Your Startup will Live and Die by your ICP

I’ve worked with a lot of startups over the last few years. The number one issue founding teams have is understanding and documenting who exactly they are selling to. More often then not, they know what they’re selling and sometimes even how they’re selling. What and how should be products of who though. You need to understand what type of person, position, and company you’re selling into and why. This is your guiding light for product, growth, and scalability.

Write it the Fuck Down!

Most companies have a spoken version of their ideal customer, but they never put it down on paper. This is dangerous for a few reasons. First of all, you need to write down and share what your ICP so that the whole team is on board with who you are selling to and why. Having it down on paper allows different team members to reference the profile. It allows everyone to remain on the same page. Second, the process of putting it down on paper will help you flush out some of the details you haven’t yet considered. You may have nailed down the industries you want to drive into, but you may not have focused in on which specific types of companies in those industries would be the best customers.

Everyone Needs to Understand your ICP

Your growth org needs to understand your ICP and know it like the back of their hand. If marketing is to educate your ideal prospects, they have to know who those people are and where they interact. Sales development needs to know exactly who they are reaching out to and customer success needs to know who they need to focus on supporting and why. When the product and engineering team understand what they are building and for whom, there is no room for argument as to what features are to be added and what processes optimized. Having a well laid out and well communicated profile allows every part of your organization to own their portion of growth because they know exactly who they are building the product for.

Let your ICP Change Slowly

Your ICP will change over time. However, it shouldn’t change too often. If you find that you are changing your target audience once every month or two, you are changing strategy WAY too much. You haven’t given your first profile a chance to be fully tested. You may be reacting to a small sample size of information. If you are adding or changing details of your ICP every few weeks, you’re doing it right. Your ICP may change completely over the span of six or more months, but you should be drilling into each facet of that profile to test what is and isn’t working.

Above everything else, the leadership in your company needs to understand exactly what kind of people in what position and at what kind of companies you are selling to in order to prioritize product and growth resources. Building out a great profile will align the team vision and allow departments to grow independently but in parallel. Your ICP is the cornerstone of your product offering… nurish it.


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