Customer personas can help marketers identify their target audience, as well as the type of content or kind of service that will be of value to them.

But what about the customers you really do not want to target? These people are also known as anti-personas, or negative personas if you prefer.

Much like customer personas, these (fictional) identities are made up of traits, characteristics, and buying behaviours, in this case, of the people who fall outside of a target audience.

But surely all potential customers are worthwhile customers, you might ask? Let’s consider this by delving into the subject of anti-personas, and why they might be beneficial to marketers.

Determining anti-personas

It’s very rare that businesses cater to everyone. Usually, companies offer a specific product or service that a certain demographic might need or desire. As a result, there’ll be customers that are naturally higher priority, and those that are lower down on the list.

It could be the case that lower-priority customers are still attracted to a brand or business, and yet abandon their journey with them after a certain point (having potentially wasted both their time and the business’ in question).

These kinds of customers could consume content, and even go on to buy. However, due to a lack of alignment between the customer and brand, this could turn out to be a misguided purchase, ultimately leading to complaints and negative reviews.

An anti-persona can be identified in the same way as a target customer, by delving into key traits, motivations, and frustrations. To find this information, it’s helpful to consider negative reviews, common complaints and points of frustration, as well as those who typically abandon baskets (and why).

A common example of an anti-persona is someone who uses a train company website to look for train times and never buys tickets, or a person who shows interest in a car manufacturer or high-end technology company, but cannot afford to buy.

The benefits

Trust and transparency

Anti-personas can allow businesses to increase transparency as well as quash misconceptions.

By determining who you can’t serve or might not be able to satisfy, you will be able to better target those you can.

Let’s take McDonald’s as an example. A brand that – while taking strides to make its products healthier – is clearly going to be less-focused on targeting the most health-conscious or wealthy consumers. As a result, its anti-persona could be someone who is vegetarian, who typically shops at health food stores, or who earns a fairly high wage.

While most consumers are likely to know what McDonald’s offers, this same premise can be applied to smaller or lesser-known businesses.

So by identifying these traits as an anti-persona – someone you do not want to target – businesses can learn to be more transparent in marketing, and to communicate a product offering with honesty (and with no false pretences).

Targeting is not the only benefit. In a more general sense, identifying what you are not can also help to better define what you are, helping you to creating a much more valuable brand identity (as well as content that aligns with this).

anti-persona image

Streamlining customer service

Anti-personas can be customers who are less likely to buy from you – but that doesn’t mean they don’t interact or show intent to purchase from you at all. One of the biggest benefits of identifying these customers is that it can help you create content designed specifically for them – i.e. to deter, point them in the right direction, or provide them with the information you know they’re looking for.

If a company sells a product that is largely based on customer preferences, e.g. a mattress company – which could be ‘too soft’ or ‘too firm’ depending on the person’s liking – they could end up with a lot of negative reviews due to misinformed or uninformed customers.

As a result, and to prevent this from happening, it could be helpful to create content informing people of the different varieties of mattress, and how they can find the right one to suit their needs. See the below example from Dreams.

Dreams beds

In a similar sense, brands can often find themselves answering the same questions or enquiries from people looking for information but not necessarily buying.

FAQ pages are a great way to inform people (and potentially deter them) before they go any further down the purchasing funnel only to flee at a later date.

Trainline deliberately points users looking for train times to its journey planner tool, ensuring that they will be satisfied (even if they don’t buy tickets).

trainline

Identifying the right channels

By determining who your anti-personas are (and where they spend their time), marketers can also discover which channels might be less worthy of time and focus.

Twitter is typically used as a customer service channel, for example, so a business could theoretically spend lots of time and resources just to answer queries from anti-personas – i.e. people that aren’t valuable or even potential customers. Instead, it should be concentrating on the channels that best align with the behaviour of its target customer, and creating content that aligns with this.

Are anti-personas lazy?

It could be argued that anti-personas are a lazy answer to customer targeting – that the idea prevents marketers from creating user-specific content that is highly targeted to difficult demographics.

However, this is why anti-personas need to be as specific as possible, so that marketers can ensure that – even if they’re not actively targeting a customer – all interactions will result in a positive outcome. For example, to ensure customers are prevented from making a misguided purchase, and to provide them with the information they are looking for.

Finally, it’s important to remember that anti-personas are not meant to ostracise or exclude customers. Rather, they are a way for marketers to enhance transparency, fine-tune their product or service offering, and to hone in on the people who will benefit the most.

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