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Authors : Dr. Howard Farran.

Women make 90–91 percent of the appointments in health care. Many people, including myself, believe that this comes from the innate maternal instinct, which men don’t have.

Another way women are different: Most studies will show that for each one person a man talks to, a woman will talk to five. Men say fewer than 2,000 words a day; women are saying more than 7,000. So they talk a lot, and they talk to a lot of people.

If I had to sum up women in a single word, it would be trust.

Trust me

If a woman comes into a dental office thanks to a generic ad or a promotion she saw on Facebook, she’s buying one-third the amount than if she came in from a word-ofmouth referral.

Let me give you a scenario: She gets a Groupon that says, “Come into the office and get a free cleaning, exam and X-ray.” So she does, and the dentist looks at the X-ray and says, “You have three cavities, which will cost $250 apiece.” Well, she came in on a coupon—she didn’t want to spend money in the first place, and now the doc is telling her she needs to spend $750 for three cavities, in order to be OK? As far as she was concerned, she didn’t have a problem; she just wanted a cleaning. She ends up not trusting that doc, and leaves.

But if her sister had sent her to that office, the patient would be looking at the X-ray with the doc, trusting his recommendation. When a family member or good friend refers you to a dentist, you trust them. So much of our economy is based on particular branded products, and the core reason is trust. Humans are brand-loyal. If you go to the grocery store, you’re not going to look at all 400 types of coffee; you say, “I trust this brand, it tastes good, it’s consistent, and I’ve been faithful to it.”

Phoning it in

So for me, organic referrals are more important than external marketing to strangers. When I go into a dental office and say, “Tell me about your business,” he might talk about what bonding agent he uses, or that he’s a CAD/CAM guy, that he has a CBCT and all this cool technology. And I’ll say, “Forget about that stuff.

How many people called your dental office in the first quarter of this year?” No matter who I ask, that person never has any idea what that number is—no tracking. Then I’ll ask, “How many of those went to voicemail?” There are 168 hours in a week, you’re open only 32 of them—which is 19 percent—so at least half the calls come in when you’re closed and they go to voicemail. The data I’ve seen suggests that 13 calls will come in before one caller actually leaves a voicemail. People aren’t programmed to talk to machines; they just hang up.

Now, realize that half the calls you get when you’re open still go to voicemail, and on top of that you have no idea if those missed callers were new or someone who’s been coming to the practice for a decade. If it’s the latter, they’ll leave a message—they trust me to get

back to them. But if it’s an organic number coming in, one that’s never called the office before, you have to answer that phone. More than likely, that number is someone who’s been referred by an existing or past patient of your practice.

You did the good work—you were the good dentist, you built that trust, they liked you enough to tell their friend at work or that family member ... and then that person called you and you didn’t capture it!

I’ll tell you one way to double your practice right now: Get a digital phone system, track your incoming calls and look at the information you gather. You’re open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., maybe, but your phone starts ringing at 6 a.m. You close down from noon to 1 for lunch, but you missed eight calls in that time. You close at 5 p.m., but people are calling at 6:30.

The organic calls are coming in and your little funnel is catching only half of them. Expand that funnel! Capture those organic calls by having a real person answer. Pick one of your assistants and have her come in at 6, go to lunch from 11–12 and go home at 3. Get one of your existing receptionists to come in

at 9:30 and work to 6:30. If you double the number of calls you answer with a real person—I don’t care if you’re delivering pizza or doing root canals—your business will double.

What I like about catching organic calls: These are people whose trust you’ve already earned. They’re already calling you but are getting lost in the system, either calling before you open or after you close—or, worse, calling when you’re open but not getting a person.

Asking for more

Something I learned from Greg Stanley, one of the greatest consultants in dentistry, is that when you’re done with a patient, say: “Look, you’ve been coming here for years and don’t ever get cavities because you listen to what the hygienist says—brush and floss every morning and night, get your teeth cleaned every 6 months, and then you’ll likely never have to see me for anything bigger than a quick check at the end. So … do you know anyone in your circle who might like us?”

Interestingly, a patient’s first thought is usually, “I didn’t even know you wanted new patients, because it took me 5 days to get in here to see you!” You have to say, “No, no—it’s hard to get in to see the hygienist. It’s not hard to get in to see me. Do you know anyone who needs to see me?” A lot of times they’ll tell you, “You know, my brother’s wife really needs to see a dentist. We were having dinner last night and she couldn’t chew on her right side.” I’ll ask, “Is she in your phone? Call her right now—get her up on FaceTime.” I’ll tell her, “I was just fixing up your husband’s brother here and he mentioned you were having some trouble with a toothache.”

This is what Greg would call an “extreme referral”— now she’s listening to me because I’m sitting next to someone she loves and trusts. It’s a guaranteed new patient every single time.

That’s the new currency in marketing: time. Time to return phone calls, time to call a patient. Throwing money at making flyers or direct mail campaigns or other ads doesn’t work like it used to. More people get more marketing from spending time writing blogs, or on social media, or calling patients. Time is the new currency in marketing. And it’s all in a game of trust.

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