Defining Your Healthcare Ideal Customer Profile: Challenges and Best Practices
We recently gathered a group of HIT CMO’s and Marketing Leaders for our monthly HIT CMO Roundtable. This month’s topic was the challenges in developing an effective Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and turning that into an actionable target account list.
“I think there’s a lot of various inputs in creating the ICP…figuring out what is most important to your organization and then building your ICP off that,”
This succinctly sums up the central struggle shared by participants in the HIT CMO Roundtable a healthcare technology marketing leadership community. While most agreed hospitals, health systems, and insurance plans represent core targets, exactly what constitutes an “ideal” customer depends heavily on corporate strategy, product specifics, company maturity, and more. Deeply understanding these targets in healthcare is enormously difficult.
“Coming into an industry where I really don’t have that expertise has been a frustrating learning curve for me,”
Noted one new member of the roundtable expressing frustrations that are all too common among those lacking deep provider and payer experience.
ICP Development Obstacles in Healthcare
Unlike simpler B2B sectors, effectively targeting healthcare enterprises requires grasping the impacts of convoluted regulations and reimbursements, perspectives across diverse clinical and operational roles, and nuances around treating specific conditions and patient populations.
But intricate organizational structures, complex physician-driven decision journeys and general data challenges plague even healthcare veterans’ efforts to research target accounts and identify the ideal customer.
“You can’t get that out of Definitive Healthcare or ZoomInfo. We have to pull the data in from those types of sources, then curate the list to reflect what we know drives decisions for our clients.”
Common data tools fail to capture crucial operating models, affiliations, and power dynamics influencing needs and buying criteria.
And while basic firmographic ranking provides a starting point, these can misrepresent actual requirements, as Adam Rosenberg highlighted regarding specialty pharmacies. Beyond size, you must factor in strategies, service lines, prescribing patterns and more to pinpoint accounts with the greatest alignment.
Confounding matters, sales teams press for suboptimal but accessible targets, while marketing and product urge (often unsuccessfully) pivoting towards more appropriate prospects requiring longer-term cultivation.
ICP Best Practices
Roundtable participants did share approaches for overcoming obstacles:
“We’re approaching the ICP using some of the traditional size, number of employees, bed count, etc. as a starting point, but we’re also thinking about whether have a relationship with someone in the organization.”
Noted Steffany Whiting on iMethods’ “bottoms up” ICP methodology focused on analyzing existing customer base performance data to identify winning patterns before expanding targeting to mirror these markers
“We use Health Management Academy IQ’s service to give us deep insight into accounts that we’re trying to penetrate. We append our ICP data with this insight and find the service invaluable, if expensive. They provide hard-to-access perspectives from healthcare leadership that we’d be unable to gain through common tools.”
Incorporating Frontline Intelligence
Whiting also emphasized formalizing feedback loops to continuously gather sales and customer service intelligence to refine ICPs based on prospect needs, trigger events, and relationship insights from the frontlines.
The key takeaway was recognizing ICP development as a dynamic, cross-functional endeavor requiring alignment across clinical, sales, marketing, and product teams, not a purely analytical exercise. Organizations can accurately understand their ideal customer as company offerings and market conditions evolve by repeatedly testing assumptions, assessing performance, and correcting course.
Incorporating Intent Data and Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
Participants also advised feeding ICP customer rankings into ABM tools like 6sense, Demandbase, and Terminus that incorporate intent signals from website traffic, ad engagement, and search analytics to gauge real prospect interest, helping further qualify accounts. While still in the early days of healthcare, this prevents wasting resources that could be better directed toward warmer prospects.
An Iterative Process
Perhaps above all, achieving ICP excellence requires recognizing this as an iterative, cross-functional endeavor requiring clinical, product, sales, marketing and executive collaboration rather than a purely analytics exercise. Only through repeatedly testing assumptions, assessing performance, and course correcting can you develop and maintain an accurate understanding of who your best customer really is over time.
While certainly challenging, taking the right approach to defining your ideal customer profile is foundational to growth for any company selling into the healthcare ecosystem. But by leveraging the right data, resources and team alignment, organizations can build this knowledge base to support all strategic decision-making.
Actions You Can Take
Here are 10 key actions other healthcare marketing leaders can take based on the insights shared in the roundtable discussion:
- Review your current ICP methodology and segments – what’s working well and what needs rethinking? Bring all key go-to-market functions into the discussion.
- Analyze your existing customer base performance data – what are the common patterns among your best/worst accounts?
- Leverage healthcare research firms like Health Management Academy and Advisory Board to provide market perspectives and trends to inform your ICP strategy.
- Evaluate new data tools that incorporate intent signals and account scoring to feed your ABM targeting and outreach campaigns.
- Develop an “ideal client success profile” spanning marketing, sales and product metrics to identify patterns that predict performance. Design your ICP targeting to align with these markers.
- Get arrangements with key healthcare analysts to advise on market shifts and provide third-party validation materials for use in sales pursuits and campaigns.
- Create feedback loops to continuously gather intelligence from customer-facing teams on prospect needs, trigger events, and relationship insights to refine ICP targeting.
- Build a dashboard reflecting key ICP and funnel metrics to track performance over time, demonstrate impact, and highlight areas needing improvement.
- Formalize an ongoing, cross-functional ICP review process across marketing, sales and product to align on ideal targets as company offerings and market conditions evolve.
- Use ICP intelligence to guide content strategy, campaign development, product positioning, and sales enablement to boost relevance for priority targets.
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