Mastering Positive and Negative Buyer Personas


Much like the world of newspapers, we as content marketers have to make every word count. Why is that? Because people are now busier than ever, and their ever-shortening attention spans just won’t put up with long, poetic asides. On top of that, as companies look to trim their budgets as much as possible, our bosses are going to expect more bang for each buck, more return on less content.


One powerful way to improve the overall effectiveness of your content, to catapult your ROI into a new all-time high, driving in more customers and profits, is to sharpen your focus, writing content that attracts only your ideal customers, while softly pushing away those that are not ideal for your business.


All too often, content marketers use a shotgun approach, trying to get their content in front of as many people as possible, with no idea of who will respond to the marketing to become leads. That method may have worked at times in the past, but as times change, so must our strategies.


It’s much better to use a sniper approach, taking aim at your ideal customers, saving money in the process.


An excellent way to sharpen your company’s focus is to have extensive and updated buyer personas for your marketing strategy.


In addition to the traditional buyer persona, you can also add negative personas into the mix, which help you to sharpen that focus even more, taking aim at only those that are most likely to become loyal customers in the future.


So how can you use both positive and negative buyer personas to improve your content’s focus and attract only the right audience?


Your Positive Buyer Persona—How Specific can you Get?


A buyer persona, basically, is a profile, someone that represents the ideal customer for your business. Of course, no two businesses will have the same personas, since each business’s model may be aimed at specific kinds of people.


Let’s look at an example. Let’s say your business sells custom network applications for large corporations, online tools to foster better communication within a large company, as well as within individual teams within that company. What kinds of people would be in you buyer personas?


It wouldn’t be the low-level workers of a company. They don’t have the authority to buy, or even suggest, new company-wide tools. Instead, you’d probably want to focus your marketing efforts on people that would be in a position to purchase, or at least try out, your application packages, higher-level managers or department heads, for example.


You might also target leaders of new tech startups, companies starting small but looking to grow fast, since they should be thinking about communication and project management from the start, and they should be looking for something scalable, something that can grow as they grow.


So your buyer personas in this example would be particular people inside particular kinds of companies. By taking the time to think about how to reach such people, and how to attract them to your content, you’ll be sharpening your focus and making your content much more effective.


What, though, can you accomplish by adding negative buyers personas into the mix?


Your Negative Personas—Audience for the Wrong Reasons


There is incredible variety throughout the human family, and that means that, no matter how specific you are with your buyer personas, you’re likely to attract just as many of the wrong audience as you are the right audience.


After all, if you attract leaders of new startups, not all of them are looking to grow fast. Some new companies plan to maintain less than 20 employees for the foreseeable future. Some department heads in larger companies may not have the authority to purchase your applications, while others will.


And then there are individuals, teams of 5 people or less, or companies that have communication needs that your applications don’t deal with at all. All of these are examples of people that may be attracted by your marketing but aren’t really ideal customers for your business.


By making negative buyer personas, you can basically ask yourself, “Who shouldn’t buy my product? Who is likely to be unsatisfied with my services because they are a bad fit for my business? Who might be signing up for newsletters, mistakenly thinking that my company can help them when, really, all they are doing is increasing our email campaign costs without giving any potential for profit?”


When you have negative buyer personas in place, details on people not right for your products or services, you can create content that attracts the right people but is less likely to attract the wrong people.


Of course, you will always have some clutter, false leads and site visitors that will likely never be paying customers. For example, as a content marketer, haven’t you ever signed up for a newsletter just to see what the email campaigns are like, to learn from fellow marketers? You aren’t a serious lead, but you signed up for other reasons.


You will always have that, and it’s totally okay. But brainstorming phrases and headlines that might trim your tribe, so to speak, cleaning out people the fit your negative buyer personas, you’ll be able to have truer numbers to work from, allowing to better see the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, as well as better predict future profits.


Sharpen Your Focus, Improve Your ROI


Many companies today still use the shotgun approach to content marketing. They focus only on SEO and blindly try to attract anyone even remotely interested in their products or services. The problem with that? They end up spending too much on advertising and marketing pushes because they are pushing to the wrong people just as much as they are to the right people. On top of that, they end up with super inflated numbers when it comes to email signups, site traffic, and free trial downloads because many of the people attracted to their marketing are not really the right fit for their company.


Instead, try sharpening your focus. You’ll spend less on advertising because you’ll be aiming those ads only at the people most likely to want or need the product you offer. You’ll have cleaner numbers because less of your email signups will be from people that are confused and more will be from people that are likely to become opportunities and later paying customers.


Use both positive and negative buyer personas in your marketing strategy, and you’ll see an increase in ROI, a sharper focus, and more effective marketing.


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