Your ideal customer is not necessarily the fleet that’s most likely to need your product or service, and buy from you.
Because these factors are also important:
- How efficiently you can convert them into a new customer
- How profitable they are for you
- How fast they pay you
- They are not just a quick sale, they’re a good fit, so they become a long-time customer
An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) describes the fleets that will be your most valuable customers.
“Create an ICP” is a Need-To-Do
There’s a lot of talk about ICPs on LinkedIn, podcasts, etc. But in reality most companies don’t have an ICP! And why not? When you have a clear idea of your best customer, you can avoid many problems.
When you create this profile – and you use it to focus your marketing and sales outreach – you are more likely to avoid very low response rates, slow sales cycles that end in ghosting, and customers you can’t serve as well as you’d like which can result in churn.
As a result, your sales cycle can speed up, and you can be more profitable. You can use the ICP for strategy decisions, to not only focus your sales efforts, but also decide what market you won’t pursue right now.
Let’s say you provide mobile maintenance services to fleets and so far, you serve smaller local fleets in your area. But you’d love to break into very large fleets with nearby locations. There’s so many vehicles and potential revenue! As you approach these fleets, get them to respond (no small feat!), and talk with them, you discover it takes many conversations with many people – sometimes people all over the country – to learn about their needs and reach a decision about working with you.
Sometimes after all this time, they disappear. You wonder, what if you invested that time in smaller fleets that could have become customers in the same amount of time?
Sometimes a fleet management company (FMC) manages their vehicles, and then you need to decide if it’s good for your business to be a partner of the FMC. Sometimes there’s a request for large discounts due to the volume. Is a less-profitable account still valuable for you? And sometimes, large customers want net 90 terms to pay you, and there are cash flow issues.
Now, we’re not saying all large fleet customers are like this – it’s just a story as an example. And not all of these are a problem for everyone. Some businesses can handle net 90 and even provide credit and longer payment terms. But this story does show the potential problems of deciding to go after a new market based only on fleet size.
What is a “Best” Customer?
We suggest you have a “clear idea of your best customer.” But what is a best customer?
The definition might differ for each reader here. We do have our view. And that is, it’s not as simple as “all prospects that convert to customers.” And it’s not only the basic firmographics like number of employees. A best customer can be found by also looking at your financials: revenue, profitability, and customer lifetime value. Conversely, you can see where you struggle by looking at closed-lost and churn. There’s many lessons in the patterns of prospects and customers you lose.
If you use a CRM regularly, and you’re tracking account opportunities through to revenue there, dig into the reports as homework before deciding which variables to choose from the checklist below.
If you don’t use a CRM, list out who you think are your top customers. As you review the list below, consider how these apply to your top customers. Better yet, when you don’t know whether a variable below is important for you, there’s often much to learn from interviewing your top customers.
Ideal Fleet Customer Checklist
An ICP describes an account – a company or government fleet. Though people sell to people, that’s true, the account is really your customer. So this checklist focuses on company and fleet characteristics.
Which of these are relevant and important for you?
- Employee Count
- Annual Revenue
- Year Founded
- Technographics (technologies used)
- Headquarters Location
- Locations of Branches/Yards/Terminals
- Centralized/Decentralized Fleet Decision-Making
- Anything else?
Fleet & Vehicle
- Fleet Size
- Fleet Growth Rate
- Duty: Light, Medium, Heavy
- Class 1-8
- Body Type
- Make & Model
- Fuel Type
- Leased or Owned
- FMCSA Power Unit Count
- Private or For Hire
- Cargo Carried
- Driver Types – CDL, non-CDL
- FMC managed
- Anything else?
- Conversion and close rates
- Time from lead to a sale (sales velocity)
- Payment terms
- Contract/legal terms
- Discount pressure
- Annual contract value, or annual revenue from customer
- Lifetime value of customer
- Any other metrics important to you?
Buyer Persona – Contacts
Of course you need specific contacts to reach out to. Think about the best champions you’ve worked with at your best customer accounts. And review your CRM data. It’s likely there are common patterns in the people you work with at your best accounts. Beyond job title, consider other things that might have been triggers that resulted in a sale and a good, ongoing relationship. What problems did they have? What do they value? Had they just changed jobs to a new employer, or a significant promotion? Who are the decision-makers, and who influences the decision-makers?
- Level – manager, director, VP, etc.
- Function – fleet, maintenance, safety, etc.
- They have the problem you solve – and be honest here, not every fleet has every problem
- New in job – is this an advantage and a sales trigger, or a disadvantage?
- Values your product/service
- Anything else?
Don’t Fall for “We Sell to Everyone”
And no, an ICP shouldn’t be “everyone” and “all of the above.” It’s tempting to not want to leave anyone out as a potential customer. It could be easy to think any company or government agency with a fleet vehicle is a potential customer.
For one thing, fleets tend to fall into the same general markets as most B2B: small business, mid-market and enterprise. Selling to a plumbing company with a few cargo vans is very different than selling to large fleets of 300+ vehicles. You may have the operations to handle selling and delivering to fleets of all sizes. Or you may find you excel with selling, service and financial performance to a segment of the fleet market.
Marketing & Sales Should Agree
It’s crucial for marketing and sales to agree on the ICP, especially for prospecting.
And not everyone knows what an ideal customer profile is. So it’s important to do trainings and show how, when you focus on it, you can close sales faster and serve customers better.
It’s possible, if you have significantly different products or services, you might have different ICPs for each.
An ICP Can Change
If your business changes and evolves, your ICP might also change. It’s good to regularly revisit the definition of your ICP.