The success of your business can depend on how much you know your target audience.
Would the same person who buys high-end trendy fashion be the same as the person who prefers affordability and comfort? (Think about the difference between the person who wears Juicy Couture versus the Old Navy stalwart.)
Or would a person who grabs a quick black coffee be the same as the one who goes out of her way for an iced mocha with whipped cream? (Think about the difference between Dunkin' Donuts fans and Starbucks lovers).
Each buyer has different preferences. Marketers know this and have developed “buyer personas,” a system they use to identify their ideal customer.
Ruth Morrison of What’s the 411 Networks, writes that a buyer persona “goes beyond the simple demographics of age, gender, ethnicity, education and income. It incorporates behavior, the challenges and/or pain points in their lives, businesses or relationships. The buyer persona is an example or composite of a customer who represents a particular group of buyers. You can use it to better understand what motivates customers to choose your products or services and how to persuade them to choose your company rather than a competitor or the status quo.”
But according to Marcus Sheridan, sales guru who writes on The Sales Lion, it’s not enough to define who you’re selling to. In fact, he believes it may be more important to define exactly who you’re not trying to sell to.
“Everyone” has never been your customer and never will be, Sheridan claims. We all have customers we know aren't good fits and who, he says, “will never buy from us because we frankly are not the best option for them.”
Sheridan has dubbed this the buyer anti-persona.
Six Benefits of Defining Anti-Personas
There are significant advantages to defining your buyer anti-persona, including:
1. You develop trust. People are more likely to trust you if they know you’re upfront and willing to say you’re not the best solution for their needs. As Sheridan points out, the moment you do that, two lines form. One line is the people who immediately leave, because they know you don’t offer what they're looking for. But the other line, Sheridan say, is those who “now firmly believe they’ve come to the right place.”
By defining what you’re not good at and who you don’t serve, you become the trust agent in your space.
2. You save time. The prospect has now self-qualified, and unqualified prospects tend to leave. You in turn can spend more time with qualified prospects.
In the same way you post your products and services on your website and in marketing materials to draw in potential customers, posting what you don’t do pushes back buyers who aren’t a good fit for your business.
If you specialize in fiberglass above-ground swimming pools, customers need to know you not only offer fiberglass pools, but you don’t offer concrete pools. For customers who are in limbo about what they need, offering side-by-side comparisons can help them decide if your business is the right fit or if they should move on.
Then you have no need to cope with direct messages on Twitter about concrete pools, copious email queries or time-wasting phone calls.
3. You provide better service by sticking to what you're good at. Most business owners have had a bad customer or client. Looking back, what made that person difficult to deal with?
Chances are, at least a few of those individuals were not “bad customers” so much as they were disappointed customers. And they may have been disappointed because they were a bad fit for your company and didn’t have a clear picture of what you had to offer, and what you didn’t.
The anti-persona allows you to create more “good customers” by weeding out those who don’t fit into what you do best.
4. You develop loyalty, referrals and repeat business. When customers enter into business with you based on clear expectations and communication, they're much more likely to come back or refer others.
Obviously, a customer who walks away from an experience feeling they’ve been used, lied to or let down won’t be doing business with you again and clearly won’t recommend your business to others. Worse yet, they may warn people to avoid you altogether.
5. It’s easier to preserve a positive online reputation. Speaking of warnings, popular review websites like Yelp are filled with reviews from customers complaining that a certain establishment advertised one thing but gave them another.
There are many ways for a business to combat negative online reviews, but the most obvious method is communicating clearly upfront. Say what you mean and mean what you say. You’ll be less likely to see yourself portrayed in a bad light online due to miscommunication.
6. You stay focused. Defining who you are not is also a great way to stay true to your mission statement and business goals.
It keeps you from veering in the wrong direction, through the need for quick cash or team members who commit without realizing they shouldn’t have. For example, if you run a pet store that sells only natural organic products, an anti-persona may prevent you from giving in to the temptation to special-order cheaper, lower-quality pet food.
It’s not just a benefit for you, but also for your team. They may not be as clear on your mission as you think. By defining specifically who the business does not serve, the team has a clearer idea of the mission. Nothing is left to interpretation.
How to Define Your Anti-Persona
Sheridan recommends setting up a website page dedicated to who you aren’t. On it, you specify what you don’t do or don’t sell, and which customers are a good fit and which are a bad fit for your company. He calls it a “bad fit” page.
Highlight what you have to offer in an uncluttered way by putting it on a single page. Link to this page, to take potential customers directly to the information they're seeking.
Take the time with your team to define your bad fits, and what goes on this page.
The truth is that you may simply have fewer failures in business to contend with if you’re only serving the people who match your time, talents and products. You and your team may feel more successful, too, because you’ll be delivering inside your comfort zone, and not something new all the time or something you’re not good at. Not only is that encouraging, but it also allows you to offer consumers a genuine portfolio of positive testimonials and case studies.
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