Building a loyal audience is essential for any business. But how do you rise above all of the noise online to truly connect with your tribe? In the fast-paced world full of viral videos, clickbait, and constant competition for consumer attention, what will actually build trust and engagement with your potential clients and customers? It is easy to get sucked into constant content creation and complex marketing strategies, but is this the best way to actually reach your target audience? Even if you reach the right people, what actually keeps them coming back and converts them into dedicated customers?
What if the key to building your audience and connecting with your clients was vulnerability and empathy and not striving to create viral content? Franchisor and best selling author of the Fit to Fat to Fit brand Drew Manning credits vulnerability and empathy have been absolutely essential to building a loyal and dedicated tribe from nothing. Entrepreneurs often get stuck thinking they need to have a massive following before they start seeing conversions or engagement, but Drew started his journey with zero connections. He said “ I had no media connections. I didn’t really have a marketing strategy. I created a Squarespace, a website and my own. a YouTube channel and then just started posting, you know, weekly along my journey and people found it intriguing.”
If you’ve been stressing about creating perfectly polished, branded content, I have good news. Your tribe is out there, and they don’t expect perfection. In fact, consumers are looking for something much different than polished and perfect; consumers want to believe you. They want to feel that you are authentic and real. People can sense when something is forced and inauthentic. When you agonize over trying to get every word right and feel paralyzed about posting that video because you tripped over a word or two, you are blocking an authentic interaction with your audience.
So how do you actually show up authentically for your audience? Drew insists that to be authentic you must first get comfortable with vulnerability. Sharing our stories and opening-up consistently is how you find your tribe. Vulnerability builds trust between you and your audience. Drew says “I’ve learned as an influencer in the space, the more real and authentic you are with your audience and show up that way, the more people are going to trust you. Which, yes, in the end, leads to more sales. And so I’ve learned over the years and that sharing my story, and relating to my audience that people trust me more and they can relate to me more. That’s how you build your tribe and you’re following.”
If being vulnerable is something you struggle with, Brene Brown is a leader on the subject and has excellent resources to help you learn to see vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. It takes practice when learning how to be vulnerable is a skill. It takes practice, focus, and intention. When you start viewing vulnerability as a strength you are able to own your story and speak from a place of confidence and authenticity, which builds trust with your audience. And we know that consumers buy from brands and people they trust. Owning your story also not only helps you connect, but it stops you and your consumer feel like you’re constantly trying to sell them something. You build relationships and loyalty with an audience that truly connects with what you have to say.
The next key to building an audience and connecting with clients is empathy. Drew’s true secret to success has been empathizing with his clients and his franchisees. By intentionally trying to understand what his clients were struggling with and experiencing, he was able to bridge the gap between his knowledge and skills and what his clients actually needed to succeed in their fitness goals. Empathy is also what has made his brand and franchise so unique. He believes that empathy is the tool necessary to make a serious impact in the fitness industry. And it clearly works. His brand exploded and has a loyal and dedicated audience.
Building empathy is a process of coming down from a mountaintop and changing your perspective. You cannot fully understand or appreciate your client’s pain points if you cannot see the path they are walking. When you find ways to get in their shoes you can actually see how to help them, how to provide true value, and how to best connect with them.
Drew shared a quote he lives by and teaches to all of his franchisees. It is that “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Maybe your content and marketing have been focused on your knowledge and skills. Or all of the amazing things your product or service has to offer. All of this is important to your success and your audience, but it is not what builds trust. If you cannot relate to your clients you are not going to see real engagement. Knowledge, skills, and benefits will not convince someone to take action. Knowing that you are invested in their success, that you care, and that you can empathize with them is when you will see real connection.
If you have been struggling to build an audience or feel like you just aren’t connecting with your clients, it might time to reflect on your approach. Are you showing up in authentic ways consistently? Have you done the work to own your story so you can be vulnerable when it is appropriate in your business and communities? Lastly, have you taken the time to come down from the mountaintop and see the path from your client’s perspective? Drew says “When you align yourself with the real you instead of just being a leaf blowing in the wind like, ‘Okay, where can I make money? I need money here and there.’ It’s finding your real passion and purpose in life and that’s where you can make a real impact.”