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  • Writer's pictureMichael Ridgewell

Goldilocks and the Three ICPs

Updated: Jun 13

Evolving Beyond ICP: Unlocking Growth with Realistic and Data-Driven Client Profiles



Like the story of Goldilocks, ICP need to be just right

As business people, we love our TLAs – the three-letter acronyms that become second nature in our daily language. One of the most misunderstood TLA to me is ICP – Ideal Client Profile.


As marketers, we understand the importance of understanding and targeting our target customers and clients. However, as an entrepreneur just starting as an agency or consultant, one size may no longer fit all. The ICP Process needs a rethink - to find the perfect target personas that are not too hot, not too cold, but just right for you based on the stage of your business’s maturity.



The Myth of the One-Size-Fits-All ICP


When starting, entrepreneurs are encouraged to do a deep dive and create an Ideal Client Profile. But in these early days, data doesn’t exist. Assumptions are made. There are some great tools and resources out there to brainstorm who the targets are, what matters to them, address market size, and more, but is this enough given the current market conditions we find ourselves in?


Who I want to go after, versus who I should go after, are two different things in the early stages of my business. What if we reframe this to recognize the spectrum of client profiles that exist between the ideal state, and what is achievable?  



Time for the RCP – Realistic Client Profile


At the beginning of an entrepreneurial journey, you may not be the most practical solution for your Ideal Client’s needs. Will a large company take a call from a small start-up? Do you have the capacity to deal with their issues? Will a start-up have a deep bench of talent to take action on your recommendations?


Primary research and discovery calls can make a great starting point to balance aspiration and expectation. This may reveal hidden variables outside of the typical Avatar-building tools. For example – what’s keeping a potential contact awake at night that you can help with? Do they have a budget to address that in a meaningful way? What kind of people will you be working with - is there a generational or cultural fit? Discussions will focus on criteria that are right-sized for you, and where you are at on your journey, to realistically win business. You may also be willing to take something that is outside of an “ideal” client for cash flow or experience.


That’s why I propose using RCPs when you are starting out. Your best fit RCP may come from referrals and ex-colleagues who know you and what you can deliver, rather than an idealized vision sourced from cold outreach. That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim for the stars, but why not set appropriate targets through the right channels based on what you are likely to achieve, which can then adapt based on real-world feedback, experiences, and the evolving needs you encounter IRL? Keeping an open RCP mindset allows companies to be flexible, tap into unexpected opportunities, and pivot when necessary, staying agile and nimble while building revenue.



When Does ICP Have A Role?


With a bit more maturity, the standard ICP definition makes sense. ICP has long been the cornerstone for businesses to define their target audience and I see the value in the approach to define that in the most detailed way possible. However, as your business evolves, there is a critical third stage – and that’s DDP.



An ICP Evolution – the DDP (Data-Driven Profile)


As organizations mature, so should their approach to targeting client profiles. With time, you may have access to an unprecedented amount of useful information. Harness this data to redefine and segment ICPs and make any course corrections necessary to unlock more potential across your marketing and sales teams.


For example, a Data-Driven Client Profile can leverage analytics and insights to refine and optimize targeting by considering variables such as your most profitable client or channel types, and clients with the best close and lowest churn rates. What you may consider Ideal may not be ideal after all. This approach can ensure that marketing efforts are not only focused but also backed by empirical evidence, enhancing overall efficiency and profitability throughout the sales funnel.



Personalization For Perfect Porridge


The choice between RCP, ICP, and DDP will depend on the size, scale, and maturity of your business. Remember the importance of a nuanced strategy – one size does not fit all. Your approach must not be static as your business evolves and grows – adaptability will be critical for sustained growth. Stay agile, and stay data-informed, to unlock new opportunities for the long run – that’s the best way to find that bowl of porridge that’s just right.

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