When you have a clear, detailed ICP your marketing efforts will feel less like you’re using a megaphone 📣 — speaking the exact same way to your entire audience — and more like a compelling, one-to-one message for your highest-value prospects.
To deliver content that resonates and converts, you need to identify the accounts, companies, people, and communities that will most benefit from your product.
We call these identified target groups a company’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
To capitalize on the advantages a marketing team like yours will experience from understanding who your ICPs are, let’s talk about:
If you’d like to listen to a conversation about identifying and using your ICP to create better content, we invite you to have a listen.
An ICP is a detailed outline or a blueprint that identifies the type of accounts, groups of people, or companies who’s traits make them a uniquely great fit with the product or service your business is offering.
They’ll share a combination of goals, pain points, budgets, industry, location, or any other common attributes that allow you to effectively position and distribute your messaging.
Pro Tip: This profile might shift in subtle or dramatic ways as your company grows. But no matter what, having the ability to identify ICPs is essential to implementing a successful content marketing strategy.
An ICP and target audience both represent a broad community that could be interested in your product and content.
For this reason, they’re often used interchangeably.
However, some marketers see an ICP as a slightly more specific group than a target audience.
Example of an ICP:
Mid-sized B2B companies in tech with small customer onboarding teams who are largely using spreadsheets to stay organized
Example of a target audience:
Mid-sized B2B companies in tech
A buyer persona on the other hand is often depicted as a fictional character that represents a segment of your ICP or target audience. In some marketing circles, buyer personas have fallen out of fashion; plagued by too much unhelpful demographic data.
Example of a buyer persona:
Sofia Ware, 39 years old, Customer Success Manager from Georgia, enjoys romantic comedies, is scared of spiders, obsessed with conspiracy theories, spends most of her time on her phone, is actively trying to be a LinkedIn influencer.
At this current moment in time, ICP seems to be the most agreed upon term for people establishing what the most useful psychographics, behaviors, attributes, and locations of their customers are.
However, at some point, these are just semantics and your definition of a target audience or buyer persona might be exactly the same as our definition of an ICP.
ICPs give marketers a forcing function to address efficiency and effectiveness in their content marketing efforts.
Said another way, these profiles help us decide:
As you continue to learn more about your current customers, you’ll begin to experience more of the benefits associated with establishing your ICP.
Benefits from a content marketing lens include:
Let’s review some actionable ways for you to start building a profile that’ll yield the most accurate depiction of your best customers.
Set up meetings with your current customers through channels that are convenient for them, like email surveys or Zoom meetings.
Take the opportunity to learn more about:
Additionally, if you’re in a customer or client facing position, pay attention to what they talk about with you.
Sometimes your might hear obvious questions related to your product or your service.
Othertimes, it might be subtle. You might catch them venting a frustration about some other project they’re working on, mentioning a new task they’re responsible for, or an initiative their company is running.
If it it seems like a topic that’d be valuable to more of your customers or people that are like your customers, it’s probably worth creating.
If you’ve already spoken with customers, the next step is identifying where within your company is there valuable information about your customers.
The most common answer to this is to talk to sales, customer success, or customer support.
We’re big fans of partnering with customer success and support as these folks are talking directly to people who are actively customers of your product. These often result in retention topic ideas that can be easily repurposed into content marketing for potential leads.
Related Reading: Yes, You Should be Repurposing Content [+7 Examples to Get Started & Expand Your Reach
If your company isn’t established enough to have compartmentalized sales and success teams, there are other reliable places to look.
For example, try starting with your product team and your founder.
Product teams can be your best bet early on as they’re most actively in tune with the product itself. This means having some understanding of how people are using it, and why they’re adding new features to accommodate customer needs.
Then there is your founder. Early on this person is doing a bit of everything, and they have the most comprehensive understanding of why the product was created in the first place.
Dive into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data to examine your lead and customer details. Look for common demographics among your customers, such as:
With this info in hand, identify those who represent the most significant revenue contribution, as well as other key metrics and signals for your business. For example, look for accounts with the most active users open to upselling or expanding their current contracts.
The Jobs-to-be-Done framework provides a simple way to consistently choose targeted content topics that'll resonate with your ICP and often focus on your product.
It asks you to focus on the responsibilities of your ICP, either high-level goals and outcomes or day-to-day tasks, to identify what content topics will be meaningful to solving their "pain points."
Pro Tip: It's also a great way for marketing strategists to identify topics that are related to those pain points but maybe not explicitly mentioned by a customer or found in qualitative data sources.
What’s more, you can explore the real value add of your content by inserting "so they can" statements after each job your ICP needs to do with your product or content.
Pretend your product is a marketing automation platform. One of its most popular features is email automation.
"My ICP is trying to send automated emails."
"My ICP is trying to send automated emails 'so they can' efficiently distribute consistent messaging to their segmented lists of customers"
Now you can create pieces of content directly speaking to people with this job, understanding the topics and the reward they’re looking for. You’ll likely also identify additional educational topics that can feature your product.
Referring to the above example, you can assume that this same person would also benefit from content related to CRM segmentation strategies, list building, and “how-to” knowledge base content for your product, specifically.
The goal is to convince potential customers that they can achieve their desired outcome with your product or service solution.
Even small or resource-strapped companies can tap into rich customer information — with the right tools. They’ll help you sift through data and gain a better understanding of what drives their purchasing decisions. Consider these:
Once you’ve done your research and conducted interviews, it’s time to pool all that information into a strong ICP.
The final deliverable could be a single PDF, a spreadsheet, a presentation, and so on. Choose what works best for your company and stakeholders.
There are many templates you can use to do this, but here are the core attributes you’ll want to include:
Look at each of these attributes and document how your product addresses and aligns with them.
It’s also important to know what to leave out of your ICP. If you uncover attributes that don’t add anything to your marketing efforts, then it’s best not to include them in the final draft of your ICP.
Pro Tip: Psychographic and Firmographic data are often more valuable than demographic data, especially for national and international B2B SaaS companies.
Here’s how you can leverage your ICP to inform and level up your content, from your production and distribution strategy to the language and style of each piece:
A well-written ICP profile should contain information about what customers feel are their biggest roadblocks to accomplishing their goals. That’s a prime opportunity to derive good content topics and write informative blogs, case studies, whitepapers, and more, whether you’re talking to your ICP at the top or bottom of the funnel.
When you’re fully informed about a prospect’s pain points and goals, it's easier to write attention-grabbing headlines, blog introductions, social post lead-ins, and much more. This shows your prospects and customers that you understand what they’re dealing with and makes exploring your content feel natural and effortless.
Pull relevant information from your ICP, and use it to speak with specificity and confidence. This applies for both product- and non-product-related content.
To speak to an ICP who might run a professional services agency, your hook might include specific language that they commonly use/think about.
“How to bill your clients in a way that promotes transparency and increases the rate of receiving payment on time”
ICP data can help you tell which conversations your customers are listening to, what influences their views and buying decisions, and why they trust certain voices. From there, you can infuse your strategy and message with the right combo of language and social proof.
Continuing the above example, if you know your ICP prefers LinkedIn and thought leadership content, you could feature quotes from experts on LinkedIn to back up your points. You could also reach out to these influencers for partnership opportunities and guest posts or podcast appearances down the line.
Your ICP should break down exactly where your audience goes for educational and social discussions, and you can use this info to invest in the marketing channels they frequent.
Creating platform-specific content helps expand the reach of your marketing efforts and prompts more direct interactions between your brand and potential customers. You can also repurpose that same content over different channels, extending the life of the content or at least the messaging from the content you create.
The best content for any company are the pieces that align an ICP’s pain points/goals with the exact solutions your product is capable of solving.
This content comes off as empathetic, generous, educational and highly applicable. And, most importantly, it drives intrigued traffic into your core product-level pages.
Pro Tip: Try this product-led content wireframe based on features
Here is how the concept works:
1. Choose a feature of your software product
2. List out the specific problem(s) it solves for your ICP
3. Search for keywords that have an intent related to solving that problem
4. Create content with matching intent
5. Connect that content in a contextualized way for SEO authority and UX
6. Have that content lead back to your product or that feature
Almost every software feature for your product will map to an SEO-focused content funnel that ensures your product makes it into that content.
***We understand that people rarely move straight from a top-of-funnel piece to your BoFu pieces.
For more on product-led content we recommend checking: Product-led content: What it is, why you need it, & examples to show you how to build it
However, exploring the funnel still serves as a framework for building a comprehensive library of content that supports your ICP wherever they are in the buying journey.
Examples of SaaS companies including their product in written, SEO-focused content that are worth examining:
1) ToFu list article: Teamwork
2) MoFu how-to content w/ product screenshots & video: Ahrefs
3) MoFu best and alternative lists: Range
4) BoFu "VS" or comparison page w/product specs: Screencastify
5) Putting their product/connections in their content: Zapier
Recommended Reading: What is Great Content? [+ How Marketers Create It, Consistently]
Now that you have a better understanding of who your ICP is, it’s time to establish your content workflows, and begin the process of creation and distribution.
Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to keep building educational content to help your team build those things.
And, if you’d like help building SEO-focused content into your overall strategy and getting it up to scale, feel free to reach out for a free conversation with Nate Turner by clicking here