Last Updated: Mar 15, 2017
Why should customers notice your business? What makes you different from your competition? Here’s how you can make your business stand out and get your customers’ attention.

Are you finding marketing a little challenging? Sometimes the best marketing solutions are right under your nose. You just have to open your eyes to see them and adapt them to your own situation.

Case in point: Marketing was the last thing I wanted to think about when I was on vacation in California. But when my husband and I visited Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, I couldn’t help being reminded of one marketing challenge that every business faces: the need to stand out from competitors and grab customer attention.

A tourist attraction, the Wharf is lined with restaurants, novelty shops, jewelry and candy shops, all vying for the tourists’ attention and dollars. There are also places along the wharf where you can reserve whale watching and fishing trips.

Although the pedestrian walkway was filled with people on the two nights we went there for dinner, it was clear that crowds strolling along the street (or watching the harbor seals at the end of the wharf) don’t necessarily equate to dollars in the cash register. To woo those passersby to part with their cash, many establishments had taken steps to get attention and stand out from their competitors.

Some of the buildings, for instance, were painted bright colors, and sported colorful awnings. Many had sidewalk signs strategically placed a few feet into the walkway outside their front doors. A candy store had a machine operating in their window that continually stretched and twisted a huge wad of taffy to demonstrate how salt water taffy is made.

And then there were the restaurants. There were about a dozen restaurants on the wharf, all vying to attract the hungry and thirsty into their establishments. In an attempt to stand out from their competitors, many of the restaurants had greeters standing outside their entrances offering passersby samples of food to taste. One (a restaurant we chose to eat at one evening) had a big picture window in front that let tourists see clear through to big back windows and a great sunset view of the harbor and anchored sailboats. Another, at the end of the pier, had big signs promoting its rooftop viewing area where visitors could watch the harbor seals.

While the tactics the restaurants and shops along the wharf use to get attention and business from passersby may not work in other localities and for other types of businesses, what was key here, was that those establishments that seemed to be getting the most business had made themselves stand out in some way from all the other establishments on the pier. And that – finding a way to stand out from competitors – is something every business needs to do whether they are a business that depends on foot traffic, they sell on the Internet, or they are a service provider.

What makes a business stand out?

We all know that great products and customer service will make businesses stand out. But that, for the most part, is only evident after a customer has made a purchase. The challenge, no matter what kind of business you run, is to find ways to stand out and attract those new customers to begin with.

For retailers trying to draw foot and auto traffic, visuals such as signs on your building, sidewalk signs, flags, balloons, unusual window displays, and brightly painted buildings can help – if local regulations permit. Signage on local delivery and service vehicles, sponsorship of children’s sports teams, and participation in the local chamber of commerce are other ways to make your business visible to potential customers. For products, packaging shape, color, and placement on aisles all are important.

But being a standout goes beyond the kind of physical cues retailers and local service providers have at their disposal. Being a standout for most businesses means connecting your brand in some way to a real or perceived benefit that your customers want. In other words, having an emotional peg that will appeal to your customers. 

Gleam toothpaste became a market leader in the 1950s by singling out and hyping one of its ingredients – chlorophyll – and touting it as a miracle ingredient for people who couldn’t brush after every meal. The interesting thing was that chlorophyll was a common ingredient in other toothpastes on the market, too.

What will make your business a standout?

To help you find ways to distinguish what you sell from your competitors, we’ve put together a list of product and service features that could help distinguish you from your competitors.

Keep in mind that features, by themselves, are usually not benefits, and are not the kind of emotional pegs that nail sales. To turn a feature into a benefit, you need to express it in a way that matters to the customer. For example, the Swiffer division of P&G Brands offers consumers a variety of products for mopping and dusting. But they aren’t “selling” people on the idea of buying a mop or a duster. They’re selling the concept of making cleaning easier and having a dust-free home.

The list of features below isn’t complete – no such list could ever be complete. Its purpose is to help you start thinking about what you sell in more creative ways. In reading through the list, remember that the factors you play up don’t necessarily have to be unique to you. They just need to be things that are important to your customers, and they need to be expressed in a way that shows how the feature solves a problem or fills a need.



Physical Product Size






Ease of Use

Customer Service



Special features



If you don’t see features in the list above that can help you distinguish your products or services from your competitors, what should you do? Create your own list. Make a list of all the features of your products or services and their benefits. Think about the ingredients as well as the finished product or service. Now put yourself if your customers’ shoes, and look at the list. Which things are important? What do you do, or what about your product could be perceived as being different and desirable? Those are the things to promote to get attention. 

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn