No matter what industry you’re in or your goals for your business, there’s one thing that’s true of any marketing campaign.
If you’re serious about succeeding, you need to know your audience intimately, and a well-rounded buyer persona (or several) can be a massive help in that arena.
Buyer personas can help you get a better read on who’s perfect for your products and how best to market to them.
But knowing which types of consumers are the right fit for what your company offers isn’t the entire picture.
You also need to know who not to market to, so you can spend your precious marketing dollars where they’ll count for the most.
Negative buyer personas can help you identify those people and help you make progress toward your marketing goals.
Keep reading to learn more.
What are Negative Buyer Personas?
Standard buyer personas are semi-fictional profiles of hypothetical consumers that are terrific fits for your products.
The people represented are part of the correct demographics, have the right values, and maintain habits compatible with what your company brings to the table.
They not only love what your company stands for but buy your products and are loyal to your brand.
A well-crafted set of buyer personas helps you create better marketing plans and increase conversion rates by making it easier to understand how your customers really think, making them an essential part of any digital-age strategy.
Also sometimes called exclusionary personas, negative buyer personas help you make progress toward those same goals.
However, they do it by profiling people who aren’t suitable for your products.
Adding them to your buyer persona plan can help you better identify demographics, behaviors, and value systems that signal a consumer who’s either problematic or simply not likely to buy your products.
What are the Benefits of Creating Negative Buyer Personas?
At this point, you might be asking yourself whether there’s really any value in dwelling on the negative at all when it comes to fleshing out your personas.
Wouldn’t simply focusing on the positive work just as well if you did it skillfully enough? And why exclude any demographic from your marketing efforts at all?
After all, couldn’t anyone become a potential customer?
Here’s a closer look at why negative buyer personas are not only helpful but crucial parts of any thorough marketing plan.
They help you manage your marketing budget better
Marketing campaigns are about more than just having good ideas and putting them into practice.
Successful marketing requires precious time, money, labor, and other resources.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t have deep enough pockets to set a limitless marketing budget, especially if they’re small, new, or independently owned.
You need to spend your resources where they’ll count for the most, and negative buyer personas can help you do that more efficiently.
Instead of wasting time and money targeting consumers with a low chance of conversion, you can focus on strategies designed to bring in the loyal customers you really want.
They help you better refine your ideal buyer personas
Creating great buyer personas that accurately describe your best, most desirable customers is only partially about knowing what qualities, demographics, and values to look for.
It’s just as helpful to fully understand what you’re not looking for and why.
Negative buyer personas help you deepen your understanding of your ideal customers and make your marketing efforts more accurate.
Unpacking why your products aren’t good fits for some users can help you discover new reasons why they’re perfect for others and finetune your marketing efforts accordingly.
They can help make your sales and customer service teams more effective
Teams members like sales agents and customer service reps aren’t just the people who deal directly with your customers.
They’re also in the best possible position to identify prospects that are terrible fits for the product early on before they add up to a fortune in wasted effort for your company.
When your sales and customer care teams better understand what makes someone a poor conversion prospect, they’re better equipped to do their jobs well.
They’ll also be better able to tell the difference between a genuinely poor fit and a customer who may still be a great fit despite being a bit demanding.
They can help you build a better product catalog
It’s important to understand that fitting a negative buyer persona doesn’t make a failing or lost customer a bad person or a waste of time, in general.
Your products simply couldn’t solve their problems, and it’s worth your while to figure out where (and why) they fell short.
The issue could be a shortcoming in the product itself, or it might be marketing material that isn’t thorough enough at explaining what a product is and who it’s for.
Whatever the case may be, getting to the bottom of things helps you create better products, a more well-rounded catalog, and more effective marketing material.
How to Create Negative Buyer Personas
Now that you know a bit about why you should include negative buyer personas in your ongoing marketing strategy, it’s time to get to work creating some effective ones.
Here are a few essential tips to get you started.
1. Know the red flags that signal a bad fit
When generating accurate negative buyer personas, the main goal is to identify situations where the time, energy, and costs of acquiring a person as a customer exceed the value you’re likely to get back in return.
Some critical red flags to keep an eye out for include the following.
They can’t comfortably afford the product
Sometimes it’s not a lack of genuine interest but a lack of means that keeps a customer from being a good fit for a product.
For instance, teens and students might be very interested in your company’s high-end stereo equipment but still have a low likelihood of buying because it’s way out of budget.
They represent a low return on your marketing investment.
A great marketing campaign and talented sales team may eventually be able to convert a prospect who isn’t ideal, but it still may not add up to a win.
If they don’t stay subscribed to your service or continue to purchase your products, they may not generate a high enough return on their acquisition cost to have been worth it.
They behave in ways that suggest they’re a problem customer
Every business owner knows what it’s like to deal with a customer who’s so problematic. They’re literally more trouble than they’re worth.
They’re the ones who take up a lot of a sales rep’s time without ever actually closing a sale or who consistently return the products they do buy. Some just plain expect the impossible from the product.
These behaviors hint at a high retention cost for that customer — possibly even one that exceeds their acquisition cost — so it’s helpful to know how to identify them early.
2. Do plenty of research
As with standard buyer personas, negative buyer personas require a foundation in research if they’re going to help you meet your goals.
Again, interviews with your sales reps, customer service department, and marketing teams are great places to start.
These people know better than anyone who seems to be attracted to your content and marketing campaigns despite not buying or using your products.
Customer surveys and interviews can also be quite helpful here. Ensure you’re interviewing or surveying people who return products, cancel services, or underspend to find out why.
Look for common threads between those customers, and add those elements to your negative buyer personas.
Take a look at additional user data attached to those customers for even more insight.
3. Tag and track each profile to gauge performance
Once you’ve identified key trigger factors and telltale behaviors for your various negative buyer personas, it’s time to tag your personas and keep track of them on an ongoing basis to learn more.
Collect and organize your data. Then, analyze it periodically to see what it tells you about people who don’t seem ready for your catalog despite being very interested in your content.
It may also be worth determining trigger behaviors and other factors that signal an undesirable lead may be transitioning into a desirable one.
For instance, has the person moved from one demographic or financial status to another that might make them a better fit for your product now than they were in the past?
4. Update your personas periodically as you gain more insight
All buyer personas should be considered works in progress for several reasons.
To begin with, target markets, technologies, the economy, consumer expectations, and so many other factors are constantly changing, so you can expect your customers’ values and buying habits to change, too.
Make sure you’re continually consulting your data and updating your buyer personas accordingly, including your negative profiles.
The more you learn about your audience members over time, including those who don’t convert or otherwise aren’t right for your product, the stronger your marketing strategies will become.
Wrap Up: Succeed with Detailed Buyer Personas and Customized Solutions
A buyer persona collection needs to be well-rounded and complete if it’s going to help you perfect your marketing efforts.
That means understanding the customers you don’t want just as thoroughly as it means getting a solid read on the desirable ideal ones.
Together, positive and negative buyer personas paint a comprehensive picture of your audience that will help you better tailor your efforts to appeal to the right people.
Ready to get started on that first set of personas?
Our Ultimate Buyer Persona Generator makes creating them fun, effective, and educational. Get to know your audience, learn how to segment it for results, brainstorm tailored marketing solutions, and close more sales!