Storytelling is an integral part of being human, and it's the way we've emotionally connected with one another for thousands of years. It should come as no surprise that brands use storytelling to connect with their consumers to great effect. After all, 92 percent of consumers say that they want brand advertisements to feel more like stories.

If you want customers to buy -- and buy into -- your brand, you need to show them who you are. Through storytelling, leaders can establish their expertise and passion, show what makes them different, and establish an empathetic connection with customers that will lead to stronger sales figures.

Getting Authentic and Emotional

Especially when sellers are confident in their product (and you shouldn't be selling a product you don't believe in), they tend to cite facts and figures and try to appeal to a customer's rational side. Yet instead of convincing skeptics, an excess of data usually ends up overwhelming them. Think of the most recent slideshow you sat through and how many concrete figures you actually retained.

According to ISPO magazine, the subconscious brain is responsible for 90 percent of the purchases individuals make. What you need to do is sell to the intuition and emotions of a prospect, and the best way to do that is by telling a story. Brand storyteller and Blackbeard Studios founder Erin Berman sheds some light on why: "Storytelling appeals to consumers on an emotional level because it positions them in the center. This is far more powerful than just appealing to their minds. In a brand story, your consumer is the hero -- not you."

Telling your consumers a story they can connect with is different than just spinning a yarn. People crave stories, sure, but not above honesty. In fact, 91 percent of consumers value authenticity and factor it in when they're deciding which brand to purchase from. If you're going to earn the trust of your customers, make sure what you're communicating is verifiably true. To take your brand -- and your sales -- to the next level, here are a few more tips for crafting a compelling story:

1. View your consumers as the heroes.

Put your consumers and the problems they need solved at the center of your narrative. "As you better understand your consumers as characters and the world they live in," Berman explains, "you will begin to see their challenges and motivations (two key storytelling components!) that will lead your product to be the perfect solution for them. By identifying the challenges in your characters' world, you will home in on the pain point your product is solving, as well as how they are motivated to overcome it."

A great exercise to cultivate a consumer-centric mindset is to create detailed customer personas. Don't just reach for the whiteboard and write "Customer #1" and "Customer #2." Part of our own process at Firebrand Group is to give them names, backgrounds, and even pictures, and use your current best customers to help lay the foundation. What kind of solution are these individuals looking for, and how can you provide it to them?

2. Rely on your brand advocates and use their content.

User-generated content is incredibly valuable. Not only is it free (or near free) and possible to generate en masse, it's naturally authentic because it comes from an unpaid spokesperson. Influencer marketing has established itself as one of the next big avenues for brands to reach their customers, and while well-known influencers have the benefit of large followings, they can be expensive.

Instead of forking over money you may not have, encourage everyday users to bring you content through contests, hashtags, or giveaways. You'll be surprised at how much other consumers will rely on the experiences and opinions of their peers.

3. Get personal to amplify emotional connections.

Origin, the consumer research group of marketing agency Hill Holliday, designed a series of experiments to measure the impact of storytelling on customer behavior. Consumers were shown items with basic descriptions or more elaborate stories, and items in the latter category consistently generated more revenue. As Ilya Vedrashko, Origin's then-senior VP and director of research, noted, "That's a lift on no additional investment."

4. Spread story content on blogs and social media.

Instead of producing vast amounts of generic content, focus on custom content to draw in your audience. More than three-quarters of customers find companies that provide custom content to be more trustworthy and consumer-focused.

Manage your content by utilizing a software solution such as PowerPost, a publishing technology platform accelerator for brand marketers and storytellers. By centralizing content, you can streamline collaboration, measurement, and publishing and ensure your content speaks to the customer in a consistent and compelling voice.

While connecting with consumers is difficult to master, isn't particularly difficult to begin. Today's marketers are armed with incredibly precise targeting systems that allow them to pinpoint their audience and reach them whenever they want. A taller order is creating a message that actually resonates with your prospects and drives them to action. Incorporating elements of storytelling into your branding will allow you to more successfully appeal to consumer emotions and optimize your advertising to boost sales.