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Posts Tagged ‘customers’

Many of us have experienced EDT and not known it!

Mix that with better, cheaper, faster… a common corporate mantra these days, and you have a catchphrase that leaves out a significant element.  Better, cheaper and faster for whom?  Long term business success means the “whom” must ultimately be your customers yet isn’t it odd how often the existing customers are forgotten in the rush of daily business.  Sales and marketing are about bringing potential new customers into the dealers.  Operations are working to be efficient and fill orders.  Service is busy putting out fires.  Meanwhile existing customers are walking unnoticed and uncared for out the side door.  Customer retention at H-D exceeds the motorcycle industry average, but people will stop patronizing when they feel like their business doesn’t matter to the company.

And that’s my point.  Repeat-purchase loyalty or the erosion (the proportionate fall in repeat-purchase loyalty) at the local dealership.

Even if the Harley dealer does everything right – transforms into a lifestyle destination, offers up camaraderie beyond the parking lot, mixing with customers, first-name greetings, pancakes and music on the weekends, working hard at providing a friendly, at-home atmosphere, low-pressure sales – is there any doubt that a key determining factor for a repeat customer at that dealer during this economic environment be anything other than price, Price, PRICE?  How much more are you willing to pay for the dealer experience?  I would suggest none.  Personal relationships do matter, but over paying to maintain that business relationship is obsolete.

For example below is a repeat-purchase story from a riding buddy (edited for space and used with permission) who just put a new 2010 Street Glide in his garage:

“This purchase was one of the simplest things I’ve done. I called the Sales Manager (Moshonda) at Albany Harley-Davidson (AMC) and asked her for a price. I was really expecting to hear MSRP or maybe $500 discount on a $20.5K price. When she told me $18,519, I said “I’ll take it”. We did some of the transaction over the phone and I went down a couple days later and picked it up. I put down 2/3 cash and financed a third. They made that easy with a good interest rate. They didn’t even try hard to up-sell me on the extended warranty. Simply asked, I said no and we signed.

Went down yesterday and rode it home. Weather cooperated and it was nice having cruise control and 6th gear. The radio is awesome! Candidly I did struggle on not talking to Paradise H-D where I’ve previously purchased.  Bottom line, I sincerely doubt they could or would have even tried to get down to the AMC price. Granted I didn’t give them the chance, but I’d bet Paradise H-D was $1500 over MSRP to start off and now we’re talking about a $4k difference to spend time haggling over. Ultimately I felt that if I challenged Paradise H-D to get down to this price and if we couldn’t and I had to walk there would always be this friction when I went into the dealer.  Frankly I don’t need the stress.  It’s unreal that I paid almost the same amount for my Road King 10 years ago as I did on this new Street Glide.  Clearly it’s a good time to deal!

AMC is definitely a small town laid back feel. No pressure.  I’m fairly certain the knowledge base at Paradise H-D is better. AMC sales didn’t strike me as deep experts. Remember these are the folks who didn’t think the Oregon bikes had catalytic converters.  Yet, it’s a good store and I liked how they promote themselves to “the working man”.  As you’ve said on your blog, Harley may be pricing themselves out of the market with those CVO’s. When you can draw a price correlation between a motorcycle and a Lexus, well then the issue speaks for itself. At the end of the day, it is just a motorcycle.

The other advantage at AMC for me is they seem to have perpetual sales on accessories.  I don’t think it will cost me an arm and a leg to do the  customization I want. I had a little sticker shock on the quote for Vance & Hines pipes, which looks to be all you can get for the 2010 right now at $1475. Too high, but it included a number of items (fuel tuning/dyno etc.) in addition to the pipes themselves.

Looking forward to summer!”

I’m not advocating one dealer vs. another.   But, the economy is changing the way riders interact with dealerships.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Harley YouTube Channel

Harley YouTube Channel

If you’ve been out of the country this month without any internet access you missed that Harley-Davidson has joined the Web 2.0 movement and is executing on a so-called social media strategy. By social media I’m lumping together blogs, RSS, social networking (Facebook), video (YouTube) and bookmarking.  All of this presents the marketer on Juneau Ave with a rich set of new tools to help generate new business.  And new business is what it’s all about as the company could post a sales decline percentage for July and August in the “mid-teens,” which would follow an 8.7 percent drop in the second quarter.

Harley-Davidson “virally” launched a Facebook page earlier in the month and the official channel on YouTube was launched today.  It’s loaded with content straight out of the motor company. All of this is part of an effort to satisfy the most passionate motorcycle enthusiast.  You see, consumers are no longer sitting around for commercials; they are looking for new experiences. Whether it’s the bad-boy-aura of the riding experience, or the 105th event and ride home blogs, or the active participation in the BB communities, Harley has recognized the need to follow these consumer trends. They’ve looked at the dynamics of their relationships with customers and the nature of their interaction and have concluded that they need to move with the shifting customer base and changing market conditions.

Harley Facebook Page

Harley Facebook Page

Harley’s new social media and branding is nothing but the continuation of selling a lifestyle, a personality and it is also about appealing to emotions of customers. Increasingly, it has become more and more about creating an experience around the product than the product itself!

I’m of the viewpoint that the current social media directions won’t achieve the results they hope for on the sales front.  You can’t approach new media with old thinking. Taking full advantage of social media requires understanding and adopting a specific social media strategy.  Instead they have implemented a “me-to” approach.  Meaning they have followed the others in corporate America and will tie a range of old-school services from their CRM tools and do database development and case management in order to get the database analysis to the telemarketing team.  I just don’t see how all of the new media will connect back to the dealer network to help drive sales.

But, if that’s the way Harley views social media, a set of tools to perform a set of incremental tactics to reach the set of objectives they have always tried to reach with their marketing campaigns, then not only are they really missing the opportunity, they will probably find themselves wondering what all this Web 2.0 fuss was about.

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I’m not a brand expert, but brand promise (“This brand is all about….”) seems to be the corporate mantra these days on how to bond with customers and retain their loyalty.

I don’t like to admit that I’m a fan-boy for certain brands. But, I’ve come to realize that there are probably three or so that I really am devoted too.

A few of them are:

  • Apple products: I’ve really drank the Apple juice, but it is what it is. I have a work provided MacBook Pro, have a G5 iMac, multiple iPods and I’ve been pushing out an iPhone purchase because it will clash with the blueberry holster. But, a Mac Mini and Apple TV are on my holiday wish list of “need to have’s”. What it comes down to is that I spend a lot – maybe as much as half of my waking life in front of a computer. Everything needs to work well, and the peripherals and devices need to integrate with it. Apple just feels right! The products work and do what they say they will do. And if I’m feeling a little blue I can visit a store and get little moments 1-to-1 time of uplifting experiences…
  • PHD

  • Harley-Davidson: They work to deliver on a fantasy of complete freedom on the road and the comradeship of a kindred spirit for the avid motorcyclist… If you want to experience the psychology of hard-core devotion and feel the sense of anxiety that comes from not being part of the inner circle — wear your Polo Shirt, Tommy Bahama shorts and Sperry Topsider deck shoes to the next HOG wanna-bes event. Point is that each touch point in the Harley brand mates with consumers and is really organized to uniquely deliver on this promise. The Harley brand ‘essence’ has largely remained unchanged for decades. Sure they have refreshed and added different ad campaigns, but the hallmark of the company quickly describes the brand. Free spirited and rebellious associations while nurturing relationships to maintain a loyal H.O.G. community. With over 660,000 members it’s the largest motorcycle-sponsored club in the world and seems to work. I do think Harley has a looming issue of reaching the younger consumers entrenched in the internet age where the word “classic” and “tradition” have less marketing leverage. Maybe that explains why they’ve tried video games?
  • Starbucks: They are not about providing me a great cup of coffee! They do, but it’s more about providing me a great coffee “experience” and rewarding everyday moments. Lifting up my spirits one cup of coffee at a time and, looking back over my cash outlay this past month…they are doing a mighty fine job of lifting my spirits!! Similar to the Harley brand, Starbucks portrays a lifestyle image. Who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to leave the corporate 10 hour day mad-dash to become a Barista?! From napkins to paper cups, in-store posters, t-shirt designs to in-store architecture…the “Bucks” Creative Group tells a story to feed my habit all the while they put skim on my macchiato.
  • Born Shoes : I don’t buy a lot of shoes (or clothes for that matter; I’m kind of a charity case), but these shoes fit what my friends call my “techno-sporty” fashion sense. I was shooting for a cross between the Marlboro Man and REI fitness so, I’ve got some work to do in this department! I’ve been buying Born shoes for a couple years, and they have consistently been my “everyday” shoes. Do the math: that means each pair is lasting a couple years. I walk a lot and that’s a deal.
  • I’d like to be absence brand loyalty. I think everyone around has similar problems. Find someone who reacts with the “I don’t have any brand loyalty!” and I’ll bet within five minutes’ of conversation, you’ll expose:

  • Google (yeah, it’s a brand)
  • Facebook or MySpace
  • Tillamook Cheese
  • So, what are your brand loyalties?

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