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.