The Art of Failure: What You Can Learn From Your Latest Dental Marketing Flop

Written by: Xaña Winans
dental marketing


Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” He was referring to the development of his infamous automobile, but this statement could just as easily apply to dental marketing. In my 20+ years in this industry, I have seen a lot of failures. It is inevitable. However, what sets a truly successful dental practice apart from everyone else is that they have learned from their mistakes.

dental marketing

The Art of Failure: What You Can Learn From Your Latest Dental Marketing Flop

At my dental marketing agency, we live by the mantra “fail forward.” This means that everyone in the office has permission to fail. This doesn’t mean that I love failure – far from it. Without permission to fail, my team would be afraid to try new ideas, and that would render our business stagnant and outdated in a matter of months. My only rule is that every failure must be followed by a post mortem, so that we learn not only WHY we failed, but WHAT we need to do differently next time.

Over the course of our history, we have worked with thousands of dental practices and heard about thousands of marketing disasters. Surprisingly, all of these failures could be grouped into a short list of failure types. You can benefit from learning about these types of failures, and our agency can help you avoid them.


The promise of a quick-fix, magic bullet marketing solution is always enticing, but rarely rewarding. Just like any “lose weight,” “restore your hair,” or “make yourself irresistible to the opposite sex” infomercial promise, these marketing gimmicks are usually too good to be true. You may see some immediate “results,” but they will quickly vanish (most likely right after your check has been cashed by the vendor.)

Lesson learned: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Moving forward, you just have to accept the reality that you got suckered… and be more skeptical next time.


Paid marketing only delivers the most effective return on investment (ROI) if you accurately target your ideal patients. If you send direct mail or your dental internet marketing to an audience that is too broad or, worse yet, completely misaligned with your goals, you’ll be wasting your time and money.

Lesson learned: The first thing you need to do is clearly define the persona of who your ideal patient is and then use that information, including demographic and psychographic characteristics, to be laser-focused with your targeting.


Your dental marketing should never be set-it-and-forget it. Testing to see what works, what doesn’t, and what new things to try is part of the ongoing process of improving your ROI. If you don’t take a systematic approach, you can end up changing multiple factors and not have any idea what actually had an impact.

Lesson learned: In marketing, A/B testing is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of making a single change to your strategy. It could be as significant as switching an entire promotional offer or as minor as changing the font of a headline. Regardless, only make one change at a time so you have a clear apples-to-apples comparison. Otherwise, you’ll just be guessing at what changes to implement.


Sometimes marketing campaigns are launched by dentists without making the team aware of it. That leads to a lot of confusion and very little support when the strategy actually starts to work and the phone starts ringing with questions from new patients about the promotional offers. Leaving your front desk in the dark can put them in awkward conversations when they are caught off guard by questions they can’t answer.

Lesson learned: Keep your team in the loop when it comes to any marketing efforts. Make marketing updates a regular part of your team meetings (you do have those, right?). That way, everyone is on the same page.


Launching a marketing strategy without clear goals is like trying to drive blindfolded. It also makes it impossible to know if your efforts were successful or not.

Lesson learned: Have SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) in place before you spend a single penny on a marketing campaign. Measure the baseline of that goal and then track your progress monthly to ensure you are hitting your goals.


Not having reliable measurements in place for your dental marketing is easily the biggest mistake you can make.

Not only will you not know if you are successful, by the time you find out something is costing you too much money, it will be too late.

Lesson learned: Put accurate dental marketing tracking and analytics in place to ensure that everything you do can be measured in terms of cost and results.

No matter which of these marketing mistakes you’ve made in the past (it’s ok, I won’t judge), be sure to look at them as opportunities to learn a lesson and begin again. Just, as Mr. Ford said, more intelligently.


Xaña Winans is Golden Proportions Marketing’s owner, president, resident visionary, and lead strategist. She brings decades of real world experience to dental marketing, ensuring that the marketing solutions she and her team develop are both creative and easy for dental offices to execute. Golden Proportions Marketing provides turnkey full services marketing solutions for private practices, group practices and small to midsize DSO’s.