The Ideal Customer Profile. The perfect customer. Can you describe it for your startup? The more precisely you can describe it, the better. That will simplify disqualification. But articulating the ICP well isn't enough.
Vague ICPs are problematic. The company will focus on too broad a customer base, waste time and effort with unqualified prospects, and blunt their sales pitch with irrelevant value propositions.
Clear ICPs can also be problematic. To describe the ideal customer well is not enough. Let's use an example. A clear but useless ICP might be: a disenchanted thirtysomething mechanic who likes to play German board games, read Nietzsche and watch MMA. I can clearly articulate my ICP to myself and others. The target market is clear (and niche!)
But how do I identify this person if I'm looking to sell to him? Where do I begin generating leads? Mechanics meetups? Board game conventions? Nihilist forums?
A good ICP must serve three purposes. First, the ICP should enable me to identify a good prospect quickly. Second, I should be able to simply convey the ICP to someone else in such a way they can find other ICPs. Third, the ICP should be defined so systems can be built to identify them.
A better ICP is: VPs of Marketing in GDPR affected regions; or heads of sales with teams larger than 50 people in technology; CEOs of profitable pool supply companies.
These ICPs are much easier to identify using lead generation tools. They can be communicated to teammates simply and computer systems can be tooled or trained to identify them at scale.
To grow, startups must scale and distribute ICP identification from one to ten to hundreds of people. A narrow, clear, and identifiable ICP is a critical ingredient in that growth.