Building an Effective Ideal Customer Profile with Account Intelligence

Successful marketing organizations know exactly who their product is for — and, just as importantly, who it’s not for. That’s where having a robust, data-driven ideal customer profile (ICP) comes into play.   

Your ICP is a detailed and specific description of the kinds of companies that are the best possible fit for your product or service. When your organization can rally around a shared understanding of what your ideal customers look like, efficiencies abound. Marketing messages get clearer, sales teams prioritize leads with precision and customer satisfaction soars.  

So let’s unpack how teams can develop a highly effective ICP with collaboration, a clear framework, and the gold standard of marketing data — account intelligence. 

What is the Difference Between Target Audience and Ideal Customer Profile?

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: Your target audience is not the same as your ideal customer profile.   

Your target audience is a broad categorization of all the companies who could possibly buy your product. However, your ICP is a more specific and precise description of the customers who are most likely to buy and benefit from your product.   

As Gartner puts it, “An ICP points out the characteristics of enterprises that produce the largest share of your wallet, while the term “target customer” or “total addressable market” considers every possible company or account that might buy your product or service.”  

In other words, if your target audience is the dartboard, your ICP is the bullseye. It’s the kind of company that earns you the most points (or, rather, the most revenue). And while you won’t only sell to companies within your ICP — just like you’ll also hit the 20s, 19s, and 18s surrounding the bullseye during a game of darts — it’s what you’ll be aiming for with your marketing campaigns and sales strategies. 

Importance of Account Intelligence in ICP Development

The most robust and effective ICPs are rooted in both quantitative and qualitative insights. You should always gather input and feedback from across the organization to build alignment — more on that below — but rely first and foremost on accurate, comprehensive account intelligence.   

Account intelligence is the epitome of high-quality, curated marketing data that delivers a full picture of your customers’ and prospects’ current state. This includes:  

  • Data enrichment: supplementing your existing data with new, relevant information   
  • Demographics: personal data about who your individual prospects are, such as age and gender  
  • Firmographics: organizational data about the companies they work for, such as company size, industry, and location  
  • Technographics: information about what technologies these teams already use  
  • Intent data: up-to-the-minute data about what topics your prospects are interested in  

When it comes to developing your ICP, specific layers of account intelligence like firmographics, technographics, and intent data are particularly invaluable. Here are a few ways this kind of account intelligence can play into your ICP:  

  • If your solution is an HR software designed to streamline complex workflows for dispersed teams operating across time zones and languages, your ICP will likely include firmographic qualifiers like “Global organizations with more than 500 employees”.
  • For a marketing automation platform that delivers the greatest value by integrating seamlessly with popular CRM systems, your ICP might include technographic parameters like “Mid-sized to large enterprises currently using CRMs like Salesforce or Hubspot”. Or, if your solution requires cloud-based infrastructure to deliver its full value, you might exclude companies that still leverage legacy, on-premises servers.
  • If your customer support software uses AI to provide better customer service, your ICP might include intent signals like “Businesses searching for or interacting with content around AI-driven customer support solutions”.   

Account intelligence helps ground your ICP in real-world information, and can be used to help gauge whether future prospects are part of your ICP or not — which determines whether to include them in your ABM lists, content syndication, or retargeting campaigns, as well as how to prioritize them for sales follow-up.

But first, you can use account intelligence to figure out exactly what kinds of organizations your ICP should include in the first place.  

5 Steps to Create an Effective Ideal Customer Profile

The process of creating a robust ICP that’s actually put to use in your organization involves five key steps: analyzing and segmenting your target accounts; identifying pain points; aligning your solutions with customer needs; developing personalized messages; and implementing your ICP.

1. Analyze and segment your target accounts

The most effective way to determine what kind of companies should fall into your ICP is by looking at who your best customers are right now. Not all your customers — your best customers.   

First, identify the cream of the crop by looking for customers with:   

  • Shorter sales cycles as prospects  
  • KPIs like annual contract value and customer lifetime value  
  • Consistently high NPS or CSAT ratings   
  • Referrals to new business   
  • Participation in case studies, testimonials, and marketing events  

This should help you zero in on your happiest, easiest-to-win, most profitable customers — the exact kinds of customers you want more of.   

Now, start segmenting these customers according to the kinds of account intelligence data described above. Use your enriched CRM records to look for similarities across characteristics like:  

  • Company size  
  • Geography  
  • Industry  
  • Growth stage  
  • Number of employees  
  • Annual revenue  
  • Existing technology stack  
  • Content engagement and interest  

Ideally, you’ll detect patterns within your best customers that you can use to populate the basic outline of your ICP.  

2. Identify pain points and challenges

Now, you can examine these satisfied, profitable customers and look at the challenges and frustrations they tend to share. This involves digging a little deeper into customer satisfaction survey responses, and speaking with your support and sales teams. You can also use intent data to understand what kind of content and educational materials your customers are engaging with.

For example, at a data cataloging solution, you may see a large number of healthcare and financial services organizations within your best-customer list — industries that share an overlapping need to comply with complex regulatory requirements.   

Or, if you offer an employee engagement and performance management tool, you might notice your top customers tend to include fast-growing tech startups and lots of engagement with content around employee experience. At this stage, many organizations struggle to maintain employee engagement and need to formalize management processes in order to scale.   

Documenting these shared pain points to your ICP lays the groundwork for the next step: connecting the dots between your customers’ challenges and your product’s solutions. 

3. Align your solutions with customer needs

Now, you can start to map out how your product solves the problems your best customers share.   

For instance, you may notice that the top customers for your cloud storage provider include tech companies and creative agencies. While these are very different types of organizations, your research shows that many of these customers face challenges around secure file sharing and collaboration — and place a high value on your product’s role-based access controls.   

Understanding which features and benefits are most relevant to solving your best customers’ problems, and including them in your ICP, will help inform your future campaigns.   

4. Develop personalized messaging and marketing strategies

With these insights in mind — who your ideal customers are, the problems they face, and how your product is positioned to help them — you can start to develop personalized messaging, content, and marketing strategies that resonate with your ICP.   

Personalized messaging should capture attention, build trust, and drive engagement with your most valuable prospects. Given that McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect personalized messages (and 76% become frustrated when these expectations aren’t met), this is a critical step.   

Here are a few specific strategies to consider:  

  • Develop case studies that highlight your success stories in specific industries or company sizes, demonstrating your product’s value in contexts that closely match your ICP.  
  • Provide detailed integration guides that show how your product seamlessly connects with your ICP’s preferred technologies.  
  • Write blog posts that highlight common industry challenges.  
  • Host webinars with customers from your ICP to delve deeper into how your product addresses specific pain points.  
  • Tailor product demos to highlight the most-valued features for your ICP.  
  • Customize marketing emails with industry-specific visuals and headlines for different segments within your ICP (generative AI can be quite useful here).  

With content designed to resonate specifically with your ideal customers, you can provide a more engaging experience and help usher your ICP prospects through the funnel.  

5. Implement your ideal customer profile

Your ICP isn’t just for personalizing content. It’s a strategic tool that can be applied across the organization to drive efficiency and deliver value, including:   

Lead scoring: Marketing and sales teams can refine lead scoring models to ensure highest scores are assigned to prospects that closely match your ICP characteristics.   

ABM account lists: Sales teams can use your ICP to create and refine ABM target account lists.  

Ad spend: Demand gen managers can strategically allocate ad spend in display marketing campaigns to reach prospects within your ICP.  

Prioritizing outreach and follow-up: BDRs will know how to best use their time when prospecting, and SDRs can prioritize resources on the prospects that are most likely to convert.  

Customer support: With a well-defined ICP, your CS teams can better understand and serve customers who are a good fit for your product — improving satisfaction rates and reducing churn. CS managers can also use ICP insights to anticipate common issues and proactively provide resources.   

Product development: Product teams can leverage insights from your ICP to inform roadmaps and prioritize the features and enhancements that will deliver the most benefit for the most valuable users.   

When your organization shares a common understanding of your ICP, every team works together to solve meaningful challenges and improve service offerings.  

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating an ICP with Account Intelligence

When your ICP is effective and robust, it can make a big impact: higher conversion rates, shorter sales cycles, greater customer lifetime value, and increased profitability.   

But you can’t take shortcuts. If your ICP isn’t built on a solid foundation of trustworthy data and organizational alignment, it will gather dust — or worse, decrease all those impressive KPIs.   

Here are some common mistakes to avoid:   

  • Gathering insufficient data. Relying on gut instincts can lead to bias and inaccurate targeting. Ensure you collect comprehensive and reliable data about your actual best customers to inform your ICP.  
  • Neglecting to segment your audience: Your ICP should be specific enough to make a positive, tangible impact on targeting and personalization. Avoid lumping all potential customers into broad categories.  
  • Focusing solely on demographics: Demographics are highly important for buyer personas — which describe individual members of the buying committee — but aren’t enough to develop a thorough ICP that describes the companies those individuals work for. Firmographics, technographics, and intent data are essential.  
  • Failing to build alignment across the organization: As discussed above, your ICP should make an impact across the org — so developing it requires collaboration and buy-in from multiple departments. Make sure that marketing, sales, finance, customer success, and product teams are all aligned on your ideal customers, their problems, and the solutions you provide.   
  • Letting your ICP stagnate: Market conditions and your product will continue to evolve, and so should your ICP. Incorporate new data and conduct onboarding and churn surveys to continually revisit and refine your profiles. 

Supercharge Your ICP with DemandScience’s Account Intelligence

With reliable, fresh marketing data, your team can develop a precisely targeted ICP and unlock a powerful competitive advantage.

That’s where DemandScience’s Account Intelligence platform comes in. We deliver a deep understanding of your business’s customers and prospects that equips you to align your products, services, and strategies to better serve — and reach — your ICP.


Learn more about how DemandScience can help you drive higher engagement, conversion rates, and long-term customer loyalty.