Many publishers promoting retail advertisers on a cost-per-sale basis are hesitant to move to the “other side” and promote customer acquisition or lead generation offers. Perhaps they don’t think it fits their model or their type of customer.

Yet with demand growing among advertisers for new customers, and more US states looking at taxing affiliate sales, now is  the time for publishers to take a closer look at whether their online properties and audiences can also drive customer acquisition campaigns.

Successfully moving to CPA and lead-gen should involve a sensible review of how one promotes offers. Bear in mind that for an advertiser, there is a big difference between cost-per-sale and cost-per-customer acquisition/cost per lead. After all, leads aren’t guaranteed to convert into paying customers.

What that means is that a typical banner ad creative, for example,which may work fine for a retailer on a deal site, works much less well for customer acquisition because it is insufficiently targeted. When an advertiser is paying simply for a form to be filled in, lack of targeting brings a degree of advertiser risk because the leads aren’t of high quality.

Loyalty and incentive sites can also be risky because the potential customer may be motivated by the incentive rather than the actual offer itself, which again results in poor quality. And when the campaign starts to scale up and a few bad leads turn into a lot of bad leads, the advertiser can lose a lot of money very quickly and can understandably become hesitant to continue with the publisher.

However, with the right approach, retail-focused publishers can still become valued partners for lead-seeking advertisers, making significant money in the process. Advertisers for lead generation are acutely aware that many retail publishers have a valuable asset – high-traffic web sites with customers ready to buy.

So how can publishers translate that asset into quality leads? Here are three actions publishers can take today to successfully branch out and expand their offerings.

Target your marketing through more in-depth messaging

Go beyond banners and add a special section on your site outside of the regular shopping mall. While your regular audience may be looking for particular product deals, don’t neglect impulse shoppers who may be in the market for a new auto insurance policy, for example, or a home improvement contractor. You may need to make sure they’re serious, so consider creating a vertical-focused landing page to both pull in these impulse shoppers and attract new customers through organic search that are specifically looking for this service.

Pre-qualify customers

Add a short form that asks a couple of questions to confirm interest before sending the lead to the advertiser or
presenting an offer. This simple action can help weed out the more casual shoppers, and it will build trust with the advertiser by increasing the quality of the traffic you are sending. If you’re considering this, know that some networks allow publishers to host an advertiser’s entire lead form. Also, many advertisers and networks can help play a role in the pre-qualification process by running leads through verification systems, filtering out those that don’t meet their criteria, or, as with pay-per-call offers, they might employ Interactive Voice Response (IVR) — more commonly known as the service that allows you to “Press one if you’re interested in …” While this filtering process may reduce lead volume, it mitigates the advertiser’s risk while still keeping their alignment with publishers in place.

Nix the incentive

Many incentive sites hold back points or cash when it comes to service offers, yet they are still able to drive good volume. This is because these sites already have a high-quality audience interested in buying, regardless of the attached incentive. Most lead-buying service advertisers aren’t interested in leads generated by incentive (except, perhaps at very low CPAs). So, if that’s your model, see how it works when you turn it off for these offers. For many advertisers, it’s the only way they’ll want to be promoted.

Working with customer acquisition offers may require some tweaking of your current marketing methods. However, for publishers with a popular site that attracts high-quality customers, the investment is well worth it.