I’ll bet those of you who weren’t living under a rock — or those who had a teenage daughter in 1999 and 2000 — can sing, hum, or at least remember Christina Aguilera’s No. 1 single “What a Girl Wants.” The song urged young men to pay attention to their girlfriends.

While the song was a huge hit, the question for you as a private practice dentist is: Who should be your focus? For whom are you creating your practice?

In your practice, you should be paying attention to women approximately 40 to 65 years of age. Who exactly is this patient? She is college-educated, has two cars, has two kids in college, and lives in a home with a value, on average, of $250,000. And, most importantly, she makes 87% of the healthcare decisions for her family.

We’ve actually done some research on this patient and what she wants in a dental practice. Here are a few of the things we’ve found.

Polish your look

This woman has to like the clinician. That means, male doctors, you need to be clean-cut and clean-shaven. I can assure you that no one wants a man with whiskers coming out of his mask right in their face.

And no matter the gender, you need to be well-groomed and smell nice, but not overpoweringly so. Remember, you are being judged by this patient as soon as she walks in the door.

Invest in your space

She wants to go to places that look nice — by her standards. You may love your paneled walls and silk flower arrangements, but she won’t.

You need to hire a decorator. Not your sister-in-law who thinks she’s a decorator — a decorator who actually has clients who pay him or her to decorate. Don’t try to shortcut expenses here, either. If you go out and get a reduced price, you’ll get what you pay for: a reduced level of quality. Spend the money.

Observe your team

She has to like the team members. Women are far more observant of behavior than men, and are easily turned off by bad attitudes, overheard gossip, and cold receptions. You must monitor the interactions between your patients and team members, as well as the interactions between and among staff members. As soon as you stop observing, things start to go downhill; pay attention and make improvements when necessary.

All in the family

Your patient wants to be treated like family. Not surprising. I’ll bet most of you would describe your practice as operating just like that — treating patients as family. But I wonder how many of your patients would agree?

Here’s the difference between thinking you treat your patients like family and actually treating them that way: Say it! Don’t just think, “I would tell my sister this.” Say to the patient, “If you were my daughter, this is what I would do,” or “If you were my sister, this is what I would do.”

You would recommend the absolute best care to your mom or sister, right? That’s how you should treat your patients — as if they were family members. Quick tip here: Use age-appropriate examples (be careful not to call a 53-year-old woman your mother).

There’s a great book that I recommend to all my coaching clients called Why She Buys, by Bridget Brennan, a colleague and industry expert I’ve featured at some of our events. I highly recommend that you read this book, get to know your consumer, and start to focus your practice on the one type of person who can make or break it.