News article

Why you should build negative client personas

I’d place a large bet that people who aren’t your ideal client have contacted you. In fact, I’d place an equally large bet that you have taken on clients who weren’t right for your business. Which is why negative client personas are a good idea.

Knowing, and having a deep understanding of the type of client you want to deal with, is fundamental to a successful marketing strategy. This means creating detailed client personas for each of your target groups; something we do for all Yardstick clients.

After all, it’s much easier to target the right people, when you understand, among other things:

  • How they think
  • Their financial and life objectives
  • What motivates and worries them

It’s equally important to know who isn’t the right type of client for your business.

Dealing with multiple enquiries from the wrong type of client is a waste of your time, and your precious marketing budget. Furthermore, if they do slip through the net, there’s a probability they will drain your time, resources and emotions.

As Nick Lincoln of Values to Vision said at BACK2Y: “Be picky.”

The answer?

Creating negative client personas.

What are negative client personas?

These are created using the same methodology as your ‘positive’ personas, except they describe the types of people that your company does not, or can’t work with.

These personas can be used to describe groups of people who:

  • Your products and services are not suitable for
  • Create more issues for the company than benefits
  • Your current skill set, or that of your team, can’t effectively accommodate

How can they be used?

In two ways:

Internally: To make all staff aware of the type of clients you do (and don’t) want to work with, making communication more efficient and focusing on those clients who do match your specifications.

Externally: To ensure your marketing is targeted toward clients who your services will work for, and to gently steer unsuitable clients away from your business and toward a more suitable company or service.

The last part, in our view, is crucial. Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room (and you don’t know who knows whom). Signposting someone who isn’t right for your business, to somewhere they can find the help they need, will leave a positive lasting impression.

Your website

Using the ‘positive’ client personas we always recommend including information about the type of clients you work with on your website.

We also suggest including information about who your service isn’t right for.

It needs to be done with humour, politeness and tact. A blunt “we do not serve your kind here” won’t be well received! Explain:

  • The people you don’t work with
  • Perhaps why you can’t help, and
  • Signpost them on elsewhere

In our experience very few advisers do this, in fact, the only one we can immediately recall is Mr Lincoln himself. You can see how Nick does it by visiting the Values to Vision website.

It’s also worth mentioning the type of clients you don’t work with on your Unbiased and VouchedFor profiles; paying for enquiries from the wrong type of client is annoying and the cost soon mounts up.

A win-win

The focus of your marketing activities should always be on attracting the right type of new client. This is usually enough to deter unsuitable clients. Who, by process of elimination, figure out that your services will not solve their problem.

However, some won’t get that message and there will always be people who prefer to contact you ‘just to check’.
Building and correctly implementing negative client personas in your marketing strategy will help you:

  • Focus your marketing budget
  • Avoid you taking on clients who aren’t right for your business
  • Help consumers find the assistance they need

Neither your time, or that of your website visitors is wasted; providing one of those rare moments when everybody wins.

Stay in touch


Sign up to receive our hints, tips & ideas to improve your marketing.
As you’d expect, we’ll never pass your details to anyone else and if you don’t like what we have to say, you can unsubscribe at any time.