Everything Marketers Need to Know About Creating Exclusionary Personas

Corey Wainwright
Corey Wainwright



You know those people who poke around your website for hours? Download every lead generation offer you have? Comment on every blog post you write? 'Like' every Facebook update you've ever posted?

exclusionary personas

They are sooo gonna be a customer.

Except they might not be. What they might be is a lookey-loo. Or a fan-girl. Or someone with no budget. Or a student dreaming about their future job. Or a reader who just thinks you're really funny.

What I'm trying to say is, sometimes, despite every single indicator otherwise, some leads will never, ever buy. And if you spend precious sales and marketing resources trying to convert that segment of your audience into customers, you'll end up with two things: a closed lost and a bummed out attitude.

But you can sidestep this problem -- by creating some exclusionary personas for your business. "Exclusionary personas?" you may be muttering ... "What on earth are those?" So glad you asked! Let me write a blog post to explain.

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What's an Exclusionary Persona?

To explain what an exclusionary persona is -- sometimes also called a "negative" persona -- let's first briefly revisit the definition of a buyer persona. A buyer persona is an archetype of who your ideal customer is. It helps you identify who they are and what matters to them so you can market and sell to them more effectively. You create an exclusionary persona to do, essentially, the exact opposite; that is to say that exclusionary personas are archetypes of who you don't want as a customer that will help you identify who you should not spend time marketing and selling to.

Why Should You Create Exclusionary Personas?

Now, when I say you shouldn't spend time marketing or selling to these less-than-ideal customers, a little clarification is in order. That isn't to say that you shouldn't retweet their content if it's good. Or engage with them on Facebook if they post a good comment. Or thank them for commenting on your blog post. It's still important to grow your reach, even if some of them will never buy -- if you don't believe that, just read this blog post.

What I mean is that some leads just aren't a good fit for your business. Here are some reasons why:

  • They may never actually buy your product or service.
  • They may become a customer, but they were an inordinately expensive customer to acquire.
  • They may become a customer, but you never recoup the costs of acquiring them because of a low average sale price, their propensity to churn, or their unlikeliness to purchase again from your company.

So while you can still engage with those who fall into your exclusionary persona bucket (and absolutely should -- they could still be influencers, after all), you don't want to spend significant sales and marketing budget converting them into leads and customers. If you have identified who these people are, however, you can quickly segment them out from the rest of your buyer personas, achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer, and see higher sales productivity as a result.

Walking Through the Creation of an Exclusionary Persona

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you might need an exclusionary persona for your company. But how do you create one? Let's make up a fake company -- we'll go with HR Solutions Galore -- and a fake exclusionary persona to show you how to create one for your company. To ensure you really understand how the exclusionary persona relates to the buyer persona, let's review who this company's ideal buyer persona is first. We can grab Sample Sally from our persona creation PowerPoint template as the archetype of who HR Solutions Galore wants to sell to:

Sample sally Persona

Her biggest challenges are rolling out her initiatives to the entire company without hiccups, and to do that, she desperately needs help from a software company that can help her manage all of her employee data in one place. Right now, it's kind of a jumbled mess and she doesn't have the technological wherewithal to fix it. Even worse, she needs to somehow integrate all of that data with existing systems in legal and finance. Managing data and people in other departments? It's quite a pain in the toosh, to say the least.

Feel like you know Sample Sally a little bit better now? Great. Now, who else might come into HR Solutions Galore's lead queue who looks like a good fit, but in reality, ends up being a total bust?

Our fake exclusionary persona, Legalese Leonard! Instead of giving you the brief summary like we did above, let's break down exactly what kind of information your exclusionary persona would include by showing you how you'd fill in the persona template.

Fill in Basic Demographic Information


exclusionary persona

Pay special attention to the "Identifiers" section. This is how your sales team will know when they've hooked a Lenny -- or your exclusionary persona equivalent -- so they don't invest copious amounts of time trying to close the deal.

Provide Some Sample Indicators for Your Sales Team


negative persona example resized 600


If a salesperson doesn't identify an exclusionary persona right away, it's helpful to provide some more meaty indicators that they've snagged a live one. As their conversation continues, they'll be able to better identify some of the common objections unique to your exclusionary persona, and may even recognize something that sounds pretty similar to the direct quotes you've listed.

Fill in Your Exclusionary Persona's Motivators


negative persona resized 600

Pay particular attention to that last section, "How We Help." Even if you're not selling directly to your exclusionary persona, they may still work within your buyer persona's organization. That means you have to be able to put their concerns at ease with your buyer persona, too, and your buyer persona may have inklings of this persona's problems themselves.

Gathering Data to Fill in Your Exclusionary Persona

You may be wondering ... where do I get all this information? The same way you got the information when you developed your buyer personas -- by interviewing, surveying, and talking to leads, customers, and former customers. In fact, former customers are one of the best places to start! If you're using closed-loop analytics, you can also reach out to those leads and customers who exhibit the behaviors we outlined in the second section of this blog post -- "Why Should You Create Exclusionary Personas?" -- to see if they have any common qualities.

For example, you might interview a sample of customers who closed, but with a very low average sale price. Or perhaps you could speak with some customers with very low customer satisfaction scores, which might be an indication they were never really a proper fit for your company. And perhaps one of the easiest buckets of people to interview due to their sheer enthusiasm for your brand -- you could get in touch with your biggest fans! You know, the ones who download your content incessantly, click through all your emails, and engage with you in social media ... and have been doing so for years without ever converting into a customer. You can bet they'll be pumped to talk to you, and you can learn a lot about them that might help you figure out why they aren't a good fit for your product or service.

As you pick out some of your less-than-ideal leads and customers and learn more about them, you'll identify common characteristics and habits that will help you shape your exclusionary personas. If you need help with the process, reference our blog post, "Everything Marketers Need to Research & Create Detailed Buyer Personas" for a refresher.

Have you created exclusionary personas for your business yet?

Blog - Buyer Persona Template [Updated]

Image credit: themonnie

Topics: Buyer Personas

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