#9 Negative Customer Personas
November 13, 2020
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Marketers talk a lot about using hypothetical customer profiles and personae to identify, target, and perfectly serve your best customers. But what about your worst customers, the people who suck up all your resources, leave bad reviews, and drive you crazy?  In this week’s episode, we are going to talk about how to avoid customers that you do not want. When you start by creating a negative customer persona, you can fine tune your strategy so you don’t spend money, time, and effort attracting people you would really prefer to avoid. This will help you increase your return on ad spend (ROAS).


Why do you need to create a Negative Customer Persona?

If you do not take the time to think about the kind of person who will not be a good customer, you risk wasting resources. When you identify and describe the customers that you do want to pursue you can design your targeting, touchpoint selection, ads, and content to avoid reaching bad prospects that are likely to be a waste of effort. You will free up budget and time to interact with customers who you can convert and who will be happy with your product. 

One of the more reliable ways to burn through your marketing budget without getting results is to fail to target your efforts and market to everyone. A more sophisticated marketer will think about who they want to reach and target those people for a lower average cost of acquisition. But you can take another step beyond that. Once you understand who you do not want to reach, you can filter them out with demographic or psychographic targeting and by thinking about touchpoints  and communications that include and entice the people you want to reach but not the people that you are not interested in. 

The best customers can deliver lifetime benefits as eager brand ambassadors. Non-customers engage with your brand and content but never buy, draining resources. The worst customers can cost you way more than you made selling them your product. Social proof is important for most products and bad reviews can be a killer. Selling your product to someone who hates it can be a disaster. If you have a bad experience with a customer, use that to refine your image of your negative customers.


Customer Persona…Negative for whom?

Bad customers for your brand can cause you a lot of headaches, but it is helpful to keep a clear perspective: a bad customer is not necessarily a bad person. In fact, maybe you are the problem. In marketing, as in life, when you realize you and you alone are ultimately responsible for your outcomes, you empower yourself to make changes for better results. 

Is your bad customer really bad? It is always constructive to look in the mirror for the source of a problem. After all, it is much easier to change what you do than change what someone else does. When a customer is not happy with your product, it is your product that has failed them. And they may have bought that product because your marketing did not define the product and the ideal happy customer well enough not to accidentally wind up in the shopping cart of a future one-star reviewer. So spot your mistake and figure out how to avoid repeating it.


How to understand your Negative Customer

When you have an unhappy customer, you have an opportunity. But what kind of opportunity is it? Broadly speaking, there are two possibilities. Maybe you can make your customer happy by explaining something or refining your product. That’s great. But sometimes, the customer you are considering will just never be happy with your product. So what should you do? Write them off as a lost cause and move on? No! This is your chance to find out more about who they are and why they are not happy. They are already unhappy, so it can be hard, but do your best to engage them and really get inside their head. What is that they don’t like and why? How does that resonate with some core identity or demographic or psychographic characteristic that you can use to screen future prospects? Look for quotable insights, so you can convey the persona to your team with a concrete example of what a real person said. 


How to Avoid Customers Matching Your Negative Buyer Persona Indirectly 

You know who you don’t want to deal with as a customer. In some contexts, you can avoid them with demographic and psychographic targeting or by choosing your touchpoints carefully. But even if your least ideal customer ends up looking at your ads or content, you still have a chance to actively avoid them. You can communicate with the customers you do not want without talking directly to them.

For example, if you have a software product that is very feature rich, but takes a while to get used to and understand, you could say “this product is not for people who want something that is immediately easy to use.” But we know that is “not a good good look” right? So avoid focusing on the negative. You can let your worst customers know that this product is not for them by letting them know it is for a person who is their opposite. You can say “this product is ideal for people who are willing to invest a little time in order to understand the true power and flexibility of the tool we have created for power users with complex needs.” That way, customers who want a product that is immediately easy to use will understand your value proposition is not quite what they are looking for.


The Ironic Secret to Success: GIVE UP !

Once you recognize who it is that is least likely to be happy with your product, it is usually best to simply try to avoid them. You can also review any lead lists you have and figure out ways to identify people who are likely to match your negative customer personas and scrub them off the list. Rather than chase these people, run away from them. You probably can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes, an unhappy customer can lead you to improve your product for all your customers. It is also possible that a potential customer that you attract with educational content is not a good match for any of your current products, but is the type of person who will be able to appreciate a product that you offer in the future. 

But other times, it is best to recognize the customer fits into a general type that will never be a good match for your brand. Focus your efforts where they will be appreciated and do not try to be all things to everyone. By developing your ideas about who is not going to enjoy your product and why, you can hone your sales and marketing efforts to maximize efficiency and get the most returns for your efforts. If you only remember one thing, remember this: If your funnel is too wide, it’s worth making the effort and taking the time to improve your targeting to reach only the people who will really enjoy what you can do for them. As the Viral Octopus motto says: Be Smart. Be Useful. 


Time to take action!


We hope you find this insight on digital marketing excellence useful. This knowledge can improve your results, but you have to put it into action. So find a way to apply it and test it. Take a baseline measurement and compare your new improved outcome. Join the Viral Octopus collective and share and discuss your results with others who are striving for excellence. And come back and join us next week for more powerful new marketing tips and tricks. Don’t get left behind: Mind The Gap.