Marketing

Why you need to develop negative buyer personas

Why you need to develop negative buyer personas

If you’re using landing pages, content offers or other inbound marketing tactics to tap into your target market, you’ve probably become an expert at picking out the dead-end leads in your growing databases and contact lists. They probably look something like this:

  • Gmail address when you want to be sure you’re speaking to a decision-maker.
  • First- and last-name conventions like Moon Dancer instead of John Smith.
  • Job titles listed as ‘student’ when you’re selling big-ticket items like yachts.

Not many students can afford a yacht, but perhaps their parents can — and that’s why you keep them signed up instead of sucking it up and hitting the ‘purge’ button, like HubSpot did back in 2015 when it unsubscribed 250 000 people from its marketing blog.

Your definition of a low-value lead naturally depends on your marketing and sales objectives. If brand awareness is your bag, baby, you could argue that there’s no such thing as a worthless contact. Just don’t tell the growth hackers; they’re not really ones for warm and fuzzy content generated for the sole purpose of brand love :)


 Wondering how to match the right content to the right buyer persona? Here are 5 steps you want to read.


As a rule, your databases are gold worth mining. And no one wants to waste time mining for gold in a coal seam. That’s why, after you’ve gone through the painstaking process of researching and building buyer personas for your product, you need to go the extra mile and sketch out negative personas, too.

What is a negative buyer persona?

Negative or ‘exclusionary’ buyer personas are window shoppers. These are visitors to your website who liked your content enough to sign up for your newsletter or perhaps download your e-book, but for a variety of reasons, they’re never going to buy. They’re just browsing.

Now, you could stick to your guns and keep devoting time and resources to creating content and enticing offers to nudge them through the buyer’s journey… but you know you’re going to be left at the altar.

(Or worse, they do end up becoming customers, but they’re nightmares to deal with. Fickle, regular complainers, over-communicators — they exhaust your team to the point that you’re losing money by servicing them.)

Other methods to sift through a database of potential customers

If you’re still building up the courage to build a negative buyer persona, there are other ways you can exclude certain buyers (or should we say, non-buyers) from your contact lists and databases.

  • You could use branching logic when building workflows in your marketing automation and sales tools, so that you can exclude them from your efforts.
  • You can use a Prospect Fit Matrix to weed them out at the very last stage of the buyer’s journey i.e. the decision stage.
  • You can simply unsubscribe them. While you’ll remain a regular feature in their social feeds and browser history, they probably won’t even notice you disappearing from their inboxes.

It’s worth mentioning that many marketing automation platforms like HubSpot and even MailChimp charge you based on the size of your contact list, usually in increments of 1 000 or 2 000 contacts. All the more reason to Dear John those window shoppers.

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