Imagination and the Customer

I was watching a documentary about the sun and space and started drifting in the different thoughts that the program evoked in me. While imagining what was happening “out there” in space, I realized that I visually represent it in my mind, and I know that it is not just visual. I know that these are just impressions that happen on our eyes. The sounds the phenomena create (and they are quite noisy) are reverberations of the medium they are in, and what we call sound is just the impression left on our minds. So, to be able to start understanding these phenomena, I realized there should be other ways to “imagine” them.
When you talk about your customer, what do you imagine? Do you imagine a person buying your product, or do you just have a conceptual thing in your mind, or is it just a number?
What is the best way to imagine the customer you are targeting and communicating with?
The method I prefer is recreating and living the experience that person goes through when they are encountered with my message or experiencing a product I’m involved in. This is actually a personal passion of living as vividly as possible the experiences of other people, and understanding them as fully as possible. But I also think this is a sound business strategy, since you really need to understand that person you are motivating to have a good experience with your product.
This is of course different from imagining what you would do when in your customer’s place. This is totally different. I also don’t think it is a good thing, to imagine how you would react, since this throws the exercise off balance. I think we need to develop enough empathy to be able to somehow re-experience what our end users are going through with our products, and how they are reacting to them.