Don’t wait to identify your startup’s ideal customer personas

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One of the biggest mistakes startups can make at an early stage is not identifying their ideal customer personas (ICP). It is perfectly sensible though, as all your efforts at this stage of growth are usually being consumed with finding product-market fit and acquiring anyone and anything that walks through your front door.

By identifying your ICPs first, you will find product-market fit faster and identify the right customers to sell to.

To start, an ICP is simply a depiction of who your customer segments are – whether they are creative agencies of more than ten employees or corporations with 100+ employees, or both.

Startups using ICPs tend to acquire more leads with higher quality and are able to shorten their sales cycles. Ideally, you have already identified a handful of ICPs, but no more than five, as that will lead to a dilution of efforts among your teams.

To begin leveraging ICPs in your growth marketing, we’ll dive into methods that will first help identify your ICPs efficiently, then examine how to use their newfound segmentation.

Identifying your ICPs

I’m a big fan of surveys that measure net promoter scores and overall customer feedback, but I don’t believe these are the best formats for identifying ICPs. In the early days of your startup, you should be speaking with every customer you possibly can to better identify your ICPs.

By identifying your ideal customer personas first, you will find product-market fit faster and identify the right customers to sell to.

Obtaining such information requires more than a simple multi-select answer, or a ranking score from 1-10. Rest assured, I’ve created a three-tiered methodology (conveniently dubbed ICP!) for guiding the conversational and questioning themes you should be using with your customers:

  • I: Individual (e.g., age, gender, etc.)
  • C: Current solution
  • P: Pain points

When speaking with customers, if you follow the general principle of understanding pain points and what an ideal solution looks like to them, you’ll have a pretty good idea of which ICP they fall into. Instead of providing a generic script for your conversations with customers, which can often come across as robotic, I’ve laid out a few questions that fall into each category:

Individual

  • What is your age range?
  • What is your gender?
  • What is your occupation or job title?

Current solution

  • What are you currently using to solve this problem?
  • How long have you been using your current solution?
  • What do you like/dislike about your current solution?

Pain points

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