An Interview With Someone You Should Know: Jim Kinloch

It’s always nice to be sought out to offer a merchant more promotion on one of your most important sites and that’s what Jim Kinloch from Signature Gifts did. From that introduction we met up and had a good chat at the Manchester A4U Roadshow, done some client linking stuff and started the process of adding some content to my Christmas gifts site with a Personalised Manchester United Book. But I wanted to find out more about Jim and the range of sites that Signature Gifts are involved in.

Hi Jim, could you give a brief rundown of who you are and what you do at Signature Gifts?

I’m the Online Marketing Manager for Signature gifts. Our best known sites are Historic Newspapers and Gonedigging for personalised gifts. I run our affiliate programme, opt-in email, social networking, content creation, and conversion programme. There are two other members of the team who I work with, Paul Sheridan who manages our PPC and Sam Georgeson responsible for all things SEO.

How do you find the role of being an Online Marketing Manager with having to swap hats from PPC, SEO, Content writing, analytics, email marketing, competitor analysis ….. ?

I enjoy the mixture of disciplines needed to create the elusive ideal online marketing mix. I’m helped by the fact that we have a large team in house including a PPC specialist, and a SEO person. We also have an IT team and in-house developers for our main sites. We do all our online and offline design in-house. We also retain a digital marketing agency, Receptional [ed: never heard of ’em ;-)], for digital marketing consultancy. Most of my time is dedicated to our affiliate programme, I spend a set amount of time each week creating copy for our personalised gift blog, and supporting PPC, SEO, and our designers. There is a lot on the go at any one time which makes for fun and games and a lot of activities in the air at one time. This week has been a mix of writing, liaising with a major PPC affiliate, attending the Google Retail Summit, working with Webgains on our FREE caricature for affiliate’s activity at the A4U Expo, and launching a US site, also with Webgains.

I see you’ve had a vast level of experience in the online industry having moved from being a software engineer to offline marketing and then onto online. But if you had to choose one role, which do you prefer the most and why?

I enjoyed doing technical support as solving problems is always satisfying and when I worked for Apple Computer (at their database company, FileMaker) I enjoyed the mix of organising events and meeting customers, supporting a developer network, and putting PR campaigns in place. But I can put my hand on my heart and say this role is the most fun-satisfying-sometimesfrustrating-involving-fun-learning-work-experience I’ve ever had.

Signature Gifts Ltd is involved in a number of websites, what are they and do they target different particular gift niches?

We specialise in personalised gifts and bringing the best and most original ideas to market. Our premium site is which carries all of our gift ranges including our best sellers like original newspapers (we have 7 million in warehouses on the west coast of Scotland), Personalised Football Books for all the major teams in the UK, and recently we’ve brought out a range of personalised calendars, spoof newspapers, and personalised wine and spirits. We also have Historic Newspapers and, and recently we’ve launched in the US which carries a similar mix to GoneDigging.

Do you ever think of the £1m of stock you’ve got to shift when creating your marketing plans, or you do you just look at how to make incremental sales?

Our newspapers sell very well all the year round and yes we have a huge amount but we don’t have to worry about them not selling as customers love them especially for anniversaries and birthdays. All the gifts that we have created ourselves are made to order. Occasionally a big order with a major retailer may fall through and we’ll market that excess with a promotion like a 2 for 1. So we are a lean organisation in terms of inventory. We’re always looking to build incremental sales with new PPC campaigns and our affiliates being our prime focus.

As an affiliate I often find it difficult to manage a number of different sites, but how do you cope looking after your sites and getting the most out of each?

I was shocked when I was first introduced to the affiliate world and the amount of sites some are running! I deal in the main with 5 sites (we white label for a substantial number of newspaper sites) and I focus on just those five. Yes it can be a headache so I use a combination of a big notebook, post-it notes and a database (built in FileMaker) project management system. Despite that I do end up with the occasional fire-fight as several projects collide. It can be like a scene from Armageddon around here with me acting like Steve Buscemi (only with his hair burnt off).

I see you’ve been at Signature Gifts since March 2007, but how has the company and affiliate industry changed in that time?

I still think of myself as a newbie in the affiliate world but even in two and a bit years I’ve seen a few changes, the rise of the all dominant voucher code site, more integration of data feeds, and the rise of the content unit. Affiliates remind me of our developer programme at FileMaker both groups are characterised by being independent thinkers who live in bedrooms getting through buckets of work but affiliates are defiantly more entrepreneurial and have a lot more social skills (wink).

It’s nice to see that other affiliates rate your work highly with Ray nominating you for “Publisher’s Choice Of Affiliate Manager 2009”, although you didn’t win (there was some very stiff competition), what do you think makes a good affiliate manager?

I think an affiliate should be asked that question. I’m always looking for tips to support our affiliates and chatting to other affiliate managers, using the forum and Linkedin has helped a lot. I’ve tried to give our affiliates what they need before they ask for it, support their activities and help increase our coverage with increased commission and other incentives . I’ve also worked on our image as the leader in personalised gifts with fun ideas (supported by Sheema Luca at Webgains) like personalised photographs at the A4U Awards and having a Caricaturist at the upcoming A4U Expo. Recently I came up with the idea of an Affiliate Support Pack. This is a matrix (a big word for a list in a table) of what we can offer our affiliates in return for activity. Email me at
if you’re an affiliate and you’d like to know more.

I’ve always wondered how merchants choose which network to offer their programme on. For me it would be a balance of trust, technical competency, promotional tools, ability to offer relevant affiliates and their availability to sort out any given issue quickly and correctly. But how and why did you choose Webgains?

I’ve worked a lot with agencies (networks) in the past and the above points are all valid. What I look for is a good fit. All the networks we’ve had dealings with have had a lot of the above on offer. Webgains has become our main network because of it’s a much leaner organisation compared to the big boy networks and therefore you don’t feel lost and we also value their well trained account management team, their reporting is also excellent, technical support is first class, and they are also willing to adapt and promote new ideas very quickly.

If there is any one thing you would like to change about the affiliate industry, what would it be and why?

I wouldn’t change anything in the industry. What I would like to do though is give everyone in the industry a ‘secret hour.’ This would be an hour each day that you can have to yourself and cannot be disturbed. Think of all the ideas you could put into action with just one hour a day.

I know you’re a bit of comedy writer. Share one of your favourite skits with us :-)

I love comedy. What made me want to write were two sketches; ‘Constable Savage’ from Not the Nine O’Clock News and this one from Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Ball, the great Peter Cook. If you want to read one of mine have a look here (this one made it onto ITV1 a few years back, very, very late at night).

Other than putting pen to paper to induce giggles, is there anything else you like to do with your spare time?

I love a good movie so I have a vast DVD collection, I like to just hang around with mates talking nonsense and generally trying to rid the world of evil, cook lots of different types of food, go to the gym, watch International Rugby, listening to all music except Jazz, and I may get back into Tai Chi time willing.

And as a parting note … I’m looking to buy a new work machine. PC or Mac?

Lee: Mac? [Ed: Too late, I’ve bought another Dell machine :-(

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About the author:

I've been doing SEO for 15 years, affiliate marketing for 12 and starting arguments since the day I was born.. Follow him on Twitter / Facebook.