July 15, 2007

The Comparison Conundrum

Comparisons are a useful thing as they help put an idea or action into a context.

Financial planners love touting how skipping your venti mocha everyday might allow you buy that dream villa in Tuscany when you are 60.

Car dealers jump at the chance to show you how just a few more dollars a day will get you that luxury leather interior and loaded options package.

Here in Indy our local government leaders are wrestling with the unkind comparisons evoked by our now-skyrocketing property taxes. Previously the average homeowner probably didn’t think much about the actual monthly costs of property taxes. Bills came twice a year and they were paid, not with pleasure, but without the masses feeling the need to riot.

Tax increases averaging 35% (with many individuals facing bills that doubled or tripled) have people instead seeing biannual payments whose monthly amounts could easily be rent for a nice 2BR apartment (and in some cases a decent car payment as well). Once a comparison like that gets lodged into your brain, it will be hard for anyone to convince you that property taxes are not unfair, arbitrary, or unjust. All around me I hear neighbors asking just what do we have to show for our taxes, seeking an itemized inventory of delivered value that could in some way justify the exorbitant bills.

That’s a comparison game government can never win. And regardless of your profession or industry you have the same equivalent risk lurking among your products and services.

So as you think about the value you deliver in relation to the price/effort you ask people to pay, you would be wise to keep in mind the comparisons you are likely to evoke or the ones you want to use to communicate your story.

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