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Reachdesk Unwrapped: How we defined our ICP to drive our ABM strategy

31 May 23

If you build it, they will come – or so the saying goes.

But in 2023, this expression appears to hold zero weight. One of the best pieces of advice I received when we were starting Reachdesk was to be clear on who our customer was and to carve out a niche. 

Reachdesk was essentially “account-based” from its inception, because we refined our ICP long before we even had a fully-fledged product. I've been part of too many companies that had no idea who their customer was. This uncertainty wasted a lot of time and effort. I realized that we could create alignment from the very beginning of Reachdesk by employing the account-based marketing methods I’d used in the past. No “product-led growth” or “wait for inbound” – two narratives that I hear all too often from early-stage companies. 

The strategy was to select the right customers and go get them. That’s ultimately what ABM is. To do this, we knew we needed to start with a clear understanding of our ideal customer profile (ICP). This exercise is like going on a treasure hunt. The treasure is your dream customer base. Your ICP is the map. Your ICP is a detailed description of the type of customer that is most likely to benefit from your product or service and is the foundation of any effective ABM strategy. I’d like to walk you through a few steps to help you build your first ICP.

Step 1: Define your target market

The first step in building an ICP is to identify your Total Addressable Market (TAM). Who are the customers that your product or service is designed for? Start by considering the industry, company size, and geographical location of your target market.

You can use tools like Google Analytics and social media analytics to get a better understanding of your existing customer base and identify patterns in their behavior.

I recommend using tools such as ZoomInfo and LinkedIn to map out your TAM, so you can size it in terms of number of accounts. We then apply our average deal size by segment (Enterprise, Mid Market and Commercial) to place a value on the size of our total market.

Step 2: Identify the characteristics of your ideal customer

Once you've defined your target market, you need to identify the specific characteristics of your ideal customer.

Think about the companies that have been your most successful clients in the past. What industry were they in? What was their company size? What were their pain points? What were their goals? What technologies do they use that complement your solution? What are the characteristics of the accounts that renewed at the highest rate and grew the most? What is their existing people setup? Answering these questions will help you focus and narrow down your TAM to allow you to focus on your best fit customers.

What we discovered was that our core customers were B2B companies who used specific software (Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, SalesLoft/Outreach), were HQ’d in the UK, US and certain EU countries, and above a certain employee size were our core customers. When we layered in ABM tech like 6sense and Demandbase, we saw these were the companies with the best close rates and renewal rates. Industries like software, cyber security, manufacturing, and logistics were key industries for us. We called this our “Core ICP”. Our “Moderate ICP” is the same but doesn’t require companies to have the same technographics. Our “Emerging ICP” is industry agnostic and allows us to spot new industries to go into using intent data from 6sense.

What this all means is we can then prioritize accounts within our account selection process, so the Marketing team can target these accounts with targeted campaigns.

Step 3: Create buyer personas

Once you’ve defined your target market and ideal customer characteristics, the next step is to create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on real data and educated guesses about their demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Your buyer persona should include information about their job title, responsibilities, challenges, and preferences.

This is important as your sales team needs to understand who your buyers are, what they care about, and how to address their challenges. Make this a top priority. When your SDRs and Sales people reach out to prospects within the best-fit accounts you’ve given them, you need to be sure they aren’t wasting time with stakeholders who don’t care about your problem. For us, we rarely sell to the CMO or CRO directly. So we focus on VP and Director-level personas within our outreach. Many companies make the mistake of needing to sell to the C-suite from the get go and wonder why they get zero traction.

We now have a deck and training on personas, their challenges, which products we sell that apply to them and talk tracks to articulate all of this.

Step 4: Analyze your competitors

The next step is to analyze your competitors. Identify the companies that are targeting the same market as you and look at their marketing strategies.

What are they doing well? What could they improve? This analysis will help you identify gaps in the market that you can capitalize on and ensure that your ICP is distinctive. We looked at one of our competitors and realized that they had a ton of case studies with customers in logistics. We’d never considered this before so added this as a key industry for us. Now we see a ton of success here.

Step 5: Prioritize “in-market” accounts

6sense has been a game changer for Reachdesk. We can now apply our ICP to accounts that show high intent and prioritize the accounts that are “in-market” for our solution. Using this method, we’ve created a dynamic way of selecting accounts based on behavior.

However, Marketing doesn't just then create an “MQL” and throw it over a wall to sales. We create a “6QA” – which signals to our BDRs and AEs that certain accounts are in buying mode, so we can engage with them at the right time. The key here is to translate the signal into something meaningful for the rep so they can personalize their messaging and give context as to why they are reaching out.

Step 6: Refine your ICP over time

Your ICP is not set in stone. It's important to refine it over time as you learn more about your customers and the market. I look at our ICP once every quarter, particularly as we navigate changing markets. Regularly analyze your sales data and customer feedback to identify trends and adjust your ICP accordingly so you can continue to focus. Look for glimpses of sunlight to spot new areas of opportunity wherever you can.

A few lessons we’ve learnt

In 2019, I remember speaking to a VP of RevOps at Nutanix and he asked me what our ICP was. I told him that it wasn’t clearly defined and added, “It’s B2B software companies in the US and Europe”. He literally spat his coffee out as he laughed. It turned out we’d found our niche and this had helped us grow in the early days. 

We’ve now refined our ICP as we’ve grown globally and added a product for HR and People teams. Our ICP is more defined as we layer in technographics that complement our solution. 

The lesson? Start narrow – but understand the market size in line with your revenue plan. Our Sales team took our ICP literally. When we gave them the treasure map, they read it as “if it doesn’t fit in this matrix, we shouldn’t accept it as an opp or target other accounts.” This limited us too much as we grew.

Another lesson I’ve learned is to be specific and educate your sales teams. If you show them your ICP and customers land on their desk that don’t fit this, they might not qualify them. Make sure you educate your team on what a good customer looks like and how to spot them. You don’t want sales to qualify out because you’ve become too rigid. 

Additionally, I recommend avoiding “lists”. I once worked for a company that asked me to target the Fortune 500. We used to pull similar lists from publications and went after these companies. We wasted so much time and energy on targeting the wrong customers. If you have customers, you can create a basic ICP framework. Even when you do select target accounts, don’t just build a list and use that for a year. It needs refreshing regularly. I recommend at least quarterly if you aren’t using automated software to do it dynamically.

In conclusion, building an ICP is a critical first step in developing an effective ABM strategy. By defining your target market, identifying the characteristics of your ideal customer, creating a buyer persona, analyzing your competitors, and refining your ICP over time, you'll be well on your way to success with ABM. Remember, the key is to stay flexible and responsive to changes in the market and your customer base.

Alex Olley Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer @ Reachdesk

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