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Mark Twain Said…

May 4, 2015

Filed under: Marketing — Tags: , — Barry @ 11:05 AM






“This is going to be a rough flight,” my wife said as we took our seats on a recent trip to Tampa.  She was nodding across the aisle where a grandmother was placing seat belts on her terrible two-ish grandchildren.  The two little boys looked back across at me, and for a second I thought they were winking at each other..making their evil plan.

Visions of Chuckie.

Just then the grandmother got everyone’s attention by announcing…”Let me apologize in advance, this is my grandchildren’s first flight to Florida.  I don’t know what to expect, so here is a little goodie bag as a token of my appreciation.”

She then handed out plastic bags filled with snacks, puzzles and ear plugs.  Everyone was disarmed and we all started to smile…what a change in the atmosphere.

The pilot announced that we would be taking off momentarily by warning us that there would be some turbulence.  I began to think that he and the grandmom had a morning huddle to practice what great salesmen call, “state the objection.”

That is a technique that prepares the “buyer” for the worst by raising the objections even before the buyer brings it up.

As an example, let’s say that the buyer is worried about price.  The salesman will bring up price in order to get that objection out on the table.  So many times the objection becomes the elephant in the room and so much time is spent worried about it without ever discussing the money.

How many times during a consultation does the dentist not discuss the primary objection…just sweeping it under the rug as if it doesn’t exist?

Well, stating the objection could go a long way to improving case presentations.

And it’s not only about money.  Fear is another major objection to dental treatment.

I have a patient who always reminds me to check in with her to let her know how far into treatment we are…as if we were on a plane going from New York to Los Angeles.  It calms her down if she knows how much longer the trip will be….sort of like the pilot telling us to expect turbulence.

Well…back to my trip to Tampa…I am happy to report that there was no incidence of turbulence or screaming kids.

Just like most dental treatment, it all goes well.

On my way off of the plane I approached the grandmom and told her that her gesture reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes:

Ninety-Eight percent of the things I worried about never happened.

I guess the lesson for dentists is to get those objections out of the way—bring them up—talk about them…because they really matter, and you’ll be surprised how easy the trip will be.

In Search of Dignity

January 26, 2015

Filed under: Ethics,Marketing,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 3:31 PM




On a recent trip to central Pennsylvania, in order to prevent myself from dozing, I read road signs.  Road signs can really get your attention.  They can be just as creative as some of the better television ads I see these days.

They can be real conversation starters, like those digital WANTED signs that warn us to be careful of criminals on the loose.  And of course those redundant GEICO billboards.  Yes, billboards can be a sign of the times.

That’s why, on my way into Harrisburg I found one sign that really made me laugh.  I guess this is the devolution of what started out as, “If you’ve been hurt in accident…call.” 

This billboard implied the same, but it instructed the viewer to call “LarrytheLawyer.com.”  (Name changed).

LarrytheLawyer.com?  Hmm?

Back in the eighties it became legal for professionals to advertise.  For years professional organizations fought advertising.  Many dentists are aware of “Painless Parker,” a flamboyant street dentist described as “a menace to the dignity of the profession” by the American Dental Association.  “Menace to the dignity of the profession”…in the thirties.  I wonder what the forefathers would say about our dignity now?

Dignity.  What does the word mean?  The dictionary definition tells us it is a sense of pride in oneself; self respect, an honorable rank or position.

Well, I guess it is up to each of us to protect our own dignity.  I certainly wouldn’t do what Larry did and display it all over my hometown for the sake of getting people’s attention.

But who protects the dignity of the profession?  The collective dignity of the profession.  Does anyone have that role?  I know in sports like football and baseball, players must answer to their undignified behavioral issues (sometimes anyway).  Someone is in charge of protecting the public image.  Because it’s important.

For what you ask?

Public trust.

And that’s the big problem with today’s professions.

Today the professions have narrowed and distorted the idea of dignity.  I wonder if advertising had something to do with it?  Maybe there was something to letting the professions police themselves instead ofd giving way to the free market.  After all health care ethics is a bit more complex than selling cars or insurance.

Maybe it doesn’t stop with the health care professions.  Just last week I was watching Barak Obama interviewing Glozell Green at the White House.  Check her out…she has this unbelievable following on YouTube.  I guess he did this for the same reasons Larry the Lawyer takes out billboards…to get the public’s attention through shock value.

Maybe it’s time we all took a deep breath and put some dignity back into our jobs…it wouldn’t hurt.











The 7 Triggers of Fascination

July 7, 2014

Filed under: Marketing,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:00 AM

Carl Rogers Quote



I am obsessed with human motivation.  For over forty years I have studied what makes people tick.  For myself it is an exercise in self-development…but in my practice, I believe it is a key to helping people improve.  Now I’m not a psychologist but I’ve done my share of literature review from Maslow to Carl Rogers.

At a recent study club meeting I presented the Art of Case Presentation from my book by the same name.  Afterwards I heard someone say, “You can’t change people.”

Later on I reflected on that statement.  I was bothered by it—more about the attitude behind it than the validity.  Did I really waste forty years of research and study, and over a year in writing a book if that were true?

I will say with all humility.  I am living proof that people can change.  People are capable of changing, and as a dentist I see myself as a change agent.

Change is difficult…I’m sure you know that, but it starts with the subjectivity about change rather than the objective nature of change.  If you say you can…you can.

My discomfort with the declaration caused me to do more reading and reflection.  I am fully convinced that all change starts with the emotional brain.  We must find our own emotional reasons to begin and maintain changes.

There are many books written that discuss the role of mental triggers…things that enter into our minds and get our attention.  One such book, Fascinate by Sally Hogshead (see a review at the end of this post) discusses 7 triggers that communicate ideas, they are:

  1. Lust
  2. Mystique
  3. Alarm
  4. Prestige
  5. Power
  6. Vice
  7. Trust

These 7 triggers instantly reach the emotional brain and provide meaning for the observer.  It’s the meaning that compels us to pay attention and possibly inspire action.

Dentists spend a lot of time trying to appeal to all patients.  Maybe it is true that we can’t change everyone…after all during my career I have seen upwards of 30,000 different patients, but only about 1200 remain active in my practice.

So how well am I doing my job if “changing people” is going to be part of my job description.

One story, reproduced below , that guides my thinking, has really helped me through the years.



A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at
sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the
distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native
kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out
into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things
out into the ocean.

As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man
was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach
and, one at time, he was throwing them back into the water.

Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said,
“Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing.”

“I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see,
it’s low tide right now and all of these starfish have been
washed up onto the shore. If I don’t throw them back into the
sea, they’ll die up here from lack of oxygen.”

“I understand,” my friend replied, “but there must be thousands
of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get to all of
them. There are simply too many. And don’t you realize this is
probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this
coast. Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?”

The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another
starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied,
“made a difference to THAT one!”

-By Jack Canfield
and Mark V. Hansen

 I guess that’s how I judge how far I go to change people.  In the end it really comes down to values—shared values.

The shared values creates the political climate in the practice…for me—it’s about the values of TRUST, APPRECIATION AND OWNERSHIP.

Hmmm…I should write a blog about those three words.


Related articles

Guess What Day it Is?

December 16, 2013

Filed under: ARTICLES,Marketing — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:31 PM



I love great ads.  I try to deny that they influence me at all, but with all the money they spend on trying to make me spend my money, I suppose they work.  The best ads, the most creative ads are the ones that stop me in my tracks.  They command my attention.  I love the stuff that comes from GEICO.  I can’t get enough of that camel crying out, “Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike…Guess what day it is…it’s hump day!”  Love it.  Love the gecko too.

He’s some little character isn’t he?  Did you know that his name is Martin?  Did you know that his voice is that of English comedian Jake Wood?  And by default, we know he is from New Zealand because he eliminated Australia and England in some of his episodes.

And the camel?  His name is Caleb.  And the pig…his name is Maxwell.  See how much I love these commercials?

I don’t know if they have changed my purchasing habits.  I just like them.

And what about the highest rated ad campaign of all time:  “WHERE’S THE BEEF?”

In the world of advertising the thing that makes an ad successful is how much it is liked.  Likeability is the key to success…for ads and for people.

Go ahead, don’t be shy, if you like this post go ahead and click the like button.  The one right over Clara Peller’s head.

Liking is the second component of the marketer’s triad : Know, Like and Trust, so it’s no surprise that we can’t trust something we don’t like.

President Lyndon Johnson, a master at persuasion developed his ten point formula for success…to improve his likeability.  Oh, to return to the days when presidents were liked.  Here are LBJ’s Likeability points:

  1. Learn to remember names.
  2. Be a comfortable person to be around.
  3. Acquire the quality of being relaxed and easy going.
  4. Don’t be egotistical (arrogant).
  5. Be interested and interesting.
  6. Get the scratchy stuff out of your personality.
  7. Attempt to heal all grievances.
  8. Practice liking people until you learn to do so genuinely.
  9. Never miss an opportunity to congratulate someone on their achievements, or to express sympathy in sorrow or disappointment.
  10. Give spiritual strength to people, and they will give genuine affection to you.

The other night during a podcast interview the host asked me, “What advice I would give to a young dentist starting a practice today?”

I said I would would be like Donnie Brasco, the undercover FBI agent who spent two years working his cover in a New York uptown bar building trust.  He did it slowly, getting to know the regulars.  He made sure he was liked…and then gradually built a trust.

Today’s advice is probably what Clara Peller told her children when she wasn’t yelling, “where’s the beef.”

Be nice…be likeable.






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The Dental Myth That Never Dies

January 24, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Marketing,Uncategorized — Tags: — Barry @ 10:47 PM

George Nicholsopn-7



My patient cancelled her last appointment…”I forgot,” she said.

Considering her age (82) I accepted the memory breakdown.  She just needed a simple composite on her lateral incisor.

Another routine moment in a dental practice. Until I sensed some hesitation on her part.

So I asked if she had any reservations about the filling (it was clearly missing), and she said…”Well, I thought fillings last forever.”

And so, there it was…the dental myth that never dies.

So I took the opportunity to start a conversation about about this pervasive myth that most dentists have been fighting for years.

The heart and soul of a practice that believes in comprehensive care is these conversations that we get into with patients every day.

Business is a conversation.

During this particular conversation my patient learned the difference between the various materials available for treatment.  She also felt a lot better about the old dentistry that her brother had placed through the years.

She asked me to assess the rest of his work and how long I thought it would last.

Her brother did nice crown and bridge work that was holding up, and she felt good about that too.

Then she brought up her daughter who is in the middle of getting some older crowns replaced.  She had been wondering about that too…now she felt relieved.

All of these issues were generated from a mistaken belief and a good talk.

So I started to ask more patients about this myth…and lo and behold it was disturbingly popular…even in my practice.

Do a survey in your practice.  See what kinds of conversations a simple question can generate.  You may be surprised that it may lead to changing people’s beliefs about materials, hygiene and occlusion.

On my other blog CasePresenter.com I write a lot about getting our patients emotionally involved.  Destroying myths like these are quite emotional as you can tell by the “feeling” reactions of my 82 year old patient.Train everyone in your practice to open these conversations…especially the hygienists.

The Spear blog had a post concerning 5 Ways to Start a Conversation with Your Patient.  All of the suggestions were quite good.  But if you really want to home in on the subject at hand…destroying this myth is a good place to start.

It may also be good for dentistry…so many forces are out there teaching people things that are just wrong.  Start a grass roots campaign to help the profession.It’s worth repeating...Business is a conversation.





The Man Who Mistook his CT Scanner for a Hat

July 17, 2012

Filed under: Article,Marketing,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 6:15 PM

How I imagined myself.

Okay fans…that’s not me.  But it is who I imagined I could be.  It just didn’t work out.  Let me explain.

Earlier this year I found myself in one of those newer discount malls you see around these days.  A sprawling, never-ending sea of brand names at marked down prices.  My wife was on a mission to get the deal of the century (she just didn’t know what it was yet), while I was out for a walk in the park.

I like the John Varvatos brand, so I naturally gravitated into that store.  While looking over the boots and leather goods I spotted a felt hat.  You know the type of hat…the one worn by just about everyone hanging out at the Promenade in Santa Monica.  Forget that I am 64 years old.  I tried it on and I became 25 again.  I tipped it this way and that…it looked great.  How much?  I asked. (more…)

Dental Design the Steve Jobs Way

October 9, 2011

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Marketing — Tags: , , , — Barry @ 10:08 PM

An Elite GroupThroughout the past week the Internet has been filled with blog posts concerning the death of Steve Jobs.  Like  everyone in America, I too am a big fan of what he created.  For years I have been calling him our modern day Thomas Edison.

Everything that needs to be said has already been said as noted by my friend’s blog post at Spear Education.  Most of the references to Jobs have centered around the world of business…what a great leader, and what a great marketer he was.  And yes, that is all true, but just as Edison was primarily a great inventor, Jobs was primarily a great designer who truly understood what humans wanted and needed at a practical level.

And he delivered.

That is his greatest lesson for dentists.

Steve Jobs understood what “design” means.  He understood “form follows function,” where others just give it lip service.

I will never forget his keynote speech introducing the iPad2.  The entire presentation was designed (yes doctors, his presentations were designed as well), around function; how the new iPad worked.  He subtly mocked his competitors because he knew what his audience wanted and he delivered it—so many improvements over the original iPad and yet all he kept saying was “It just works.”

Clear and concise: “It just works.”

Form follows function.

Read what Steve Jobs said about design in a New York Times article written in 2003 titled, The Guts of a New Machine:

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Design is how it works…makes us wonder about the cosmetic dentistry revolution, and about what Peter Dawson has been preaching for the last thirty years.  People really want dentistry that works, that lasts…quality dentistry.

First you have to design it…then you have to sell it ( the idea, I mean).

And Jobs was good at that too.  He was a master presenter, an impressive storyteller who painted crystal clear images with extraordinary graphic design.

So what can dentists learn from Steve Jobs?

Hopefully I have given you two things…become a great dental designer by deeply understanding examination and treatment planning skills and second, take your presentations very seriously.

I have created another blog called Casepresenter.com which explores all the nuances of effective dental case presentation.  Please visit and contribute your thoughts and ideas.

One more thing.  I am a frequent visitor to Amazon.com.  Some months ago I noticed that Walter Isaacson, the author of Ben Franklin’s  and Einstein’s bio’s, was writing the first authorized biography of Steve Jobs.  The publication date was March 2012.  Over time I noticed the date was moving forward.  That combined with his departure from Apple in August should have tipped me off to his imminent death.

I can’t wait to read Isaacson’s book, due out at the end of October 2011…that will surely tell dentists what we could learn from Steve Jobs.

Television Mimics Life

September 18, 2011

Filed under: Marketing,What Would LD Do Now? — Tags: , — Barry @ 6:48 PM

When the King of Queens was popular on television I never watched it.  These days I watch it everyday on reruns.  I love Doug and Cari…and I guess their popularity can be explained by their universal truths.

The other night I watched an episode that portrayed Doug having a difficult time with the challenging problem of selecting a birthday gift for Cari.  This is a quandary I find myself in at least once each year.

Doug was overjoyed when he found the “perfect gift.”  Cari complained about how badly she looked in glasses, so Doug bought her Lasik surgery.  Pure win-win.

Until, (more…)

The End of Tooth Whitening

September 12, 2011

Filed under: Marketing — Tags: , , , — Barry @ 11:02 PM


There was a time when tooth whitening was all the rage.  Everyone wants white bright teeth.  Dental practices focused on bleaching…big companies jumped on the bandwagon and created tooth whitening products from toothpastes to white strips to tooth whitening gels.  Tooth whitening systems  became big business…and dentists considered it their domain.

We bought lights and made deals to buy bleach in bulk.  Tooth whitening in dentistry became as common as dirt.  Today we have created the ultimate dental commodity.  Dental practices still charge upwards of $600 to bleach a patient’s teeth.  This is in spite of the fact that in many states people can go to the local mall and get the same procedure around $99.

Cruise ships began offering whitening services as well.  Through it all dental practices kept charging the higher fee as a “profit center.”

Well things are changing faster than going from A3 to A1.

In my book The Art of the Examination I wrote about the forces in dentistry that have made our services into commodities.  The forces I wrote about were dental insurance and advertising.  Today we have the new social e-commerce sites like Living Social and Groupon that are offering services, especially tooth whitening for as low as $79.

I wrote about this in my last couple of posts.

I always wondered where we would be if no dentists accepted dental insurance…obviously that’s a dream.  So many of our colleagues have used dental insurance as a competitive advantage.

Well the same thing is happening with the Living Social and Groupon fascination.  I mean really…who doesn’t want a great deal?

Dentists all over the country are jumping on the bandwagon.  Patients everywhere are waking up to e-mails offering bleaching for $99 or less.  I know it’s a matter of time before we see Invisalign and veneer deals.

Dentistry’s founding fathers could not have seen this Darwinian competitiveness coming.  The phrase “all’s fair in love and war,”  doesn’t work for industries that are held to a higher standard…industries that are public trusts.

My feeling is that creating price wars through bitter competition can help the individual practice at the expense of the collective profession.

What’s your take?  The way I see it I wouldn’t be investing in a lot of bleaching supplies in the future.


Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers

July 25, 2011

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Marketing,Uncategorized — Tags: — Barry @ 10:47 PM

“He who defines the rules, owns the game.”       Barry Polansky…The Art of the Examination

Break through the gates

I wrote that line in my book a few years ago, in reference to the various forces that were controlling the dental profession at the time.  What I was implying was that dentists should do what blogger Chris Brogan calls, “creating your own game.”  Of course he is speaking about using the new media to compete in today’s connected marketplace…I was speaking about insurance companies.

Reflecting on my latest blog post concerning social e-commerce sites like Living Social and Groupon, I made the connection and revealed how these sites may be today’s version of dental insurance companies.  Third parties that enter the market to control the commerce for their own interests.  These forces are what Brogan refers to as “gatekeepers” in his book Trust Agents.

 A gatekeeper is someone or something that controls entry.  (more…)

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