Imagine coming in to work every day and working only with dream customers.

Does it sound like a pipe dream? It doesn’t have to be. By identifying the traits of customers that aren’t the right fit for your product or service, you can steer your marketing and sales efforts away from these less-than-ideal customers. Ultimately, this means acquiring fewer bad customers and more good ones.

Negative personas, also called exclusionary personas, help you recognize which customers aren’t right for you. They help you repel the type of customer you don’t want, while also sharpening your focus on your ideal customer. Here’s how and why you need to create negative personas for your brand.

Benefits of Creating Negative Personas

As a marketer, you know the importance of creating traditional buyer personas. These profiles of your ideal customer help your company tailor its products and content to your audience’s wants and needs.

Negative personas are the opposite of these buyer personas. They outline the specific traits of people or businesses that your company doesn’t want as customers.

Some brands can be reluctant to identify anyone as a less desirable customer because they don’t want to turn away business. They worry their bottom line will suffer if they become choosy about their customers.  

This perspective is short-sighted. Consider how much time and energy your team spends on the wrong customers or clients. That’s time taken away from acquiring other customers for whom your product or service is a better fit. Worse, sometimes brands start to tailor their products and services to people who really shouldn’t be their customers in the first place.

That is less likely to happen when your company has negative personas. Your company will also be able to improve its:

  • Traditional Buyer Personas. If start-ups are in your negative personas, that means established businesses should be in your buyer personas. Use your negatives personas to inform your other buyer personas.
  • Content Marketing. Once you have your negative personas, you can steer your content marketing efforts away from people that you don’t want as customers. If blog posts on a certain topic gets a lot of likes and shares, but only from less desirable customers, it’s not worth your time to continue to create that kind of content. On the other hand, you can create specific content that minimizes the time and energy you spend on dealing with less than ideal customers, such as by creating an FAQ page that addresses their biggest complaint with your product.   
  • Customer Satisfaction. You’ll have more satisfied customers when they’re the right customers for your product or service.

How to Create Negative Personas

Create your negative personas just as you create traditional buyer personas. Review your customer history, conduct interviews with past customers, survey team members.

Keep in mind there are two types of negative personas:

  • those who don’t buy anything from you, but who like your social media and content, and visit your site regularly
  • those who do buy from you, but complain about the product or service and don’t have high sales

Identify the trends among your dissatisfied customers. Go through their demographics, psychographics, and any other details you have, such as their role, and needs and goals.

From this data, create the archetypes for your negative personas. Be as specific as possible. Incorporate quotes from real customers to make it as easy as possible to identify these customers in the future.

Now that you’ve got your negative personas, distribute them widely within your company so everyone can identify your less desirable customers. For example, if a common theme among your dissatisfied customers was that no one from the C-suite was involved in the project, everyone in your company needs to know that so they can avoid another middle manager using your service and ultimately being disappointed.

That’s the beauty of negative personas—they make it easy to identify the customers that aren’t right for your company, so you can focus on the ones that are.


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