The Anti-persona: Define What Your Business is Not

Filling a negative space can be a positive for your business

Anti-pasto is the first dish of an Italian meal, just before the pasta: maybe olives, prosciutto.  Anti-matter is precisely opposite of matter: it and matter annihilate one another.  But what is an anti-persona (otherwise known as an anti-buyer persona)?

An anti-persona, an idea that seems to spring from, is a way of defining what you are not to your customers.  The first question might be: why do this?  Here are a few quick ideas:

  • Letting your customers know that you don’t take photos of sports teams or sell above-ground pools can save you the time of answering e-mail queries that can’t possibly lead to a sale.
  • Defining what you are not is a savvy way of conveying to your customers what you indeed are. Many people respond well to this sort of “negative space” defining, as in we’re NOT McDonald’s, etc.  It’s as good an illustration as any.
  • Defining what you are not is a good way of reminding yourself of your mission just as much as it defines customer expectations.  If the construction work you do is high-end and always uses the finest materials for those willing to pay for them, defining this is a good way for you to stay on task and resist the temptation to do some quick jobs with the cheap stuff.

Sometimes a business expresses its anti-persona in a web page expressly for that purpose.  This allows for other portions of the web page to remain uncluttered, and allowing for inquisitive would-be customers to choose that information.  You have the option of sending customers or clients to the page before you close the deal just to be sure.

Working with the wrong clients will not help your reputation, your blood pressure, your work-life balance, or your business’s overall success.  Doing so too often can warp your business’s scope, design, and direction.  You’ll end up as a sellout.

However, sometimes it’s not so easy as the client just being “wrong.”  If you are doing something such as a professional service, hand-crafted products, musical performance, etc., sometimes the customer can conceive of what you do in a way that doesn’t accord with what you can deliver.  Thus, an anti-persona can help clear up possible misconceptions and help foster proper expectations.  This is different from scaring someone away, and that’s why I use the term anti-persona rather than anti-buyer persona.

Could it be that defining yourself in such a way might bring in more customers than a traditional approach?  In a world in which most businesses lunge for customers, sometimes coming across as coy in so doing, imagine how you will present yourself by saying, “hey, we might not be right for you.”  I once had this experience with a particular religion: we might not be right for you as opposed to you must go our way it is the only way.  It’s a refreshing approach that draws people in.

Or maybe the anti-buyer persona draws its strength from being so darn contrary.  Doing what others don’t often creates an excellent company as opposed to a pretty good one.  It certainly sets you apart.  So pull up a plate of anti-pasto and go to town.