How to build an ICP

Ideal Customer Profile
Account Data
June 6, 2024

Building an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a critical exercise for any company aiming to maximize its sales and marketing efforts. For marketing and sales leaders, understanding the nuances of your most successful customers can lead to more targeted, effective outreach and ultimately, higher conversion rates. Here’s a step-by-step guide on creating an ICP, enriched with real-world examples and insights from SaaS industry leaders. These are the seven step to follow when building an optimal ICP according to John Barrows.

Step 1: Identify Your Top 10 Existing Customers

Identifying your top 10 existing customers is the foundation of building an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This selection should be strategic and data-driven, focusing on customers who not only bring in revenue but also exhibit traits that make them ideal candidates for long-term partnerships.


  • Performing Well in the Current Economy: These customers should be thriving despite economic challenges, showcasing resilience and growth. This indicates that they are not only stable but also capable of navigating uncertainties effectively. For example, look for companies that have reported recent growth in earnings, expanded their market share, or launched successful new products even in tough economic climates.
  • Gaining Significant Value from Your Solution: They should be deriving substantial benefits from your solution, which is evident through increased efficiency, revenue, or other key performance metrics. This could be measured by tracking usage data, customer feedback, or any improvements in their business processes attributable to your product. High engagement rates with your solution's advanced features and consistent usage are strong indicators of value.
  • Represent a Profitable Segment of Your Customer Base: Consider both Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Lifetime Value (LTV) when selecting this cohort. Ideally, these top customers should have a high LTV compared to their CAC, meaning they provide a significant return on investment over time. This profitability ensures that focusing on similar customers will be financially beneficial for your business.

Example:Let’s say your company provides a CRM solution. Your top 10 customers might include a mix of enterprise and mid-market companies across various sectors such as technology, healthcare, and finance. These sectors often have distinct needs and challenges that your CRM effectively addresses.

  • Enterprise Companies: These are large organizations with complex sales processes. For instance, a leading healthcare company might use your CRM to manage its extensive sales pipeline, ensuring compliance with industry regulations while improving patient outreach and engagement. Another example could be a global tech company using your CRM to streamline its sales operations across multiple regions, integrating seamlessly with other tools in their tech stack.
  • Mid-Market Companies: These are rapidly growing companies that need scalable solutions to manage their sales growth. A mid-sized financial services firm might use your CRM to enhance client relationship management and improve customer retention rates. Another example could be a tech startup that has recently secured Series B funding and is expanding its sales team, leveraging your CRM to maintain a high level of customer service and track key performance metrics as they scale.

These customers not only renew their subscriptions consistently, indicating satisfaction and trust in your product, but also engage deeply with your product’s advanced features. This deep engagement suggests that they find your solution integral to their operations, making them ideal models for your ICP. By focusing on customers who fit these criteria, you can better understand the specific needs and behaviors that lead to success with your product, paving the way for more targeted and effective marketing and sales efforts.

Step 2: Assemble Your GTM Team

Building an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a collaborative effort that benefits from the diverse perspectives and expertise of your entire Go-To-Market (GTM) team. By involving team members from various functions, you ensure that the insights gathered are comprehensive and reflect the full customer journey.

Team Members:

  • Sales Development Representatives (SDRs): These team members are on the front lines of prospecting and initial outreach. They understand the early stages of the sales funnel and can provide valuable insights into the characteristics of leads that show the most promise.
  • Account Executives (AEs): AEs are responsible for closing deals and have in-depth knowledge of what it takes to convert a lead into a customer. They can share patterns about the decision-making processes and objections commonly encountered.
  • Sales Engineers (SEs): SEs bring technical expertise to the table. They understand the specific technical requirements and challenges faced by customers, providing insights into the technological fit and integration aspects of your solution.
  • Customer Success (CS) Managers: CS Managers focus on post-sale engagement and retention. They can offer valuable information about how customers use your product, the support they need, and what drives long-term satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Account Managers (AMs): AMs manage relationships with existing customers, focusing on renewals and upsells. They understand the ongoing needs of your customers and can identify opportunities for growth and expansion.
  • Marketing Specialists: These team members are experts in understanding market trends, customer personas, and effective messaging. They can help identify the marketing channels and content that resonate most with your ideal customers.
  • Finance Team: The finance team provides a financial perspective, ensuring that the ICP aligns with profitability goals. They can analyze the cost of customer acquisition (CAC) and the lifetime value (LTV) of different customer segments to ensure that the identified ICP is financially viable.

Why a Diverse Team is Essential: Bringing together this diverse group ensures that you capture insights from all stages of the customer journey, from initial outreach to long-term retention. Each team member brings a unique perspective, contributing to a more nuanced and accurate ICP. This holistic approach helps identify not only the demographic and firmographic characteristics of your ideal customers but also their behavioral and psychographic traits.

Example: At Salesforce, a leading CRM provider, cross-functional teams regularly collaborate to dissect customer data and identify patterns that inform their ICP. This collaborative approach ensures that insights are holistic and actionable. For instance, during these sessions, SDRs might highlight the types of leads that convert quickly, while AEs can shed light on the common challenges and needs that arise during the sales process. SEs can discuss the technical capabilities and integrations that resonate most with customers, and CS Managers can provide feedback on the features and support services that drive retention and satisfaction. Marketing specialists can then use these insights to create targeted campaigns, while the finance team ensures that the strategies align with the company’s financial objectives.

By assembling a diverse GTM team, Salesforce ensures that their ICP is not only well-rounded but also strategically aligned with their overall business goals. This approach enables them to tailor their sales and marketing efforts more effectively, resulting in higher conversion rates, better customer satisfaction, and ultimately, stronger business growth.

Step 3: Dissect Your Top Customers

Diving deep into the characteristics of your top customers is essential for developing a comprehensive Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This step involves looking beyond basic demographic information to understand the nuanced traits that make these customers successful and deeply engaged with your solution.

Key Characteristics:

  • Target Audience: Determine who your top customers sell to. Understanding their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) helps align your messaging and value proposition with the specific needs and pain points of their target market. This ensures that your communications resonate more effectively, highlighting how your solution can also benefit their customers.
  • Technological Stack: Identify the technologies your top customers use that complement your solution. This includes software, platforms, and tools that integrate well with your product. Knowing their tech stack allows you to highlight your solution's compatibility and potential for seamless integration, which can be a significant selling point.
  • Previous Solutions: Investigate what solutions they were using before adopting your product. Understanding their past tools can reveal the pain points and limitations they experienced, as well as the specific triggers that led them to switch. This knowledge helps you position your solution as a superior alternative, addressing the gaps and challenges they faced previously.
  • Key Signals: Look for significant business signals such as hiring trends, layoffs, new product launches, or expansions to new locations. These signals can indicate a company’s growth trajectory, priorities, and readiness for new solutions. For example, a company expanding its sales team might be more open to investing in a new CRM solution to support their growth.
  • Footprint Analysis: Examine the physical and operational footprint of your top customers. Consider factors such as whether they offer a specific type of product or service, their office setup (remote, office-based, or hybrid), and the size of their IT department. These details provide deeper insights into their operational needs and infrastructure, helping tailor your solution to fit their unique environment.
  • Business Stage: Identify the stage of business your top customers are in, such as Series A, Series B, public, etc. Different stages have different needs and priorities. For instance, early-stage startups might prioritize scalability and rapid deployment, while established public companies might focus on security, compliance, and comprehensive feature sets.
  • Department Structure: Understand the structure of the department you sell into, whether it’s a small team or a full department. This affects decision-making processes and sales cycles. A small team might have a quicker decision-making process but a limited budget, whereas a larger department might involve more stakeholders and a longer sales cycle.
  • Use Cases: Determine the specific problems your solution helps your customers solve. Understanding who benefits the most within their organization allows you to tailor your value proposition to address these critical issues directly. For example, if your CRM solution helps sales teams close deals faster, emphasize this benefit when targeting similar organizations.

Example: HubSpot, a leading inbound marketing platform, discovered that their most successful customers were often mid-sized companies in the tech sector using multiple marketing tools that HubSpot could integrate with seamlessly. By analyzing these customers, HubSpot identified key characteristics such as their reliance on various digital marketing technologies, the need for a unified platform to streamline their marketing efforts, and the importance of robust analytics to track campaign performance. This insight allowed HubSpot to target similar companies with precision, tailoring their messaging to emphasize seamless integration, comprehensive marketing capabilities, and powerful analytics.

Moreover, HubSpot noticed that many of these successful customers had a hybrid work model, combining remote and office-based teams. This detail helped HubSpot emphasize the collaborative features of their platform, which facilitate seamless communication and project management across distributed teams. They also found that these companies often had dedicated marketing operations teams, highlighting the importance of user-friendly interfaces and collaborative tools in their product offerings.

By dissecting these characteristics, HubSpot refined their ICP and developed targeted marketing campaigns that effectively resonated with potential customers fitting this profile. This strategic approach led to higher engagement and conversion rates, demonstrating the value of a well-defined ICP based on deep customer insights.

Step 4: Identify Common Characteristics

Finding the commonalities among your top 10 customers is crucial to forming a clearer picture of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This step is similar to step 3 but involves synthesizing the detailed insights gathered in the previous steps to identify patterns and shared traits that define your most successful customers.

Common Characteristics to Look For:

  • Industry and Sector: Identify if your top customers belong to specific industries or sectors. For example, you might find that a significant portion of your best customers are in the tech sector, healthcare, or financial services. Each industry has unique needs and challenges that your solution addresses effectively.
  • Company Size and Revenue: Look at the size of the companies in terms of employee count and revenue. You might discover that your ideal customers are mid-market firms with 200-500 employees and annual revenues ranging from $50 million to $200 million. This information helps tailor your outreach strategies to companies of similar scale.
  • Funding Stage: Determine the funding stage of your top customers. For instance, they might be companies that have recently secured Series B funding, indicating they are in a growth phase with significant capital to invest in solutions that drive scalability and efficiency.
  • Geographical Location: Note any geographical patterns. Are your top customers primarily based in certain regions or countries? Understanding this can help you focus your marketing efforts geographically, taking into account local market dynamics and regulatory environments.
  • Technological Ecosystem: Assess the mix of technologies and tools your top customers use. You might find that they use a combination of marketing automation tools, CRM systems, and analytics platforms. This knowledge allows you to highlight your solution’s compatibility and integration capabilities with these commonly used tools.
  • Organizational Structure: Examine the organizational setup, such as whether they have a dedicated marketing operations team, a centralized IT department, or a decentralized structure with multiple decision-makers. Understanding the internal structure can influence how you approach different stakeholders within these organizations.
  • Key Business Activities: Identify common business activities and initiatives your top customers are involved in, such as digital transformation projects, new product launches, or market expansions. These activities can be key drivers for the need for your solution.

Example:You might discover that your best customers are mid-market tech firms that have recently secured Series B funding. These companies are in a growth phase, seeking scalable solutions to support their expansion efforts. They use a mix of marketing automation tools like HubSpot or Marketo, CRM systems like Salesforce, and analytics platforms such as Google Analytics or Tableau. These firms often have a dedicated marketing operations team responsible for managing and optimizing marketing technologies and strategies.

Additionally, these customers might be headquartered in tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, Austin, or New York City, where there is a high concentration of innovative tech companies. They could also have a hybrid workforce, balancing remote and in-office work, which necessitates robust collaboration tools and flexible solutions.

Understanding these commonalities helps narrow down your ICP significantly. For instance, knowing that mid-market tech firms with Series B funding and specific technology stacks are your ideal customers allows you to craft highly targeted marketing messages. You can emphasize how your solution integrates seamlessly with their existing tools, supports rapid growth, and enhances marketing operations efficiency.

Furthermore, recognizing the geographical concentration of your top customers enables you to focus your sales and marketing efforts on regions with high potential, tailoring your campaigns to local business climates and cultural nuances.

By identifying these shared characteristics, you not only refine your ICP but also enhance your ability to reach and resonate with potential customers who fit this profile. This targeted approach leads to more efficient use of marketing resources, higher conversion rates, and ultimately, greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Step 5: Utilize Powerful Data Tools

Leveraging advanced data tools is essential for efficiently identifying and targeting companies that match your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). These tools provide deep insights, streamline your search processes, and enhance your ability to connect with high-potential prospects.

Tools to Utilize:

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Set up a saved search on LinkedIn Sales Navigator using the characteristics identified in your ICP. This tool allows you to find other companies that match your criteria, such as industry, company size, geographical location, and more. With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can also track key decision-makers, view company updates, and engage with prospects directly on the platform.

  • Bonus Tip: Add your top 10 customers to the "past company" section. This feature notifies you when someone from one of these companies moves to another company that fits your ICP. Tracking these movements helps you maintain relationships and opens opportunities for new deals.
  • Example: A sales team at DocuSign used LinkedIn Sales Navigator to track key decision-makers from their top customers who moved to new roles in similar companies. This proactive approach helped them secure new deals quickly by leveraging existing relationships and demonstrating a strong understanding of the customers' needs and preferences.

LeadGenius offers bespoke data solutions, providing real-time insights into potential customers. By using LeadGenius, you can access technographic, firmographic, hiring, and growth data, among others. This allows you to create highly targeted lists of companies that fit your ICP, focusing your outreach efforts on those with the highest propensity to buy.

  • Example: A marketing team at a major SaaS company used LeadGenius to identify eCommerce storefronts by product category and operating across different marketplaces(Amazon, eBay, TikTok) and their respective transaction volume. This detailed data helped them craft personalized outreach campaigns that resonated with potential customers, resulting in higher engagement rates.

Zoominfo is a robust platform for accessing comprehensive business information. It offers detailed profiles of companies and contacts, including organizational charts, direct phone numbers, and email addresses. Using Zoominfo, you can build targeted lists, segment your audience, and tailor your messaging based on rich data insights.


Clay automates the process of finding and enriching leads by integrating with various data sources. It helps you build dynamic lists based on your ICP criteria and keeps your database updated with the latest information. This ensures that your sales and marketing teams are always working with the most accurate and relevant data.


PeerSignal is a tool that provides insights based on peer-driven data. It helps you understand what technologies your target companies are using, how they are performing, and what challenges they are facing. This information is crucial for crafting messages that resonate with your prospects' specific pain points and needs.

Integrating Data Tools for Maximum Impact:

By integrating these tools, you can create a comprehensive and dynamic approach to identifying and targeting your ideal customers. For instance, use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify and connect with key decision-makers, LeadGenius to gather deep insights and build targeted lists, Zoominfo to enrich your contact data, Clay to automate and update your lead lists, and PeerSignal to understand the technological and performance landscape of your prospects.

Example:A sales team at a cloud services company combined LinkedIn Sales Navigator, LeadGenius, and Zoominfo to create a powerful outreach strategy. They used Sales Navigator to find key decision-makers, LeadGenius to gather in-depth company insights, and Zoominfo to enrich their contact data with direct phone numbers and email addresses. This integrated approach allowed them to reach the right people with personalized messages, resulting in a significant increase in their conversion rates.

By utilizing these powerful data tools, you can ensure that your sales and marketing efforts are highly targeted, data-driven, and effective, ultimately leading to better engagement, higher conversion rates, and increased revenue.

Step 6: Gather Testimonials and Case Studies

Gathering testimonials and creating case studies from your top clients is a powerful way to showcase the specific problems you’ve solved and the tangible impact your solution has had on their business. These stories serve as compelling social proof, demonstrating the real-world value of your product and building trust with potential customers.

Why Testimonials and Case Studies Matter:

  • Social Proof: Potential customers are more likely to trust and be influenced by the experiences of their peers. Testimonials and case studies provide credible and relatable evidence of your product’s effectiveness.
  • Specific Problem-Solving: Highlighting how your solution addressed particular challenges faced by your clients makes your value proposition more concrete and relatable. It helps prospects see how your product can solve similar problems they might be experiencing.
  • Demonstrating Impact: By showcasing the results and benefits your clients have achieved, you provide quantifiable proof of your product’s value. This can include metrics such as increased efficiency, cost savings, revenue growth, or improved customer satisfaction.
  • Enhancing Credibility: Featuring well-known brands or respected companies in your case studies enhances your credibility and positions your product as a trusted solution in the market.

Steps to Gather Effective Testimonials and Case Studies:

  1. Identify Key Clients: Focus on your top 10 clients who have seen significant benefits from using your product. These clients should represent different industries and use cases to show the versatility of your solution.
  2. Request Testimonials: Reach out to these clients and ask for their feedback. Make it easy for them by providing a few questions or a template to guide their responses. Highlight the importance of specific details about the problems they faced and the outcomes achieved.
  3. Develop Case Studies: Create in-depth case studies that detail the client’s challenges, the solutions you provided, and the measurable impact. Use a structured format that includes an introduction, problem statement, solution, and results.
  4. Include Visuals: Enhance your case studies with visuals such as charts, graphs, and screenshots to illustrate key points and make the content more engaging.
  5. Obtain Approvals: Ensure you have permission from your clients to publish their testimonials and case studies. This not only respects their privacy but also adds authenticity to your content.
  6. Distribute Widely: Share these testimonials and case studies across various channels, including your website, social media, sales presentations, and marketing materials.


Slack, the popular collaboration tool, effectively uses detailed case studies to showcase the impact of their product. For instance, they highlight how Airbnb improved team communication and productivity by adopting Slack. The case study details the specific challenges Airbnb faced with fragmented communication and how Slack provided a seamless platform that integrated with their existing tools, leading to improved collaboration and efficiency.

Similarly, Slack’s case study with EA Games illustrates how the company used Slack to enhance coordination across their global teams. By adopting Slack, EA Games was able to streamline communication, reduce email clutter, and foster a more collaborative work environment. These stories are enriched with quotes from key stakeholders at Airbnb and EA Games, providing authentic and relatable insights into the benefits of using Slack.

By obtaining testimonials and creating case studies, you can:

  • Build Trust: Real-world examples and authentic client feedback help build trust with potential customers.
  • Highlight Success: Demonstrate how your solution can be successfully applied in various contexts and industries.
  • Support Sales Efforts: Provide your sales team with powerful tools to convince prospects of the value of your product.
  • Enhance Marketing Campaigns: Use these stories in your marketing campaigns to attract and engage potential customers.

Step 7: Focus Efforts on Matching Companies

Focusing your efforts on companies that match your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is critical for maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales and marketing strategies. By targeting these companies with value-oriented messaging, you can highlight the specific problems you have solved for similar businesses, thereby demonstrating your product's relevance and value.

Why Target Matching Companies:

  • Higher Conversion Rates: Companies that closely match your ICP are more likely to benefit from your solution, leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: By focusing on the most promising prospects, you ensure that your sales and marketing resources are used more effectively.
  • Stronger Customer Relationships: Targeting the right companies fosters better relationships and long-term loyalty, as your solution is well-suited to their needs.

Developing Value-Oriented Messaging:

Once you have identified companies that fit your ICP, craft messaging that emphasizes how your solution addresses their specific pain points. Use case studies, testimonials, and data to back up your claims. Personalize your outreach to show a deep understanding of their business and industry challenges.


Atlassian, the maker of Jira and Confluence, excels at targeting tech companies with specific project management needs. By leveraging success stories from similar firms, Atlassian crafts compelling messages that resonate with their prospects. For instance, they might highlight how a tech startup streamlined its development process using Jira, or how a large enterprise improved collaboration with Confluence. These tailored messages help potential customers see the direct benefits of adopting Atlassian’s solutions.

Leveraging LeadGenius for Lookalike Matching:

To enhance your targeting efforts, tools like LeadGenius can play a crucial role. LeadGenius uses Large Language Models (LLMs) and an AI tagger to identify and expand upon matching companies that fit your ICP. Here’s how it works:

  • AI-Driven Insights: LeadGenius employs advanced AI algorithms to analyze your top customers and identify the key characteristics that define them. This includes technographic, firmographic, and behavioral data.
  • Lookalike Matching: Using these insights, LeadGenius can find other companies that share similar traits. The AI tagger continuously scans vast amounts of data to identify businesses with comparable profiles, ensuring that no potential match is overlooked.
  • Custom Data Solutions: LeadGenius provides bespoke data solutions tailored to your specific needs. This includes real-time updates on companies that match your ICP, helping you stay ahead of the competition.
  • Expanding Your Reach: By identifying lookalike companies, LeadGenius helps you expand your target market. This means you can reach new prospects that are highly likely to benefit from your solution, driving growth and increasing market penetration.


A B2B SaaS company using LeadGenius could identify that their top customers are mid-sized financial services firms using specific compliance software. LeadGenius would then use LLMs to find other financial services firms with similar characteristics, such as those also investing in compliance solutions or undergoing digital transformation. The AI tagger ensures that these matches are precise, continuously updating the list as new data becomes available. This enables the SaaS company to target these lookalike firms with tailored messaging that highlights how their solution can address common compliance challenges and improve operational efficiency.

Steps to Implement This Strategy:

  1. Define Your ICP: Use the insights gathered from dissecting your top customers to clearly define your ICP.
  2. Utilize Data Tools: Employ tools like LeadGenius to identify lookalike companies. Set up searches and alerts to continuously find and expand your list of potential matches.
  3. Develop Messaging: Craft personalized, value-oriented messaging that addresses the specific needs and pain points of these lookalike companies.
  4. Execute Campaigns: Launch targeted marketing and sales campaigns using the data and messaging developed. Monitor performance and refine your approach based on feedback and results.

Additional Thoughts from SaaS Industry Leaders

Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight: "Understanding your ideal customer is about more than just demographic data. It’s about psychographics and behaviors. What motivates them? What challenges do they face daily? The more granular you get, the better you can serve them."

Jason Lemkin, Founder of SaaStr: "Your ICP is not static. It evolves as your product and market mature. Continuously revisit and refine your ICP based on feedback and data. Your top customers today might look different in six months."

Cherry on Top

Going through this ICP exercise can be transformative for your organization. Not only will it help you target the right companies more effectively, but it will also align your entire team around a shared understanding of who your ideal customer truly is. This process is a powerful way to ensure that your marketing and sales efforts are focused, efficient, and primed for success. Remember, the goal is to find customers who not only benefit from your solution but also align perfectly with your value proposition and business model.

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