As an affiliate manager, instant messaging tools such as MSN Messenger, Skype, Yahoo Messenger & Google Chat amongst others are vital to the success I achieve in my role. The benefits of using Instant Messaging tools may seem obvious but I would like to dig deeper into why they are so crucial and needed in an affiliate manager’s day to day duties.

The first and foremost point is the fact that an affiliate manager has another method or way to contact his/her affiliates. The works both ways in that the affiliate can get ahold of their affiliate manager with as much ease as you can get ahold of them. The key aspect of this form of connection is that it encourages trust and communication that cannot be achieved during email conversations. Sometimes, a MSN Messenger conversation between an Affiliate Manager and his/her affiliate can take a few minutes whereas it can take a few days even via email. This is important when an affiliate wants a response on a player query or would like a special creative. Negotiations, in my opinion, are better done on instant messaging services as you get both an instant reply as well as having it in writing.

Keeping track of what you say though is very important as you need to document what you have been discussing with your affiliates. It advisable to copy and paste the transcript into your email client, send it to yourself as well as send a summary to the affiliate you have been talking to. This way, you both have written proof of what has been discussed/agreed/not agreed.

It’s also vital for an affiliate manager to try and pick up on their affiliates’ personal details whilst using these tools. Many affiliates will have logos of their favourite football teams or pictures of their loved ones (kids or dogs especially). Ask the affiliate how many kids they have, what their names are, how many dogs they have etc. Every affiliate I have dealt with using Instant Messaging tools welcome casual chat and respond better to someone they have something in common with.

You are not going to hit it off with every affiliate but getting to know them personally is big part of a successful and prosperous relationship. Via email, it is difficult to gage an affiliate’s interests/activities. Instant Messenger services are normally used by people (and affiliates alike) to communicate with their friends and family members so it’s more than likely that their avatar or message will display something personal to them. See this as a chance for them to like you because them liking you will mean they will remember you rather than another affiliate manager when it comes to matters of business.

I also recommend making notes on each and every affiliate – try and save every conversation, even if you talk about the football or the weather, and send it to yourself in an email. This way you can look back and reference it when you want to start another conversation. Once you start communicating with your affiliate on a regular basis, you will obviously remember all those details.

Skype calling can also be a good tool to communicate with your affiliates – it is free (Skype to Skype) and is a quick way to see if your affiliate is online or not. I don’t recommend calling them randomly though as this may not go down to well. On the other hand, hearing someone’s voice is preferred by many when negotiating or discussing business matters. I find that a mixture of a few Instant Messaging tools can work heavily in your favour when developing a relationship and ultimately trust.

Creating trust is the key element in all this – without trust, there are no good relationships. Good working and personal relationships will lead to better results for both your affiliate and yourself as an understanding is created. Responsiveness and speed is another big plus in using these methods and this is very important as all the affiliates I know do not like waiting for an answer on their questions.

Developing a great partnership as such with your affiliates is not always enough – you need the right product behind you and the right deal for both parties amongst many other factors but having that relationship will give you a head start and even encourage the affiliate to work with you despite the other factors. If you want to keep those good relationships going and want to succeed in your industry, developing this trust is necessary.

In conclusion, you need to follow up your instant messaging conversations with solid support that is beneficial to all parties involved. You then can take these relationships to an even higher level by meeting these affiliates at industry conferences. Then is when the real fun begins.