The Harley-Davidson turnaround story is the story of how the last remaining motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S. competed against global giants like Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha in the marketplace. 
On the verge of bankruptcy in the early 1980’s, Harley-Davidson found itself facing severe market conditions and heavy foreign competition. Enter Clyde Fessler and a team of creative hands-on people that, through applying unique strategies, clever positioning, hard work and passion turn their last remaining American motorcycle manufacturer from the rust bowl of the Midwest into a Fortune 500 company success story. Harley-Davidson accomplished this through not only focusing on the four basic “P’s” of marketing, but by adding a fifth “P” – PEOPLE, the most important ingredient in any business turnaround.
To address the challenge, the team met for four days of strategic planning and went through a process of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of not only Harley-Davidson, but the competition (commonly referred to today in modern terms as SWOT analysis.)
What came out of the meeting was a strategy “turn left when the competition turns right”, and application of that strategy to the basic four P’s of marketing. That is: product, price, place and promotion. In other words, Harley decided it was almost impossible to compete against the competition on a heads-on basis. So they decided to be the alternative and do things that the competition couldn’t do. For example, Mr. Honda cannot ride from LA to Milwaukee and raise $100,000 for muscular dystrophy. Willie G. Davidson does!
Applying this strategy to product, a team of manufacturing and engineering personnel traveled to Japan to study how they made motorcycles. (In the early 80’s I called it industrial spying, today I call it benchmarking.) What they came back with compelled Harley to introduce just-in-time inventory, statistical operators control and employee involvement. Applying the strategy of “turning left when the competition turn right”, focused the Styling Department to implement a classical, evolutionary design for motorcycles, rather than the revolutionary design of something new every year from the competition.
Applying the strategy to price, Harley-Davidson promoted the fact that their motorcycles retain the residual value (in fact some vehicles increase in value over the years). Harley-Davidson drove a wedge between Harley and the competition by communicating a comparison of the fact that the competition’s motorcycles depreciated 25% – 50% in the first two years.
Applying this strategy to promotion, Harley-Davidson not only wanted to get close to the customer, but initiated a strategy of bonding with our customers by riding with them and providing them events to use their motorcycles. The Harley Owners Group (also known as H.O.G.) was created. H.O.G. has over a million members throughout the world. It also drove us to form an alliance with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Over the last 30 years, the factory, the dealers and the riders have raised over $70,000,000 for the association.
Applying strategy to place, Harley initiated a store redesign program with its dealer network to create an atmosphere where the customers would feel not only comfortable in coming to a Harley dealer, but use it as a meeting place, a destination that attracts not only Harley riders, but other potential customers. The program has generated tripling revenues with the majority of the dealer network and is an award winning program that has been recognized by leasing retail consultants.
As a keynote speaker, Clyde Fessler will bring this story alive so you can learn from his successes.
Register now here and select one course to be a part of this spectacular keynote event.