March 18, 2022

Building the Ideal Customer Profile with Jen Abel

Building momentum and validating unmet user needs

Jen Abel is the co-founder of JJellyfish - a start-up for helping founders go through the zero to one stage in the American market by focusing on momentum building and validating product experiments. For this round-table session she talked about ways B2B businesses in the US can hit their first million dollars in revenue.

2X more challenging

Generating the first $1mm is twice as hard and takes twice as long as getting the first $10mm. There are wildly different logistics, regulations, and technical maturities between the founder's local markets and the US market. Product market fit back home does not equal the same here and taking a day one approach when entering a new market space is key - the product is the most flexible part of the fit while the market is the fixed piece.

Racing to sell is a race to the bottom

One reason why most people fail is by trying to sell too quickly without experimenting and building certainty that the business actually solves a problem. Most people just want to know that you are actually making their pain-point go away without necessarily needing to know how that is going to work. As a founder it is your job to find the problem and figure out how to solve it.

Understanding their reality 

B2B customers do not buy randomly - they usually have a logic or rationale as to when or how they're implementing you, the pain they have for the problem, or the process they will implement in order to work with you. 

Finding a motivated Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

An ICP is a very specific group of like minded individuals and your ideal one is desperate, motivated, and cares about the problem you are trying to solve. To find your best-fit ICP, you need a strong positive correlation between ‘Buyer Maturity’ and ‘Problem Intensity’ –

  1. I'm actively seeking to resolve this issue, and I believe you are the best solution. This is typically an inbound lead who wants to learn more about you and believes you cater to their needs best.
  2. I'm interested in solving the problem, but I'm not quite sure yet. The customer is still asking - What is the best solution? Do we build this internally? Do we outsource this? Who is the best partner for it?
  3. I’m aware of this problem, but not willing to solve it today.
  4. I’m unaware of the problem, but I’m feeling symptoms.
  5. I don’t believe a problem exists.

Bringing a scientific approach to early-stage sales

Start by identifying your ICP - become the problem and solution expert for one specific market and go deep. There is no reasonable way to hedge yourself with different sub-segments, instead it's a process of elimination to position yourself as an inspiring and credible business with reproducible ideas to fix the pain-point.

Use publicly available identifiers to quickly find your ICP - it is not emotion based!

  1. Are you specific on a vertical/horizontal (either is okay)? 
  2. Can you get specific on a very clear problem owner? 
  3. Is there a specific segment - small SMB, mid‑market, or enterprise - that is the target team size? 
  4. Any buying signals you can leverage to determine high fit (for example, how long they have been in a particular role)

Once you identify your ICP, then a good starting point is to employ a sales tool to scrape together a list of 1500 individuals who fit into the market criteria you established. Aim for a 10 percent response rate with at-least half of it converting positively from the aggregate list.

Zero to one journey is about 1:1

In order to build momentum you need to recruit customers manually. By hyper-personalizing and just getting in the same room as the user. You need to be collecting and validating assumptions and earning insights which are necessary to compensate for the initial lack of brand equity required to recruit users.

Inspiring your market

The best place to start is with a ‘Hyper‑Personalized Cold-Email’ - a note that no one else except them can receive. It is the cheapest way with deep tracking in-terms of open/response rates and with most cold-emails being sub-par, going the extra-mile gives you an advantage even when you don’t have the marketing budget. It is the demonstration of effort that will guide someone to respond to you - at the end of the day we are looking for either a yes or a no. With no being equally powerful as a yes because rejection will point you towards the right fit.

Asking the right questions and testing assumptions

For a business to succeed, your assumptions about the market need to be proven true. As a founder, the best way to gauge if you have got it down right is to ask questions to potential users when you get in a room with them - it is an uncomfortable but necessary process. These questions should be focused on an unmet need, consistent around one based idea, and self evident. If during testing, the user confirms the presence of the unmet need, has articulated what prevented them from solving the problem themselves or has been previously unsuccessful at tackling the pain-point - then your assumptions stand true and there is a clear product-market-fit.

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