Data-Driven Anti-Personas and Why You Need Them

Personas for Your Core Segments

Organizations often create personas for enhancing customer understanding concerning products and services, including primary and secondary personas (i.e., primary personas are key target segment; secondary personas are customers that are not represented by the primary persona. Secondary personas are still customers but lower down the list).

Persona analytics is great for this type of data-driven persona creation.

What are Anti-Personas?

Typically, a product or service addresses the specific needs or desires of targeted customer segments. However, businesses seldom cater to all customers or all segments.

In fact, there are often people who you do NOT want to be your customers, and you specifically do not want to target.

This is the situation where you need to design anti-personas. Anti-personas are humanized representations of the segments that are ALMOST your customers but not quite.

Anit-Personas are ALMOST your customers but not quite
Anti-Personas are ALMOST your Customers but not Quite

The anti-personas represent the people you specifically do NOT want using your product or service. They are ‘anti’ because your product or service will most likely never be a good fit.

Anti-personas look similar to your target customers, but they have some variation that makes your product or service not a good fit. The members of these anti-persona segments are missing at least one critical attribute that would make them your customer, although they have all the other attributes.

In fact, those within this anti-segment often think they are your customers, even though they are not.

Examples of Anti-Persona Situations

There are a couple of examples of situations where you need anti-personas.

Example 1: You are a marketing agency that does search engine marketing (SEM) for Fortune 1000 companies. These Fortune 1000 companies often have monthly spends in the tens of thousands of US dollars. A small business owner may have the exact SEM needs as your Fortune 1000 companies but nowhere near the monthly spent. The small business owner is almost your customer but not quite – the monthly spend is too low.

Example 2: You are a company that designs image editing software for independent graphical artists. A large design firm may have the same image editing needs as independent graphical artists, but the commercial demands of a large design firm are widely different from independent consultants. The users at the large design firm are almost your customers but not quite – the workflow is too different.

How to Create Anti-Personas

Persona analytics is excellent for creating data-driven anti-personas.

Here is a straightforward process for creating anti-personas.

Step 1: Create your primary and secondary personas

Step 2: List all attributes of each of the primary and secondary personas

Step 3: Prioritize the attributes of each primary and secondary persona (i.e., rank the attributes by importance in making that persona your customer) and identify the critical attributes (i.e., these are core attributes that make this persona our customer).

Step 4: Start at the highest-ranked critical attribute and ask, “If this attribute is missing or changed significantly, would this persona still be our customer?”

Step 5: If the answer to any critical attribute in Step 4 is ‘yes’, i.e., the change would cause the persona not to be your customer, you have identified a potential anti-personas.

Step 6: Remove or change that attribute as needed, which generates the anti-persona profile.

For example, using our marketing agency from Example 1 above, a critical primary persona attribute would be ‘monthly spend in the $10K+ range’. The anti-persona would have identical or similar other attributes as the primary persona, but the anti-persona would have a critical attribute of ‘monthly spend less than $10K’. Almost your customer, but not quite.

Benefits of Having Anti-Personas

Anti-personas have many benefits, including:

  • Generate Focus: Your team can direct resources, like energy, to your primary and secondary personas by knowing the anti-personas.
  • Save Time: Your team can spend their time on the primary and secondary personas if they know the anti-personas, as it’s easy to be diverted by a ‘customer’ that is ‘almost right‘.
  • Improve Service: By focusing on the primary and secondary personas, your team can provide better services in the areas in which they are good. Customer focus!
  • Minimize Disappointment: If you try to make an anti-persona a customer, it will likely end in disappointment and negative reviews of your company. No matter how much you try, your product or service will not please the anti-persona.
  • Target Customer Marketing and Advertising: Providing anti-personas to your marketing, advertising, social media, and PR teams can help them tailor their messages to the appropriate customer segment. As personas are great for communication, you won’t spend a lot of time explaining your customer focus to the marketing and advertising folks.

Pro Tip for Making Money with Anti-Personas

One way to leverage these anti-personas to generate revenue.

  • Do a competitive analysis of similar firms.
  • Find a company that offers a product or service that each of these anti-personas WOULD fit with.
  • Establish a business partnership or lead referral agreement with these companies.
  • Direct your anti-persona customers to these companies.
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