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The Missing Piece of Your Buyer Persona Process

By Ryan Law on Wed, Jun 1, 2016

Buyer personas do a great job at identifying perfect customers. But what about imperfect ones?

Sometimes, you'll be able to identify bad-fit prospects a mile away, and focus your efforts elsewhere. But other times, they'll slip through the cracks. Before you know it, you've wasted hours of skilled time chasing a dead-end - or worse, closing a deal that isn't in anyone's interest.

Thankfully, you can improve your buyer persona process to help side-step these bad prospects. Today, we're looking at the importance of negative buyer personas.

Why We Develop Buyer Personas

We've talked about buyer personas before, so I'll keep the definition simple:

"A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers, based on interviews with existing customers, and market research."

- The Importance of Buyer Personas for SaaS Companies

You can use buyer personas to understand the pains and passions that motivate people to buy your solution, allowing you to create marketing strategies to attract them to your business, define sales processes to convince them of the benefits of your solution, and design websites to facilitate their journey.

Why You Need Negative Buyer Personas

Trouble is, no matter how detailed and accurate your buyer personas, you'll never be 100% efficient at attracting ideal people to your business.

A portion of your leads will meet some (or even all) of your 'ideal customer' criteria - but they'll also possess traits or problems that prevent them from being a good fit for your business.

These potential customers may be:

  • Unable to budget for your services, either now or in the future (whether they're too small, or their business is shrinking).
  • Looking for non-standard or complex services that requires extra effort to deliver, and don't align with the direction of the company.
  • Expensive to acquire, requiring lengthy lead nurturing and a time-consuming sales process.
  • Difficult to keep, and likely to churn within a few weeks or months.

These types of people can still be hugely engaged with your company: they'll read dozens of your blog posts, download your eGuides and offers, and engage with your mailing list. But problems arise when you try (and sometimes succeed) to close a deal.

How to Develop a Negative Buyer Persona

You can develop negative personas in the same way you would conventional buyer personas: collating information about their problems, passions, goals, challenges, and so on. The more information you have, the easier it becomes to distinguish good-fit prospects from bad-fit ones, and allocate your time appropriately.

To get started on your negative buyer personas, talk to your sales team. They'll have experience with leads that initially appeared to be a good fit, only to later qualify them out of the sales process. You can use this experience to identify shared traits that bad prospects have in common, and use this as the foundation of your negative persona.

Your Early Warning System

Poor-fit buyers can be difficult to identify, and often, you'll be halfway through the sales process before problems are flagged up.

A negative buyer persona functions as an early warning system, allowing you to define and efficiently identify bad-fit prospects, before you've committed time and energy to them: time that could be better spent attracting and delighting your ideal customers.

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