By James White, Founder & owner of InTouch CRM

As the UK gets back to normal following one of the most uplifting and inspiring events of recent times, I have been wondering how GB PLC can start to drive momentum and achieve the results that our Olympians have over the past few weeks.

One thing for sure is that if we all stick our heads in the sand and continue with a negative attitude then it won’t happen but as SMB/SME’s represent a significant part of our economy, maybe it’s time for the small businesses of Britain to start trying to get GB PLC out of recession and into growth! The only way we will achieve this is developing and achieving more business and getting money out of the pockets of consumers who aren’t sure whether to spend or who want the best deal for the money they do spend! Driving new and repeat business is never easy but I did think back to a scenario a few months back which made me think ‘this is possible with the right approach and the right methods’

In June, I attended a country show in the South West (the sort of place that is perfect for a Saturday afternoon out with the family) which for those not familiar with these shows is the sort of place where farmers show their cattle and a number of small businesses come and try to sell their products. Whether it is specialist cheeses from deepest Somerset or cider from Devon, shows like these an ideal place for small companies to promote their business and sell their products.

Wandering around the show, I was amazed at the quality of many of the goods on show but astound by how few of these small businesses were doing a basic of any business which can drive large amounts of repeat sales! Namely, actively asking for contact details from anyone who showed interest in their products or company?

As a sucker for traditional cider and decent sausages I naturally made a beeline for the food stalls first - partly to satisfy my cravings of course, and partly to see what response I got from those who were selling their wares.

After visiting around 100 stalls (we did get past the sausages and cider eventually), I was staggered that only 4 or 5 of these businesses actually requested my contact details and asked if they could send me further information and if it was ok if I was added to their mailing list/database. Only 4 or 5 out of 100!! What a missed opportunity!

A research study by Marketing Sherpa found that consumers who subscribed to email newsletters generated over 34% more sales for a company that those that didn’t. So, here in front of ALL of these 100 or so businesses was a great opportunity that they were simply ignoring.

By capturing the customers’ details (either through a business card bowl or via a simple registration card) and then adding these names into a CRM database, it would provide all of these companies with the chance to sell after the event and grow their brand and reputation.
Why oh why when they have paid the £500+ for their stand and the additional costs of having staff on the stand and the cost of samples, do so few of them do one of the basics of business marketing?

After we purchased a necklace for my wife, I asked one of the ladies what tools she uses to communicate with people who had purchased from her. She said that she relies on her website for communication and she does not have the time to communicate with existing customers.

I liked her honesty and it was a great business with a great product but she had a customer actively looking to receive communications from her that could lead to extra sales and she didn’t have time! Very strange

I don’t want to pick on this one business as she was in the same camp as the other 100 or so stall holders that I met on the day who also didn’t ask me for my details. Ever the salesperson, I gave out my card and told them to look at what my company could do for their business. However I was just shocked at how even when presented with a golden chance to build a long term relationship with a customer, many of these businesses spurned the chance to capture information and try and sell more.

Spending the money on being at any event, show or local market and then not asking for customer information (through either a business card or a simple competition card) is a sin. Not capturing this information and using it WHEN A CUSTOMER HAS ASKED YOU TO is plain stupidity in my view. Capture the details (if you’re clever you will ask for a special date such as an anniversary which can be used in the communication!), store it in a contact database, (preferably online so you can access it anywhere) and then when you have new products or a promotion send out a monthly email saying ‘have a look at something here which we think you will like’.

It really doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that but if used wisely and appropriately it CAN encourage customers to purchase and it CAN help drive new sales and repeat business.

Selling a few more packs of sausages and cheese is not itself going to get GB PLC out of recession but if the heart of our economy (the small businesses) can start the ball rolling and sell more then it will drag the rest of the country with it (more income = more staff or money to purchase other services) and it can give everyone a boost in the same way as our Olympians have done!

The glass may be half empty for many but with a bit of inspiration and hard work, we can make it half full and ensure we continue the feel good factor that London 2012 started!

Agree or disagree with me? Let me know via Twitter @jijwhite