Using Negative Buyer Personas to Market Smarter

As marketing professionals, our days are spent tailoring every aspect of our marketing efforts towards capturing the attention of our ideal buyers. These ideal buyers are what we in the marketing world refer to as buyer personas. Buyer personas are the semi-fictional representations of who your customers that we create based on market research and data from current customers.

Buyer personas are a great way to make sure your time, money and resources are being used wisely and for the right audience. However, simply creating these positive personas only gives you information on a siloed section of the market. What about the customers you’re not marketing to? And why are those people even important?

The Importance of Identifying Negative Buyer Personas

If buyer personas are who we ARE marketing to, what do we call the group of people that we ARE NOT marketing to? The answer is: negative buyer personas. Negative buyer personas are the group, or groups, of people who your company does not or should not target. These are people who are either customers that didn’t work out, or people who are not likely to purchase your product or service.In other words, they’re the very opposite of our positive buyer personas. 

Think of it like dating. You probably can’t pinpoint what you do want in a partner until you know exactly what you don’t want. The same goes for marketing. You can’t truly understand what your customers do want until you know what they definitely do not want.

In other words, creating and understanding your negative buyer personas will help you focus in your time and resources towards those customers who are more likely to receive your message. Additionally, you might even be able to learn how to win these non-customers over by learning what makes them tick.

Not sure how to identify your negative personas? Have no fear, we’re here to show you exactly how to do it!

How to Identify Your Negative Buyer Personas

Don’t be fooled, your negative buyer personas often appear (initially) as your ideal buyer personas. In other words, your negative buyer personas might seem like the ideal buyer, but it’s with careful research and consideration that you find they just might not make the cut.

Step 1: Know Your Positive Personas

So how do you discover your negative buyer personas anyway? First, you must understand who your positive buyer personas are like the back of your hand. It’s likely you’ve already defined your positive buyer personas. If not, check out our blog on identifying buyer personas to get started!

Like anything else in marketing, it’s important to collaborate with as many of your team members as possible when developing these personas. You’ll want to sit down with members of all different teams in your agency to come up with who your negative personas are

Think of it this way: An account service member who speaks with your clients every day will likely have a much different perspective on your personas than say someone on your graphic design team who isn’t client facing at all.

Step 2: Ask Questions About Current Customers

Once you’ve identified your positive buyer personas, it’s time to start discovering your negative personas. This means identifying who your non-customers are and why they aren’t your customers. Below are several questions to ask when forming your negative buyer personas:

  • Who are your least favorite customers? Why?
  • How long did it take you to close these customers?
  • Which customers didn’t stay with your company for very long? Why?
  • Which customers generate the least amount of revenue and why?
  • Which customers cost the most to acquire and maintain?

As you can see, these questions have a lot to do with customers you do work with. While negative personas are meant to identify your non-customers, they can be formed through what you know about customers that didn’t work out.

Step 3: Think Negative

Now that you’ve discovered who your non-customers are, the third step to identifying your negative buyer personas is to start thinking like them. Remember these are people who…

  • Were once your customer and decided, for whatever reason, to stop buying your product or service
  • Made it through the sales process but never closed, or 
  • Clients that weren’t profitable for your company

It’s not enough just to figure out that facts about your negative buyer personas. Sure, you’ve created profiles regarding their age, demographic, motivators, likes, dislikes, etc. but you can’t truly utilize these profiles until you understand why these people are the way they are. Below are several questions to ask when trying to think like your negative personas:

  • What are their challenges?
  • What are their biggest pain points?
  • Where does your product fail in the eyes of this person?
  • What might make this person’s experience with your product/service better?

Once you’ve started thinking like your negative personas, it will be easier to see what works and doesn’t work for them. And as a result, you’ll be able to tailor your marketing efforts as such. 

Negative Buyer Personas in Action

Now that your negative buyer personas are fully established, it’s time to take some action. As a marketer, we know you’re extremely motivated to attract as many customers as you can. That being said, your first instinct is probably to take everything you’ve learned and try to market smarter to these non-customers.

We get it, it’s only natural to want more customers! However, it’s important to remember that these personas have been created solely to weed out the people who aren’t worth your time and resources. Use these profiles as a way to compare your ideal customers to your bad ones instead. Knowing what your customers don’t like or won’t respond to will help you create marketing campaigns that perform exceptionally well!

For more insight on how to hone in on your ideal audiences, download our free Target Audience Guide! And, as always, if you have any questions or need an expert marketer opinion feel free to reach out to us any time!

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