At the beginning of the month, we published a post about the Seeing is Believing Optometric Emarketing Virtual Conference, which takes place January 30-31, 2013. We were very intrigued by this concept, so we contacted the creator of the event, Dr. Alan Glazier, to learn more.
On top of being the owner and founder of Shady Grove Eye and Vision in Rockville, MD, Dr. Glazier is a thought leader in emarketing for the eye care industry and author of the book Searchial Marketing. He was kind enough to speak with us for a few minutes to give us a better idea of what the conference is and the process behind its development:
NVG: How did the idea for the conference come about?
Dr. Glazier: Having a conference on emarketing was my idea. I’ve been involved in the emarketing industry for a while now as a professional blogger and as a writer–I wrote a book on it. I’ve also been heavily involved as a lecturer. I thought there was enough of an interest in it to have a conference just on that topic and maybe even some internet and office connectivity stuff that kind of ties into it indirectly, like hooking up peripheral hardware within the office, and EHR/EMR stuff.
In speaking to Daniel Rostenne of EyeCarePro, he thought it was a great idea and suggested that perhaps we should make it virtual, which was an interesting idea. Virtual conferencing had been tried before once in the industry by the Expos. That was a few years back—things have changed, technology has gotten better, and we started looking into it. We really wanted to do something very different and novel. It occurred to us that this was probably the way to stay because by using this platform, we’ll be practicing what we preach.
NVG: What are some of the challenges you’ve run into in planning a unique event like this?
So far we’ve had incredible luck, in that we haven’t really run into any significant challenges. We were able to find the right software for us, we were able to attract a very high level advisory board—the Mount Rushmore of optometric marketing in business advisors. They were very excited about it right away and ever since then, anyone we’ve talked to about it has pretty much been on board with either getting involved as a lecturer, a sponsor, or helping out.
I also believe from the response we’ve seen in publicizing it out there, there’s a lot of excitement about it. For people in this day and age, traveling to conferences is not only time consuming, it takes away time with the family, and it’s expensive, even to the point of being cost prohibitive for a lot of people. I think it presents a nice option to be able to sit around their home, their living room, or their desk, to attend conferences when they want to or listen to recorded conferences later, and interact with vendors without having to get on the telephone with them.
It’s all very compelling to people, and as a result I don’t think we’ve come across any significant challenges yet, but not to say they won’t happen.
NVG: Can you walk us through a typical attendee’s experience at the event?
On the day of the conference there’s a simple registration and a reasonable fee for attending—much less than a typical conference. The software enables you to literally enter the conference and attend the sessions that you want to attend. Some of the sessions will be live, some of them will be recorded. The recorded ones will have the presenter live, answering questions through a text message-like system.
Attendees will be able to enter the exhibit hall through a virtual reality-type environment where they’ll actually navigate with their mouse through visual icons. The conference doors will open up and they’ll approach a booth. Inside the booth, there will be reps from the companies in video form speaking to them. They’ll be able to ask questions and interact with live people manning the booths. It’s very similar to how you would imagine a Second Life-type situation where you are able to move through a virtual reality-type environment.
NVG: Why do you think this conference is important and why should ODs attend?
The tradition methods of marketing are bearing less and less fruit. I believe it’s important for the marketing side of this conference, but I want to emphasize that this conference has more depth than just emarketing—it’s a connectivity and emarketing conference.
We want to expose eye doctors to how important it is have a presence online, whether it’s through social media marketing or search engine optimization. We want to teach them the ability to have different ways of interacting with patients and drawing them towards their business.
It just so happens that traditional marketing is getting less and less popular and more and more people are using search engines and social media to find the information they’re looking for. It’s just a continuation of what I’ve been saying for a while in my lectures—that I’ve eliminating all traditional marketing from my practice. I used search engine optimization and followed up two years later with social media to draw people into my business, saving tons of money and having a much greater effect.
Doctors can be doing this while maintaining professionalism and increasing their reach. That’s really the goal of the conference from a marketing standpoint. From a connectivity standpoint, there’s a lot of questions out there with the changes in the healthcare laws and the meaningful use applications. There will be lectures on how to implement meaningful use and to get your peripheral testing devices to feed into your electronic records, and information on EHRs.
NVG: How do you hope this conference will move the industry forward?
I’ve thought about following this up with a Seeing is Believing clinical track maybe six or eight months out, seeing how this conference goes. I definitely think that this is an option that people will slowly accept, and as it gains acceptance, hopefully the state boards will start to accept credits for things like this more willingly. Some state boards currently do accept credit from things like this and some of them are on the fence, qualifying this as internet education, and some of them just won’t accept it at all. I’d like to see a greater acceptance of this form of education by state boards for continuing education.
NVG: What do you think is the benefit of online marketing and social media for the optometry industry in particular?
Nowadays, if you don’t have an online presence, to many of your potential patients, you don’t exist. 8.5 out of 10 people search for their healthcare provider in Google. If you don’t have a presence there, you’re in trouble because not as many people are finding you.
If you’re out there and involved and engaged, Google actually gives you points and adds value to your links and elevates them so people can find you. It’s almost not even a question of whether or not people want to do this—it’s almost like you have to do it now.
NVG: Is there any other information you think people should know about the conference?
We’re excited to welcome Neil Gailmard, Angel Alvarez, Gary Gerber, and Nathan Bonilla-Warford to our planning board. All of these gentlemen bring a tremendous amount of industry experience and are recognized thought leaders. Their decision to participate on our board is in and of itself a huge statement to how important this is and how forward thinking it is. I think that should draw a lot of attention to the event.
Last week a new version of the iPhone app for the blind and visually impaired, Fleksy, hit the App Store. As the blind and visually impaired have become one of the fastest growing segments of smartphone users worldwide, a number of companies have developed mobile apps specifically for this market. Based on early reviews, however, Fleksy just might become the most popular one.
Originally created as a conceptual app under the name BlindType, which was sold to Google, Fleksy improves on the previous app, making it a popular mobile keyboard for the sighted as well. Created by the San Francisco-based startup, Syntellia, the app uses a standard QWERTY keyboard with a pretty amazing prediction engine
To type, all you have to do is tap in the general area of the keyboard where the letters in the word you want to spell are located. For example, to spell the word “the,” just tap in the middle area of the top row of the keyboard, then tap in the middle area of the middle row, and then tap on the left side of the top row. When you’re done typing a word, right swipe across the screen for a space and somehow Fleksy knows exactly what you were trying to spell.
Right now, the app is available for free on iOS, but Syntellia plans to release it for all mobile platforms in the future. If all goes well for the developers, Fleksy could revolutionize mobile typing not just for the blind, but for all smartphone and tablet users.
Back in December, we shared Sheila Nirenberg’s TED Talk about Cornell University’s breakthrough retinal prosthetic device. At the time when she gave her presentation, her team had figured out the principles to “cracking the code” to the brain’s visual process. They had the theory for the prosthetic in place, but had yet to put it into action.
On Monday, however, Cornell announced another huge breakthrough, as the research team had successfully developed a working prosthetic for a mouse, almost completely restoring its vision. On top of this, the team also cracked the code for a monkey retina, “which is essentially identical to that of a human.” They hope to begin human trials within the next couple of years.
Over the years, there have been many different theories for sight-restoring retinal prosthetics and many attempts have been made, with varying rates of success. Dr. Joseph Rizzo and Professor John Wyatt of MIT recently submitted a video to GE’s Focus Forward short film festival, highlighting the work they have done to restore sight through retinal prosthetics.
While Cornell’s bionic eye is looking like the model that will eventually win the race in world of ocular prosthetics, it’s important to recognize the hard work and passion that the team at MIT has committed. If you’re curious to see how these two methods of sight restoration compare, watch the two videos below outlining the technology behind both devices and let us know what you think.
We recently had the chance to interview, Shu-Chu Yamaguchi, half of the husband and wife duo behind the charitable eyewear company, 141 Eyewear. As we mentioned in a post last week, the Yamaguchis have built 141 around the concept of donating one pair of eyeglasses to someone in need for every pair they sell.
NVG: How did you initially come up with the idea to base your eyewear business around giving to the less fortunate and what kind of obstacles have you faced putting such a unique business plan into action?
141: On a drive up to Seattle to visit Kyle’s cousins, who are both optometrists, we started discussing eyewear and all its elements. I’ve been in the optical field for over six years and Kyle was at Nike developing the hottest basketball shoes for the NBA’s top athletes. We decided to combine our passion for eyewear with our knowledge of how to build great products to start a new eyewear line; however, we didn’t want to just start any frame line, we wanted it to have meaning….and 141 was born.
During our business development, we had a chance to go on a mission trip with The Lions Club to Manzanillo, Mexico. During that entire trip we distributed thousands of recycled prescription glasses to the people there who could not afford it on their own.
That trip really opened our eyes and we thought, “why can’t we give people their exact prescriptions in new frames instead of used and recycled ones?” And this is how we really solidified the 141 (play on words, one for one) model.
Kyle and I faced many challenges. First and foremost, we had to figure out a way to get our brand out there. There are so many different brands/products out there, we wanted to create a business which offered a high-quality product and could help people at the same time.
In addition, the most rewarding part of our business has also been one of the most challenging…that being the giving aspect of 141. In order to hold a clinic, it requires a lot of moving parts to come together. You need the doctors, frames, lenses, finishing equipment, exam equipment, etc, etc, etc…at the same time, when we have been able to bring all of these elements together and actually give glasses to people in our own communities, it’s all worth the challenge and obstacles we encountered along the way!
NGV: How have you been donating eyewear to the less fortunate? Do you have any other partnerships with charitable organizations aside from OneSight?
141: Yes, our very first clinic happened even before we started selling. We had our first and only international clinic in southern Taiwan. My family is from there and there was a connection there with a doctor who actually went to Pacific University, so it worked out well.
We’ve held several smaller local clinics here in Oregon. We’re currently working with The Lions Club to give new eyewear to people who can’t afford eye care in Oregon. Some of our very own retailers hold their own clinics and we give to them as well.
NVG: How have you been able to utilize social media to convey what your company is about?
141: We’ve utilized Facebook a lot to tell our story. We’ve even asked our Facebook fans to provide their input on naming a frame color and giving us their opinion on a style. It’s been great.
We haven’t advertised so a lot of it has been through word of mouth and fashion/lifestyle bloggers. The Oregonian has written about us several times and we’ve had a chance to talk about our story to Kim Maus on her morning show. But, our story is best shared by the opticians in the optical stores. They tell our story and get our brand out there in front of their patients/consumers and the word spreads from there.
NVG: I noticed that all of your glasses are named after areas and streets in Portland. How has Portland helped influence your brand of eyewear?
Portland has really been our love story. The names are all based on elements of our relationship. We met at the optical shop that I was working at, which is right off of Everett (a frame name) and we moved in together on Lovejoy (another frame name). There are different pockets of Portland that are very unique to their district and have their own personalities. It’s great and very inspiring.
At Noble Vision Group, we’re always on the lookout for companies within the eye care industry that are working towards the betterment of society. When those companies happen to be located in our beautiful city of Portland, Oregon, it’s all the better.
Following in the footsteps of companies like TOMS, Portland-based 141 Eyewear donates a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair purchased. “No portions of proceeds. No percentages. You buy, we give. 141.”
One of the ways 141 helps those in need is by donating glasses to OneSight, a charitable organization that offers free vision screenings and prescription eyewear in their Vision Van Clinics.
The husband and wife duo of Kyle and Shu-Chu Yamaguchi started the company in 2009 with a mission to change the optical industry with the way they do business. The two are well on their way to doing so with their line of trendy glasses, each named after various areas of Portland, and an important cause driving their business.
Check back soon for our interview with one of the co-founders…
According to the World Health Organization, more than 3.4 million people die every year as a result of water-related diseases, making it the world’s leading cause of disease and death. In fact, reports have found that poor sanitation and water-related diseases kill more people “than war, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction combined.”
In the developing world, cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and dysentery are all common water borne diseases. In the eye care realm, trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, can also be prevented with access to clean water. While trachoma is not water borne, the simple act of washing one’s face with clean water can help slow the spread of the disease.
While charitable organizations are working hard to provide better access to clean water in the developing world, many people still have to travel long distances just to collect unsanitary water. A new invention called the Solar Bag, however, addresses this issue by purifying water while you walk. Designed by Ryan Lynch and Marcus Triest, two University of Oregon industrial design students (Go Ducks!), the Solar Bag hangs from the shoulders and uses UV radiation to kill most bacteria in the water.
The bag uses a water purification method called SODIS (short for solar disinfecting). Water is placed in the bag encased on one side by a clear plastic made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), commonly found in soda bottles, while the black material on the other side of the bag absorbs UV rays. After six hours, sunlight can naturally disinfect 2.5 gallons of water.
While many communities in developing countries already employ the SODIS method, they are limited to using several soda bottles and the purification process usually cannot start until those collecting the water arrive at their destination. When using the plastic bottle method, it is also recommended that the bottles should not hold more than 3 liters of water. The Solar Bag improves on this method by allowing the purification process to begin right after the bag is filled, with the ability to disinfect 2.5 gallons of water at a time. Additionally, the bag is equipped with a tap on the bottom and a squeeze balloon with a filter for further purification.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, the Solar Bag is only in the prototype stage, but the designers are looking for backers to help produce it commercially. If Lynch and Triest are able to mass produce the Solar Bag, it can potentially be manufactured for under $5 apiece.
There are a lot of people who could benefit from this potentially life-saving product, so hopefully the designers can find some backers soon. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress made.