Canadian geek in Myanmar

Category: Vietnam

My new test for evaluating a digital agency

During my days at EA I used to get agencies reaching out to me on a weekly basis to ask for meetings where they could pitch their expertise.

One of the first questions I used to ask was, what’s your Twitter handle? It was amazing to me how many of these digital shops didn’t have their own Twitter accounts but claimed they could grow my considerable communities exponentially. There was one notable meeting where a social media agency was claiming they could get me up to 5k followers (!), ignoring the fact that I already had over 60k followers by that point. Clearly they did their homework ūüôā

For those of us who build product, it’s called eating your own dogfood. Meaning you do what you want to charge others for, which these agencies clearly were not doing. They were dismissed out of hand.

Nowadays, Twitter is much more common and isn’t much of a test so I’ve got a new one. In two minutes you can see if your digital agency/partner knows what they are doing or if they are full of hooey.

Mobile site
This seems like such a no brainer. Everyone in the world has been talking about the importance of mobile for a number of years now. Everyone knows you need a mobile strategy and everyone is scrambling to create apps and have a mobile presence. And yet, it seems to me like everyone in Vietnam is ignoring the lowest hanging fruit. Your mobile website.

I did a quick search of the biggest ‘digital agencies’ in Vietnam and not one of them has a site that is mobile friendly! One of my favorite digital agencies from my EA days is Check out their site from a mobile browser and you will see that it’s streamlined for this platform. Now take a moment to look at the mobile site of whatever partner you are trusting with your digital campaign. See?

Forget apps for now
There’s been a lot of discussions and arguments in whether or not you need to build a native app. While I think every company is different and needs to decide that based on a deeper analysis of the business, there’s absolutely no reason why your current website isn’t mobile friendly. If the site is built properly in the first place (from the back end) then it’s a minor investment to make sure that your site is rendering properly on a mobile browser. And I don’t just mean that the site loads. Make sure that the links and navigation are clickable, the content is readable and site is easy to navigate.

Check your stats
If you have an analytics tool like Google Analytics, you can quickly check to see how much of your traffic is and was coming from a mobile browser. I would place money that the trend is swinging upwards, and rather rapidly. This is the right investment! Stop distracting yourself with whether it not you need an app yet.

Controlled customer journey
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about mobile sites is that, unlike an app, you can manage the consumer real time, the same way you would with your website. Hell, you can mostly use the same tools to ensure optimization!

It’s time to start asking yourself if you are making the right investments in your online marketing initiatives…and if you have the right partners to take you into the new digital era.

Vietnam’s acceptance of mediocrity

One of the most frustrating things I find about shopping in Vietnam is that all the sales people continually tell you “it’s fine, it’s fine” while they’re imitating a bobblehead toy on an offroading expedition I’m sure everyone here has come across this. I ask for a size 6 shoe, they only have a size 5 but it’s fine. No green paint? Here’s some red. It’s fine. I get that they are just trying to make a sale but it’s irritating to be pushed to buy something I’m not looking for. Sometimes, it is fine despite the fact that it’s not what I asked for – living in a country like Vietnam, you just need to get zen about some of this stuff.

However, when it comes to work, it’s certainly not fine. The “it’s fine” excuse is used all time. The allowance of a half-assed job breeds a culture of mediocrity that is not okay. Everyone in the organization must understand what excellence looks like, how it can be achieved and their role in owning that.

Build a cult of excellence
Humans have a natural inclination to seek acceptance – no one wants to be the proverbial fat kid picked last. So ensure that everyone understands that when they are not delivering, they are not only letting themselves down, but their team mates as well.

Get rid of the deadweight
If everyone around you is an A player who delivers exceptional work, the mediocre ones are easy to pick out. Working at a huge company like EA, you can see B and C players hiding amongst the rock stars. In a start up, that’s a whole lot harder to do. In either cases though, leaders must take ownership of their team. Take the time to train and develop your people but don’t shy away from making tough decisions either. If you can’t break the it’s fine factor, you need to let them go before they infect others. Otherwise, you allow everyone to believe that excellence is optional, which is a slippery slope.

Down with the Eye Rollers

Anyone who’s done a start up knows that you’re going to get a lot of doubters and haters in your early concepting stage. ¬†For those who are going to go through with the leap, you’ve got to grow a thick skin and brush off the negativity and just keep going. ¬†I’ve certainly been meeting my share of the Eye Rollers in recent months. ¬†On one hand, they do provide some valid points but oftentimes I’m finding that the perceived value I’m getting from them is not close to offsetting how damaging their negativity is to my psyche.

I was recently pulling myself out of a funk of a this-isn’t-going-to-work conversation when I came to the realization that this particular Eye Roller was very similar to the worse boss I have ever had. ¬†The Dictator was a classic low self esteem, going to push everyone down and take all the credit type. ¬†You know the one – Vietnam is FULL of them. ¬†Anytime I presented an idea to her, she would pooh-pooh everything and tell me exactly why it wouldn’t work while rolling her eyes at me, at which point in time I would shuffle out of her office with my head down in embarrassment. ¬†BTW, this was REALLY early in my career. ¬†After a while, I noticed that many of the projects we were getting “from the top” resembled my ideas but with just a little bit of refinement. ¬†Ah, the corporate rat race, how I do not miss thee.

Fast forward a decade or so and here I am. ¬†Refining a product idea I want to spin into a start up and I’ve got another Eye Roller in my life. ¬†Luckily I’m not the same young girl that the Dictator pushed around. ¬†Still, the basic principle remains the same: she listens with barely contained derision, interrupts constantly with comments like “yeah, I’ve heard all this before” and ends with a lot of “you’re wasting your time” type comments. ¬†While (Thank God) I’m not her employee, the Eye Roller is someone who I was trusting to give me constructive feedback and help me to flesh out a few nuances of my product. Instead, I got total demoralization and pretty much nothing I could construe as useful…lots of broad “things” I should look into but that she could barely understand. ¬†I wasted half a day chasing down a lose end and when I went back to ask her to give me more clarification, I got a blank look and a response along the lines of “oh I heard it from someone somewhere”. ¬†Grrrr.

Ten years ago I dealt with the Dictator by eventually quitting my job but there’s no way that the Eye Roller is going to get me to give up. ¬†Thank God, I’ve got really smart people in my life who are not only enormously encouraging but willing to place money against my idea because, dammit, it’s a GREAT one.

Managers, take a moment to think of the last time you didn’t agree with an idea from an employee. ¬†How did you handle it? Were you constructive and respectful, even if you thought the idea was bat-shit crazy? ¬†Because here’s the thing, the most important thing really isn’t what you think of the idea, it’s how you handle the feedback.