"Nobody cares about storage," said the woman standing up at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference at a question-and-answer session four years ago. "What possible stories would people tell about us?"

I was sitting on the other side of the room and knew this was an opportunity I couldn't refuse to share a story. I stood up and replied:

"Storage saved my marriage! You see, I'm the kind of person that likes to save everything I've ever had--my old baseball-card collection, my science project from sixth grade, college textbooks, everything. My wife saves nothing. If it weren't for our storage, we'd be in big trouble.

"It's not about the product," I continued. "It's about how it makes people feel and telling great stories!"

I've always believed in the adage, "Tell, don't sell." Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone loves a good story. (If you don't believe me, look at the popularity of the movie business, the ultimate storytellers.)

Because everybody loves a good story, if you want to sell your product to customers, your vision to investors, or your ideas to the world, you've got to recognize the power and importance of great storytelling. We recently launched storytellit, a free tool to help you tell your business's stories across the social Web. Check it out, and start telling your stories today.

In the meantime, here are 13 quotes on storytelling to help inspire you!

  1. "Stories are a communal currency of humanity." --Tahir Shah, in Arabian Nights
  2. "Great stories happen to those who can tell them." --Ira Glas
  3. "The engineers of the future will be poets." --Terence McKenna
  4. "The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories." --Mary Catherine Bateson
  5. "Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form." --Jean Luc Godard
  6. "Story is a yearning meeting an obstacle." --Robert Olen Butler
  7. "If you're going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all." --Joseph Campbell
  8. "Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it." --Hannah Arendt
  9. "The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies both to individuals and institutions." --Michael Margolis
  10. "Those who tell the stories rule the world." --Hopi American Indian proverb
  11. "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." --Maya Angelou
  12. "There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place." --J.K. Rowling
  13. "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today." --Robert McKee 

Robert McKee may have said that storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today, but I'd say that storytelling has always been the best tool to communicate ideas, persuade others, and get what you want. That woman at the marketing conference turned out to be an employee of Extra Space Storage, by the way, a publicly traded company that's been a Likeable client for the last three years.

Tell, don't sell.