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How do you identify ideal customer profiles and operationalize them as a part of your GTM strategy?

7 Answers
Ben Rawnsley-Johnson
Ben Rawnsley-Johnson
Atlassian Head of Product MarketingJuly 26

Too often I see folks trying to assemble the broadest ICP possible. The logic is that by inflating my TAM/SAM/SOM to the biggest number possible, I am increasing my odds of success.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE big markets. I want markets big enough, that even if we f*ck it up, we can still be successful. It is infinitely easier to build a health business that is 1-5% of an enormous market than it is to build the same size business by capturing 80% of a much smaller market.

The value of an ICP is that they give you information to inform core PMM work such as positioning, messaging, distribution, and even product strategy. When you make Ideal Customer Profiles too broad, spanning many industries, role types, or firmographic segments, it leads to weak messaging, poor targeting, a higher CAC, lower conversion, and higher churn.

Your challenge as a Product Marketer is to assemble ICPs big enough that they are worth pursuing, but specific enough that they help you pull in a perspective of the buyer, their challenges, and the things they care about into your product and GTM strategy. Finally, prove them in the real world, and iterate them based on learning.

Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Group Manager, Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16

Ideally, before a launch, you have worked hand-in-hand with the product team to understand who the product is for, and what product it solves. But if you are coming into a situation where this is not defined, here are some ways to approach it: 

  • Ask the "dumb" questions to your product and eng team (other people WILL want to know them too): Who is this for? What pain points does this solve? Why did we build this?
  • Develop a hypothesis on who the customer is and test it, stat. This could be in the alpha or beta process, or in separate user testing. 

As far as operationalizing the ideal customer as part of your GTM strategy, once you are fairly confident about the ideal customer, I'd recommend:

  • Reviewing your GTM checklist and making sure the channels align to where these customers are spending time. 
  • Using results of the above-mentioned testing to make sure the messages align to what the customers care about. 
  • Watch the results like a hawk. Are the customers you thought would buy actually buying? Why or why not?
Priya Gill
Priya Gill
SurveyMonkey Vice President, Product MarketingDecember 12

If you understand the customer problems or market gaps you’re solving for, then you should be able to hone in on your target buyer and the types of customers you want to attract. It’s a lot easier to narrow down to an ICP if your product is already established and you have a base of customers to pull data from. From there you can start looking for patterns to see if there are commonalities across a specific segment of customers: by region, industry, company size, or type of buyer (department, job level). If your product isn’t established yet, then you can leverage market research solutions (like a global panel via SurveyMonkey), to gather buyer feedback. Either way, once you’ve honed in on this, you would operationalize it by infusing it throughout your GTM strategy. Meaning, your messaging and positioning, pricing strategy, sales enablement, marketing content, etc. would be tailored to this audience.

Michele Nieberding 🚀
Michele Nieberding 🚀
Iterable Head of Solutions MarketingJanuary 11

Looking at your current customer base and the characteristics of top customers (I do this based on ARR) is a great place to start! You can focus on relevant characteristics such as:

  1. Industry/vertical
  2. Employee headcount — companywide and within key departments
  3. Annual revenue
  4. Tech stack
  5. Geography
  6. Size of their customer base
  7. Technologyical/digital maturity 
  8. Public vs. private company (if they are looking to IPO, we have found great success in getting our foot in the door with NEW logos!)

If you want to dig into personas WITHIN those ICPs, that can be helpful as well, but it depends on what your GTM strategy is, of course this can change. For example, if you have "Verticals" as a GTM strategy, your ICP may look very different than an "ABM" approach.

To operationalize them, I have worked with our Demand Gen and Events+Field Marketing team to specifcally define HOW to target those ICPs. For example, if we want to drive MQLs via a LinkedIn paid campaign, we may want to look for people with x titles in y industry at a company that has over z number of employees. I also like to share this with SDRs as they as prospecting.

It is also important to define what companies/people are NOT a good fit. I have built a list of "disqualifiers" for sales and marketing so that we dont spend marketing budget on poor leads and sales doesnt waste time pitching to bad fit companies.

Jesse Lopez
Jesse Lopez
Brex Product Marketing Lead - Travel and Expense ManagementMarch 23

Many methods exist to identify ideal customer profiles (ICP) for your product. The simple approach is to look inwards to understand product-market fit among your existing users.

1) Power Users: Identify your power users and understand why they love you. Typically, these cohorts help inform ideal targets for your ICP and how you go-to-market to acquire more customers that fit your ICP profiles. Analyze what quantitative and qualitative commonalities these cohorts share to inform your ICP profiles (e.g., industry, geographic footprint, annual revenue, use cases, pain points, key features used, etc.).

Key things to learn from your power users include:

  • What pain points were they looking to solve with your product?
  • Where did they hear about your product?
  • What factors and/or criteria drove their decision to choose your product?
  • How effective has your product been at solving their pain points?
  • What aspects of your product do they enjoy the most?
  • What outcomes or impact have they achieved with your product?

* Note: The "power user" criteria can vary by company - for example, you can define them by most loyal to your product, most profitable for your company, most active in your product, etc. Work with your Sales and Product teams to define the key metric(s) you want to optimize for your GTM efforts.

2) Emerging Promoters: Identify sizeable and attractive audiences for expansion.

In addition to power users, you want to identify other highly satisfied audiences that may not represent a sizeable share of your existing user base. Typically, these are incremental industry verticals or use cases your product is well equipped to serve based on functionality.

* Tip: Leverage product usage data and surveys to identify these opportunities. NPS and CSAT surveys are great tools to identify promoters of your product. Pack these surveys with firmographic, demographic, product usage, and attitudinal questions to fully understand these audiences.

3) Churners: Research your churners to understand why customers leave you. Typically, this will help you flag key audiences that may prove difficult to acquire and may be challenging to be candidates for your ICP (e.g., industry vertical, company size, use case). Understanding their key challenges with your product will inform when they can become candidates to be included in your ICP (e.g., once a specific feature or capability becomes available).


Understanding these three audiences (power users, emerging promoters, and churners) will help shape your ICP profiles and inform how you go to market. Net-net, you want to attract, acquire, and retain customer profiles that have proven fit for your product vs. depleting your resources on audiences that churn due to a weak product-market fit.

Amanda Groves
Amanda Groves
Crossbeam Senior Director Product MarketingJanuary 23

Love this question! I also have to call out we love joking about this acronym and affectionately call it "Insane Clown Posse" like the hip hop duo versus the marketing term. BUT for the industry term... I use existing data to inform the define who their ICP IS and who their ICP IS NOT. 

Good ICPs typically are orgs who:

  • Use your software (active, increasing ARR)
  • Love your software (positive NPS, 8-10)
  • Short sales cycle (depends on industry but typically less than 30 days)
  • Scales with growth (no customizations needed)
  • NRR (4+ integrations activated)

If you can 10x your ICP, what does that do your pipeline? More importantly, if you know who your ICP is not (and can get to no quickly for detractors) how much healthier is your pipeline?

For me, I use our CRM data to identify where I have the strongest penetration in our addressable market, isolate key attributes, and build ICPs from there. Remember, it's just as important to identify who you will NOT go after, as it is to identify who you WILL.

Hien Phan
Hien Phan
Pinecone Head of Product Marketing, Partner, and Customer MarketingMarch 15

ICP is a funny topic. First, it's not about persona. I think there is confusion around ICP and persona. ICP is about the propensity to buy, which involves firmographic (what kind of company are they from), technographic (what kind of tech stack is favorable for you and your team), compelling event (usually people buy your product because of some pain or unmet needs), persona (title, background, etc..), and last the channels and community that they live in. 

Usually, you will need both qualitative and quantitative research, so a combination of interviewing current and prospective customers. You will need rev ops, or you can do it yourself, and analyze last year's wins and losses to get a sense of the common patterns. 

Once you established all the above, it's about alignment first, make sure GTM and product leadership agree and align with your findings. I would advise a regular check-in where you deliver updates on your efforts, so it's not a total surprise for everyone. Plus you will need their buy-in to operationalize your efforts. 

The operationalization of your findings will require cross-functional work. Marketing has to see how they can use your research for targeting, your sales can see if they can leverage your work for prospecting or playbooks, and your CSM team will see if they can incorporate your findings into their motions. The point is operationalizing your ICP Work isn't you alone. It's a team sport, and PMM should be a big advisor in the effort. 

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