If a picture is worth a thousand words then what is a thousand words worth?

A great entrepreneur once told me that the key to his success was getting the voice of his business just right. How many attempts would he have to tell his story and pique the interest of potential consumers? Not many.

Fifteen degrees in one direction and the tone of the conversation might sound too sales-y. Twenty degrees in the other direction and there is a risk of losing the interest of the target audience.

The good news is as social media marketers, we get feedback in real-time, making advertising much more intuitive than ever before. It also allows us to start and share conversations while measuring effectiveness. We can also quickly determine what is not working. Great content always finds the right audience.

But consider some of the basic metrics — shares, likes and retweets. And consider basic strategies — nostalgia works, as do cats and babies. These are all about sharability and not sales goals.

That’s where I believe a better, more refined approach is needed. I call it story-selling. Take the shoe company TOMS, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. A consumer’s action caused a reaction. Now that’s compelling!

Even more compelling is the way TOMS’ mantra creates brand advocates. Just trying asking someone about a pair of TOMS they are wearing. They’d almost certainly mention the giving aspect of the purchase. In other words, the consumer becomes a story-seller, too.

Recently our company ran a campaign promoting natural/organic bug sprays that cost nearly twice as much as those found on drugstore shelves. Why would someone have paid that much more? Yes, it works and yes, it’s the safest product for children and pets. Having said that, paying twice as much is still a lot to ask.

The answer is, “because of you.” That’s the most important phrase in the story-selling repertoire. We worked with an organization called Thistle Farms, who used the proceeds from sales to give women who have faced significant hardship a second chance at life. Our content focused on the good that could be done in the community through every purchase. Now the product is our No. 1 seller, and we can report to our customers that we have given 12 women the opportunity to enroll in college programs. And that message was picked up by social media, urging more people to support the product and the cause.

Suddenly paying more offered even more value. Our customers became advocates and the sales keep coming in. We told each new customer that that the good being done was “because of you.”

As you are reading this, you likely came up with some ways this strategy can translates to your business, whether you are a small business or a multinational. The key is to focus on what you mean to your communities and just as important, what your customers do as well. Share their stories and remind them how because of their actions, great things happened.

Zack Rosenberg is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of DoGoodBuyUs, the marketplace for Goods that Do Good. After a career in advertising working for companies such as BuzzFeed, WebMD, SmartBrief and others, he turned his attention to transforming the world through business.

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