The Two Most
Potent Forms
of Marketing
A CERNER VS. EPIC CASE STUDY

No medical device is more complex, or has a longer sales process, than the EMR. That’s because an EMR isn’t just one thing. It’s made up of 30-40 departmental applications that all integrate together. To sell it, an army of reps and clinical specialists have to descend on a hospital over a period of many months or years. There, they have to demonstrate the system not just to doctors and nurses, but also to all clinical and financial departments, including the C-suite. But remarkably, when the army consistently messages over a long period of time, an amazing thing happens: The target audience co-opts the message and makes it their own. I saw this firsthand while working at Cerner and saw it repeat itself over and over.

The second most powerful form of marketing: Consistent messaging
But what really convinced me of the power of consistent messaging was the fact that what I was selling wasn’t even real. My 
EMR was in development. It was vapor. You couldn’t visit a hospital and see it. And yet with consistent messaging over a period of time, you could win, and win big. Cerner went from $400 million to $1.8 billion in six years. They appeared unstoppable.

Then Epic showed up.

logo_epic_ko

While Cerner started as a small, inpatient laboratory software company, tiny little Epic started even smaller—
as an outpatient physician-office software system.

The most powerful form of marketing: Customer word of mouth
Epic had zero formal marketing messages. Instead, they followed a different approach: They relied on customer word of mouth. Physicians loved their system, found it to be intuitive, and told their peers. The C-suite had no alternative. They had to buy the system their physicians pledged to use. Kaiser, Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger, and many others rapidly followed. Epic exploded and never looked back.

Epic simply let physicians do the talking for them.

To this day, Cerner is searching for answers, but it may be too late. Epic is used in the vast majority of the top 20 academic medical centers, and in nearly every children’s hospital. They get an outrageous price premium and win 
the KLAS survey every single year. Their domination is so overwhelming, they’ve become the industry standard.

Put these weapons to work for you

Surprisingly, both consistent messaging and customer word of mouth, despite their potency, have become lost arts. There are reasons for this:

  • Value propositions have become too complex—they’re impossible for sales forces and customers to consistently message.
  • Companies don’t invest enough in customer marketing so their customers can network and tell their stories.

Prioritize these weapons and put them to work. Here’s how you’ll know you’re doing it right:

  • Ten randomly polled reps and customers can recite your value prop, unaided.
  • Your sales force confidently gives out customer lists (names, phone numbers, emails) to prospects, knowing those customers will tell a great story, unaided.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. No matter how strong your value prop and messaging are, the power of customer word of mouth wins every time. Leveraging both of these powerful marketing weapons is the key.

Tom Dudnyk
Written by: Tom Dudnyk
August 12, 2019
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