The Lead Buckets: Nurturing Your Leads Toward The Sale

Posted in Medical | April 11,2012

Chances are, you are dropping leads. Valuable marketed to leads. Potential revenue generating leads. Leads that need to be converted into clients, customers or patients. Lead loss happens all the time in nearly every business.

What is Happening

At Miller Public Relations, we have been about marketing and public relations long enough to see the following cycle occur too many times to count:

  • Your company or practice spends hard earned money on generating leads through mass marketing, social media, events, etc.
  • Leads are generated and loaded into a spreadsheet or even high-tech CRM software.
  • The “urgency of the now” causes those leads to remain dormant in that document.
  • Finally someone says, “I guess we ought to contact those leads,” and calls 20 percent of them in the best-case scenario. (The percentage is based on the newest business statistics as what the best of the best do.)
  • These leads generate little conversion so the sales force abandons the remaining calls.
  • The other 80 percent of the leads never receive any care or nurture from the sales team, account managers, or patient liaisons.
  • The executive team or board complains, “Our marketing dollars are not generating enough ROI. We are going to cut marketing budgets.”
  • The marketing cuts cause initial lead generation to shrink even further, with only 20 percent of those leads being properly nurtured, dropping revenue further.
  • The executive team fires the marketing director, agency or responsible party with the wishful thinking that grass is greener with this new marketer.
  • Return to step one and repeat.

In today’s compressed economy, every lead generated is more valuable than ever. When clients and patients can research the good, bad, and ugly of your company with the click of a mouse, capturing a lead is more challenging than ever. Yet the primary goal of business remains the same–to generate profit by selling more products or services.

A Way Forward-Sorting Your Leads

Most of the time the sales force gives up calling leads because they are provided raw contacts with little or no qualification. Perhaps names were garnered for a giveaway at a publicity event yet many of the captured names are not in need of the services you offer. The sales force quickly realizes this, and upon yielding little fruit, abandons calling the remaining 80 percent of the leads, even though some of them may be solid leads.

At Miller Public Relations, we realize this is a problem for many businesses and work to make sure all means of lead capture for our clients includes some type of qualifier to separate hot leads from cold or warm leads. We have seen this help our clients filter leads more easily into one of four buckets:

  • Hot—this lead is deep in the buying cycle and ready to make a decision.
    • Example: I am going to get all-laser LASIK from somewhere.
  • Warm—this lead is on the front-end of researching the decision.
    • Example: I want to do something about my eyes. I am tired of using glasses and want to know what my options are, but I am not entirely sure what should figure into my decision equation.
  • Cold—this lead qualifies and is need of your service or product but might not be aware of their need or the availability of your solution.
    • Example: I wear glasses or contacts.
  • Disqualified—these leads are not candidates for your product or services. Do not spend resources here.
    • Example: I have 20/20 vision OR My income is very low and I don’t qualify for credit or payment options because of my credit history.

In one case, we helped our client sort a pursuable lead from a disqualified lead by placing a simple sentence under their online form: Our executive anti-aging health program is not covered by insurance or Medicare. This instantly moved many of the leads they were getting into the disqualified bucket. Many leads wondered if the program was covered by insurance or Medicare and weren’t going to participate if it wasn’t. These stopped filling out the online form or calling. Thus, every lead generated was now much more likely to be in the buying cycle and worth a follow-up. This energized their sales team dramatically.

As you create your lead capture systems, two determinations need to be made about your lead qualifier:

  • Be precise. What are the one or two most important qualifiers that indicate a hot or warm lead? Study your ideal client, customer, or patient and prioritize what qualifiers and indicators make them ideal. What do they all have in common? This becomes your single greatest qualifier for sorting your leads into the right bucket.
  • Be concise. What is the simplest way for the user to indicate his or her qualification and position in the buying cycle? No one wants to fill out a 37 field online form or endure a two-page survey when they are only at the front end of a decision. Garner your information with as little taxation on your lead’s energy as possible.

Nurturing Leads

Each of these lead buckets requires a different type of follow-up, but all leads must be intentionally nurtured. Few leads will simply self-select their way into being your client when there is so much market competition calling for their attention.

The Hot Bucket

Distinctive based marketing is key for hot leads. These yes-folks have decided they are going to buy a TV, have LASIK, purchase insurance, etc. The only question is who is going to meet their need. You must have a clearly defined message of distinction to set you apart from all of your competitors. You must show them how your solution will benefit them to a greater degree than your competitors’ solutions.

Many times a hot lead will have done research and know exactly what he or she is looking for in a service or product. At times, they may have a blind spot in their selection criteria you can bring to light

The Warm Bucket

The warm lead needs help in helping them select the criteria that he or she should be considering in their decision. Oftentimes, they realize their need but have no idea of what solutions or options are available. Using sales and marketing that centers on the “have you considered” question or the “you want a ____ who ______” statement greatly aids in moving them more deeply into the buying cycle and towards you as their provider.

Example: So Mr Smith, you are suffering from cataracts. Have you considered that all laser cataract surgery is now available in which a laser is used to perform many features of the surgery that used to be done with a blade? Many times the patient will not know this is available and will make the mental note to make sure any surgeon they are going to select has the technology available to do laser cataract surgery. You just excluded much of the competition by helping the patient define his criteria.

The other classic example of this marketing strategy is the “20 Questions to Ask a Plumber Before Hiring Them“ model, in which questions are created to help the warm lead establish the criteria they need to make their selection. Of course, this criteria exactly matches your offerings. (This is done honestly, as you have obviously selected to offer your product and services in the manner you do for a reason. You are simply pointing out that reason to the prospect.)

Warm leads can be ideal when you are given permission to guide the criteria conversation you can lead them right to your doorstep.

The Cold Bucket

Leads buy when they are ready; not when you or your sales team want them to. That is reality.

No one can predict the exact moment in time when someone is ready to buy what you sell. That being said, research has revealed that all salespeople place a subjective follow-up date on when THEY think a prospect will be ready to buy what they sell. This is unwise because if they salesperson guesses wrongly in this all or nothing proposition by even slight margin, the sale is lost. How is this overcome?

For the cold lead who isn’t ready yet, a strategy many call drip marketing can be utilized. Drip marketing is communication sent, or “dripped,” as a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. These messages often take the form of email marketing, although other media can also be used. Drip marketing is distinct from other database marketing in two ways: (1) the timing of the messages follows a pre-determined course; (2) the messages are dripped in a series applicable to a specific behavior or status of the recipient.

By dripping the benefit and value your product and service brings to a targeted group of people matching some degree of pre-selected criteria to your offering, you ensure that as they move towards the buying cycle, you will be in view.


Leads are called leads precisely because they must be led to your service or product. They typically don’t appear out of thin air, they must be genuinely and honestly nurtured. In order to best accomplish this, you must determine if a lead is first qualified, and if so, are they a hot, warm, or cold lead. An experienced agency like Miller Public Relations can help you determine your core qualifiers and message then in an effective way as you capture leads. There is both an art and science to this process. So begin nurturing your leads and watch those leads convert into clients, customers and patients.

– Jordan P. Fowler