Talking to your Customers can Help you Find your Cash Cow

Posted on December 15th, 2014
Business Skills & Planning

Talking to your customers can help you find your cash cow

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought,” Albert Szent-Gyorgyi.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term cash cow being thrown around when business people speak, and you probably have used it in your own conversations. But how many of us have taken time to open a dictionary to see what cash cow means?

According to the Webster Dictionary a cash cow is a business, investment, or product that provides a steady income or profit. As an entrepreneur, the part of the definition that caught my attention was the steady profit part. A steady profit means no cash flow problems, as the income just keeps on coming.

Identifying your cash cow
So how does a business owner find this so called cash cow? Market research can help. Says who? Well, actions and results speak louder than words. A good example of an entrepreneur that used market research is Mr. Raymond Ackerman. Mr. Ackerman claimed to maximise consumer sovereignty. In plain English, he put his customer first.

The story is he would walk in the aisles of the Pick n’ Pay in Claremont, and talk to as many customers as he possibly could. He would ask them how they felt about the service being offered. Sometimes he would ask about products on the shelf, and how customer felt about the layout, pricing and even the variety of products being offered. He would even ask customers what they would like to see change in Pick n’ Pay stores.

In an interview he gave, he confessed to driving behind a car with Checkers plastic bags from Cape Town to Simon’s Town (almost 50kms) to find out why the person had not bought from Pick n’ Pay. Even though this borders on stalking, the sentiment was, he wanted to understand customers. In his understanding, he built a R55 billion cash cow. More importantly, he took his understanding and implemented it into strategy.

In implementing strategy based on continually communicating with his customers, Mr. Ackerman focused on the parts no one else was thinking of. Mr. Ackerman recognised that pricing was important for shoppers, so he ensured Pick n’ Pay negotiated with suppliers.

More than statistics and data
When I was first introduced to market research, 10 years ago in varsity, I thought it was all about numbers and percentage of people that were aware of, or using a product. Yes it was important to understand the statistics and data because with market research you can sometimes talk to 4 000 or more customers.

This was the part everybody else sees. The part that has got me excited about the job was being able to use the statistics and data to come up with ideas that nobody else has thought of, because therein lies your cash cow.

Lets do great things!

About the author: Karabo Songo is the Group founder and MD of Olive Communications, a full-service strategic communications agency. He is passionate about building innovative marketing businesses and brands within Africa with a difference and grow entities into profitable assets for shareholders.  Follow him at  on Twitter @ mr_k_s.