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Why your ICP isn’t just for outbound

How do you respond to your inbound leads? If you don’t allocate your resources the right way, you could waste valuable time. Let’s find out more.

Very few companies sell to a market of ‘everyone’. In the tech sector, where I do most of my work, that number is pretty close to zero. That’s why tech companies have marketing departments that spend a lot of time coming up with an Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP. They dig through customer data looking for commonalities in job title, company size and more. Often, they put finishing touches on by giving their ICP a name and a face. Then, once it’s done, the marketing team has a clear picture of who to aim their activity at, while the sales team knows what to say to the people they call up.

This works well for outbound sales, but what about inbound? Too many companies treat an inbound lead as an ideal customer, because they know who you are and are interested enough to contact you. However, this can lead to problems. Let me explain.

The problem

Most sales organisations have a good idea of their ICP. Recently though, I’ve noticed that they don’t always communicate this back to their marketing team. (Don’t worry. I’m not going to start talking about the disconnect between sales and marketing!)

Having an ICP is really important for inbound too. I’m always surprised when I see examples when this is not the case. If marketing and sales aren’t on the same page with their ICP, all the content they create, such as whitepapers and webinars, may well be outdated. You’re aiming at the wrong target. 

Unfortunately, when someone responds to all this marvellous content and marketing sends an MQL (or thereabouts) to your SDRs thinking it’s a qualified lead, it turns out that the lead is not actually the right fit. It’s no surprise when the SDR doesn’t convert them.

The solution

How can you make sure that your marketing team and sales team are aiming at the correct target, the same target? 

The first step should be getting both teams together to come up with an ICP that everyone can work with. No one knows your customers better than your salespeople - they speak to them every day. On the other hand, marketers are experts at evaluating addressable market size and other data points. Creating an ICP should be a team effort.

The best way to discover your ICP is to look at who buys from you now. Collect as many data points as you can from your current customer base and look for common factors. Here are some areas you will want to examine:

  • Company size - What type of companies buy your product? Remember that bigger isn’t always better. Selling into enterprise-size companies is hard - there are often big buying committees, potentially cases of in-house ability to replicate your product or service, as well as longer sales cycles. Don’t feel you have to sell into the giants.
  • Geography - Where are your customers? If a sizeable proportion of your customers are in London, dealing with problems London-based companies face, this could be something you can concentrate on.
  • Sector - What industry do your customers operate in? If there is a specific industry that finds value in what you do, you should focus on it.

Why it works

When you have a detailed ICP, marketing teams know what content to put out there, while salespeople know what to say and when. The more you know about your ideal customer, the better the picture you can construct of their pain points. You know what keeps them awake at night and you know how you can help them.

This works whether the lead comes from inbound or outbound activity.