Tesla has three times more preorders (at $1,000 each) for its new Model 3--270,000 and counting--than the number of cars it's already produced to date.

Meantime, established car manufacturers like Nissan and Chevrolet have  struggled to sell even a fraction of that number. Why is Tesla so successful where others have struggled?

Here's one theory: String a velvet rope, and people will line up to try to get at what's on the other side.

There's nothing new about this strategy. (My favorite example is probably the Mark Twain story where Tom Sawyer gets other kids to whitewash a fence for him mainly by telling them they can't join him.) But in business, let's look at four quick case studies.

I'm not sure whether these companies all intentionally used this strategy, but they've ridden it to billions of dollars in the past few years.

Case Study No. 1:

Facebook debuts in 2004, but it's available only to Harvard undergraduates. It expands to the Ivy League, then Stanford, then all college students. By the time it opens to everyone, it's created a network composed solely of young, privileged people that others want to join.   

Case Study No. 2:

Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone at MacWorld in January 2007. The hype is huge--so is the cost--and yet there are no apps, you can't even cut and paste, and you can't even get the phone until the end of June. Result? Apple's webpage crashes, and there are giant lines outside every Apple Store when the phone is finally released.

Case Study No. 3:

A new social network, Snapchat, follows the Facebook playbook. Only, instead of restricting membership, it intentionally makes its network obtuse--to "confuse the olds" and keep them off the system. Result? Hundreds of millions of members, and marketers begging to get in.

Case Study No. 4:

Tesla (as we've seen). My Inc.com colleague  Damon Brown pointed this out--10 years ago, Elon Musk actually laid out his plan for the electric car: Start with a sports car (that only the elite could afford). Then build an affordable car, and then use that money to build an even more affordable car. 

There's a simple, scalable, straightforward lesson here--one many of us have to learn over and over again. It's applicable to business, careers, and even personal relationships.

Don't try to be everything to everyone.

Instead, first become the thing that a small group loves--even better, a small group that everyone else wants to join.

Then slowly, almost reluctantly (if they'll believe it), let them in.