If you pay close enough attention, marketing lessons can come from the most unlikely places. Take this week for example. I was sitting at my desk and happened to notice that there was a Lee Valley Tools catalogue laying there, not yet opened.
While I waited for my iMac to launch, I flipped through the pages and recognized something about the experience I was having while reading this catalogue. I, as someone who is mostly uninterested in tools, gardening, etc., was getting extremely excited about their products. In fact, I was making a mental note of the items I NEEDED to have in my home inventory.
As I mentioned, I am not a gardener, I am not skilled in the area of home renovation, nor do I have an inclination to wield tools. However, the catalogue was causing me to have extreme desire to jump in my car and get to Lee Valley. Right. That. Instant.
So, what was it about the Lee Valley catalogue that made the products so appealing to me? Someone so clearly outside outside of their demographic?
 Equal Text to Images
Most catalogues out there are heavy on the imagery and light on the descriptors. When this happens, a potential customer may look at a photo, not understand what the product is for or how they could use it, and they would flip the page (or walk away from a physical store or click away from a website).
What Lee Valley does differently is that they provide a lengthy description with each product and in some cases, language that speaks directly to the customer. Language that tells a story and brings the customer in to a real-life scenario where they can see, smell, hear or understand exactly the type of experience they will have if they purchase that product.
For example, they sell a cooling towel. This cooling towel is draped around your neck when you are working outside and it is supposed to keep you cool. Now, had I looked at the photo alone, I might have thought, “Hmm… this looks like an oddly shaped scarf” and flipped the page. However, the descriptor speaks to me and makes me imagine the scenario and how I might use it: “Simply soak the towel in water, wring it out, and snap it taut – you can feel it begin to work almost instantly and it can cool for as long as two hours.” Mmmm… now I want a cool towel for those hot summer days.
To apply this to your own business, take a look at your website, your brochure or your catalogues. Are the descriptors with your products and services giving your potential customers an experience? Are they getting a little taste of what it would be like to purchase your products and services? If not, take a page from the Lee Valley catalogue and dress up your descriptors.
 Sell Pieces Individually
One of the products that Lee Valley sells is a maslin pan. A maslin pan, according to the catalogue, is “traditionally used to make preserves” and helps to “distribute heat evenly and prevent burning.” When I was glancing through the catalogue, I noticed that this particular item was sold in three parts. (1) Maslin Pan, (2) Lid for Maslin Pan, and (3) Maslin Pan with Lid. The price of each item was $76, $10.50 and $82 respectively.
As I read about the maslin pan and looked at the pricing, it got me thinking: “Do people need two lids for their maslin pan? Would they buy two pans with one lid? The pan and lid together is obviously cheaper, why don’t they just sell it as a set and call it a day?” Reading further into the description I realized that the lid was actually optional and was most commonly used when making soups or other dishes.
So, I learned something. Maslin pans, when used for preserves, don’t need to be used with a lid. However, some people might want that option to make soups or other dishes. Some people may not know that a lid is not needed for preserves so they might want to buy a lid (or two!) just to be safe. Preserve making pros, who know they do not need a lid, could save a couple bucks by leaving the lid option aside.
In your own business, present your clients and customers with options. Make sure that there are options for those who know exactly what they want, for those who have no idea what they want and for those who want all of the options — just in case.
 Ordinary Items Can be Extraordinary Products
If you look through the Lee Valley catalogue, you’ll see that they have some products that are fairly ordinary items. In fact, you could probably find some of the items around your house right now. However, Lee Valley has recognized a need and turned a few ordinary items into extraordinary products.
Take their Pie Weight Chain for example. The pie weight chain is simply a 7 ounce, 10 inch strand of stainless-steel beads. The idea with the pie weight chain is to coil the simple chain into the pie shell before it goes in the oven. You literally just wrap the beads around and around in the base of your pie shell so that the little balls weigh down the pie so it doesn’t get all lumpy when it bakes.
Someone would have looked at a 7 ounce, 10 inch strand of stainless-steel beads and saw a 7 ounce, 10 inch strand of stainless-steel beads. Someone at Lee Valley looked at it and invented a Pie Weight Chain which sells for $14.95.
When you are looking at creating your products and services, look at the ordinary ways that you can help make your customer’s lives extraordinary. Not every product or service you create needs to be complex and detailed to sell. In fact, sometimes the products and services that sell the best are the simple ones that solve a problem.
To Close Off this Post
What is it about catalogues or marketing that gets you excited? Have you ever seen an advertisement for something you wanted so badly but had no idea why? Leave your thoughts in the comments!