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“Alienate the Non-Prospect” to Truly Dominate Your Market

Is attracting people to your product always a good idea?


No, attracting potential customers isn’t always a good idea because there is a cost to attracting certain prospects.

The Apple ad with mac guy versus the pc guy | alienating the non-prospect

Apple is ok alienating 80%+ of computer prospects (represented by PC/Windows guy on the left) in order to attract hipper prospects like the Mac Guy (on right).


Beware “Tire-Kickers” & “Looky-Loo’s”


  • If a car dealership attracts a lot of prospects, they have to spend a lot of time giving them test-drives. If those prospects are merely “tire-kickers” (aka “looky-loo’s) and not really interested in buying, then valuable time is lost for the salespeople to sell to the real prospects.
  • Some restaurants run Groupon & LivingSocial promos to fill their tables with customers but find out that the customers only want the discount (and never come back to pay full price) —  if done regularly, that sort of move could put the restaurants out of business.
  • An employer with a sexy job description might get 500 resumes; but those applicants must be evaluated by the hiring team and that takes valuable time (and money). Additionally, if the employer is not responsive to applicants, then it will hurt their “employer brand.”

I’m a big fan of Charlie Munger’s and he turned me on to the concept of inversion (which is widely credited to German mathematician Carl Gustav Jacobi who once said: “Invert, always invert” (Jacobi believed that the solution of many hard problems can be clarified by re-expressing them in inverse form).

So, let’s invert the key part of the marketing/sales funnel: Attraction. If you invert the concept of “attracting prospects,” then what do you get?

The inverse of “attract” is “alienate” and the inverse of “prospects” is, well, “non-prospects.”

Alienate The Non-Prospects

So the inverted concept is: “alienating the non-prospects.”

One guy who mastered the concept of alienating the non-prospect was Steve Jobs.

Apple’s Mac Guy versus the PC Guy ads (pictured above) created through TBWA\Media Arts Lab poked fun at PC owners. Specifically, Apple was communicating that Windows PC owners are stuffy & conservative.

But Windows PC owners are 80%+ of all computer users — in effect, Jobs was thumbing his nose at 80%+ of the world.

But that’s ok — he wanted to thoroughly dominate the rest of the market who are willing to pay a premium for Apple’s products because they’re more nicely designed.

He did the same with his 1984 commercial in which he mocked big business and their enslaved/clone-like employees.

The result?

Apple was able to become the most valuable enterprise in the world even though they only own 13%+ market share of computer users.


The Customer is Not Always Right: “No Soup For You!”

Another master of alienating the non-prospect is the fictional “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld.

A “non-prospect” for the Soup Nazi is a character like George Costanza who takes up time asking for his free bread while there’s a long line of soup fans waiting (watch the video above!).

The Soup Nazi is all about speed (and no chit-chat), and he can afford to alienate a customer who is taking up his valuable time (when there are dozens of people waiting in line who agree to order fast).

So, no soup for George!

While fictitious, the Soup Nazi needs to alienate the George Costanzas of the world in order to appeal to his best prospects (the other ones waiting in line who order quickly!).

The Soup Nazi will do just fine without high-maintenance “non-prospects” like George.

Want an example of a real restaurant alienating the non-prospect?

Look no further than Open Table, the online restaurant reservation system. It is free to make a reservation at most restaurants on Open Table, but certain restaurants require a credit card deposit (e.g. $25) that you forfeit if you cancel your reservation.

The “non-prospect” the restaurant is alienating is the the person who cancels often because that can be expensive for the restaurant (they may have turned away better prospects who they have to call back and may even face an empty table).

My chiropractor friend Darci does the same thing with her last-minute cancellations: when I cancel I need to pay a fee — and I applaud her for it!

Say Goodbye to 90+% of Your Potential Customers

I try to alienate the non-prospect when I write about recruiting for our Ongig blog — I try to write each of my headlines to be so specific as to really turn on just about 10% of our readers (knowing full well that 90%+ of our community may not care to read it).

But each article I write ignores a different 90% and after 10 articles, if I’ve done my job, I’ve written something very relevant to 100% of our targeted audience!

You might be saying to yourself: “Rob, this isn’t so new.”

You’re right!

This old marketing/sales 101 saying has been around for a long time:

“If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll be nothing to no one.”

And the best sales people qualify their leads so that they are focused on the best prospects.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs and businesses still ignore it.

And in a world of  10’s of millions of businesses competing for 7 billion people’s money, alienating the non-prospect is never more important.

If you alienated 99% of the world’s population, you’d still have 70 million customers!

Which prospects of yours are you alienating?

Note:  In a future post, I’ll cover the related concept of specificity. If you want a little taste, go check out the book Positioning by Al Ries & Jack Trout (it’s #13 on my Top 20 Business Book of All Time); or see my recent post, “A Long List of Words in Our Brains That Brands Own”, for examples of Positioning; or my recent speech to the American Marketing Association on Personal Branding.