What is ‘Repel Marketing’ and why does Gary Vee swear so much?


What is ‘Repel Marketing’?

In a nutshell, it’s the art of repelling people who do NOT fit the description of your ‘ideal Client avatar’.

(I must admit one thing: I did not invent the term ‘repel marketing’ myself. A friend of mine has recently recommended a podcast by Elizabeth Hartke (‘Scaling up’) to me – and – to be honest, the first two episodes didn’t really resonate with me. I was so intrigued by the title of the most recent one – ‘Repel Marketing – Attract & Convert Your Ideal Client’ so much though, I gave Liz another chance. )

And why is it so important?

As a beginner entrepreneur, you may be tempted to ‘target anyone who has a pulse’ (as Elizabeth HardKey said in her podcast) – just to get some sales in.

But let me warn you – much as you may get some quick cash in, this will backfire against you SO badly in the long term. Let’s analyse the reasons why + discuss some case studies of my clients.

The opposite of ‘repel marketing’ – the mistake most beginner businesses make

So you’re putting your offer out there – say, you have an email marketing tool. Or you’re offering ‘business coaching’.
And if I asked you for whom, you would probably reply along the lines of ‘for entrepreneurs’ or ‘for small business’ owners.
This is pretty much one step away from saying ‘everyone’.

Would you like to date someone knowing only they are ‘an entrepreneur’? No? Of course not. So why are you so general in the description of your target client? You will be spending a *lot* of time with them. Probably more than with your date.
So what are you doing when the ‘entrepreneur’ enters your wide-eyed net?

You do anything they want you to do. You keep adding services to your offer, and accommodating, just to make sure that client stays with you.

And – to make it worse – you allow the client to negotiate prices.

Results for your business?

– You’re spreading yourself too thinly and can’t really specialise in anything
– You can’t develop reliable systems of consistently delivering the same top-quality if you are doing bespoke services for each client
– You don’t have the resources to market all these different services to all the different target customers, and, as a result – your marketing message is very general and diluted.
– You work with people who see you as their servant – and who don’t appreciate your work and the quality of your service. If your rates are negotiable, it sends the client the signal that they were not really worth the original price.

Ok, let’s focus on the reasons why you really need repel marketing:

The 5 reasons why not applying ‘repel marketing’ backfires:


1. You will dilute your marketing message

As Gary Vee said ‘one of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is going broad rather than going deep’.


If you’re trying to target everyone, your marketing message will be very general and just ‘blah’. Nobody wants to read ‘blah’ content that does not resonate with *them* personally. Them as individuals. That speaks to *them* as if you were best buddies.
If you’re casting your net far and wide, you may be afraid of putting some people off, so you’ll switch your personality off as well.
This will result in attracting the *wrong* clients and repelling the ones you really want to serve, the ones who would be your raving fans if you let them.
Do you know why Gary Vaynerchuk swears so much in his content and why he refuses to speak at events that require him to use politically ‘correct’ language?


He does not want to compromise on his real self and does not want to speak to people who do not accept his as he is. (hear more about it in the podcast below)

Your personality or communication style is putting some people off? Great! You don’t want to work with them anyway!

Remember Steve Jobs’ words? ‘If you are trying to please everyone – don’t run a business, sell ice cream.’

2. The clients will be running your business, not you

Don’t try to meet your clients’ every need. Don’t try to accommodate their every whim – or you will find yourself in a position where the client is calling the shots and telling you what to do as if you were their employee. Surely that’s not what you want in your own business?

3. Your business will not be scalable

If you’re doing everything, you can’t be *really* good at anything. And if you do mostly bespoke services and can’t develop reliant systems of consistently delivering the same top-quality, you will not be able to outsource the work you are doing. As a result, you will be trapped in hustling in your business yourself forever and will never be able to scale.

‘Hiring’ your perfect client, firing the bad ones

View your clients the way you view your employees: they need to comply with your standards and have the right qualities. They need to fit your company culture. You need to actually enjoy working with them and see eye-to-eye.

Treat each sales call as a job interview.

Have a list of ‘requirements’ for your perfect ‘client candidate’ ready. Both for the sales calls, and for your website.
Repel leads that do not fit your ‘ideal client’ description. You won’t enjoy working with them, and they will probably feel unhappy working with you. So, at the end of the day, it will be a lose-lose situation – and they may even leave bad reviews or refuse to pay you and cause a lot of hassle and drama.

How to implement ‘Repel Marketing’ in your strategy?

I rarely get the change to advise people on how to turn off their customers. This is the time though!

1. Know your ‘Magda’

Show them compassion. Show them the way. Show them you understand them.

Magda is a 33-year old weight loss coach. She’s tall, slim, likes discovering new healthy recipes, doing yoga and meeting with her girlfriends. After having her first baby two years ago, Magda struggled to regain her pre-baby shape. However, after months of work with her personal trainer and eating a healthy diet, she lost tons of weight and gained not only a new, toned body but also new confidence. She decided not to go back to her much-hated corporate job as a senior customer service advisor in a large bank and retrain as a nutritionist to help other women get back in shape after pregnancy and regain the lost confidence and identity. She’s created three different one-to three-month post-partum nutrition and training plans for women, depending on how much weight they need to lose. She was very excited to start this new business and finally felt (for the first time in her life, it seemed) that it was her true calling.

When things don’t work…

But after spending $2,500 on a website, husting several hours a day sharing content on social media and not really getting the results she was hoping for when she started she began to lose confidence herself. She’s been running her business for 6 months now and have only had two clients, both of whom had been referred to her by her friends. She’s been thinking of hiring a marketing agency to help her, but the $ 5000 monthly fee totally put her off. Same with business coaches, whose rates start at thousands of dollars for a few weeks’ programmes.

Magda doesn’t know what to do.

Her husband, Mark, who’s a branch manager at the bank where she used to work (and where they met), is patient but has already asked her a few times if she’s planning to go back to work after Lizzie (their daughter) goes to a nursery school. She’s feeling frustrated and doesn’t know what she’s doing wrong – she’s been posting photos of her healthy meals and workouts on Instagram every day for the last few months, but her follower count seems to stay level at a few hundred followers.

Magda’s been also publishing new recipes and workouts on her blog almost every day, but hardly anyone seems to visit the website she’s invested so much into. She’s been going live on her Facebook page a few times, but only her friends seemed to watch it. And she’s been posting her content in a few Facebook groups, but didn’t get any clients and got banned from a few groups for it, which discouraged her even further. She’s been reading a lot about social media marketing online but doesn’t have a consistent strategy and is feeling like she’s falling through the cracks. Maybe doing business is not for her? Maybe she should really throw in the towel and go back to her old job at the bank?

You may now be thinking…who the f…. is Magda? And why am I telling you about her?!

Magda is my ‘ideal client avatar’.

This step is often brushed off as ‘fluff’ and neglected by new business owners.

And the results are dire.

To give you a more graphic example of why failing to profile your ‘ideal client’ really well is super-harmful for your business, let’s analyse some case studies of my clients:

1. An email marketing app

App X has been around for 10 years but still does not know who their target customer is. If asked the question, the CEO will just reply ‘a small business owner who uses email marketing’. They have a large client base, but don’t really know who they are or how they are using the app. They are missing some key functionalities that the market leaders have, but still – it doesn’t seem to turn their customers off.

As a result of not knowing whom they are targeting or how their customers are using their app, they are starting a project to ‘fix’ certain issues and add more functionalities that will allow them to catch up with the market leaders. They are focusing on their weaknesses, instead of improving on their strengths as a result.

Their marketing is generic and even though their content is driving traffic, the traffic is mostly not converting – it does not convey the key competitive advantage of their product, and as a result – the educated customer who is already using similar apps does not feel any need to switch.

Consequences: a lot of money is being thrown out of the window: improvements that may not be that important for their existing clients, and ineffective marketing that is not attracting a similar client avatar who would be happy with the existing version of the tool.


2. A social media management app

A very similar case.
A generalist tool, targeting ‘everyone who needs social media scheduling’ – which can mean everything between a massive public-listed company and a self-employed Virtual Assistant.
General, meh marketing, that doesn’t clearly stress why the lead should choose them rather than Buffer or Hootsuite.
As a result of having no idea whom they are targeting, app Y has no proper content strategy, and only about 0.01% of their content is actually driving any traffic.

Consequences: again, throwing money out of the window.


Conclusion: if you don’t know whom you’re targeting, you will be inevitably diluting your marketing

2. Show your true colours (personality marketing)

If you show your real personality and the people behind your brand, you will attract the clients with whom you will really see eye to eye.
As a result, it will be much easier to work with them and both of you will enjoy it more.
Having the same communication style is critical in any setup. So don’t ignore it – and don’t hide your true colours for fear of repelling the people who may not appreciate.

3. Believe in yourself and don’t discount yourself

As Grant Cardone said ‘if you’re not sold on your product, you shouldn’t be selling it’. If you want to make your business sustainable, you should believe in the value of your product or service without any doubt – and never reduce the price of your first sale just because the client is asking for it.
If you discount yourself once, it will give the client a signal you don’t really believe in the value of your service/ product.

4. Be a no-man – don’t accommodate your client’s every need

Do you know the film ‘Yes man’ with Jim Carrey? About a guy who decides to say ‘yes’ to absolutely everything after attending a ‘life changing’ seminar?

Don’t be that guy.

When a client comes with a need you cannot fulfil with your existing offer – say ‘no.’ You either have a product that fulfils their need or you reject them. Simple. Not so simple for service business owners though. Which is probably what sabotages their business most.

Imagine you own a pizza place and someone comes in and says ‘I’d like to order Pad Thai’. You don’t normally do Pad Thai, you don’t have the ingredients in stock, your cook has no clue about Thai cuisine etc. etc.

What do you do?

a) Run to the nearest store to buy the ingredients, and frantically google ‘How to make Pad Thai’


b) Tell the potential customer it’s a pizza place (and to eff off, or learn to read)?

As a product business owner, you’d probably say B any time. Why are you so willing to run around, waste your time and do things that don’t scale just to please your client as a service business owner then?

The result will be the same as with the pizza place:

– You will waste your time and you won’t get paid for it
– You will do something that doesn’t scale
– You will not be able to deliver top quality – so your client won’t be happy.

In conclusion: don’t stretch your offer to fit your client.

5. Show your pricing

Don’t be afraid to show your price tag first thing – if the price repels a certain group of clients – good! You won’t waste time on people who can’t afford your services anyway.
If they tell you your competition is cheaper – tell them they can choose your competition of course, and it’s fine.

6. Refer to competition

A bold move by one company that Elizabeth described was actually to refer to your cheaper competition – if you’re so confident about your product, you won’t be afraid of your competition. If they are serving ‘cheaper’ clients – so be it.

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Emilia is a passionate SaaS marketer specializing in content marketing. She's currently the Head of Marketing at Userpilot, a Product Growth Platform for SaaS.

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