I don’t know Albert, a fifty-two-year-old marketing specialist and father of two, but I know he lost fifty pounds at my gym. How do I know? The gym posted a video on Facebook of him telling his story. Last month there was one of Maria, a stay-at-home mother of three who faced dangerous health conditions because of obesity. She hadn’t yet lost much weight, but she talked about her commitment to doing so. And recently, in a blog on the gym’s website, there was a first-person narrative by a twenty-five-year-old man who was confined to a wheelchair for eight months because of a car accident. When he was finally able to walk again, he realized that he’d gained thirty pounds while wheelchair-bound. Even though using his legs was still difficult and painful, he set a goal of losing a pound a week, and, taking it slowly and steadily, he’d already lost ten.
Now, I’m not the type of person who randomly clicks on website links and reads strangers’ stories. I never follow the path to those articles with headlines like, “How Did This Middle-Aged Mom Lose Fifteen Pounds in Two Weeks?” or “Amazing Story of Determination and Success!” But I do follow my gym on Facebook, and when I see that the gym has posted stories about fellow members, I happily read those stories. There’s something about the fearlessness of ordinary people describing their struggles, triumphs, and failures to others — and not just any ordinary people, but ordinary people who do the same things I do, who have similar goals, who maybe even live in my neighborhood.
We’re hardwired to pay attention to stories that are local. It starts in childhood: When you tuck your kids in at night and they ask you for an adventure story, they’re not looking for Lord of the Rings — they want a tale that stars them and their friends, one that takes place in their own backyards. And they want those stories — need them, really — because the stories teach them what is possible in their own small worlds; they teach them what they are capable of achieving. It’s the same for grown-ups. We need stories that come from close to home to show us what we can do. If Albert and Maria and the twenty-five-year-old go to my gym and they can do it, then I’m much more likely to believe that I can do it myself.
Are you sharing local stories with your clients? Are you letting them inspire each other to push themselves further, to hold on to their gym memberships even if they’re tempted to quit, to transform themselves through what your facility has to offer? If not, it’s time. Social media makes it easy, whether you blog, email, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or do something else. Talk to your members about their stories; ask them to share; post those stories widely, and trust that they’ll reach the people who need to be reached.
I should add that I saw Albert at the gym the other day. He was on the elliptical next to mine. I recognized him from the video.