‘Tis the season… Consumerism is at its strongest force and suddenly we all forget the real meaning of Christmas.

Instead, we’re stealing parking spots from one another and waiting in lineups in below freezing temperatures just to scoop up some door crashing prize we don’t really have a use for.

Or, if you’re like me, you’re procrastinating the day away, watching horrifying YouTube videos of Americans throwing punches in Target because someone grabbed the last Robotic Dog named CHiP.

You better believe I’ll be the farthest distance from a shopping mall on Black Friday. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because I will likely be working from home and there is, in fact, a mall in this town).

Still, I’m tempted to turn out the lights and just hibernate in my own little world this time of year. Of course, it isn’t going to work that way… at least if I want to pay the credit card bill come January.

And while we’re left sifting through the latest promotions in our inboxes and dodging online ads like it’s nobody’s business, the question all entrepreneurs are asking right now is this:

How do I stand out amongst the noise?

And the answer quite simple actually: you tell a story.

As humans, our brains are wired for story.

According to Richard Branson, “Telling a story is one of the best ways we have of coming up with new ideas, and also of learning about each other and the world.”

If we want proof of this concept, we can just look to the past. Centuries ago, people gathered around the fire to share their personal experiences. In doing so, they learned to avoid danger, to hunt more effectively as a team, and to strengthen cultural traditions.

Today, thought leaders and entrepreneurs (or anyone with an idea to sell) rely heavily on storytelling to inspire audiences. They leverage the power of story to make people laugh, to make them think, and to inspire them to invest in their idea, product or service.

Storytelling is the fundamental building block of communication.

In a world where people are bombarded by choices, the story is often the deciding factor in whom we decide to do business with.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to share four truths business owners should know about storytelling.

1. Your story begins with your passion.

Now, it’s my turn to ask you a question. Ready? Here it is…

What makes your heart sing?

Think about this for a minute. Maybe even jot down a couple things that come to mind.

Chances are, your answer to this question is going to be a lot different than your answer to the common question: “What do you do for a living?”

The truth is, you cannot inspire others unless you’re inspired yourself. And I’m willing to bet you have a certain passion burning inside of you, something that gets you excited to wake up in the morning. Or maybe it even keeps you up at night.

As Steve Jobs once said:

“Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we need to be really clear on what we want them to know about us. Our customers want to know: who is Apple and what is it that we stand for. What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well… But Apple is about something more than that. Apple’s core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”

Communicating our passion helps our audience connect with our values. So ask yourself, “What makes my heart sing?”

2. Not all optimists are storytellers, but nearly all inspiring storytellers are optimistic.

Storytellers have what neuroscientist Solomon Snyder calls “The Audacity Principle.” He defines this as a go-for-it attitude, the conviction and self-confidence to pursue an idea and articulate that idea “even though the world punches you in the nose.”

As entrepreneurs, we’ve all experienced our share of nosebleeds.

We all have faced our share of critics and naysayers. We’ve had endless obstacles and challenges to overcome. But we also have the courage, the conviction and the confidence to share our ideas, even if it means getting punched in the nose from time to time.

Believe in the strength of your ideas. Believe in the power and influence of your story.

And as you share it with your audience, even if you face rejection at first, don’t give up. Find the courage to move on, reframe your story, and share again.

After all, the story you share is the story you choose to tell.

3. Storytellers share what they know.

There’s a common piece of advice for writers suggesting they should write what they know. Now, not all writers follow this recommendation. But being a professional writer or author means first understanding the rules, and therefore earning the authority to break them.

And the same advice also applies to storytelling. We all have a past, a backstory, and often this past creates a vision for our future. Our backstory comes dressed in the events or people who have shaped our lives. Something happens that forces us to grow, or challenges us to look at the world differently.

These personal experiences make us who we are today.

We all have stories of overcoming obstacles, and these stories provide a dramatic arc to the narrative we tell the world.

Sharing your personal experiences allows you to make a meaningful emotional connection with your audience. It gives them a reason to care about you.

Look at your backstory as a gift that shaped your life, career and business. Then get excited about sharing that gift with others.

4. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about them.

It’s not just about the story you share; it’s about how your story makes your audience feel.

Authentic stories connect people in a deep and meaningful way. Your story helps your audience understand your values, which mirror their own. When you share the lessons you’ve learned along the way, it helps them avoid making the same mistakes. When you share your passion and ambition for your work, it helps your audience trust you to be the expert and steer them in the right direction.

Customers want to know where a product comes from, who are the people behind it, and how committed they are to delivering a quality product.

None of us buy a brand or logo as much as we buy into a set of values. And there’s no better way to reveal your business’s values than through sharing the stories that have inspired you to lead it.

Storytellers recognize that a group of people who share a collective passion around a common purpose can accomplish anything.

So think of your audience first whenever you are telling your story. What obstacles are they facing in their own lives, and how will your story help make their day better? Better yet, how will your product or service improve their lives? Imbed this into your story and allow it to become part of your company’s competitive edge.

And your competitive edge is much more longstanding than a 40% off sale on Black Friday.

Read to start sharing your brand story on social media? Connect with us to find out how we can help.