Marketing electronic health records isn’t easy.

The world of EHRs is pretty tough right now. Doctors are frustrated with you. The government is looking into your numbers. And Judy Faulkner is trying to move the sector in a brand new direction.

Now, more than ever before, EHR vendors need to know what sets them apart.

In marketing, we call that the “value proposition” – and it’s important. It means you know exactly what you do that your customers like. It means you know exactly what you offer that they need. And it means you can say it quickly and smoothly so that anyone in your target audience will understand.

Value propositions can be hard to find.

Let me tell you what a value proposition is not. It’s not a list of features. It’s not a phrase that all of your competitors use, too.

If you’re a boutique EHR vendor, your specialty could be your value proposition. If you have a unique way of working with practices, that could be your value proposition.

Sometimes your value proposition is looking you in the face (“neonatal database”). Other times, you may not even realize you don’t already have one (if you are talking about price, you don’t have one).

When I worked at the marketing agency, we had a client who had no clue what set them apart. They were not in healthcare, but there were many parallels to the EHR world: This client had some huge competitors, they provided a service that several others did, and it wasn’t the kind of service their customers were ever going to get super excited about. They wanted us to create a lead generation campaign for them, except they had no idea what was special about them. We asked and probed and queried but the CEO, himself, just kept saying that they provided the service like everyone else and they did a good job.

That’s not enough.

In the end, there wasn’t much we could do. He didn’t want to do any deeper market research and all we had to go on was their long history and good customer service (although there was, apparently, nothing exceptional about it). The campaign results were about what you’d expect.

You need to know what sets you apart – and it needs to be something your customers care about.

It doesn’t matter if you use a unique coding style – unless it has a benefit (security? archiving?) for your customer. And it doesn’t matter if you say something is special, if your customers don’t think it is.

Here’s where to find your value proposition …

If you are not sure what is special about your software or your company, go to the source: ask your customers. They will let you know what they like about you and why they chose you over your competitors.

Sometimes, you may just need to listen to yourself explain what you do. This is what happened to me – I kept trying to tell people about my marketing audits and no one was understanding me. I finally realized that I kept explaining, “I don’t do branding; I do lead generation,” and that – along with my target audience (healthcare vendors) is how I figured out what made me special.

You can do the same. If you are an EHR vendor and you are struggling to stand out from the crowd, pay attention to what sets you apart; it may not be what you think. “Cloud-based” may not impress your audience, even if it impresses your competitor’s target market.

You are unique. Find out what that uniqueness is and shout it from the rooftops.