How to do ICP Research for content marketing purposes, and find the content-market fit?
Don't underestimate the power of ICP research for content marketing purposes - it makes differences between winning and losing strategies. See how to do it right.
After reading this article, you will understand how to conduct outstanding ICP Research to create a better content strategy, write more engaging content, and get plenty of leads and conversions from your articles.
Ideal customer profile research is one of the most important yet most underrated steps of content marketing strategy.
Leaving it out would be like trying to run before you learn how to walk; it happens more often than you think and looks as ridiculous as it sounds:
Marketers misjudge how well they know their audience most of the time. When content marketing strategy consists solely of mass-producing blogs to cover the keywords, ROI is bound to be mediocre at best. At worst, you’ll assume that content marketing is not worth it and miss out on many benefits.
By conducting proper ICP research for content purposes, you will be able to:
- Identify your ideal readers and customers;
- Get their attention and come up with content that engages and resonates with them;
- Get an impressive ROI, increase inbound conversions, and get more MQLs as well.
We recognize the importance of ICP research for our clients and continuously stay in touch with market shifts, demands, and competition. It allows us to create content for our clients that converts at 5-20%.
In this blog, we’d like to let you in on our tried and true process.
How do you conduct ICP research for content marketing purposes?
What questions do you ask?
Who do you interview?
Stay tuned to find the answers, detailed ICP templates, and a lot more!
Two parts of content ICP research
We have divided ICP research into two parts:
- Interviewing our clients’ staff members — At least 2-3 sales reps and 2-3 customer support/success reps (Ideally five people per department if possible). They constantly communicate with customers and learn about their challenges in the most direct way.
- Interviewing our clients’ customers – We like to divide the customers into three segments: the Majority users, the Power users, and the Former users.
The Majority users represent 80% of the user base.
The Power users are the dream customers of our clients and make up for roughly 20% of the total user base. They are the big spenders and bring more revenue.
Interviewing Former users, however, is completely neglected. People avoid unpleasant conversations and fear what they might hear from disgruntled customers. It prevents them from acquiring priceless information and improving the service.
Let’s cover these customer segments step by step.
Interviewing Clients’ Employees for ICP Research
Because this ICP research consists of interviewing different departments, it’s also a good “mastermind” for finding unique insights and things most of us are unaware of.
Of course, we follow the flow of conversation at all times. But to keep everything in place and get more precise data, we have a set of dedicated questions we like to ask each team member.
Questions for Sales Representatives
Here’s what our framework for interviewing sales reps looks like:
Let’s break down these questions:
- What’s the most common problem your leads talk about? This allows us to understand their target audience’s issues before inquiring about our client’s products/services.
- Where does the “aha!” moment happen during your discovery call? Usually, there’s a specific moment when you get 100% of your leads’ attention at every discovery call. Identifying this moment allows us to understand their pain points and desired outcomes. We can later use these insights to get their attention inside the content.
- At what moment leads say: “Wow! I must buy this!” At the “Aha!” moment, they’re all ears. But when they think, “Wow, I must buy this!” – that’s the moment when they make a decision. And we need that moment; we need those words; we require that situation to write content that converts and write compelling CTAs.
- What type of leads most frequently buy the product? This allows us to identify 80% of the user base from the perspective of sales reps.
- How long does a lead need to become a customer? Getting this timeframe will help us shape our positioning and call to action inside content better.
- Who’s the most common decision maker? Knowing this allows us to craft better messaging inside our content and write articles that will quickly help them decide.
- What type of employees most commonly schedule a discovery call with you? It’s essential to understand that people who schedule a discovery call with you are usually not the ones who decide. The person who usually schedules a discovery call is the one who will most likely read and resonate with your content. That’s why many brands are using a bottom-up approach inside their sales cycles.
- How their “problem-solution” look like before buying your product? What tools did they use? Understanding this aspect allows you to craft better messaging inside your content, position yourself better, and, of course, touch base on their problems better, faster, and more effectively. It also gives new ROI-based content ideas we can write about.
- What’s the one feature that prompts them to buy your product? When it comes to the B2B SaaS world, in most cases, there’s one most important thing that tipped the scale in your favor. A particular feature, a unique value proposition no one else has. Understanding this allows us to craft better messaging and prepare more engaging and converting CTA buttons.
- How does the power user look like? This helps us understand who are the dream customers of some particular brand. What stories do they have? What pain points are they experiencing? Where do they hang out? What type of content do they like to consume?
Questions for Customer Support/Success Representatives
You will notice that some questions are the same or similar to those we’re asking sales reps:
We purposefully set it up that way because sales and customer support/success reps often aren’t aligned. By asking similar questions, we can uncover some unique and interesting facts that our clients’ teams are not aware of.
Here’re the questions:
- What’s the most liked and used feature? Same as above, the answer to these questions helps us identify the features their customers use the most and the features their customers pay for. If they’re different from the ones that sales reps mentioned, it usually means that customers come up because of one thing and use the product because of something else. If this is true, it’s a clear signal that the brand should think again about its’ positioning.
- What are the most common problems customers have with your product? This allows us to identify the common issues they’re experiencing while using our clients’ products. It’s a clear sign that we should not mention these features or processes inside our content since we can make a wrong impression about our clients’ products — at least not until the team improves that aspect. Or, we can use these findings when writing an objective review of our client’s product inside the ROI-based content. Remember: when creating comparisons, don’t use negative phrasing. Instead of saying, “Our product is bad for X,” opt for something like “Our product is better/best fit for Y.” This little psychological trick allows you to remain fully transparent without trashing your potential client.
- How long does it take for users to onboard themselves? How does that process look like? This helps us understand the complexity of our client’s product. If it lasts longer, the product should usually require some in-app onboarding iterations by their product design/success team. When it comes to content, again, this helps us refine our positioning inside articles.
- What type of customers most frequently use the product? This one is a similar question to what we asked sales reps. If the answers are different, it means that sales reps target the wrong type of people.
- What’s the feature your users use the first? Again, it allows us to understand that critical moment and why they opted-in for our client’s product.
- What’s the average NPS score? This helps us understand how satisfied are the customers with our client’s product. At the same time, some positive NPS answers will help us craft better messaging inside our content.
- What prompts users to become brand advocates? At a certain point, ordinary users become brand advocates – a loyal group of people who constantly follow everything that happens inside the company and are more than willing to assist you with something or promote your product. Answers to this question help us determine the critical moment that makes ordinary users become brand advocates. We can later use this in our content strategy and articles themselves.
- How does the power user look like? Again, the same question that we asked sales reps.
- What are the primary features Power users are using? How their workflows look like inside your product? This is the most important question since it uncovers the solution our client offers. This question will help us shape our entire content strategy and correctly position our clients’ products inside the content, allowing us to get the most conversions possible.
Interviewing Customers for ICP Research
A direct, raw, unfiltered feedback may not be the most pleasant to hear, but it contributes the most. At the end of the day, customers’ opinions matter more than what Contenthorse’s clients or we think.
These are the most common questions that we ask our clients’ customers:
We start with short, simple questions:
- What do you like the most about this product?
- What do you like the least about this product?
- What could be improved?
- What would prompt you to become a brand advocate?
Answers to these questions are essential for our clients and their teams and valuable for the entire content marketing strategy we will create.
Then, we proceed with questions that will give more complex answers:
- What’s the main problem this product solves for you? The answer allows us to determine the key reasons why someone is opting for our client’s product.
- Where does the “aha!” moment happen while using this product? If the answer to this question is different from what sales or support/success reps mentioned, it’s a clear signal that they need to think again about their user onboarding and positioning.
- What prompted you to buy this product? Understanding the answers to this question allows us to craft bullet-proof CTAs with high conversion rates, especially inside the ROI-based articles.
- How did you solve the issues before you bought this product? What tools did you use? This helps us shape the story and identify common problems inside our clients’ target audience. We would craft better messaging with the help of this and write more engaging stories inside our content.
- On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this product? Why? Here, we’re doing a quick Net Promoter Score survey. This allows us to identify key reasons why someone fell in love with our client’s product (or why they don’t like it).
- How do you use this product? How does your workflow look like? Taking a thorough look at how they use the product reveals whether they use it in an intended way, for the intended purpose. If not, it signals that something about the way you communicate about the product might need to change.
There are two bonus questions we also like to ask people:
- What type of content do you consume the most?
- What industry experts and communities you like to follow? Where do you hang out on the internet?
This helps us understand what type of content they like, what kind of content resonates with them the most, and where they spend time online when they want to learn and discuss business-related topics.
The answers are essential for defining the final content strategy and content distribution processes.
For example, if they usually hang out on Twitter, most of your content pieces should be repurposed for Twitter. If they like to follow Dave Gerhardt, you should try to influence his community and provide value there while subtly distributing content.
If they like to listen to podcasts, then repurpose your content for podcast episodes. If they want to consume content from the industry experts, then interview a couple of industry experts for every piece of content you write.
The Bottom Line
Don’t underestimate the power of ICP research, and don’t be lazy or afraid to hear what customers think.
The research can save you a ton of time and help you build better content strategies that bring leads and real money — not just traffic.
Also, don’t forget that this is an ongoing process that should be repeated every now and then, not just once a year or at the beginning; market shifts, and new companies enter quickly.
At Contenthorse, we like to repeat this entire process every six months to ensure that our content marketing efforts are up-to-date.