Why Do I Need Negative Personas?

Harrie Truscott

October 28, 2015   Follow

We all know who we want to sell to: our favourite and most delightful customers who value our product the way we value their business. A symbiosis that works for everyone - a win/win! Knowing your ideal customers can make your product development more targeted, and let those marketing dollars stretch further. Best of all, a great persona creates a joint focus and alignment for your company. Doesn’t that just sound fabulous?!

So, you know who you do want, but have you got the same level of detail and clarity for the customers you DON’T want?

What is a negative buyer persona? 

A negative persona is a semi-fictional rendition of your less than ideal customers. A collection of behaviours, demographics and real life scenarios that disqualify them from your pool of happy, paying customers.

Building a negative buyer persona is as important as building a regular buyer persona to your inbound marketing strategy. Having a negative persona doesn’t mean you’re the mean girl at high school. Rather it’s a company-wide “CAUTION” message to ensure you’re attracting who you want and avoiding who you don’t!


(JK we still love you, more on that later..)

Image credit: Giphy

Let’s take a quick walk together to discuss the value of a negative buyer persona, and what having one will do to your overall strategy - for both sales and marketing.

Three big reasons to develop negative personas:

1. The value of knowing who isn’t your ideal customer

Identifying a negative persona early on ensures you aren’t wasting your precious time building strategies that won’t convert leads. Sales and Marketing teams are notorious for pointing the finger at each other when it gets to the results end of the month. The best way to create harmony across your teams and your strategy? Create buyer personas that both teams can use as the basis for their strategies!

The clarity that comes with creating negative a persona means saving time (and normally money) on acquiring those customers you DO want. Having a black and white approach to your buyer personas keeps your Sales and Marketing teams out of the grey and working towards the same goals. Everyone wins!

2. Avoid wasting marketing budget on the wrong people

Wanna know the fastest way to drive up the average cost of acquisition? Market to everyone!
That way you’re sure to miss both your target market and everyone else who feels like they’re in a production line of listening to you talk about your business. Assessing who not to talk to is AS important as who to talk to.

Negative personas get the munchies for your marketing budget all the time. Here are the most common reasons they’re often not worth the trouble:

  • Average sale price is too low to recoup the cost of acquisition
  • Actual interest in purchasing your product is low to none
  • Even if they DO purchase something, this customer is unlikely to purchase again from your company
  • They’re outside of the geographic location of your product or service

They might be interested in the same content as your regular buyer personas, so it’s not all black and white. However, understanding who you don’t want to attract is essential when developing your content marketing strategy.

3. Identifying a negative persona

Speak to your sales and or customer service teams. They’ll have all the real world examples of why people may never become customers (for reasons you can’t change).

A few examples of negative buyer persona habits are:

  • They might have a lower income bracket than can afford your product
  • Might already be using a competitor’s product and be validating what they already know and not want follow up
  • They might be a student downloading all your content to expand their understanding of your industry
  • They might be avid fans who love your message, but aren’t customers

The best approach is to create the ultimate sales and marketing alliance. Your “smarketing” team will be best equipped for identifying your negative buyer persona habits and common objections. Just ask them!

Each company will have different parameters for their personas, both regular and negative. It’s worth noting that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. The best way through is to sit down as a team for a working lunch and chat it out — documenting your new negative persona/s in a handy one pager like the below.


Bonus tip: Hold on to your brand advocates!

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Negative persona or not, if you have someone with high engagement on your side, who loves what you do, you’ve got yourself a brand advocate. Embrace them. Don’t let the fact they aren’t buying from you get in the way of forming an online friendship. There are plenty of reasons you want to keep your negative personas on your social media sites and interested in your content for the sake of brand awareness and building your company’s authority.

Where to from here?

Developing a negative persona is a positive step for your business alignment. It means you’re aware of who you’re not trying to befriend or attract with your marketing efforts. Ditch the ‘grey area’ by creating buyer personas - both regular and negative - to save time and focus your efforts on the customer’s you’d ‘swipe right’ for!

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