Kimberlee Van Der Wall is the writer behind popular lifestyle blog I Have A Degree In This!. Known for her creative manicures and honest reviews, Kimberlee is a 20-something fashion lover and tweetaholic who lives in New York City. A former Condé Nast intern, she now works in social media.
During the 2012 holiday season, Kimberlee created a holiday gift guide with two other bloggers. Read on for her advice on putting together gift guides!
Last year I naively embarked on creating a Holiday Gift Guide with fellow bloggers, Laura and Nicole. I say naively because we saw several other bloggers creating them (mostly paid) and thought ‘we could do that!’ Well I’m writing this post to let you know that it’s not easy and to share my experience so hopefully you’ll be more prepared than we were.
– Approach companies you have experience with. By this I mean, products you can honestly endorse. Whether you’ve worked with them in the past or have used their product on your own dime, I’m a firm believer in endorsing only products that you would use (or give as a gift… in this case). I see bloggers accepting open applications for their gift guide which is their prerogative but if you’re going to do so then I highly recommend starting in August/September so you can sample the product.
– Set a calendar with strict deadlines. Deadlines for not only yourself but also for the companies. Budget your time because holiday gift guides can be an enormous task. We essentially worked backwards from when we would ideally want the gift guide to go live on our blogs (2-3 weeks before the holiday was our thinking) then approximate how long it would take to create the gift guide (which we severely underestimated) and then that would set the deadline for the companies of when we would need images, descriptions, product selections and payment.
– Set your pricing. If you’re going to do a paid holiday gift guide (as many bloggers do) then I recommend competitive pricing. Set different “ad spaces.” We did: full page, 1/2 page, and 1/4 page. Since we approached companies we wanted to help get more press (i.e. niche brands) we wanted to give them an affordable option. We also based the pricing on the combination of ALL of our blogs page views and social media following. It was our first ever holiday gift guide so we felt that teaming up would help us in 2 ways: 1) we could be competitive among other gift guides because we were having 3 bloggers promote vs just 1; 2) we could be more attractive to companies that otherwise might not look at us as just ONE blogger but rather could reach bigger brands by uniting.
– Have a variety. We called ours the Fashionista Gift Guide and aimed it at young women our age (mid ’20s) who would want to receive the gifts featured. I would determine who the gift guide is geared towards to help manage what products you would feature. I would try to keep a variety in not only price but items. We featured beauty because fashionistas still like beauty products as well as items that had a strong charity focus because giving back is always in style. You could include items for the boyfriend/husband/fiancee for your readers to shop as well. Don’t limit yourself too much.
– Be professional. This should be fairly clear but we did find since it was our first gift guide we had to conduct ourselves in an assertive yet professional manner. We required all the companies involved sign contacts via EchoSign to make sure that the there was a signed contract stating the company would participate and pay x amount. Always have something signed when it comes to receiving payments.
Since it was our first gift guide, I’d also like to talk about areas we could have improved upon and maybe you’ll be more successful than we at the following:
– Promoting the gift guide. We definitely didn’t get as many eyeballs on the gift guide as we would have liked. We pushed it across all our blogs and social media platforms but we also didn’t want to jam it down our reader’s throats. I tried to feature it on the main page of my blog all month long but it wasn’t as elegant looking as I would have liked. Tip: Research other bloggers and see how they’re promoting to help give you ideas of what worked and what doesn’t.
– Perhaps our presentation was too complicated. We used Issuu.com, which has a shopping cart feature so when you roll your mouse over the item you can click and go to the website to purchase. We thought this would make shopping from the gift guide more streamlined. Apparently we were wrong. Companies provided gift codes that we thought we featured pretty noticeably but companies informed us that no one used them so I’m not sure what happened there. Perhaps the presentation was too complicated and people didn’t know where to buy the products or that they could click through.
I liked how it looked and that it was like a digital magazine but perhaps it wasn’t the right medium? Although we used it because we saw other beautiful gift guides use it.
Hopefully this post served as helpful for you when putting together your holiday gift guide this season. Good luck!
For more advice and reviews, visit Kimberlee at I Have A Degree In This!.