Acceptance? What exactly does acceptance mean anyway? Accepting situations as they are without judgement is a good and healthy practice, but how is that possible in the business world? And what about participation? Is participation and brand loyalty a leveraging of acceptance on some level? Or is acceptance a radical delighting in what is a willingness to participate with enthusiasm?
As business leaders, our work depends on acceptance AND participation in what we do. And it’s really all about having an abundance mindset.
Have you noticed how our biggest difficulties in life come from situations we either do not accept or feel forced to accept? So we lack enthusiastic participation…or what’s worse, we are forced to participate. No abundance there.
In the business world, the need for an abundance mindset is even clearer. It’s essential to have a mindset that is abundant in doing its thing and doing it well, no matter what the outside world is doing. But it’s also important to recognize that accepting doesn’t always mean participation.
When we lead from a place of abundance, rather than the need to thrill everyone, we find our niche, and we grow brand loyalty so that repeat clientele become family, swear by what we offer, and truly see the value in our product or service.
A Mini Case Study: Harley Davidson
To illustrate this, let’s look at Harley-Davidson, the author of the book on marketing and the understanding of brand loyalty, community, and repeat business based upon radical acceptance.
From the very beginning, Harley-Davidson has been a pompous rebel. A friend of mine worked in the marketing department of one of the individual dealerships as an intern and then as a marketing assistant in her 20s. As a marketing student, it was fascinating to her that everything she had learned about getting more of the market share was out the window here.
Harley-Davidson University suggested that success wasn’t necessarily about getting a larger quantity of customers. It was about creating an awareness of loyalty so that existing customers would become repeat customers, their children would become customers, and everyone at Harley-Davidson was focused on the quality of the customer.
In operating this way since the mid-1900s, Harley has taken its time to create a subculture of clientele who identify with buying high-end motorcycles, as well as all the parts and accessories that we know as Harley lifestyle goods. Indeed, there are people within this subculture that buy very little anywhere other than at a Harley-Davidson dealership.
And just so everyone is aware, the average end price (with parts, accessories, rain gear, boots, etc.) for a first-time Harley buyer used to be around $40,000. The typical customer trades up on their motorcycles every few years, as if it’s a subscription. So basically where Apple has made buying phones sexy, trendy, and a lifestyle component where spending $400 (okay, $800) on a new gadget every year or two is the norm—the “I’m an apple person” scenario—Harley has been doing this for decades on $40,000 gadgets.
Interestingly, Apple stock is valued at about 3 times Harley’s stock, but the difference is that Apple is targeting everybody in the whole world. Harley markets to its family and extended family. At a HOG rally, you’ll talk to people who love their bikes like some people love their pets (or kids). Their bikes are central to the world as they know it.
In other words, the marketing and customer brand loyalty of both radical acceptance AND enthusiastic participation creates a very different way of looking at business or branding. Whereas I can participate in playing with my iPhone without accepting it for what it is or for how much it has become a part of me, loyal Harley drivers BOTH participate and accept how the Harley brand shapes their lives.
Marketing Lessons from Harley-Davidson
So how can we market our products and services in a way that creates brand loyalty? How do we create an intelligent, charismatic beautiful family that both radically accepts and enthusiastically participates with what we are offering for a fee?
The interesting aspect of this is first and foremost that what we offer is the cream of the crop. It’s the best, and as business owners, we value it beyond measure. We have experienced the benefits of our product or service to have come to a place where we both radically accept and also enthusiastically participate in what we offer as well.
Then radical acceptance + enthusiastic participation, AKA really super awesomely good brand and subculture marketing is the perfect scenario. It’s a grassroots effort, but it can be done. And when it’s done well, you’ve got yourself a solid following that you can really rely upon in the long term.
So what are all the things that Harley-Davidson does to market its subculture to its international business family?
Here’s the short list:
1. They have really good products that no one else comes close to offering, and their business model has great intentions behind it. They make everything in the USA, so their profit margins are slightly lower than some, but their reliability of cash flow is always there because they have a sustainable clientele. They do well in the world by helping their local economies and stimulating local growth wherever they host events. They are good to their employees, who are treated as part of the family too, after all. They’re loud, they’re proud, and they’re good for business everywhere they go. And, they often pay in cash!
2. They know their clientele inside and out. And they seek daily to get to know them better. Personally. They do more of their market research in a personal way than you’d imagine was possible. This is old-fashioned face time. There’s no one that does better market research than Harley. When you have a big family, word spreads fast and like any good family, they support each other in doing good stuff, so there is constant communication.
3. They are heavy into event marketing. Anything from little dealership holiday open houses to week-long events in various areas of the country where a half million bikes obnoxiously roll into town (yeah, I used to live in Myrtle Beach where locals planned their vacations around Bike Week). When they do this, they bring people and other businesses together.
4. They write and are interviewed. A lot. Blogs, books, content, magazine article placements, video, radio, and TV placements, stunt rider promotions on TV—you name it. In the motorcycle industry, no one wants to leave out Harley.
5 They are relaxed. Employees wear jeans everyday. They appreciate their employees and show it. They don’t move fast. They are patient and trust their efforts.
6. They know that their trustworthy clientele is going to participate, but they don’t require it. They’re too cool to be needy. They do everything that they can to market their products as fabulously as possible and then accept the outcomes of their efforts, no matter what happens. They accept their clients as they are giving off a cool and often slightly arrogant “we are the best” vibe. And by offering the coolness, their clients want to participate as much as they can. That’s brand loyalty in a nutshell.
It’s wonderful to be “seen” for what you are, to be accepted for who you are, and it is the ultimate in relating to people when acceptance turns into participation…the perfect recipe for a successful high-quality business.
If you have some great ideas for marketing your business in a special way, give me a call. I’d love to participate in what you’ve got going on!
Photo credit: kzenon / 123RF Stock Photo