A marketer’s interpretation of the classic bad-fit customer tale.

Hey, Romeo. Ben here. Listen. I’ve signed us up to scope out this conference later tonight. My buddy Pete accidentally emailed me the delegate list — let’s just say I was not supposed to see it — and believe me, dozens of qualified prospects will be attending. We’ll basically have our pick of potential buyers.

It should be easy to generate some qualified leads to call – in fact, I’ll go with you to screen out non-buyers so you can pay attention to real targets. We’ll just identify the attendees that match our buyer persona, and focus strictly on them.

bad-fit customers - romeo and juliet1

Buyer Persona – Montague Industries

  • Demographic – single female
  • Age – low-mid-20s
  • Profession – socialite
  • Location – Verona (and surrounding)
  • Earning power, hereditary – high
  • Equivalent beauty, expressed as frequency seen by sun since first the world begun – ne’er
  • What keeps her up at night – lack of a suitor
  • Purchasing authority – moderate influence
  • Approval requirement – parents

There are literally dozens of people on the guest list that match the profile. We won’t even need to approach them right away – just scope them out, and we can follow up with them later. That should save you from going too far down the wrong path again with bad-fit customers like Rosaline.

A fair mark is soonest hit

I mean come on. Really, Romeo? Rosaline? It’s one thing for you to spend a meeting or a call probing to find out whether she’s at the right stage in the buying process for a discussion.

But it’s entirely another—even after our win/loss analysis interview, when she as much as swore that she’d rather die than ever give you the sale—for you to insist on still going after her.

Might she have changed her mind—someday? Well, sure. But that’s exactly why we put people that might turn into qualified leads into a nurture sequence for a few months. It’s either that, or waste your valuable resources to call on her every day, throwing incentives at her, getting a no again and again, and then moping around the sycamore grove about it afterward.

(Apologies for the insider jargon. Over here in marketing, we call your weekly forecast call “moping around the sycamore grove” whenever someone has to admit to the regional VP that you lost a big deal, out loud in front of all your fellow sales reps.)

But back to the conference later tonight. Let’s get aligned on our strategy.

What’s in a lead?

First, speaking from experience, don’t let that territory VAR, Lawrence, get involved. I mean his heart is in the right place, he always wants to do the right thing (the guys in biz dev call him “Friar,” right to his face) but seriously. He thinks any passerby whose badge you scan at a trade show is a qualified lead. Even if it’s someone who represents the competition!

(Hey, that reminds me. Can you stop asking Angelica in HR to have all her LinkedIn connections sign up to download our gated content? Before she worked here, she had a job in nursing, an industry we’re not even targeting, and now she keeps trying to “help” by crowbarring all her old contacts into our pipeline. The whole reason for that form is to screen out the bad-fit customers!)

Look, Romeo—I know it makes our lead metrics go up, but just because someone gives us their emails doesn’t mean they’re actual customers.

Tell me not, for I have heard it all

Here’s something else: please, please don’t get Sales Engineering involved too soon in the conversation.

Granted, our own Mercutio is the best SE in the business. You gotta admire the guy – no matter who we go up against, he is never intimidated by the competition (even the big guys). Someone whispers ”Feature Shootout” and Merc’s like “hold my beer.”

It’s kind of dazzling to watch (and he’s really, really good), but to open with a litany of features? At the introductory stage? You’re asking this guy to waste all his talents for nothing. (And it’s even more brutal when the other demo guy is just as flashy. Nobody wins.)

Here’s the thing—you’ve got the opportunity to use something those three don’t have: a whole bunch of customer research—in a buyer persona that you can actually identify, locate, and qualify, and whose problems you already know you can solve. There’s almost no guessing. And there’s no chance of another Rosaline coming down the pipe to screw up your close ratio.

True, I talk of dreams

What’s even better is that at tonight’s event, I’ve already found a good dozen or so people on the attendee list that are direct matches. I predict you’ll hit your whole year’s quota if you can move just three or four of these to the next stage.

In fact, from what I saw there’s only maybe one attendee, two tops, that you need to steer clear of.

Like that junior associate from Capulet. They’re not even in the market yet, will not be ready to buy for another 24 months or so, and I’ve heard the only reason she’s showing up at all is because the owners told her to check out one of the competitors for a future purchase.

Don’t waste your time. I know people like this. They deliberately drain your attention for what will seem like the rest of your life, just because they don’t like management telling them how to do their job.

bad-fit customers romeo and juliet2

And the sacrifices you’ll have to make just to keep a bad-fit customer like this engaged! Yes, they’re enticing to bring on board from a customer acquisition standpoint.

But supporting customers like this is expensive, in every way. Demanding special attention. Orchestrating non-standard service. Reactively going through hoops.

And don’t even talk to me about getting the economic buyer on board — it’ll never happen. It’s doomed from the start.

Anyway, you, Merc, and I will head over there a little early to pick up our badges. Don’t worry if there’s any confusion—I had to kind of finagle our way onto the guest list. Just play it cool. Stick with the personas.

And stay away from the Capulet people. It will be a zero-sum game. Selling to bad-fit customers never ends well for anyone.

Ben V.