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I just saw a great slideshare presentation from Sarah Goodall, Head of Social Media – EMEA, at SAP.  Entitled, “Storytelling to Storyselling,” it’s exactly the type of resource I’ve been searching for to help put pattern and process behind that elusive — yet incredibly important — art of storytelling.

Her premise is this — in an age of information overload, getting your audience to remember anything is a challenge.  Yes, you could keep repeating yourself, and at some level that may work, but it’s more efficient to tell a story.  Why?  Because stories are how we are “wired” to remember things.  Think of it as the Three R’s: we Relate to what we’re hearing and therefore build a context that we can Recall and Refer to later on.

As for process, I really like this chart Sarah presents, because it helps me see the pattern in storytelling:

So How Can You Move to Storyselling?
The value in this chart for me is that it demonstrates that storytelling begins with positioning – you need to know who your customer is, what problems they face, and how you solve the problems before you can tell them a story.  Once positioning is established, you move on to messaging, which is where most people “stop.”  I remember hearing Lou Hoffman, the storytelling guru, say essentially that messaging is useless in this day and age.  He posits that executives are so “trained” to parrot messages, that what they say ends up not resonating with their audiences because it sounds too “canned.” 
 
I think he’s got a point.  But messaging is still a key step to the storytelling process, because it customizes the value propositions for each audience.  It’s also an invaluable tool to communicate those value propositions within your organization, not only creating alignment among groups, but also giving the individuals in your organization the opportunity to evangelize your value to their networks.
 
Next comes  storyboarding.  If you’ve never heard of storyboarding, it’s a technique used in theater and film to visibly express a story, scene by scene.  My own belief is that it is this step that is the “missing piece.”  Okay, what do I mean by that?
 
What I mean is that traditional case studies don’t give you a story!   Not only that, they can be really boring — problem, solution, result.  Yada yada yada.  Who cares?  Especially nowadays when communications are everywhere and our attention is diverted so easily to other topics?
 
So, how does storyboarding solve that problem?
 
Storyboarding gets story tellers to think visually.  That is the missing piece, critical element or communications “chasm” to cross (to mix my metaphors).  Once you start thinking of telling your story in visual blocks, it makes you think multidimensionally — and encourages you to use multiple communications strategies to communicate your message.  This means that you gone from appealling to just the logical mind (via the written word) and extends your engagement power by introducing visuals — pictures, sequence & scene, texture, sounds.
 
More on storyboarding in my next post.
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SAP may have a rep for being a staid company with boring enterprise software workhorses that we depend on to keep the enterprise up and running.

But — dare I say it? — the SAP EcoHub is cool.

On Friday, I sat in on a live demo of the SAP EcoHub given by Rajeev Kak, senior director – global marketing, SAP EcoHub.  Announced only a year and a half ago at SAP TechEd in Berlin (October 2008), it is an online marketplace where customers can shop for, evaluate, and buy partner solutions that extend the value of their SAP installations.

With 260 partners participating and a robust 480+ solutions, the EcoHub is a success story that SAP can be proud of, in spite of some of the hits the company has taken lately.  Last week their new CEO, Leo Apotheker, resigned.  Some of their top headaches have been customer dissatisfaction about increases in maintenance fees during the down economy, delays in delivering a viable SaaS solution  (Business byDesign), as well as a 28% drop in license fees and 9% decrease in revenues in 2009.

While it is a refreshing success story in a sea of bad news, the good news about the EcoHub isn’t an accident.  In fact, SAP has a long-term commitment to the value of partners and has made a huge investment in partners via their Global Partner Ecosystem Group (GPEG), a sizeable chunk of which is based right here in Palo Alto, California.

But I digress….let’s talk about why the EcoHub is so cool.

For one thing, it’s a marketplace sponsored by SAP.  Believe it or not, this is news.  Too many Tech 100 companies out there have partner catalogs on their sites, but partner marketplaces are rare.  And the shame of it is that when I mention the EcoHub to partner marketing colleagues, very few of them have heard of it.

So, yes, it’s an incredible value for the partner to be able to market and sell their solution on the SAP EcoHub — on SAP’s dime, on SAP’s Web site, leveraging SAP’s brand recognition.  And the value for the customer is huge — they’ve got a one-stop shop where they can search for solutions and buy them, right then and there.

But from a marketer’s perspective, what makes the EcoHub cool is that they’ve built and executed a marketplace that takes advantage of much of what online marketing has to offer.  They have a “continuous beta” philosophy, so that they operate the EcoHub from the perspective that it’s never “done.”  Creating a “hub” of information and news, users can use it for customer to community links (the SAP communities are some of the best out there), social media connections, and community blogs. 

In addition, the marketing services are cool.  Not only can partners update their listings themselves, they can add demos for customers to review (18k downloads so far).  SAP allows partner-sponsored links — advertising really — so that the EcoHub is a revenue generator and partners get much-coveted access to the SAP customer.  The site is organized so it’s easy to find solutions based on industry or solution area, review case studies,  share solutions, contact partners, and rate solutions.

Plus, they’ve got a proactive Webinar program that they underwrite for their partners.  SAP provides all the backend support for the Webinar and they do co-marketing with the partner to get the word out.  Co-marketing includes splashes on the EcoHub to drive traffic to the Webinar.  Although SAP will help with list purchases, they don’t allow the partner access to the SAP customer list.

They are also doing some innovative things with Twitter.  SAP is working with a company called People Browsr, which is a data mine and social search engine.  From the People Browsr Website: “We’ve built a set of applications sitting on the data mine to monitor your brand, identify your audience, analyze tweets sentiment, filter the buzz, manage feedback, share accounts, run campaigns, track keywords, build widgets and engage across multiple social networks simultaneously.”

Using those services, joint SAP-partner webinars in December 2009 and Feb 2010 got 50% of their registrations off of Twitter — with 500+ attendees each.

SAP is banking on partnerships to generate revenue, expand markets, and extend their solutions.  With a strong ecosystem built on synchronicity with partners and collaboration with customers, SAP is betting their long term health and viability on their investment.  The SAP EcoHub, with its robust offering and philosophy of continous improvement, is a tangible demonstration of their belief in the ecosystem.

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