Harley Davidson doesn’t actually sell bikes

Igor Pauletič / / Sales

A few days ago, a high-profile international corporation informed us that it had selected us to work with them. We competed in a tender, which is usually a very poor starting point for us to win new deals, but we sealed this one anyway. I couldn’t wait to share this excellent news with a good friend of mine, who didn’t believe we could win a deal from a company that is also used as a major reference by what he felt was (had been) a provider very similar to us. I invited him out to dinner and of course expected that he would ask me “Why do you think you landed the deal?”

We hadn’t even made it to the aperitif yet when this question was already on the table . . .

It’s best to use an example to explain it

As the parent of three children, I long ago realized that the most effective answers are illustrated with an example. This is the fastest way to reach my goal and I run the least risk of getting yet another “why.” I, myself, also seem to memorize abstract things most easily through examples. One way or the other, explaining through examples has become second nature to me. I realize that in the business world, too, I’ve become an advisor that has an explanatory example ready for every answer. If I can’t find an example, I doubt the accuracy of my own explanation. So that evening I also used an example to explain to my friend why our new client identified us as a unique solution among all the other providers.

It’s easiest to explain and memorize abstract things by using examples. Click To Tweet

 I enlightened him with a single sentence and a 30-second video:

“Look at this ad and tell me what Harley Davidson is selling*.”

When I saw my friend nod approvingly while watching the video, I knew I managed to yet again avoid another “why.”

Aha, I see. What your clients are actually buying is not the newsletter or a content marketing provider. They are essentially not looking for CRM or a marketing automation system. They’re looking for someone that understands how their buyers’ purchasing habits have changed and can help them find a (new) path to them,” suggested my friend immediately.

Exactly. All the rest is just finishing work for the remainder of the project, in which the client wants to limit the risks and simplify implementation (for himself) as much as possible,” I added.

Uniqueness lies in . . .

I nailed it again with this example: Harley Davidson is well aware that their uniqueness is not at all connected with bikes, just like we’re aware that clients don’t choose us as a content marketing agency. In fact, the last twelve clients we’ve won told us they had chosen us because:

  • We knew how to develop a strategic perspective on their activity;
  • We managed to help them see their customers’ new purchasing habits through different eyes;
  • We can provide comprehensive solutions with a flexible business model at the implementation level.
So what makes you unique? Click To Tweet

What about you? Have you already thought about what makes you unique as a provider and why you’re the best, most logical choice for your target group?


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*For years Harley-Davidson’s CEO argued that they sold an experience, and the bike just happens to be a fundamental part of that experience. One of their execs is quoted as saying »What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.« Eventually the board got on board the company concentrated on the goal of delivering this very specific experience and annual revenues grew from $1.5 billion in 1996 to $4.6 billion in 2003 and net income grew from $143 million to $761 million over the same period. Their bikes are technically unsophisticated and don’t represent good value for money compared to other manufacturers, but when you buy a Harley-Davidson it’s not just the bike you’re buying into.