Are you really connecting with your audience?

As I was going through my morning routine of sifting through news stories, industry blurbs and tidbits of stats that are driving the minds of the world today, I saw a story about a personal trainer who is purposely making himself obese.

I didn’t read the story. I didn’t need to. It made perfect sense to me. Well, let me rephrase that. The idea struck the marketer in me as perfectly logical. The non-marketer side of me actually instantly craved ice cream, but that’s an entirely different issue.

To the non-marketer this idea is horrifying at first. A person who is dedicated to helping others get fit and healthy, who lives a lifestyle that works for him and his family, is deliberately making himself eat, essentially, poisons in his world, and not work out. Why? Why would someone do this? It’s not like he’s going to make a movie out of it (as in Super Size me, although now that the story is hitting the national news there might be some cable movie or documentary coming out of it.)

To the marketer, and to the good business owner, it makes sense. In order to communicate and reach your customers it’s important to understand them. This personal trainer likely never did. So now he apparently needs to know what it’s like to be fat, so he can better help his clients by actually, truly understanding them.

Some might say that wearing a fat suit would suffice, but those are people who do not feel the need to understand their clients. I would guess he’s tried that before, to understand the physical sense of being obese, and to learn more of the emotional side of how he would be treated by others, and then internalize it himself.

Clearly he reached a point with his clientele that he realized he didn’t fully understand them, and no amount of learned empathy could overcome that. He needed to experience it himself to better be able to understand the mindset, challenges and victories he can offer them. And he needed his clients to understand that, too.

Magazines learned it. For decades they only used high fashion models on the covers. Then they switched to celebrities (not much of an advance, but it’s a step.) Clothing, beauty and health care companies are finding real people and real bodies to show off their products.

Infomercials use celebrities to endorse their products, but that’s just to get credibility and attention. The real sellers of their products are the average people, the testimonials from regular folk like you and me. We like that the celebrities endorse products, it shows us that they are willing to stake their faces and names on it (as long as they’re credible celebrities). But we also know that they have personal trainers, make up artists, hair experts, stylists, and time to do all that is necessary to maintain whatever topic they are endorsing.

It’s the real people, the people just like us, who have constraints of time, family, money that tell us this can work. People who experience what we experience, and all that goes along with it, be it extra weight, acne, frizzy hair or eating healthy.

We need to know that you can relate, and through that understanding, that you can assure us that you or your product can help.

So as a marketer I can understand why this personal trainer is doing what he’s doing. I can understand that he likely expects to learn a lot for the fight back from being obese that will help him relate to his clients. What I KNOW he will learn is a great deal more about what actually being obese feels like, personally, physically, emotionally, socially … and for that, he will be a better trainer to his clients.

To reach your clients you must understand them, not just think you do.