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NMBS conference looks at business differently

The old saying goes, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. So the NMBS conference afternoon sessions looked at how to look differently at the business.

Business consultant Alastair Dryburgh said that the playing field is getting very level, so businesses must think differently to stand out.

“Cavemen follow a simple rule: if it’s familiar, it’s survivable. If it’s unknown, it’s dangerous. This is hardwired into our brains.

He gave an example of a research team in the 1960s that conducted a test.

“People were given a problem with a candlestick and a box of pins and told them to stick it to the wall. The solution is to empty the pins out of the box and use it as a candle stand.

“Then they did again, with a cash incentive. It took longer, as people were focusing so hard that they missed the solution.”

Basically, Dryburgh said that incentives work if the task is simple, but if the task is complex, a financial incentive can make things worse rather than better. “The business world is certainly guilty of oversimplifying things at times.”

Back with the caveman analogy, Dryburgh said: “caveman makes one bad decision and he’s dead. It’s not like that now. We can take risks and try new things and if they don’t work, you can try something else.”

Another major business error, comes when we see people doing things we don’t like, or in ways we don’t like, he continued. “They blame them for anything that doesn’t work – that’s the fundamental attribution error in a nutshell.”

Internet business expert Phil Crowshaw, meanwhile, highlighted to delegates the way that channels for communicating with customers are changing.

“People have the attention span of a gnat these days,” he said. “If you don’t grab their attention within the first 8 seconds of them visiting your website then you will lose them.”

He said that YouTube – currently the second biggest search engine in the world behind Google – will grow in importance even further as the importance of video grows. “It’s the attention span. It’s easier to grab someone’s attention with a video.”

Crowshaw also said that content marketing is changing way of doing things and that businesses need to find new ways of creating and distributing relevant and valuable multimedia content to “attract acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood your target audience”.

He gave the example of a plumber emailing his customers with top tips for winter boiler care, and thereby keeping his name at the forefront of their minds when it comes to service, rather than simply sending out another sales letter offering 50% off.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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