This woman is our best customer

According to recent studies, women make 80 percent of all major financial decisions for their families. When they're happy with a purchase, they tell their friends. They tell them when they're unhappy too. So, when it comes to promoting dental services, you might want to start with her.

by Becky Vasquez

Today, women make 80 percent of all purchasing decisions. That's power! More than ever, studies are confirming the physiological differences between the sexes. Remember the book, "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"? We now know that women's brains are different; they are distinct in how they see, hear, and use language. The next step is to learn how these differences manifest themselves in the marketplace.

The purchasing power of women naturally implies that your practice's success and growth are directly related to your ability to market to women. Faith Popcorn's book, EVEolution: The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women, is a great place to start. The eight essential truths Popcorn details in her book are the trends that must redefine the way companies — and dental practices — create profitable and lasting relationships with women. To sum it up, women are "relationship oriented and process aware." Here are the eight "truths" along with some ideas of how to make them work for your practice.

Women want to connect with other women and are three times as likely as men to recommend a certain brand when they know friends are looking for a particular product or service. So the goal is to connect one woman customer to another, and, as a result, they will feel truly connected to you.

Hint: Having a predominately female team can definitely work in your favor. Look for ways to encourage connection between your team members and your female patients. For example, do smile makeovers on your team and they'll tell everyone: friends, family, and other patients. You also can arrange a short presentation on cosmetic dentistry and invite some of the women who have already completed treatment to share their experiences with others who are interested.

When marketing to women, it's important to understand what pleases them. The challenge lies in the fact that through socialization, some women have learned that it's unladylike or unattractive to "speak up." So, many women have developed subtle and difficult-to-decipher ways of expressing their desires. An example would be a woman leading her husband to the jewelry store window and commenting on how beautiful a piece of jewelry is, rather than saying, "I would really like to have that." Women are also less likely to tell you when you do something wrong. According to Popcorn, "Ninety-six percent of female customers never complain if they're dissatisfied. They just never go back."

This means we must do anticipatory marketing. Remember, women control 80 percent of the household spending. Combine that with the fact they often keep their needs to themselves, and the meaning is clear: A radical shift is needed in the way business operates. Anticipate what women want! This truth may be the most difficult of them all. Just understanding what a woman wants is difficult enough, and now you need to attempt to go to the next level and foresee or anticipate what she will want.

Hint: Review each step of your patient-care visit by asking the question: "When a woman dreams of a perfect dental visit, what could it include that our visit currently doesn't?" Extras could consist of services such as a chair massager or hand massage, paraffin-wax treatment for hands during a long procedure, hot towels for clean up after treatment, and touch-up makeup samples. Anticipating the huge concerns women have about aging should prompt discussions and information about whitening and aesthetic dentistry to create or keep a youthful smile. Look for even more ways to "give service beyond what is expected."

Women are the experts at multi-tasking and doing everything at once ... extremely well! They are used to juggling their own personal, children's, and professional lives and using every minute of their day to meet all of these needs. Remember the AT&T ad where a mother feels the pull of her two kids who want to go to the beach on a day she has to work? Her solution was to take them to the beach while she used her cell phone to conduct an important business phone call. When you provide opportunities for women to accomplish other things while in your care, you will win their loyalty. They, in turn, will refer other women to your practice.

Hint: Look for ways that your female patients can complete other tasks while having their dental care. You could provide a computer to check emails, cookbooks to plan the evening meal, makeup, skincare, and oral healthcare products for sale in your office, or offer relaxation services like hand massages or paraffin wax treatments. Help them to wisely use the few minutes while they wait for their appointment to begin, X-rays to be developed, or for the hygiene examination. You could even offer information on other women's health issues through links on your Web site to the best healthcare and women's sites. Get creative! The opportunities are endless!

Various theories exist to explain why women are much more observant than men and more in tune to what's happening around them on all levels. Some feel it's women's ability to use the left and right sides of the brain simultaneously versus men's tendency to use only one side of the brain at a time. Others say its variations among the sexes in the levels of dopamine and serotonin, two key neurotransmitters of the brain . Whatever the reason, women pick up and respond to things most men won't. For example, when watching the morning news, women not only hear the news, but note the outfit and shoes Katie Couric is wearing, the style of her hair, how the color she's wearing compliments her eyes, and more. You might call this phenomenon female observation, a woman's roving antenna, or peripheral vision. Combine this with understanding the fact that women are immediately and strongly turned off by "hard sell" approaches, and we can create an extremely effective marketing strategy toward women. Peripheral marketing is the most psychologically complex of all of the truths. It's about "catching the corner of a woman's eye and capturing her heart and mind."

Hint: Subtly let women know about the cosmetic procedures your practice offers by having photographs of beautiful smiling faces throughout the office. Have the CAESY Smile Channel quietly morphing ugly smiles into gorgeous smiles in all of your treatment rooms. Prepare and display attractive "before and after" photograph albums along with testimonials from super-satisfied patients. Create an FYI notebook with articles from leading women's magazines on dental health and beauty. When you have subtly, but powerfully piqued their interest and women ask, "Can you do that for me?" you'll know it's working.

The days when the Avon Lady and the Electrolux salesman visited women at home are over, since most women are no longer there. The challenge that exists today is to figure out ways to "get to her, go to her" and even to find out where she is. Convenience is key. If you can find ways to interact with a woman wherever she happens to be and make her life easier, you will win one faithful customer.

Hint: Consider presenting mini cosmetic smile makeover presentations at locations where women gather. Arrange with local salons, spas, or health clubs to display your "before and after" photo album. Better yet, hold short (15 minute) presentations using your laptop to show how cosmetic dentistry changes lives.

Whether we realize it or not, many of the brands we use as adults are the same as those our mother chose. Growing up watching the "Today Show" with my mom created a loyalty to that morning show I never realized until now. This "pass-along" dynamic between mother and daughter is nearly invincible. Carl Jung says that the mother-child relationship is "certainly the deepest and most profound one we know."

Hint: Providing "before and after" photographs to your patients will encourage them to show others, including their children. Strangely enough, cosmetic surgery, including Botox, is steadily growing in popularity among 20-year-olds. Cosmetic dentistry is sure to follow.

The nature of women, proven by studies again and again, is to nurture. Books that deal with women and what's important to them address the basic role of being "Mom." This role of parenting extends to pets, parents, co-workers, employees, a career, and even ideas. What this tells us is that women would love to "join" a brand that they themselves helped bring into the world. Developing a co-parenting approach to marketing creates an emotional attachment to your brand that is very difficult to walk away from.

Hint: Invite your female patients who have had cosmetic dentistry to "co-parent" your marketing strategies. Ask questions about their experience and what could have made it better. Ask how your practice would look if they owned it. Prepare for answers such as "Cleaner, more honest, more humane, and more in touch." Be sure to always give credit for their contributions and take their suggestions seriously. Also, periodically share with them how it's working and they will be loyal to you for life and recommend you to others.

Women do business with people they trust. If you deceive them in any way, they will see right through it. Remember your mom saying, "I have eyes on the back of my head?" Your goal for all patients, especially for women, should be to build a reputation of honesty, integrity, ethical behavior, community service, and extreme attention to detail. And then you must be impeccable and "walk your talk."

Hint: Your patient care systems should be choreographed like a Broadway play. It's important that every detail of every interaction with your patients is examined under a microscope. Role-play each patient contact, from the initial phone call through the standing ovation at the end of your cosmetic insertion, to the post-treatment contacts to encourage referrals. Look for any opportunity to exceed her expectations and she will love you forever.

"EVEolution" is the most powerful marketing principle ever developed for understanding and motivating the largest target opportunity of the next decade — women. As author Faith Popcorn puts it, "The companies, from Fortune 500s to mom and pops, to start-up entrepreneurs who do the best job of marketing to women will dominate every significant product and service category." Don't miss this wonderful opportunity!

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