What my Harley-Davidson taught me about loyalty


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Bob Musial Harley-Davidson Photo

When I was…well never mind, it was a pretty long time ago. Anyway, at that time I had a Harley-Davidson (that’s it above). Bought it used, stripped it down, rebuilt the top end, bottom end, front end, and spent a ton of money on a bunch of Harley “stuff.”

Consciously and subconsciously, I also bought into the brand. Why? Well, because it appealed to me on a deeply emotional level, touching feelings like: freedom, rebelliousness, individuality, power, and of course, on an auditory level…sound.

And I wasn’t alone. There were (and are) millions of Harley owners. Men and women who felt those same emotions, all having in common a passion for all things Harley. At the risk of sounding too “zen-like” it’s almost like a cult, with the faithful being one with Harley-Davidson communities, groups and products.

Talk about being committed to a product. I recall reading someplace that 10% of Harley owners have the Harley logo tattooed on their body somewhere. Which means there are a lot of Harley-Davidson human billboards walking around. And those are media impressions that you can’t buy, which are going to literally last a lifetime.

But, with their demographic getting older, even with that kind of loyalty, I’m pretty sure Harley-Davidson is rethinking ways to attract younger buyers. Ways that will continue to mirror the emotions and beliefs of a wider-ranging audience.

Harley and me.

I didn’t realize it back then, but my Harley and everything associated with “Harley-ness”, would have a big impact on me as a future marketer. About the importance of tapping into feelings in order to connect with a target audience. How to build deep and ongoing relationships with customers in order to cultivate passion about products and services. Those things became an integral part of my business development, sales and marketing makeup.

We all don’t have products like Harleys. And, tattoos aside, there are companies like Amazon®, Google™, and Zappos® that do a pretty good job and certainly have their believers. But, the point is, in order to attract and maintain loyalty and revenue, there are some basics relevant to most businesses that need to be addressed with your customer and prospect base.

Emotional connection. To make and reinforce an emotional connection with your prospects and customers, constantly update your qualitative and quantitative research to get a current idea about what you know, and more importantly, what you don’t know about them.

Cultivate word-of-mouth recommendations. Regularly evaluate, refine and train all your staff on your Referral Program using input gathered from your research.

CRM x 2. Keep in mind that CRM is more than software. It’s also about building a universal sales and a “buying” culture/mentality in your company that genuinely (yet subtly) reinforces your company’s value to your customers. Always giving them a reason to buy and recommend your products and services.

Proving your worth. Make sure your proposals and presentations have measurable and agreed upon metrics. Then review outcomes on a regular basis with your clients via summary reports signed by senior management. Conduct more formal reviews in face-to-face meetings at least semi-annually, and again, with senior management.

Quality improvement. Constantly improve your product and services no matter how good they may be. Conduct internal improvement sessions, combined with external online surveys, user groups (virtual and at your facility if appropriate) and pilot programs.

It’s about them, not you. “ABC” your customer base and implement a 12-, 16- and 24-month outreach program that creatively addresses problems and needs common to your audience and provide solutions.

Create opportunities. View every communication (especially negative ones) as an opportunity to make a positive impression that reinforces quantified value.

Deepening brand. Make sure your advertising, PR and social media programs are coordinated and measurable.

It works both ways. Lastly, be loyal to your customers and, hopefully, they’ll be loyal to you.

These are just a few things that will help to establish credibility, build trust and generate revenue. Make sure they’re addressed and who knows, maybe one day you’ll see your company logo tattooed on someone’s body.

Bob Musial
Bob Musial is a business development coach, author of "Soft Skills. Hard Returns." and humorist who works with professionals to help improve their competency in getting, keeping and expanding business. He's easy to reach. Pretty easy to talk with too.


  1. Hi Michael – Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it. You’re 100% correct regarding advocacy and bonding. To some extent, it’s almost like a religious cult (but in a good way…if that makes any sense).

  2. You’re a Philly-area guy (so am I), so you know that, except for the body ink and leather jackets, Wegmans engenders the same kind of cult-like response among its customers: http://customerthink.com/like-just-about-all-of-their-customers-i-love-wegmans/

    And, if Vernon Hill can recreate the magic he achieved with Commerce Bank, so will Republic and Metro: http://customerthink.com/bring-your-kids-bring-your-pets-how-metro-bank-u-k-and-republic-bank-u-s-win-hearts-and-minds-of-customers-and-their-families-and-friends/

  3. Hi Bob, a great article, many thanks. I have always believed that your number 1 item is so important no matter what business you are in. I often come across businesses who take a view “ours is not the sort of business people get emotional about” – Rubbish!

    People get emotional about any service or product they buy. Let me give you an example, my company sells a pretty niche business strategy management system, okay I can feel you switching off already, stay with me! Only yesterday I received the following comment from one of our customers (it’s a bit poetic, which proves my point even more), he said:

    “Scoreboard [name of product], where were you before 2012 when at last I found you? You have made part of my credit union management life so much more enjoyable. The preparation & circulation of monthly management reports, now completed in a fraction of the time; the presentation quality of the reports & the charts; the functionality of the software; the sharing of information; and all so simple & so user friendly”

    Now if that is not an emotional connection, I don’t know what is. This guy was faced with a monthly task that he dreaded and it has now turned into a job that he actually enjoys. If this sort of response can come from boring old strategy management software, then it can come from anything.


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