Howard Speaks Howard Farran, DDS, MAGD, MBA, Publisher, Dentaltown Magazine

Getting to the Heart of Mom
– by Howard Farran, DDS, MAGD, MBA, Publisher, Dentaltown Magazine

Quick, before you start reading this column, put the magazine down and ask your front desk, "Who schedules most of the appointments with us? Is it Mom or Dad?" Go ahead and ask; I'll be here when you get back…
…Welcome back! So, what'd she say? If she said, "Dad," she's lying to you. Ever since I started lecturing in 1990, I've asked dentists and receptionists from New York City to Sydney, Australia, "Who makes the most appointments?" and the answer is always, "Mom."

I know people don't like talking about the difference between men and women for fear they'll be labeled "sexist." But the fact remains, men and women are different. I am not an anthropologist. I don't make any claims to be an evolutionary biologist. I don't know why men like to push lawn mowers, hammer nails and fix things, or why women want careers in health care and education, but the bottom line is men and women are just different.

In the 1960s, zoologist Desmond Morris wrote The Naked Ape, and showcased the differences between male and female apes. Morris found that for every intersocial contact a male ape has, a female has five. Humans are closely related to apes, and the same ratio can be inferred. You don't even have to do the research or read Morris' book to know this to be true; just look at how your patients interact in your own practice.

When I do a hygiene exam on Mom, I spend twice as much time with her than with Dad because we talk about her teeth, and her daughter's teeth, and her son's teeth, and when Jr. is going to need braces, and why her husband needs to get his two cavities filled because if they become root canals it will cost them $4,000 instead of $400. Women are much more social than men, and she makes all of the medical decisions in the household! I firmly believe that we are not a paternal society order animal. I think humans have much in common with whales. If you study whales, the female, who is half the size of the male, swims out in front and calls out orders for the males to follow as they migrate from Hawaii to Alaska and back. In the whale world, Mom is the boss. In economics – especially in health care and education – we live in a female-dominated society. And because Mom makes almost 90 percent of the dental appointments, shouldn't you focus your practice on her?

Building Rapport
One of my biggest pet peeves is when the dentist numbs up Mom, and then goes back to his private office for 10 minutes to read the paper and drink coffee. Why aren't you in that operatory building a relationship with Mom?! You might have graduated summa cum laude from the most prestigious dental school on the planet. You might be the best dentist in the world. But that's not going to keep Mom in the chair. That's not going to entice Mom to refer you to all her friends. You know what will? Getting to know her. Staying with her. Answering any and all of her questions. Explaining to her what she's going to experience. Earning her trust. Credentials are necessary, but even more necessary for the life of your practice is building that rapport with Mom!

First Impressions
And what about your Web site? How well are you coming across to Mom who is checking you and your practice out for the first time? Take a good look at your Web site. Does it promote your training at the Pankey Institute? Does it say you attended LVI or the Scottsdale Center for Advanced Dentistry? Is there a mention on there about your Fellowship from the Academy of General Dentistry? There is? That's all well and good, but why is that information on your Web site? Who does it serve? These days, your Web site is likely the first thing Mom checks out when she wants to learn about you. All of those credentials are outstanding, don't get me wrong, but does Mom really care about all that stuff? Do you even think she knows what LVI or Pankey is? Look, Mom knows you're a dentist. She already assumes you know how to do crowns and fillings and root canals. She wants to know if you're a good person. She wants to be assured that she can trust you. She wants to know what other patients have to say about you (on a related note, if you want to read more about online practice reviews, check out Dr. Thomas Giacobbi's Professional Courtesy column this month, "The False Feedback Loop"). Mom wants to know if you're married, if you have kids, and where you were born and raised. Are there pictures of you and your family on your site? Why not? Most dental practice Web sites I see are written by dentists for other dentists – not Mom. You have to show your patients your human side.

Mastering Google
The Yellow Pages are dead and buried. They have been for almost a decade. I don't understand why some of you feel the need to get out the shovels every year and dig it back up! Ask every patient what he or she uses to look something up and I bet you'll hear "Google" almost every time. Google is the most powerful Web site on the planet! It's the first thing Mom thinks of every time she wants to search for something on the Internet.

Google searches are just mind blowing to me. When someone types in "dentist" and your hometown, the first name that comes up in the search gets something like three times as many clicks as the second option down, which gets maybe four times as many clicks as the third click and the third click gets like five times as many clicks as the fourth click. It is like an upsidedown pyramid. All the action is on the first or second person that comes up.

Did you know you can buy those first clicks? Visit the Google homepage and you'll find a little word under the search bar that reads "Advertising." When you buy first clicks those are the little green listings at the very top above the search-optimized blue listings. At a recent lecture, I asked woman after woman after woman which listing they clicked and they always say, "The first one." I clarified and asked whether they clicked on the blue listing or the green listing at the very top. Each one told me "the green one at the very top."

At one of my recent lectures, I asked all of the women in the audience to raise their hands. Then I asked all of the women to keep their hands raised if they use Facebook. Not a single hand went down. So I walked around the room and asked, "How often do you check Facebook?" And everyone I asked would cover their faces or start giggling, but the average answer was somewhere around five times a day. Then I asked the men how many of them use Facebook. I'd say maybe 10 percent of the guys in the crowd raised their hands. Some of them registered for Facebook but haven't signed back on since. Women are communicators – that's how they're wired. So it's no surprise to me to know that women dig Facebook, which is an outstanding avenue to mass communicate!

So if Mom is on Facebook, why aren't you? Seriously, get your practice on Facebook. When Mom's in the office, ask her to "like" you on Facebook. Put up a placard on the front desk or a sign on your front window that reads "Find us on Facebook" and include your direct URL link where your practice can be found. This will keep you in constant communication with your patients. Today's Dental has a Facebook account ( We've put up videos promoting oral health and comments we've received from patients. Say you just returned from a sleep medicine seminar and you're planning on implementing sleep studies into your practice. Put a note up on Facebook about what you just did, like, "Dr. Smith just returned from a two-day course on snoring. Do you snore? Make an appointment today and we'll get you on your way to silent sleep"… or something like that. Or maybe you want to offer a deal of the week, like $50 off bleaching – you can inform your Facebook followers of that. And how much did that cost you? Nothing. Don't know where or how to get started? Check out Dr. Jason Lipscomb's updated book Social Media for Dentists 2.0 ( – it's a great resource to get you started.

Building your relationship with Mom is key these days. Mom is your word-of-mouth generator. Mom is the head of the household. Mom gets the kids and Dad in for their appointments. You need to be where Mom is – on the Internet, on Google and on Facebook.

And hey doc, quit being so proud. When Mom is checking out, why don't you reach behind the counter, grab five of your business cards and give them to her. Why don't you tell her, "These are for your five best friends. I promise I'll take as good of care with them as I do with you." What does it hurt to ask for referrals when your patients love, trust and respect you?

Howard Live
Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, MAGD, is an international speaker who has written dozens of published articles. To schedule Howard to speak to your next national, state or local dental meeting, email

Dr. Farran’s next speaking engagement is January 22, 2010, at the Vegas Implant Symposium in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, please call Colleen at 480-445-9712.

Seminars 2011
January 22 Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegas Implant Symposium
Maria Lozada-305-944-9636
February 18 Seattle, Washington
Washington AGD
Val Bartoli 253-306-0730
March 12 Troy, MI
Michigan AGD


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