacting downstream sales and marketing efforts. It aligns marketing, sales, service and executive teams to the highest-value accounts. It also creates focus on scalable and repeatable strategies and tactics to engage and convert top accounts. And it drives target account list creation, segmentation, organizational structure, and other key activities.”

The ICP is developed by gathering and analyzing qualitative, quantitative and (optionally) predictive data.


Qualitative ICP Data Collection

The first step in ICP development is qualitative data collection. Gathering qualitative inputs is done through close interaction with key stakeholders to leverage their diverse expertise and foster cross-functional buy-in.

The purpose of this exercise is to uncover cross-functional insight into what constitutes “good” vs “bad” accounts. These questions are designed to provoke thought, promote collaboration, and provide actionable insights to develop an ICP that delivers results.

TOPO recommends meeting with the following stakeholders and capturing results from the qualitative questionnaire in real-time:

  • Sales leadership
  • Top sales performers
  • Customer success (they often know more than anyone who the ideal customer is)
  • Sales development
  • Marketing
  • Product marketing
  • Finance

7 Questions for Qualitative ICP Data Analysis

1. How would you describe your ideal customer (account)?

  • Description: Open-ended question to learn how respondents instinctively answer. Ask respondents to cite real account examples in their answer.
  • Example: “Companies with more than 20 sales reps that have implemented CRM in the last year” or “Annual contract value of $300K+ with products at 40%+ gross margins”.

2. What attributes make for an ideal account?

  • Description: Firmagraphic information such as number of employee size, annual revenue, vertical, etc.
  • Example: “Manufacturing organizations with 1000+ employees, over $100M in revenue, located in the United States”.

3. What are their key objectives?

  • Description: The ideal customer’s business motivations.
  • Example: “They have to be protective of critical customer data” or “Have a global customer base”.

4. What is the infrastructure or operating environment of ideal customers (accounts)?

  • Description: Current infrastructure may include technology, processes, organizational structure.
  • Example: “UNIX-based servers”, “multiple remote locations”, “Kanab supply chain”.

5. What are the key buying triggers that drive these accounts to take action?

  • Description: Buying triggers are key events that will motivate accounts to drive internal change.
  • Example: “Overseas expansion”, “recently increased hiring”, “acquisitions”, funding, etc.

6. What are the main reasons accounts don’t buy from us?

  • Description: Sales roadblocks that affect an account’s fit with the ICP.
  • Example: “Status Quo” or “No pain”.

7. What constitutes an account we absolutely can’t sell to? Why?

  • Description: Unworkable accounts/opportunities.
  • Example: “If they just bought XX technology in the last 12 months, they will not buy from us”.

The qualitative analysis should be aggregated into an initial rendering of the ICP. The next step is quantitative analysts which may prove/disprove the qualitative findings, and identify insights to continue to refine the ICP definition.

About the Author

Tom Scearce is Senior Demand Generation Consultant for TOPO, bringing clients more than 20 years of experience developing and executing high-growth marketing and sales programs. Tom has an insatiable curiosity for the people, processes and platforms that drive world-class demand gen organizations.

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