What’s Your Story? Coupa Brings Color, Context, Influence and Emotion to Inspire19

 

“The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. Irony is always scratching at your tired ass, whatever way you look at it, I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”

— Jim Harrison

From the time I learned to read, I’ve been the nerdiest word nerd, looking to get lost in the stories of others, sucking up context and emotions to ground my own experiences or go somewhere completely new. While I’ve gained my fair share of experience in the world creating my own living stories, I can’t understate the business (and sales, and marketing) value of immersing yourself in and sharing the stories of others.

Think about the structure of a story: beginning, setting the stage, plot, character development, emotional upheaval, a lesson learned, an ending that goes resolved or unresolved. Humans are hooked! Inherent human empathy and curiosity connects us to our fellow humans, fictional or not, and helps us learn something or be somewhere we may never experience in real life. This creates a complicated neural network of perceived experience that we can draw upon for almost any situation.

In an increasingly STEM and data-driven world, boy do we need to keep the tradition of storytelling alive. What’s millions of rows of data without any context or color behind it? What’s a success story without some kind of emotional denouement? When I work with Spend Matters clients on the marketing and sales side of things, I’m floored by how often people think their software will “speak for itself, if only we can get the prospect on a demo.”

At Coupa Inspire19 this year, sure: I saw some screenshots and product demos. I’d expect to, given the tech wonk crowd I run with. But what I absorbed and took home with me is the customer stories, from United Airlines to Lululemon to MGM to a thousand others.

Coupa can tell general business success stories in terms of savings, user adoption, quick implementations, blah blah blah until the cows come home. But what I loved about this event is that Coupa acknowledged that we should all challenge ourselves to go deeper than that. You can have the best sourcing optimization or most sophisticated AI tech stack in the world, but humans still need to add the color, context, influence and emotion to bring any of it to life in any sort of meaningful real-world context.

Technology is really just an enabler for someone to put their story into the world, and the Coupa team is happy to let it sit in the background while letting their community shines in the spotlight. It was refreshing. We should all spend more time on stories.

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