It’s an impersonal world, where so many products and services are seen as easily-replaced, indistinct commodities. Standing out is a choice fueled by the right mindset and a compelling story. Ken Schmidt knows these challenges firsthand and gained acclaim for his role in the extraordinary turnaround of the legendary Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Ken transformed the company’s market position by answering three key strategic questions and shifting the narrative to distinguish their brand. While times have changed, what humans want and need from the businesses they buy from and work for hasn’t. In his high-energy speeches, Ken inspires companies and individuals to shift their thinking and ride a path to success by becoming memorable – not for what they do or what they make, but for the powerful stories they tell and the authentic connections they forge. Ken is author of Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance. He’s also host of the Tailgating with Geniuses podcast and co-founder of Torque Sessions Leadership Training. In all of his endeavors, Ken brings an unconventional perspective that helps organizations and individuals reframe how they engage with their marketplace.
Ken Schmidt’s career in the motorcycle industry began in 1985 as a specialist in corporate positioning and media relations for the then-struggling Harley-Davidson. He was tasked with helping the company restore its image, improve its competitiveness, and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles skyrocketed, and the company returned to prominence as one of the most respected, profitable, and frequently reported-on companies in the world.
In 1990, Ken became director of Harley-Davidson’s corporate and financial communications, serving as its primary spokesperson to the media and the financial communities. He frequently appeared in mainstream and business media to offer insights on nontraditional communications, customer attraction, and brand-building. His expertise and success at Harley-Davidson ultimately led to consulting assignments and speaking invitations from all over the world.
In 1997, Ken left Harley-Davidson to take an ownership position with a highly successful Chicago-based marketing firm, VSA Partners. In addition to Harley-Davidson, VSA served a virtual who’s who of the world’s best-known brands. In 1999, he sold his portion of VSA to start his own business, Ken Schmidt Company, to combine two of his greatest passions, motorcycling and speaking. He uses motorcycles as a metaphor to expose people to proven ideas and concepts they’ve likely never imagined.
In addition to speaking and consulting, Ken is co-founder of Torque Sessions Leadership Training. Through a combination of hands-on training and interactive workshops, these sessions help individuals and organizations re-position themselves to become dominant competitors, maximize leadership effectiveness, build a people-first culture of innovation and foster loyalty among customers and employees.
Ken is also the host of the popular podcast Tailgating with Geniuses, wherein he talks with some of the most innovative and successful leaders in a variety of industries to discuss their unique perspectives on leadership, major challenges, and success. Ken’s relatable and engaging hosting style has made the podcast a hit with listeners looking to learn from the best and achieve their own personal and professional goals.
Ken authored Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance, which gives business leaders an easy-to-follow roadmap for improving their competitiveness, using many of the techniques he championed at Harley-Davidson. He considers his work on 100 Years of Harley-Davidson, a global bestseller, to be one of his greatest and most rewarding achievements.
After all he has accomplished, Ken remains committed to his philosophy of standing out, taking risks, and having fun in both his personal and professional life. He says, “Never do what’s expected, make yourself as noticeably different as possible, and have a lot more fun than you’re supposed to.”
How do you want to be talked about and what are you doing to make that happen?” Ken Schmidt reminds people that we are a story-telling species and getting noticed by customers or even in your own organization is about being memorable. Saying or doing what people expect doesn’t make you – or your business – stand out. In this talk Ken shows how to make a lasting impact. It starts with answering three key questions about how you want to be remembered. Ken reminds audiences that what people remember about you is dependent on how you make them feel about themselves. It’s more important to be interested – not interesting. Ken shares lessons learned from a celebrated career at Harley-Davidson and beyond to show how to build a personal brand that will fast track your career in today’s dynamic landscape.
– Identify your unique qualities and how you want to be remembered.
– Hear ways to make others feel good about themselves.
– Learn how to take an active role in meetings and actively participate.
– Understand that by encouraging others to share their stories, you can then share yours.
– Ways to continuously improve your personal brand by focusing on R&R (Remember & Repeat).
No matter what we sell, make, or do, we’re a commodity to people who don’t know us,” says Ken Schmidt. Companies who understand that and change their mindset to engage customers differently will win big. Authenticity stands out in today’s impersonal world and Ken unpacks a roadmap for creating an unshakable emotional connection with customers. This talk is rooted in the ideas that drove Harley-Davidson’s incredible transformation and return to dominance as Ken and his team led the company’s shift away from focusing on product features and instead leaned into the key drivers of human behavior. As it did, H-D’s sales, profitability, and loyalty skyrocketed. Ken’s high energy and humor punctuate this talk as he shows businesses of every size and scope how to align everyone in the organization around a set of values that ignite customer passion, maximize sales growth, and stand out in their marketplace.
– Discover the three questions that should drive every decision to protect and enhance your reputation.
– Transform the company mindset towards being known for who you are vs. what you do.
– Harness the three drivers of human behavior to create unshakable loyalty.
– Gain ways to be memorable so customers tell your story to others – in person and on social media.
– Elevate your business by humanizing it and delivering delight.
We’re not wired to be loyal to products or services, no matter how well they perform. We’re only capable of being loyal to people and to well-managed brands that successfully humanize their presence by creating emotional resonance with us. It’s time for your customers to evolve from “folks who buy from us,” into “loyal friends who recommend us without being asked,” which means your relationships with them have to evolve from superficial to meaningfully permanent. Customers come and go. But loyalists, like Harley-Davidson tattoos, become part of you and never leave. Building tattoo-worthy customer relationships isn’t the marketing department’s job; it’s yours. This is how it’s done.
When customers care more about what they’re paying than who they’re buying from, businesses lower prices to stay in the mix, which breeds commoditization and kills loyalty. While leaders in every industry are focusing inward to improve efficiencies—when they should be focusing outward to improve their competitiveness—the passing lane’s wide open for small players to make a run to the front of the pack. Ken Schmidt can show you how to do that. As a major player in one of the world’s most celebrated turnarounds, he helped transform Harley-Davidson from a laggard in a me-too market into one of the world’s most beloved and dominant competitors. In this hands-on, how-to session, he teaches how to position your business to ensure that it’s memorably different than competitors and how to strengthen your reputation so your customers stay fiercely loyal and refer you to others, even when your prices are higher. This is a natural follow-up to any of Ken’s presentations.
Ken Schmidt’s business keynote speech is a fascinating story of how businesses of any size and scope can—by focusing on understanding and harnessing the most basic drivers of human behavior—improve their competitiveness and avoid margin-killing commoditization in even the most difficult marketing environments. The road to building a fanatically vocal customer base, creating a passionately loyal corporate culture, and developing leaders who inspire and motivate starts here. Schmidt challenges audiences to consider what they are willing to do today that is different than what they did yesterday, for the people who can put them out of business tomorrow.
A startling presentation designed specifically for banks, investment firms, credit unions, and insurance companies that is now Schmidt’s most requested topic from financial industry clients. With little differentiation among competitors and media-fueled erosion of trust in financial services providers, it’s no wonder potential clients opt to work with “whoever’s closest to my house,” instead of “whoever can best serve my needs.” Or stay away altogether. Where others see futility, Schmidt sees unprecedented opportunities for growth. He’ll show you how to change the culture of your financial services business to stand out, create demand and client loyalty in your local markets, fuel marketplace advocacy and take advantage of the look-alike/act-alike competitive environment.
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“If you’re looking for a speaker whose presentation is full of corporate jargon, fancy pie-charts and motivational quips….KenSchmidt isn’t for you! However, if you’re looking for a speaker that will provide an impact, with relevant takeaways andauthenticity….then Ken’s the guy you want. Ken spoke at our conference for financial industry leaders and left the crowdmesmerized. His topic on brand loyalty relates to all industries and will leave people with actionable items for their business. Assomeone that has hired over 50 speakers in the last three years, I can say that Ken stands out for his boldness, engagingpresentation style and leather chaps he wears on stage. Ok, maybe one of those three is a lie!”
Credit Union relEVENT
"Ken Schmidt was a huge hit with everyone."
SSA Large Owners Council
“KEN WAS AMAZING!!! Seriously, he crushed it and his messages really resonated with this audience. They loved it!”
National Etailing and Mailing Organization of America (NEMOA)
“Thanks for amping up our dealer meeting this year. I promised everyone it would be a remarkable keynote and you delivered!”
Marketing Manager, Temperature Systems Inc.
“Ken Schmidt was a huge hit with everyone!”
Executive Director, Self Storage Association
“Thanks Ken you really resonated with them. I loved it as well.We appreciate your partnership in making it a success.”
Senior Director of Relationship Management, Standard Retirement Services
“We’re so grateful you were part of our conference. So many of our team members said wonderful things about your sessionas well and even our A/V and production team made several comments about how energizing and what a great speaker youwere!”
Event Planner, Standard Insurance Company
“Ken!! You were awesome…we’ve heard some very positive comments from attendees about you. I already told CraigSherman my account contact at Big Speak what a huge hit you were!”
Director of Professional Development, National Parking Association
“The team absolutely loved you! Your message was so on point.”
President, Pizzeria Uno Restaurants
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