Sell the experience to win, keep customers, former Harley exec says

Publish Date: 
Oct 15, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Giving customers the warm fuzzies does more to increase sales and loyalty than traditional marketing, a former Harley-Davidson executive told the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at the organization's 131st annual dinner Oct. 7.

Selling the experience is why The Motor Co. is able to outsell much less expensive bikes by large margins, said Ken Schmidt, former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Co.

“If we were a rational species, (the Honda Shadow] would be the bike everyone would be riding,” he said. “All motorcycles in the world do the same thing. They go forward on two wheels under power.”

Traditional marketing doesn’t get customers off the couch, he said, and the hard sell turns customers off. What sells is having a good story and getting other people to tell it.

“If what you do feels like the people you are competing against, all you are doing is lifting them up and pushing yourself down,” Schmidt is quoted in the Appleton Post-Crescent. “What’s your story? What do you want people to say about you and what are you willing to do to get them to say it?”

The same strategy holds for retailers as well as major manufacturer brands. “All we want to do is get people to like us. Period,” he said. “In a world where all things are equal, who do people chose to do business with? Someone we like. Period…. This isn’t the result of marketing. This is the result of human engagement. Maybe what we need to do is focus our efforts on human beings.”

Posted by Holly Wagner