As consumers we do it every day. Before we purchase a product or service, we research, review and weigh the similarities and differences.

We select the benefits which will serve us best for a price we feel is fair and equitable. We consider many other variables in making the decision too. How fast will it ship? Will it be ready for pick-up when I have the time? And will it work for all members of my family or friends?

Direct marketers often face large groupings of competitors in tight geographical or marketing circles. At farmers markets, you may be one of several businesses selling the same produce, plants or baked goods. Or you may be one of several agritourism operations in your county or region. You have learned the value of differentiating your products and business, but how do you do it? Much of it comes back to the basic idea of compare and contrast – what you have in common with a similar product, and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

One produce seller who made it to the top tiers of competitive metro markets explained that the company’s advantage was to tie everything into one branding message. From their farmers market tents to the clothing employees wear to packaging, consumers know to look for the company’s signature color and consistent messaging.

To compare and contrast is to measure your product or service’s salability in relation to what is already on the market and what is on the forefront of being released. It is a time to see where improvements may be wise, or where you excel and can promote benefits to the consumer. While some marketers feel uncomfortable doing this type of “homework,” you can be assured that others are looking at your product or marketing strategies and comparing and contrasting too. Today, consumers are upfront with product reviews and experiences and will share these thoughts with a broad audience. This is not to say you have to publicly downgrade or use comparisons to shame competitors. If used as a learning tool, you may find it helpful to see where similar products have an advantage or are gaining more of the market share. Then you can decide if you want to make changes or promote your business is a new and different way.

You produce and market something special – why not make certain it offers all the benefits consumers are seeking? And, if you feel your product or service compares above and beyond the competition, can you improve your marketing strategies to extol this difference? Used wisely and cautiously, the compare and contrast method of gauging a product or service allows you to improve your business and seek the best return on your investment.

The above information is presented for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.