Corona. Once a beer, now a word whose negative weight of meaning will resonate for a long time. But as with most things in life: Everything always has its good, or at least instructive, sides.
The pandemic undoubtedly created a social state of unprecedented stasis and social distance. That was, and to some extent still is, bad and depressing for most of us. Whether in our role as citizens of this state, employees in companies, or members of our own families.
But for some, it also became a valuable moment of pause shortly after the first lockdown. Many realized: Something is happening here that was absolutely unthinkable just a short time ago. Habits that seemed to have no alternative were suddenly called into question. Previously unquestioned certainties, convictions and cherished routines: they were no longer possible or, for a certain time, actually no longer allowed.
Everyone dealt with the pandemic in a different way, no question. While some suddenly had massive existential worries through no fault of their own, others had the chance to take a kind of internal inventory of their existence. They looked at their lives, their goals and their everyday lives and, under certain circumstances, even examined their souls. Quite a few discovered a lot of useless things, a lot of ballast and, in general, a lot of chaos. Simply far too much of everything - both internally and externally. With the result that the clear view of the here and now is blocked: What is actually essential, important and right? Isn't Corona perhaps a clear warning and opportunity to declutter one's own life like a messy apartment?
Declutter? Tidy up? Putting things in order? That sounds suspiciously like Marie Kondo, doesn't it? This is the lady after whom the KonMari method was named a few years ago, for "proper" tidying in one's own four walls. To achieve with more order on the outside also more order on the inside and thus reward yourself with more clarity, happiness and satisfaction.
Tidy up, but systematically! This means, for example, collecting all things of one category (e.g., shoes, jackets or books) in a pile and asking yourself for each item: Do I still need this? And another question: Does this item really make me happy? Does it give off feelings of happiness when I touch it? She literally called this principle "Sparking Joy."
If the honest answer to this is "no", it means: Get rid of it! Or does this shoe or that book actually bring me a bit of happiness? Then it can and should stay. However, it will not be stored away in the same place as before, but will be given a new and, above all, a permanent place. The latter, in order to secure the newly won order also permanently and sustainably.
So-called odds and ends occupy a special position. Rhinelanders would call it "Nippes", the Japanese say "Komono" to it. It is not uncommon for many personal memories and emotions to be attached to this Komono, which makes cleaning out another challenge. But again, the question remains: do I associate it with happiness? Otherwise, it consistently goes away. So, Marie Kondo has refined the well-known principle of "less is more" and enriched it with new instructions for action. Personally, I don't think of it as anything really "magical", rather it's "simple but ingenious". Let's call it a solid strategy: solid, clever, conclusive and also behaviorally-psychologically quite comprehensible.
Especially the last point plays a valuable role, with the remaining possessions a source to gain more satisfaction. So less is also better. If it is the right thing to keep, that is.
Back to the Corona moment described at the beginning. As a market researcher, I experience one quite practically with every new client. Always. Because it is always imperative to pause together with the client to analyze the status quo of the company with care and calm, in other words to carry out a kind of inventory.
Let's take the example of the "customer journey" known in marketing, which we can make visible with various survey and observation methods. The point here is: Which touchpoints, i.e., which points of contact of the target group with a brand or the products can be identified? In other words, also outside the obvious purchase process. Where, for example, do (potential) customers encounter customer service or other company employees? Where do these customers encounter reviews and opinions of other customers or resellers of the products? Where and when do they encounter the various advertising and PR measures, whether offline or online?
To answer these questions for the customers of my market research, I collect all available information and figuratively put it in the same way on a pile to evaluate it together with my customer: Which touchpoints exist at all. Which are important? Which are less important? Which touchpoints make the company "happy" because customers are obviously looking for them and these are important for the successful sale of the products? Other touchpoints may pay insufficient dividends to the corresponding brand and result in weaker sales performance overall.
Whatever we find out: Only those stations of the customer journey that are successful or have sufficient potential should be retained. From now on, all attention - and attentiveness - should be paid to these. In addition, it should be avoided at all costs that the company loses track of the specific "journey" of its customers again at a later point in time. To do this, however, you have to "stay tuned" to the target groups over the long term.
As a market researcher, it is important to have a good overview and the right overview. In the past, it was also called separating the wheat from the chaff. In my case as a market researcher, this means asking the right questions of my clients' target groups in both quantitative and qualitative studies to come up with long-term answers for all facets of communication, sales and product development. And to identify and eliminate all non-essential, if not superfluous, measures.
What Marie Kondo discovered a good ten years ago for the new living happiness I have been practicing myself since 2004 with my own market research institute. Very recently, I even wrote a book about a similar principle - about "Customer Centricity Mindset®". Here, too, it's all about focusing on the essentials. In this case, around the so-called "persona", i.e., the individual customer. I ask the question, "How and why does a company make this ONE customer happy?" Nothing else matters and that should be the guiding principle of all entrepreneurial action.
Finally, a confession: it took Corona to get me to apply the ordering and evaluation principles described here in my personal life as well. And quite honestly: I could have thought of that earlier!
Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.