Until her cell phone battery ran down, JoAnn spoke to everyone back at our office, trying to plug any leaks in the dike. We hadn’t yet made the transition from working in the business to working on the business, so whenever we were out of town we spent lots of time talking on the phone.
We stopped for the night at a Marriott Courtyard in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the next morning, while looking for our on-ramp, we passed a Harley-Davidson store with a message-style billboard sign that the owner could change regularly. It read, “If your career is on the rise, put a Harley between your thighs.” We discussed this for the next 30 miles.
JoAnn questioned whether the message might be offensive. I thought it was hilarious. From our limited knowledge of the motorcycle industry and biking in general, we tossed our thoughts back and forth. Ultimately, we decided that if Harleys primarily sell to upwardly mobile professionals who like to pretend to be raunchy bikers on weekends, then the sign made an intimate connection with the company’s potential customers while disregarding those to whom the lewd connotation might be offensive.
That led us to discuss our own marketing. We had always felt we owed it to our sellers to maximize their homes’ exposure with advertising, and we advertised regularly. From day one, we had run ads in the Arizona Republic newspaper. I remember telling Sandy, our rep at the paper, that we planned to advertise every week without fail. We’d ...