In the short time that I’ve been a Notion Expert I’ve worked with six of their portfolio companies. The main focus has been on helping each of them to define their Ideal Customer Profile, a process for isolating the characteristics of market segments that offer the greatest potential for rapid growth.
It’s been a rewarding and exciting period for me. Each of these companies is very different in their vision and their market proposition, but they all share the same hunger, drive and determination and are just full of energy and ideas.
The process for creating the ICP sometimes starts with a blank page and we build on the founder’s vision and the problem that the solution is designed to solve and then build out the profile of customers that are most likely to see benefit. In other cases, when clients already have a customer base, we start by analyzing the characteristics of their Current Customer Profile (CCP) to understand what makes their best customers, their worst customers and those that offer the most potential for upsell. The “best” customer can be defined in a number of ways but usually includes ACV, win rates, retention and upsell rates etc., all indicators of the value that the customer perceives they are getting from the solution.
Step 1 – define the value proposition
Having been through this process many times now, I know that it’s impossible to create an ICP with first having a clearly defined value proposition. It might sound obvious, but you can’t define who is most likely to benefit from a proposition if you are not clear on the business problems you solve, your defensible competitive advantage and how you view the world differently from everyone else. So very often a workshop that has the objective of defining the ICP actually start with a process for defining the value proposition.
Step 2 – test and validate
Notion encourages portfolio companies to test their proposition with industry experts – devil’s advocates – who will give honest and direct feedback. Too often vendors focus on what they think is important about what they do, not how the customer assesses value. As a result, these industry expert reviews can be illuminating. I’ve used these many times myself in the past. I remember working with an expert from the Credit Card industry and seeing our Product Manager turn pale as the expert tore through our list of competitive advantages and tell us that most established solutions already offered these “unique” capabilities! But out of the process came 2 or 3 things were different AND had real potential value. By focusing on these we were able to achieve much faster market penetration than if we had been left to our own rose tinted view of the world.
Step 3 – customers who believe what you believe
In working through the ICP process I usually find there is an “aha moment” of realization that is critical to the ICP. Often it is a value or belief that our Ideal Customer shares with us and will determine their perceived value of what we do. In one case recently this was a recognition that ICP organizations would suffer significant brand damage if they performed badly in this specific area. In another case it was detailed analysis of sales data that highlighted a win rate in one industry segment that was 2 times the win rate in the industry where most of the sales team was focused.
Bryan has worked with us several times, helping us establish a more robust sales process as we have scaled. He has brought a wealth of experience and an independent viewpoint. Rather than giving generic answers, he leads us through a process of finding the questions that matter – and the answers that yield an ‘Ideal Customer Profile’ with a sales approach and playbook that improves sales performance. Andrew Davies, Co-Founder & CMO, Idio.
Key lessons so far for me from my work with Notion have been:
- I need to get better at defining a process and structure for what I do, building on each successive engagement, but keeping it flexible enough to reflect the different levels of maturity of the various companies and never assume that the next one is like the last one.
- Notion is building up a network of experts and we need to explore opportunities to collaborate with each other. The more we do that, the better value we can deliver to our mutual clients, without compromising our own perspective on what it takes to build a successful SaaS company.
- Notion is great at making introductions for me but it’s not up to them to sell my services. I need to continue to focus on my own value proposition and clearly articulate the value I provide. This is a relatively small community who all talk to each other and only have time for people who can help them on the road to success.
- Most of these companies fit my own ICP and the partnership with Notion is a great opportunity to grow my own business.
- I’m already starting to get further introductions from these clients, all of which is helping to build my own brand.
We have worked with a number of external consultants over the years and Bryan tops the list. He has been instrumental in making some dramatic changes and getting buy in for those changes across the organisation. Damian Kimmleman, Founder & CEO, DueDil.
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Post produced in partnership with Bryan Richter, Founder of Arcanum Consulting.