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5 steps to defining your company’s ideal customer profile
You can only choose a wonderful present if you really know the person you’re buying it for. By the same token, you can only create an outstanding product or service when you really know the person you’re building it for.
That’s the theory behind the ideal customer profile (ICP) framework.
Last updated20 Jul 2023
Reading time7 min
The ICP framework is all about clarifying the qualities of your best customers at an account level, and using this as a guiding star to steer your sales and marketing.
By clearly defining your ICP—your imaginary Best Customer Ever—you can ensure you target people who would benefit the most from your offer, pay you the most money, and become a champion for your business.
This article covers everything you need to know about the ideal customer profile—specifically, how to find yours.
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5 simple steps to find your ideal customer profile
ICPs are most commonly used in B2B companies, helping teams remember the big-picture characteristics of a high-value customer in the face of long, complex sales cycles. But companies selling directly to customers (B2C) can equally use it to target individuals.
The ICP of a B2B company selling project management software might look like this:
“Our ideal customer is a medium-sized digital agency with 50-200 employees, located in the US, that specializes in marketing consultancy services and has an annual revenue of $10 million or more.”
Conversely, the ICP of a B2C company selling vegan face soap might look something like this: “Our ideal customer is a health-conscious millennial aged 25-35, living in urban areas, with an annual income of $50,000 or more, who values sustainability in their personal care products.”
The bottom line is any business benefits from an in-depth understanding of its ideal customer.
So, regardless of your business’s size or industry, here’s how to find your ICP to laser-focus your sales and marketing so it resonates deeply with the people you want to attract.
1. Identify your highest-value customers
Identify around ten customers who are a great fit for your product or service. To do this, you could
Use a customer relationship management tool (CRM) to investigate your repeat customers or power users. You might also be able to identify which customers have had positive interactions with your support team, or signed up for any loyalty programs.
Review sales data to see which users generate the most value. Check key performance indicators (KPIs) like average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (LTV).
Dig into your social media and third-party review sites to look for vocal champions of your business. Cross-reference these names with data in your CRM, if possible.
Send out a Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) survey to all your customers to see which of them already actively promote your business
💡 Pro tip: launch an NPS survey in a matter of minutes with a free Hotjar account and a ready-made survey template to find your most enthusiastic customers with ease. The survey asks two simple questions:
Use an NPS survey to uncover insights into why your champions admire you so darn much
Once you’ve found your champions, look for any initial patterns that immediately link some—or all—of them together.
To do this, analyze psychographic information: demographic factors like age, location, and industry, combined with their buyer behavior. Then, explore which products or services your top fans purchase or subscribe to, which customer support issues they raise, and which marketing campaigns they respond to.
Ideal customer profile vs. user persona
While both frameworks share similarities, an ICP differs from a user persona—a profile of a person representing a segment of your target market.
A business can have several user personas, which usually include more detail on personality traits and behavioral characteristics that aren’t directly related to your business. An ICP, on the other hand, is more focused on data and numbers.
In contrast to a user persona, an ICP is used to help you narrow your focus.
It might feel counterintuitive, but you should only identify one ICP. After all, if you’ve got more than one ideal customer profile, you can’t call any of those profiles ‘ideal’.
2. Use analytics to spot patterns in user behavior
Analytics tools show how your users interact with your website or digital product. Use them to understand data trends related to your top customers, and get some hard numbers to back up your ICP research.
If you’ve already discovered most of your top customers reside in Poland, you could use a tool like Google Analytics (GA4) or Meta Business Suite to learn who they are and how they use your product.
For example, GA4 might show you how long these users’ average sessions are, or which product features they use most. Meta Business Suite’s Insights tool could reveal demographics such as gender, or tell you which publications they read.
💡 Pro tip: dig even deeper into your top customers’ experience with User Attributes in Hotjar. This feature lets you segment your Hotjar insights with user data you already have, like their location or subscription type.
Use these attributes to filter session recordings—videos of how users interact with the elements on your pages—and heatmap data to see exactly how your top customers behave: where they click and scroll, what elements they engage with, and where they get stuck.
Filter your recordings to ensure you’re only watching those relevant to ICP research
3. Dig into your top customers’ mentality with interviews
Once you’ve compiled all the information you have about your top users, invite them to speak to you. There’s no substitute for a real conversation, which makes user interviews some of the most valuable ICP research you can do.
During user interviews, it’s important to ask open-ended questions that encourage interviewees to share their experiences, preferences, and pain points freely. So, for example, instead of asking:
“Was price a big factor when choosing our product?”
You might ask:
“Can you tell me about your decision-making process when purchasing products/services like ours?”
To build a complete picture of your ICP, investigate topics like
The job to be done (JTBD) your product or service addresses for them
Psychographic information that affected your customers’ decision to work with you, such as their values, lifestyle, and opinions
Their favorite online spaces, and where they go for information about your industry
Triggers that led to them choosing your product
Note down key phrases interviewees use, especially if more than one of them expresses a similar idea. Your team might even be able to reflect your customers’ words back to them in future marketing copy.
💡 Pro tip: try Hotjar Engage, a tool that lets you dramatically cut the admin of labor-intensive user interviews. Engage automates scheduling, streamlines payment, and provides a simple platform to record, transcribe, and add notes to your interviews.
Start small, and get up to five interviews a month from your own network on Hotjar’s free-forever plan, or access our pool of 200,000+ participants on a paid plan.
Hotjar Engage offers a simple-to-use video chat platform that makes scheduling and hosting interviews quick and easy
User interviews, minus the hassle
With Hotjar Engage, setting up a user interview takes a matter of hours—instead of days or weeks.
4. Launch surveys to gather your top customers’ opinions at scale
By now, you should have a reasonably clear picture of who your top customers are and why they’re doing business with you. Sending a survey to these users helps confirm if the patterns you’ve spotted are really as representative as they appear.
To get an idea of which questions would help you profile your customers, take a look at Hotjar’s user persona survey template. Include a few multiple choice questions, with a list of possible responses based on your research, such as
How did you find this product? (social media, search engine, or email marketing)
What industry do you work in? (SaaS, fintech, or ecommerce)
What’s your job title? (HR manager, benefits manager, people operations manager, or other)
Then, add one or two open-ended questions to hear their opinions on your hypotheses in their own words. This might help you identify use cases or areas for improvement that you hadn’t considered. Try questions like:
What do you like most about [our product]?
What problem are you using [our product] to solve?
Why did you decide to start using [our product]?
If you’ve followed along with our steps and already have a list of your top customers, send your survey directly to their inboxes via email to guarantee your responses will be from relevant people.
Note: a good response rate for an email survey is around 30%, so if you’ve only sent this survey to 10 or 20 customers, you likely won’t have enough data to draw a conclusion.
💡 Pro tip: make sure the right people see your survey with our user feedback tool, Hotjar Surveys. Create surveys and embed them within your product experience—for example, when someone logs in to their account, or engages with your website for more than a few minutes.
Better still, User Attributes in Hotjar let you precisely target your survey, so only one user segment—such as, say, your ideal customer 😉—sees it.
Hotjar offers dozens of templates to help you launch your survey in a matter of minutes
5. Pull your research together in a one-pager
Finally, it’s time to tease out the trends from your research, and pull together a profile of what your ideal customer would look like.
Here’s a list of factors to consider—expand and adapt it depending on where your research took you.
How to apply your ICP to your go-to-market strategy
Once you’ve crafted an ICP, share the document with everyone customer-facing to inspire a number of invaluable benefits, including
Targeted marketing: create campaigns that speak to your ideal customers’ pain points, interests, and preferences to attract more customers who are a great fit for your business
Tailored products and services: launch features and updates designed to delight your best customers, and draw in more customers like them
Improved customer support: deliver your troubleshooting in the channels, format, and language your top customers prefer. Prepare your customer success team with great answers to their most important questions so happy customers stay happy and retain for longer.
Better sales outcomes: perfect your sales pitch by aligning it with what your ideal customer would want to hear. In any case, when marketing goes after leads who are already a great fit for your business, your sales team’s job will be easier.
Focusing on one key demographic
It might feel like you’re limiting your business by choosing to go after only one type of person or company, but identifying an ideal customer is a brilliant strategic decision. As anyone who has been on a group holiday knows, trying to please everyone at once never works—it leads to indecision, confusion, and compromises that don’t truly satisfy anyone.
Study your existing superfans using behavior analytics platforms like Hotjar to find an ICP that reflects the best of them. Understanding the needs and pain points of your ideal customers empowers you to create exceptional products, deliver better experiences, attract more people like them—and retain them for the long-haul.
Ideal customer profile FAQs
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