Five myths about ads

Oct. 1, 2002
The following is not theory or conjecture. It's from personal experience gained through advertising and marketing the four businesses my wife and I currently run.

Tom Orent, DMD

The following is not theory or conjecture. It's from personal experience gained through advertising and marketing the four businesses my wife and I currently run. Extensive testing is the only way to determine what works and what doesn't. "A/B Split" testing is the only way to determine the exact effect any one variable has on the outcome of your marketing efforts.

•Nobody's ever going to read the whole thing. Conventional wisdom says that shorter is better. But we have found that the exact opposite is true! Barring copy that is boring to read, the longer your ad, the more effective it will be. The copy should capture your readers' attention and grip their emotional needs.

How do I know? Up until last year, the most profitable ad I'd ever written was 16 pages long! It read almost like a short book! But I recently blew that effort away with a 37-page sales letter ... accompanied by an additional 10 pages of testimonial and a five-page order form. In all, each envelope contained 52 written pages!

The results? In less than two weeks, that one letter netted enough profit to support my family for the next couple of years — even if I didn't work!

•Repetition is the key. Yes, repetition works. Repetition will — in most instances — increase the results of an ad. However, every ad should have immediate and measurably profitable results.

The big myth is that little or no response warrants continued repetition of an ad! that's just not true. If you aren't sure you're receiving satisfactory results early on from an ad campaign, stop the campaign!

•Three to 7 percent is a good advertising budget. Garbage! There is no correct number! Be wary of any specialist or consultant who quotes you a percentage for your ad budget. If you test 10 ads and find two that work really well, why limit your spending when you can continue to make more money by repeating the ad?

One of my favorite lines from Dan Kennedy — a multi-millionaire, direct-response marketing genius — is "Buying great marketing is like buying money at a discount!" For example, let's say your practice currently nets a profit of $350,000 per year. You've determined (via careful testing and tracking) that repeating ads A, B, and C will increase your profits even more. As long as that's true, why limit your potential profit?

•You must have a great logo and strong graphics. The only way to prove this is to perform an "A/B Split" test. Create one ad with a logo or graphic, and then the same ad without. You may or may not achieve better results with a graphic.

But the myth is that you need these to improve your marketing. The only thing I use a logo for is to enhance and further an image I want to project. But in initial external marketing, the logo is one of the least important parts of the message. If you must use a graphic, make certain that it enhances the direct results of the ad. Conduct a split test to prove the results.

•A "clean look" and "white space" are critical. Layout is critical. But white space is an enormous waste of valuable opportunity to sell! The "busier" an ad looks, the more likely you'll get response — if it's laid out correctly.

Although I utilize great deal of it, I personally don't "sell" advertising. My only bias — and reason for writing about this subject — is to prevent readers from wasting their hard-earned dollars, and to help them take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that await their use of effective marketing.

Test everything. Track everything. Avoid the five myths and you'll be well on your way to profitable use of marketing in your dental practice.

Dr. Tom Orent, the GEMS GUY, is a management consultant and practicing dentist. He is a founding member and past president of the New England Chapter of the AACD. He has presented his "1,000 Gems SeminarsTM" in four countries and at state and national meetings in 46 states. He has lectured at numerous dental schools and is the author of four books and numerous articles on aesthetic dentistry, practice management, TMJ, and "Extreme Customer Service." Dr. Orent may be reached by phone at (888) 880-4367, by fax at (508) 879-4811, by email at [email protected], or visit

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