Master Inbound

What is an Exclusionary Buyer Persona - and How Do I Create One?
What is an Exclusionary Buyer Persona - and How Do I Create One?

Buyer personas are the absoulte heart of Inbound efforts - they dictate all aspects of how we position, promote, and foster advocacy for our brand. But there's one kind of persona who doesn't build our business, and who we actually want to avoid targeting. These are what we call exclusionary personas.

If you've ever created (or are working on creating) a buyer persona, you know that they take work.

Complete buyer personas require cross communication between sales and marketing teams, analysis of your customer database, and organizing a lot of information into a concise summary. These time and energy investments are worthwhile since they pay off in the form of an in-depth understanding of your ideal customers and a guide to your communication efforts.

On the other hand, exclusionary personas are a profile of the individuals who are not a fit for our business. We don't need to optimize our communication to satisfy their goals, we don't have to focus on converting them, and we don't have to go out of our way to be found by them.

I'm busy. Why bother?

I know what you're thinking. Why would we put forth effort into creating personas of the people we don't want to sell to? Why not simply pursue the desirable and ignore the irrelevant?

The answers to these questions lie in one of the most loved benefits of employing an Inbound strategy, which is the ability to save time. Seems counter-intuitive since we know building personas takes time, but stick with me.

By creating complete exclusionary personas, you provide your sales and marketing departments with key traits which signify an individual is not a fit for your services. In turn, they know not to exert effort and allocate resources toward converting and selling to those individuals. Less effort spent trying to sell = less time wasted.

Is it all coming together now? 

Good! Let's talk about reasons someone might be a non-ideal target for your business:

  • They won't buy your product. Period.
    It could be that they're researchers, it could be that they're actually your competition doing some poking around, it could be a multitude of other things. At the end of the day, the cash register won't be ringing.

  • They will buy your product, but it won't be profitable for your business.
    This persona often strikes when the price is the lowest, costs a LOT to acquire (via promotions or marcom) and requires a disproportionate amount of attention from your team.

  • They're looking for a product you used to offer, but no longer do. 
    It's natural for a business to change to meet the evolving needs of their customers or abilities of their team. When you eliminate a product or service from your rotation, there will be an inevitable time frame where individuals still come to you looking for that offering. Identifying them is crucial to saving time and hassle as much for your team as them.

Looking at these scenarios, it's important to bear in mind that personas look like one person ("CMO Clint") but actually represent the collective traits of a group (several CMOs who demonstrate similar mannerisms). Thus, don't use one poor experience as a reason to build and exclude a persona. Exclusionary personas should only be implemented when the individuals who fall into the profile are continuously causing a process issue for your company.

Alright, alright... I'm Convinced. How Do I Make One?

If you do reach a point where an exclusionary persona could be beneficial to your strategy, you actually build them in the exact same way you would a buyer persona. Key points include:

  • Demographic information
    • Age, household income
    • Education level
    • General urban or suburban lifestyle)
  • Psychographic information
    • Family structure
    • Hobbies outside work
    • Talents, etc
  • Professional information
    • Job title(s)
    • Size of company they work for
    • Nature of company or industry they work in
    • Pain points on the job
    • Direct reports or key decision makers above them
    • Goals related or unrelated to your service/product
  • Buying information
    • Where do they get information from (personal or professional)?
    • What problems does your business solve for them?
    • What might potentially keep them from choosing your company?
    • What are their personal main objections to your company?
    • Include real quotes and scenarios you have encountered with this persona

Whew, that's a lot of bullet points! With all of this information (or as much as possible) organized and condensed from the multiple sources you used to acquire it, you're ready to put it into action.

Just like a standard buyer persona, organize the information to paint a rhetorical picture rather than read like a list. This could be in PPT, Word, or any other publishing tool which allows you to tell a visual and verbal story. Include as many real life references (without mentioning individuals) as possible, and don't forget to add an image which represents your persona. 

Once your exclusionary persona is complete, it can be added to your existing collection of buyer personas. Naturally, you'll need to meet with your teams and explain the purpose of the exclusion to ensure they understand the goals. When they encounter these individuals, they'll know to avoid allocating resources and precious time towards attempting to make the sale. The more detail you can provide them, the better.

Now that you've collected the information, created a persona, and implemented it into your strategy, you may feel quite accomplished. And bravo, you are!

However, there's still one big question to consider...

What Do I Do With Those Excluded Leads?

Just because someone isn't a fit for your offering doesn't mean they're gum on your shoe. Quite the opposite, individuals who fall into your exclusionary categorization today could become customers down the road or at the very least good stewards of your brand.

To ensure you're excluding people without actually making them feel excluded, build out a process for managing unqualified leads.

One option is to enroll them in a much less intensive lead nurturing program, such as an automated email workflow which sends them content of interest but doesn't aggressively aim to convert. This requires little effort on your behalf, and positions your brand as a resource and friend. Regardless of whether or not someone is buying from you, those are two invaluable things to be.

Furthermore, going back to our observation that businesses change over time, this individual could potentially become a fit if you shift your offering or they shift their buying process. Should that day ever come, what better way to step into the future than with a pool of leads who are familiar with your business and enjoy your content?

If you need some motivation for holding on to them, just cue up the Rick Astley: 

Shannon Good
Shannon Good

Shannon is a passionate Inbound Marketing Specialist at Savvy Panda, a web design and marketing firm focused on crafting unique strategies to build businesses through earned and owned attention.

After graduating from Colorado State University with a Bachelor's in Communication Studies, Shannon developed a passion for digital media while working in online advertising. Since then, she has happily transitioned into the Inbound realm where she enjoys utilizing social media communication, content creation, and community building to achieve excellence. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and 



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