Ready, fire, aim: It’s OK to fail

When it comes to dental marketing, dentists need to understand that failure is really the first step on a pathway to success. Learn more from dental marketing expert Graig Presti of Local Search For Dentists.

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In 2011, author Eric Ries released a book called The Lean Startup. The premise of the book is how to start a business or launch a product before it’s been fully tested and refined. The goal is to get that idea off the ground in a minimally viable way and then improve the execution of that idea as you go.

This counterintuitive strategy flies in the face of convention. Many would ask, “Why would you take an idea to market if you assume it’s only going to need to be changed?” Well, two reasons: First, if you launch something that has merit and brings value to the marketplace (and has a fighting chance at commercial adoption), you can assume it belongs there. Second, by launching as soon as possible, you’re avoiding a phenomenon you may have heard of: analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis is essentially overthinking something to the point that you’re no longer able to create forward movement or be productive. For example, let’s say your team comes up with a marketing campaign where you’re going to send out a postcard every month. You come up with the designs and you’re ready to send them out. But at 2:00 a.m. the night before you’re supposed to send the designs to the printer, you’re jolted awake. You think to yourself, “These postcards are never going to get patients to call us. We need to redo them.” So, you postpone the order and have your design team go back to the drawing board. And again. And again.

Six months later, you still haven’t sent them out because they still aren’t quite right. In the meantime, think about how many dozens (if not hundreds) of potential new patients and referrals you could have gotten on the books if you’d just sent them out the first time.

There’s another more subtle side effect of this inaction. I talk to thousands of doctors every year, and I can’t tell you how many times I hear the same story: A doc tries to do his or her marketing or signs on with a marketing company. Then, for whatever reason, the resulting efforts aren’t successful. We hear that as an objection all the time. “I don’t like marketing. I was burned by XYZ marketing agency, so I won’t market . . . ‘’

But in reality, that’s the essence of marketing. To “fail forward.” To screw things up—until they work. As a four-time Inc. Magazine 500/5000 trusted business, people often ask me what my team does when we’re putting together a new promotion. Do we spend months preparing a new mailer? Do we agonize over it? We certainly put time and care into what we create and send out—without a doubt. But the whole process of good marketing is putting out a piece, measuring the results, and improving upon those results in future iterations. We never assume that something is going to win the first time. We know our best bet is to get it out there and then improve upon it as time goes on.

Next time you’re preparing a new marketing tactic or a potential improvement to the practice but aren’t sure where to start (or when it’s finished), realize that you might be wasting time, effort, andpotential results, thanks to analysis paralysis.

Be bold and try things. If they don’t work, great. Now you know they didn’t work. Don’t be afraid to try something else. Then, do it again and keep doing it. The most successful people in the world fail over and over again. Only they don’t call it failure. Instead, they consider it the path to success.

Author’s note: If you’d like to learn more about how to “fail forward,” watch our new web video series, Beyond the Chair, made in conjunction with DE Chief Editor Chris Salierno, DDS, and industry thought leader Joshua Austin, DDS. Visit to sign up for free for a limited time.

Graig Presti is founder and CEO of four-time Inc. 500/5000-recognized company Local Search For Dentists (LSFD). Located in Austin, Texas, LSFD helps dentists all over the world gain dominance in their local markets through the company’s proprietary dental marketing systems. LSFD’s systems have helped dentists achieve more freedom, greater new patient numbers, and the ability to reach their income goals. Learn more at

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