You Say ICP, I Hear...

Happy Sunday, folks! (or Monday morning, if you’re east of India)

Lead Generation Learnings, or: You Say ICP, I Hear Insane Clown Posse

When working with a new client, I recently glossed over an important part of the process. I'm glad I made this mistake because it serves as a reminder of the importance of an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

During interviews with new prospects for my done-for-you education-based outbound marketing service, one of the first questions I ask is: who are your buyers? A good-enough answer to this question is crucial to proceed with the service.

I recently overlooked this step with a new client because they were a former coaching client. We're exploring my done-for-you newsletter service to see if it fits their situation, and I made some incorrect assumptions about their ICP.

Their situation is intriguing: they have a strong thought leadership presence that's very successful in one dimension but not working well in another. The successful dimension is that my client is a genuine thought leader. He has identified a problem in his market, developed a unique perspective on the issue, does innovative work to solve it, and educates the market about his solutions through impactful methods like highly visible talks at in-person and virtual events. The not-so-successful dimension is converting that thought leadership into projects within a reasonable timeframe. The simplified diagnosis is that the thought leadership is too far ahead of the market. They're not ready to act on it. They are impressed by the talks but need a few years for it all to sink in before they're prepared to implement.

I'm prototyping a weekly newsletter for this client, which involves curating news, putting together prototype issues, and sending them to the client and myself every few days. This allows him to experience what it would be like to have his name on these newsletters going to his target audience.

This is where my incorrect assumption about ICP came to light. Although we haven't built the audience yet, I'm basing my newsletter curation approach on my mental model of this audience, and I had the wrong audience in mind, leading to an incorrect curation approach.

We caught this issue early on and had a highly productive discussion as a result. We both gained clarity on the ICP and the type of curation approach that might accomplish our goal of providing educational value that represents my client's POV without being too far ahead of the market, as his thought leadership content tends to be.

This experience made me aware of something I hadn't fully appreciated about thought leadership content. It's easy to become so focused on the content itself that it's possible to lose sight of the audience for the content.

When your marketing involves building an audience first and then solving the content question, you're forced to think carefully about how the content will produce value for that audience and your business. I believe this is a crucial question to answer!

Finally, I can't hear ICP without thinking of the Insane Clown Posse musical group. I'm not a fan of their vile, offensive music, but I find them a fascinating case study in marketing.

Source: Wikimedia

So, let's just say buyers instead of ICP. As in, who are your buyers? Clarity about so many things starts there.

OpportunityLabs done-for-you services can help you:

  • Reach director or executive-level buyers without trying to cosplay a thought leader

  • Produce good educational content without writing or needing a ghost-writer

  • Expand your professional network without travel or uncomfortable networking

Prices start at $2,500/mo, and there are some of you that ought to start investing in positioning your business as a source of educational value now during this down cycle in order to be ready to reap your harvest when things get better a few years from now.

To learn more hit REPLY and we’ll take things from there, likely starting with a consultative, not-salesey conversation.

The Distribution Question

Products can't sell without a way for them to travel from where they're made to where they're consumed. Products can't sell without distribution.

The Idea

I'm no expert on products, but it seems to me that distribution is so central to the consumer's experience of buying and using a product that distribution is really a product design question rather than a whole separate bolt-on question that can be considered independently from product design. Claude reminded me that Warby Parker is a good example of this:

Warby Parker's eyeglasses required rethinking distribution for a product traditionally sold in physical stores. Their Home Try-On program, where customers select 5 frames online to try at home for free, is a key part of the product experience. It reduces the risk of buying glasses online while providing Warby Parker rich data on customer preferences to optimize frame design and inventory. The distribution method is integral to making the product viable.

We should think about content marketing the same way. Content marketing is just bits stored on a server somewhere until it's distributed to those who consume it.

The Example

Content marketing distribution can be bundled in a way that makes the distribution part of the bundle nearly invisible. Posting on LinkedIn, for example, means that your content will be distributed for you by LinkedIn via its feed. When you think about who exactly sees that content, how many people see it, when they see it, and for how long new people continue to see it, you are thinking about how LinkedIn distributes your content. But most of us think: "how well does content marketing via LinkedIn work?". If we think about it this way, we're thinking about the bundle rather than the individual components of the bundle.

Taking a LinkedIn post and paying for it to become a Thought Leader Ad changes the distribution mechanism. It still ends up in the LinkedIn feed, but you get more control over placement and reach. Same content, different distribution.

The Internet dramatically changed distribution. If you came of age as a self-employed person while this was happening, you may have anchored yourself to a certain version of how the Internet changed distribution, and that specific version of distribution's implications for content marketing. This happened to me too. The thing is, how distribution works via the Internet is still changing.


I'll go light on recommendations because this little essay is really just meant to get you thinking for yourself about the components of the content marketing bundle. Questions to ponder:

  • How much of the content that influences your thinking and decision-making was content you actively sought out (you curated it for yourself), and how much of it was actively placed in front of you by a distribution mechanism where someone else controls the curation (whether that's an algorithm or person doesn't matter so much)?

  • Has the distribution of the active/passive consumption changed for you over time?

  • How do your buyers interact with various means of distribution?

As for me, I can't shake the sense that the current and future Internet content distribution landscape requires a more active stance. That's why I'm starting to emphasize all this stuff about content marketing really being a bundle of content and distribution and the importance of working out how the distribution part of that bundle will work.

Last Issue’s For-Fun Poll

The question was: During nice weather, how many times/week do you usually get outdoors?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 0 times (3)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 1 to 3 times/week (3)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 4 to 7 times/week (17)

🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 8 or more times/week (8)

Some folks left explanatory comments:

  • “Geez. Must go outside often. I walk around and check how the plants are growing. ”

  • “Gotta enjoy what time we get here in Montana!”

  • “I take our dog out every morning for our ritual 4.2km, 50 minute walk. This is independent of the weather. Typically I’ll do some other activities on top, eg coaching an under 16s rugby team which is usually twice a week during the autumn to spring playing season. ”

  • “If walking the dog for 40mins is in the "trash" category then I'm a zero 😃”

This Week’s For-Fun Poll

Surpassing The Source: Cover Songs That Are (Almost Certainly) Better Than The Original

One of my niche fascinations is cover songs that are better than the original (at least in terms of my objectively correct musical taste 😁). I don’t know that I have a list of 52 of these, but I thought it’d be fun to go through the ones I do have stored away in the back of my head in a section of these mostly-weekly emails. Here goes.

The original:

The cover:

I hope something nice happens to you this week,