Don Stanley on The Strategy of Being A Good Human Company

In this 15-Minute Strategy Podcast episode, we talk with Don Stanley from 3 Rhino Media about how important of being human as an individual brand, company brand, and company culture.

Are you creating a culture of being human? More and more consumers want to do business with companies that they know, like, and trust.

In other words, they want to do business with companies and the humans in them that are a lot like themselves. In this episode, Don Stanley walks us through his thoughts and some great examples of this strategy of being human.

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About the Expert

Don Stanley

Don Stanley is an internationally recognized college educator, speaker, and marketing and sales consultant.

As the co-founder of Wisconsin-based 3RhinoMedia, he has personal spoke to, lead workshops for and coached a wide array of clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies, international organizations, NBA, NHL and NFL athletes, start-ups and non-profits. One fun fact is Don has consulted with organizations on all 7 continents and he was a professional dog trainer (he loves dogs).


Full Transcript

Dan Moyle 0:08
Ready to spend 15 minutes with the experts you admire need strategy sessions from thought leaders brought directly to your ears. Welcome to the sprocket talk 15 minute strategy podcast where every week George B Thomas uncovers the challenges that sales, marketing and service professionals face and of course, the strategies to help them overcome their biggest hurdles. So sit back and set your sights on growth with these bite sized conversations build your strategy gold, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 15 minute strategy podcast

George Thomas 0:37
All right sprockets ears. I'm excited for multiple reasons on today's episode. First of all, I am talking to a friend of many years I am talking to somebody who is super smart. I am talking to somebody who is super human, if you will, but also that is the topic that we're going to talk about is human being human as a strategy. Don Stanley, before we get into this deep dive into the 15 minutes strategy podcast on being human as your actual strategy, why don't you let people know who you are, what you do, where you do it, how long you've been in the game, all that good stuff, so they start to get some context around our conversation. Absolutely, yeah.

Don Stanley 1:20
And super excited to be a part of this this show. I started in digital marketing back in 1996. So I've been in the game a while and just a little bit of background and I while I was in graduate school, I started a consulting business and I've been doing digital marketing consulting for 20 plus years now and then got lucky as as I was doing that work was asked by the University of Wisconsin if I'd be willing to teach some classes and I've been teaching digital marketing and marketing courses at the University of Wisconsin since 2000. So got my foot in In both the business world and the academic world, and it's kind of to me is a perfect blend. Yeah, I

George Thomas 2:05
love that Don. And just so everybody knows if there's ever a sprocket talk 15 minutes strategy podcast, Trivial Pursuit game. You are the second professor that we have had on the show, the first being the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Mark Schaefer on episode one. If you have not listened to that episode, make sure that you go back and do that it literally talks about the need for just understanding your own strategy, versus chasing somebody else's strategy or thinking strategy is tactics. But today, Don, I want to dive into this topic of being human as a strategy. And by the way, this could be sales, this could be marketing, this could be service. This is such a fundamental baseline strategy that I think we're going to talk about but so the viewers and listeners understand when we use the word human. Well, I want you to unpack that like what do you mean? Because there's different perceptions or different realities, if you will, to what somebody might call human. What do you mean when we use that term?

Don Stanley 3:09
I think the biggest thing is being real, you know, and the term authentic, it's thrown around, and I hate that it has kind of a bad reputation and people roll their eyes. But what it means to me being human is being who you really are. And that is as a person, not just in business and not just putting on a face and you know, talking about things that people people want things deeper. Mark, Mark Schaefer talks about this a lot in his book marketing rebellion, you know, referencing back to mark about people want to connect with others on a human level. And what's happened in the last hundred years or so as marketing took this spin and turn of people thinking is all about spin and about telling people what they want to hear and doing what they want you to do and the pushback from millennials. In gens ears, according to researchers, they're saying, No, I want you to be real. I want to know who I'm doing business with, what you what you value, what's important to you how you carry yourself because I want to purchase and interact with people who stand for something that I believe in. And I think this, which is, which is the way business was done for a long time previous. And I think that's a huge part of being human is not being afraid to let people know what you stand for. And really being willing to form your tribe, your community, and not that you're trying to kick anybody off or be exclusionary. But businesses have never been about these huge mass. Great businesses, in my opinion have never been about huge mass audiences. They've been about tribes of people who share values and commitment and purpose and Oh, just so happens that they happen to exchange money for that as well. I've got example after example, that I use in a lot of my presentations, where You can pretty much pick a field and I can pretty much give you an example when you say, Oh, this wouldn't work in my field being human doesn't apply here. Total garbage, it does apply. And again, I think the data clearly shows millennials and Gen Z years, which are people almost 40 years old. I'm down there wanting us to be, they're wanting real connections, and they're craving that. So I think just that, you know, sharing who you are a bit of who you are is really a huge strategy tactic, whatever you want to call it, but it's nothing more than connecting with somebody on a real trouble and knowing that you have shared values that we can support each other.

George Thomas 5:41
So it's interesting because I love when this word being authentic or authenticity or transparency or anything like that gets thrown out. And it goes without saying we're obviously talking about if you're just authentically a good person, like if you're authentically a butthead you got bigger problems and Building a strategy is probably the least of them, right? So just know that you're coming from a good place. But when we talk about this, Don, we quickly go into like individual people, right? It's super easy to say, Well, I'm going to share my core values as an individual human, or I've got a compass of, of who I want to be when I create videos or blog articles or build a website or build a business. But how do you take this very easy concept of authenticity? When it comes to an individual person? How do you map it to a business multiple people, marketers sales reps, there's so many conversations going on. Like when I asked that question, how does your brain unpack or think about, like putting something in place or understanding the narratives or however you would express that?

Don Stanley 6:53
Well, I think a large part of it is remembering how we form connections and the way we form Connections is based off of a lot of Little social signals. An example that I'll often give to people is when I am in Madison, Wisconsin, which is a home the University of Wisconsin, if I walk down the street and I see somebody wearing the University of Wisconsin t shirt, I ignore. If I'm in LA, or Boston and I see somebody wearing a T shirt, or somebody sees me wearing a T shirt that's affiliated with the university, what do they do? Hey, what's up man? So these little tiny social signals about the things that are important to us help us start forming connections and relationships and as much as we'd like to some people like to make fun of talking about or sharing posts about things that are important to you as an individual. You know, I watched some of your videos and I watched some of your content I see in the background you have the Avengers, you know and I love that because now there's a point of reference in contact with I love the Avengers. You love the adventures now I can connect with George so as a business not being able to free being afraid to Share some things. And as silly as this sounds, talk about sports teams you're interested in talk about social causes you support, you know, mention movies that you like little things that allow people to know that there are real people behind the company, that it's not just some random, you know, strange thing. And the example that I always give is my first big business deal was with Getty Images. That's my first big consulting gig was with Getty Images. And the only reason Well, I, the main reason I got that gig was because I had been a dog trainer, and the president of the company when I went to go talk to him at a picture of dogs in his office, and we started talking about dogs and the conversation turned super friendly, super interactive, and suddenly, it's like, you know, you'd be a lot of fun to work with. So the idea is with your business, you know, letting people know and see some of the behind the scenes content is one simple example. Sharing out you know, again organizations you support you know, things that are pet, you know, pictures of pets, as silly as it sounds. Again, those are little social signals that allow people to connect with us as humans. And then as we connect with one another as humans, we can start to build deeper forge deeper connections to do business together.

George Thomas 9:22
Alright, so now you've got my brain kind of twisted around this thing because where I went and what I heard and maybe the viewers and listeners heard as well, is when you're mapping this from an individual person who it's very easy for me to have Marvel Comics and even the DC guy there, aka man back in the view if if you're listening to this, you can go watch the video version to see my crazy orange background with superheroes. What I heard you say though, is when you think about that, as a company level those individual human to human interactions map into what is the company culture or the perception of the company culture. So with that said, if a company is trying to do human human marketing human to human sales, in other words, the strategy is to be human. You listed out a couple, but what inherently are some things that you can think of that a company would do from a culture level, to feel more human or be perceived as more human more authentic, more transparent to those individual people who are going to connect and become their tribe?

Don Stanley 10:26
Well, I think like I said, sharing out some of the little things that you might do and a lot one of the examples of business in the Milwaukee area, and they have they you can bring your dogs into work on Friday. And it is amazing how much of a response they get. They've gotten to the Facebook stories, Instagram Stories video, kind of when people see that they allow their dogs, the boys dogs to come to work. And what that does is it does two things actually. It lets people People who are potential prospects of that company get a sense of, hey, these people take care of their employees, the employees are happy the employees are sharing out this content. These might be fun people to work with, they might not have high turnover. And you know, I'm working with a new account rep every week because there's a churn business. The other thing it does from a company's culture standpoint, as far as hiring is it shows people what the inside of that company is like. So it can actually help with retention as well. So it's kind of this double bonus, where you get this combination of benefits, both for showing people who you are, as well as showing potential and prospective employees who you are. And again, this this applies to another company that I that I have interacted with. They did a Habitat for Humanity thing. And so the employees were paid to go, they didn't have to take a vacation day they were paid to go and volunteer and some people went to A food place that gave away food and other went to work, another group went to work at a homeless shelter. And what that shows too, is that the business isn't just about the bottom line business is about having a positive impact on the people they interact with. And I think that is a point of differentiation and a unique selling proposition that is so undervalued. But if you want to start to develop some long term, retention based customers who then brag about you and tell their other business colleagues about you, it's a fantastic way to operationalize that.

George Thomas 12:39
Yeah, and by the way, if you're listening to this, or viewing this, you do want long term customers who talk about you. It's a very valuable asset to have. And it's interesting, Don, as we've journeyed through this episode, I really think that even though this is the 15 minute strategy podcasts for sales, marketing and service, if you're listening to this right now, and You have somebody who is in your HR department, you may want to share this episode out because this has quickly gone from individual human to human being authentic, being transparent into this level of culture, culture being owned by HR, HR having tactics that they can do, whether it's being videos on YouTube or Facebook or you know, Instagram like you talked about. And then I even started to think deeper as you're kind of kind of messaging that or painting that picture around well, crap, should this be other communicational devices? So I'll ask the question, you know, and let me preface it. Most times we talk about newsletters, newsletters are a disguised way to sell for most companies or join our newsletter, it'll add value and then we sell them 10 times over. Like when you think of other places that we're communicating with the potential prospects leads and customers that we want to engage with that we want to become long life tribe members. Do you think that it makes sense to have these HR these culture, these human strategy points and places across the board with communication? Talk me through that and where you think some major ones are maybe some ideas on again communicating in these different ways in those channels.

Don Stanley 14:17
Yeah. 100%. And I think one of the examples that often comes to mind for me is Costco. And one of the things that Costco did is they were starting out is the founder of Costco said, I want to be the antithesis of Walmart. I want to be known as the place that treats our employees well, that get as really good high quality products that offers them at a fair price. And we highly value our people and our customers. It's not just about the lowest price because the lowest price comes with a cost to the people who work there or the vendors where you purchase the products from. And so they shared that story all over including their new other booklet or other magazine that they send out. And I know for a lot of people who value that that is one of the big reasons that they loved Costco or Sam's and Sam's a number of Sam's which are owned by Walmart at closed. But Costco is doing really, really well. And I think in large part, they're able to share that story across a variety of both print and electronic technologies to let people know, hey, when you come in, we value our people. There was an incident that happened here in Madison a year ago, there was a massive flood. That was a flash flood and people got trapped in the local Costco and local Costco ended up getting like three or four feet of water in it and the Costco employees are walking through all this mucky water. They put all of the people who are in the store up on high platforms and we're bringing them food and drink and not just if they didn't have that culture and live that culture. I bet you those employees would have been grumbling and grumpy rather than taking care of their customers. So I think, you know, kind of thinking of those values being based and shared out and just saying, This is how we carry ourselves. And then when you say this is the way you carry yourself, you have to act on it. You can't talk a good game and not follow through, you have to act on it. So that's the one thing if you're going to, you're going to think about, you know, being human, you have to be you have to be real. You have to, you have to be able to let your people let your customers be part of that story and include them. And I think that's another component as well as you know, featuring people who are part of your customer base in newsletters and things, just giving them shoutouts putting the spotlights on them. I think those are things that are really, really good companies, really successful companies that are building a massive digital digital footprint in their niche. Really do well.

George Thomas 16:53
There's so much in that section. It's rocket tears, you need to rewind and listen that there's shining a spotlight on this Individual humans customers employees using your company's social reach to be able to tell those stories. I love Don the the real time empathy real time love real time action conversation there. You know what else I like is real time conversations. If you want to continue this conversation you can head over to sprocket talk comm get your free account, get into the Slack channel for the 15 minute strategy podcast conversation where we're all communicating asking questions and talking. But Don also if they have questions specific for you, where do you want to send them? Where can they connect with you to continue this authentic transparent human strategy conversation?

Don Stanley 17:42
Yeah, my two favorite places are Twitter which is the Twitter handle is the number three. Why no media like the animal three right all media and then Don Stanley 1294 on the link in some of our about LinkedIn right now, I think there's a huge opportunity huge value there while interacting and engaging with people there and answering people's questions there. So hit me up on either of those platforms.

George Thomas 18:12
And there you go, be human. And by the way, when we say that we're saying, Be a good human drive, and focus on shining the spotlight on the heroes, which are the people around you, and we'll see you in the next episode.

Dan Moyle 18:27
Did you enjoy this episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast, we'd love to know. leave a rating and written review wherever you listen to your favorite shows and keep that learning going by visiting sprocket talk comm sign up for your free membership. And in that membership area, you can find bundled episodes where we combine like strategies to help you grow better, make the world better and share this episode with your friends and co workers who may be battling this same obstacle. You can always reach out to George B. Thomas on Twitter with questions or guest suggestions or just to talk about your favorite Marvel superhero. I go out into the world and leverage this strategy for Your success, and we'll see you on the next episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast.