Affiliate marketing runs around the central concept of reward – and empowering your affiliates to perform at their best is a must if you want your program to thrive. However, rewards don’t have to be monetary.

The thing about monetary rewards is that they don’t necessarily make an emotional connection. While it’s certainly true that affiliates are “in it for the money,” it should be noted that money is the standard, expected reward. What if you decided to give them something more than that?

Want to reward your affiliates for hitting commissions or performance goals, or get dormant affiliates promoting again? Maybe you just want to find other methods of reward in order to fix a budget issue, save money, or double-down your profits during a successful sale period. Whatever the case, there are a variety of ways you can reward your affiliates outside of commissions and financial benefits.

In this post, we discuss some of these non-monetary rewards and how to implement them – so you can nurture your affiliate relationships, keep things interesting, and ultimately succeed with your affiliate program.


“Recognition is not a scarce resource. You can’t use it up or run out of it.”

Susan M. Heathfield, Human Resources Expert

When studied in employment settings, recognition and other non-monetary rewards have proven their effectiveness. As humans, we are significantly motivated by acknowledgement of our work and the feeling of accomplishment. This is not to say that money isn’t factor; rather, it’s not the only factor, and it doesn’t always produce the same degree of enthusiasm for commitments and performance that recognition can.

“Acknowledgment is a kind of human magic – a small human connection, a gift from one person to another that translates into a much larger, more meaningful outcome. On the positive side, these results also show that we can increase motivation simply by acknowledging the efforts of those working with us.”

Dan Ariely, Author

You can recognize your affiliates in a variety of ways, from offering simple words of gratitude and encouragement, to featuring them in your newsletters, content, and social media posts. You can highlight their efforts by sharing affiliate success stories – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be your most successful affiliates.

Consider acknowledging increases in performance, or personalizing the experience for your affiliates. For example, you could feature affiliates in your affiliate newsletters (regardless of their sales and performance status) in an effort to build community within your program.


Digital businesses frequently use gamification to increase user engagement, and it’s no wonder why; gamification draws on a system of rewards and acknowledgement of achievements that make the user experience both fun and full of positive reinforcement. In essence, it’s a form of reward.

Why not incorporate gamification into your affiliate system to achieve the same outcome? It’s not just engagement you’re after; using game-like elements can motivate your affiliates and give them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, rewarding them for things like performance, loyalty, and achieving specific milestones.

Points tracking, badges, awards, titles, and leaderboards are all effective elements you can use to gamify your affiliate program. Let’s be honest, bringing out the competitive side of your affiliates can only benefit them and your program!

Better creatives

Affiliate creatives already make up an important part of running an affiliate program – and upgraded, exclusive, or unique creatives can be especially useful rewards for your affiliates. If you don’t already use them, consider creating things like custom-branded affiliate landing pages, for example.

Creatives are non-monetary in general, so think about the different things you could create and reward your affiliates with. Pre-written copy is especially useful to affiliates, saving them the time and effort they could be spending promoting your products. You might even decide to create a special affiliate widget that you use specifically for rewarding affiliates, giving them something sleek and eye-catching to use on their own blogs and websites.

Exclusive deals

Exclusive deals and unique special offers can give affiliates a serious competitive advantage over competitors – and you can offer them as rewards, too. Think about what kind of packages you can create with your products that might appeal to a specific affiliate’s audience, for example.

You might decide to offer early access, or exclusive access to a certain product, or even include bonus content that is only available to a certain affiliate’s audience. Remember: Affiliates love to have something unique and exclusive to offer their audiences, and they might actually financially benefit far more from the reach they can generate with an exclusive deal, than they would with a higher commission rate alone.

Company swag and free products

If you have company merchandise sitting around, why not send some of it to your affiliates to show them they are appreciated? It may seem like a small gesture, but the thought itself can go a long way toward fostering affiliate loyalty, motivation, and a generally positive feeling about your brand and program.

Often, affiliates are people who actually use your products, which means free products make good rewards, too! If you sell digital products with a higher price tag, the value of this kind of reward can be especially high to your affiliates, with a minimal cost to you.

The total package

Rewarding your affiliates is an essential part of running a successful affiliate program, and it motivates them to perform at their best, stay engaged, and remain loyal to your program.

It goes without saying that monetary rewards will always be a standard practice in affiliate marketing, but adding in things like recognition, gamification, better creatives, exclusive deals, company swag, and free products can add a whole new dimension to the affiliate experience.

Of course, you don’t have to incorporate all of the ideas mentioned in this post; do what feels right for your brand and management style. Whatever your goals, inspiring your affiliates and setting your program apart from the rest by utilizing non-monetary rewards will serve you well!

What kind of rewards have you given your own affiliates? What have you found to be effective when it comes to giving back to them in a non-monetary way? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a product marketing specialist at Sandhills Development, a music maker, and digital product creator. A Minnesota native, she's a frequent traveler and animal lover with a passion for creative work and digital business. When she’s not writing blog posts and doing other marketing stuff for Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, she can often be found hanging out with other people’s pets.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the wonderful article.
    Yes, I very much agree that Rewards are a great way to win your customers.
    Recognition monetary, as well as non-monetary both, are equally important.
    I would like to add that while going for affiliate marketing our top priority is monetary benefits.
    It’s only after the monetary benefit that we will go hunting for other benefits of rewards and recognization.

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