Jul 092014
 

It’s that time of year when magazine deadlines abound for makers of handmade products to pitch their items for holiday gift guides. Don’t know much about how to do this? Read on.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Earlier today I joined a webinar called “Double your sales with holiday gift guides,” presented by Andreea Ayers of Launch Grow Joy, a business coach who helps creative entrepreneurs launch their products. Almost 700 people registered for the webinar in the hope they would learn more about how to effectively pitch their handmade products, sold online, to magazines for holiday gift guides. If you missed the webinar, Andreea periodically repeats it, so just follow her Facebook page to learn when the next presentation will be held. Full disclosure here: while the free webinar contains some very useful information, it is also a marketing tool for Andreea’s Get Media Happy Online Database.

What are holiday gift guides? If you read magazines, you’ve seen these features that promote special products during the holidays. A Christmas or Hanukkah holiday gift guide, for example, typically appears in a magazine’s November and/or December issue, and is often re-published on the magazine’s Web site. Andreea, who has personal experience in this area, says that getting featured in publications like this can transform your business, build your credibility among editors and potential buyers, and increase your influence, traffic and sales. She feels anyone can get their products into holiday gift guides, and that publicity—essential to sales success—is basically a numbers game. Ninety-five percent of first-time visitors to a Web site will not buy, says Andreea, but will instead choose to engage with social media first. No publicity? No sales.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“There’s nothing worse than having the right product and having nobody know about it,” Andreea says.

According to Andreea, getting your products to appear in holiday gift guides is a must if you want to grow your business. Holiday gift guides lead to increased Web site traffic, more social media followers, and more newsletter subscribers, which translates into more sales. It is your responsibility, of course, to follow up on all of the media attention. Getting your products into holiday gift guides is like a rolling stone gathering moss in the sense that the more media attention you get, the more magazines will want to write about your products.

“People are ready to spend during the holidays,” Andreea says, “and are always looking for fresh ideas.”

So, what did I learn? Andreea points to seven steps you need to follow to get your products featured in holiday gift guides. She emphasizes that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time or money to do so. I suspect that the time issue is debatable; you really do need to have a system in place to achieve your goal of getting the media to notice your products, and then translating that attention into sales. However, I agree it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money, if you’re willing to spend your time. The seven steps to getting featured in holiday gift guides are as follows:

  1. Start early and plan ahead.
  2. Know your product.
  3. Do your research.
  4. Find the right contact.
  5. Pitch your products.
  6. Follow up.
  7. Repeat.

Before you pitch magazine editors about your products, suggests Andreea, you need to be media-ready. What does this mean? You should have your own Web site, in addition to an online site where you have a shopping cart. Andreea feels that if you sell at a large site such as Etsy, and point magazine editors only to your Etsy shop, they can be distracted by others’ products. It’s much better to direct their attention to your products through your own Web site, instead of sending them to a site where there are lots of competing products. Being media-ready means you should be ready to provide high-resolution, professional photos that include lifestyle and individual product shots, collection shots (showing off your entire line, or a subset of products), and white background shots. You should also have physical samples of your product that are ready to ship at a moment’s notice. These physical samples should be sent as part of a media kit.

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people who joined today’s webinar, myself included, wanted a better understanding of what comprises a media kit for handmade products. Andreea promised a post soon about this topic on her blog, but in the meantime I’m going to direct you to the explanation found in a post that appears on Design Sponge, Biz Ladies 09: Fresh From the Oven Media Kits. Basically, a media kit is an information package designed to promote you, your business, and your products. It is usually a digital product that you can email to publishers and public relations people, but it can also be sent via snail mail if you include physical samples of your work. The essential components of a media kit include:

  1. An introduction to your business (what do you do?)
  2. An explanation of your products’ benefits (why are they important?)
  3. A description of demographics/psychographics (who buys your products?)
  4. A list of your products (where do you sell, and what do you sell?)
  5. A description of incoming press (who’s talking about your business, and what are they saying?)
  6. A call to action (how can your product benefit the receiver of your media/press kit, and what do you need from them?)
  7. Contact information (how can you be reached?)
  8. Optional: a physical sample of your product
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In her list of seven steps to getting your products featured in holiday gift guides, Andreea points out how important it is to do your homework. Critical research steps include identifying the magazines where you want to be featured, learning who to contact and what types of products are being featured, and meeting magazine deadlines for pitching your products. She suggests calling publishers directly to learn this information, or conducting a Web search. When you pitch a magazine editor, do so by e-mail, not by phone. Keep your e-mail short and relevant to the magazine’s needs, and make sure to reference “Holiday Gift Guide” in your subject line. Describe your product, its benefits, and offer to provide a physical sample. Embed a photo of your product in the message; don’t attach it because most editors won’t bother to open an e-mail with an attachment. Don’t mention competing magazines where your product has appeared, although it’s perfectly appropriate to mention that your product has been worn, used, or praised by a celebrity. Most of the time, says Andreea, you won’t hear something immediately, so give the magazine about a week to respond, then follow up politely, including the phrase “Follow-up to __________” in your subject line. If you get no response after another week, come up with a different story idea, pitch or angle. Keep in mind that holiday gift guides focus on different needs, such as “holiday gifts for under $20,” “gifts for the grandparent,” or “creative toys for pre-schoolers.”

Andreea says you can hire a public relations firm to do your research and pitch your products, but you will spend between $2,000 to $10,000 per month. If you’re short on cash but longer on time, do your own work. Her webinar provides you with some sample e-mail pitches you can use as a template. You can make your research easier by paying for a database, which is the service that Andreea provides for $97 a month, or $247 every three months with her Get Media Happy Online Database. Before you try to get your products featured in a magazine’s holiday gift guide, she says, most important is that you believe your products are great, and that it would be a disservice to your ideal customer if he or she didn’t know about them. Then, follow Andrea’s 7 Steps to Getting Featured, and try, and try again.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved..

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  5 Responses to “How to get your handmade products featured in holiday gift guides”

  1. Great post! I need to add Media Kit to my To Do list — or maybe my New Year’s Resolutions list?

  2. Wouldn’t it be fun to be featured in a national magazine! These are great tips to help get the ball rolling. It would sure be nice to pay someone to do these things…but not at those prices!!! yikes!

  3. I’ve been in the process of building a media kit for a few months now! It just comes down to finding time to work on everything. This post has so much great information, I’m glad you decided to share it with us!

  4. Great information and lots to think about and implement 🙂

  5. I’ve taken some of Andreea’s classes and she’s wonderful. I’m pitching blogs and magazines now – sending up my follow up emails. So far, have 1 yes! Yay!

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