Canadian geek in Myanmar

Tag: Online Marketing

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 🙂

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.

Online marketing the way the big kids do it

The few times that I’ve talked to leaders in Vietnam about their online product or marketing initiatives, I’ve been fairly shocked in how much they spend on some pretty base line stuff.  Agencies and experts all pitch online advertising and social media initiatives that build likes and followers but few have really gone beyond that to true conversion.

That’s right, I don’t do online advertising

When I tell people here that I built and led teams that created online experiences with millions of unique visitors, communities with tens of thousands of followers and tens of millions of units sold, yet I have no idea how to do an online media buy, THEY are shocked.  That’s right. I’m an online marketing expert and I don’t know anything about online advertising because frankly, it’s the least exciting part of the equation for me.  Let the advertising dudes run numbers through their spreadsheets, I’m more interested in analyzing who these potential customers are, where they are coming from, where you lead their journey and how you get them to buy.

So what does that mean?

Going beyond CPM’s

Most of the activities I see in Vietnam only circle around the top of the funnel with little in the way of moving the customer to full conversion. I *think* it’s because most people here are relying on their agencies to do their online strategy.  Agencies certainly have their uses but they universally love “impressions” which used to infuriate me at EA.  So old school! Who cares if someone may or may not have seen my banner on the Facebook side bar?  Until they do something about it, it means nothing to me. Up until now, that’s not been too major of an issue in Vietnam but as more and more brands go online, the fight for mind share is going to get tougher.  Consumers are starting to turn blinders to the noise on websites, something we saw happening in North America years ago.  It’s no longer enough to just buy online ads.

Performance Marketing

At EA we used to call it performance marketing.   While it sounds like yet another buzz word, like gamification, the underlying logic is that you are actively and continuously interacting with your leads. It’s one thing to build a fancy, flashy website and content that people “like” but are you actually converting them?  In Vietnam, it seems to be only about building a contest or Facebook app, in addition to the online buy of course.  No mention of segmentation, personalization or multivariate testing.

Ah, the tools

Online marketing is scientific, which means creating hypotheses and lots of testing but doing it really quickly.  One of the reasons I love what I do is that the online marketing world has countless tools to test, iterate and optimize at a speed that is not possible with any other form of marketing.  These days most of the tools are either free or so cheap that it’s close enough.  And yet the only tool I’ve heard the experts here mention is Google Analytics. Soon this isn’t going to be enough. If everyone is doing the same thing as you are, you need to find an edge.

So how do the big kids do online marketing?

If you are in Asia and want to take your online initiatives to the next level, get a hold of me and I’ll show you what an online strategiest for one of the largest brands in the world actually does.

What’s missing from Vietnam’s online marketing scene?

I recently read a couple of articles specific to online marketing in Vietnam. Links are below for your reference. I don’t know that I agree with everything in these articles but I think that Chandler Nguyen has some good points (not so sure I buy into all that Digiwave was trying to sell though). However, as I read through these blogs, there’s a couple of glaring omissions that I see.

The first is that Vietnam is trying to jump whole hog into this online marketing and social media game but most here haven’t learned the fundamentals yet. It’s like trying to run before you have learned to walk.

Most Vietnamese websites are a hot mess. There are blinking banners taking up every conceivable space, lots of stars and flashy lights, fonts are the same size and bolded throughout and not a deep link to be found. My eyeballs are usually spinning in their sockets before the whole page even has a chance to load. Even worse, I can usually find 2 or 3 navigations and rarely are they planned with SEO in mind. Some sites now throw a “share this page on FB” links at the bottom of their page but I’m not exactly sure what they are trying to accomplish with those links. Please don’t tell me someone has convinced them that this will cover them for link sharing!

SEO is not synonymous with PPC. Meaning you can’t just buy a bunch of terms on Google then think your job is done. SEO planning happens before you even start building your site or microsite. If you’re doing your job right then it should be forming a whole lot of the tags, copy, navigation and content of your site. Even better, use PPC to test your key search terms. Since natural SEO takes some time to get right, a quick and dirty PPC buy will help you to find the right terms and phrases to use.

Iteration seems to be a dirty word. The power of online marketing is the ability to do quick iteration and rapid deployment. So why is it that no one seems to have heard of multi-variate testing? Yeah, I know everyone’s trying to measure their stats these days but so what? (side note: I’ve had to two people excitedly tell me about some new start up building a listening platform, thinking it was the hottest new thing around as opposed to sooooo five years ago). You’ve captured a bunch of numbers from uniques to bounce and time spent…now what? I think this is the point where some poor coordinator/assistant has to create a huge ugly spreadsheet that has a bunch of numbers but doesn’t tell anyone squat. And besides, the report is coming too late to do a damn thing with your current campaign. If you’re lucky, you’ll take key learnings to the next campaign. Maybe.

But I’ve just mentioned that online marketing allows for rapid deployment and quick iteration. So, if you have built your sites properly in the first place, you can test two or ten different calls to a action, 5 different nav items and 20 different promos to see what people like. You can even see if Hanoians like the same things as the Saigonese. Even better, do specific links/promos drive more purchase intent and track to full conversion? And then as you start to review what’s working and what’s not, you can narrow down or change your CTA’s, promos, etc on the fly. And there’s so much more that can be tested and optimized real time…Oh, I could geek out about this all day!

I’ve focused this blog on websites but same basic principles apply for mobile web. Apps are a bit different and I’ll write something about what I see missing from Vietnam’s social media scene at some point. In the meantime, here are the blogs I referenced above.

When targeted online advertising goes wrong

Just saw this on the home page of LinkedIn.  Been there. Done that.  Even got a couple of their t-shirts I’m sure.

Vietnam’s Digital (R)evolution

There are a myriad of reasons I decided to move to Vietnam last year, most of which stem from a resigned “been there, done that” attitude towards my admittedly cool job at Electronic Arts.  One day I may bore you with more details about helping to build an online marketing and community team for one of the largest gaming companies in the world but for now, let’s just say the thrill was over and I was eagerly facing the challenge of returning to the motherland.

Everyone talks about Vietnam being an emerging market and as I dug into the technology landscape here I could see that it was on the brink of a major transition.  And with change comes opportunity. While the job I was offered was amazing and the product very cool, my primary motivation for moving here is that I wanted the chance to witness first hand how a country like Vietnam would embrace the digital revolution. Here was this country full of bored, young people where Internet access was almost free and everyone had at least one cell phone, though there were far less computers in each household like in the west.  There is no question that the digital age was coming, but it was how this would play out that was the most interesting to me.

Over the past 12 years I was lucky enough participate in some pretty significant game changers in the online space.  I was working in digital marketing before Facebook was a twinkle in the Winklevoss’….er, Zuckerberg’s eye or Twitter became a household name.  I remember the early days of trying to figure out what the hell a “Like” button was and how we could drive more people to mark things as “”.  At the risk of dating myself even further, I remember when the word “blog” first started surfacing to the amazement and amusement of most marketers.

One of my first experiences with Vietnam’s version of “online marketing” happened a week after I arrived. Still fresh off the boat, I attended BarCamp since our company had sponsored it.  For those of you not familiar with BarCamp, it’s a one-day conference of user-generated presentations.  Meaning, anyone is able to present whatever he or she wished.  There were some really great, if highly technical presentations, along with a few that were little better than sales pitches.  In the afternoon, there was a session around digital marketing, which I decided to attend.

This was one of the more crowded sessions I had seen all day.  Clearly there was an interest and appetite on this topic.  I sat in the room in growing horror as a girl with four years of “experience” in online marketing went on for 30 minutes about why online marketing was a waste of time and money, how it couldn’t be measured and why social media and community development were a hoax. Once I couldn’t stand it any longer, I decided to address the easiest (and most asinine) of her statements – that online marketing couldn’t be measured.  Of all marketing mediums, online is probably the easiest to measure. There are countless tools to help a marketer determine exactly where and how their audience is finding, consuming and interacting with their content and yet here was a girl claiming that it was easier to measure direct sales & ROI from the impressions on a TV commercial than a click through on an online campaign.  Gross stupidity or lack of proper training in the space?

Over my past ten months here, a common complaint I’ve heard from both locals and expats is the lack of training available in Vietnam around the digital space.  I can’t argue since the majority of my online marketing conversations here have centered around either banner ads or SEO.  I constantly have flashbacks to the 50 page social, community & online marketing presentations I used to have to create at EA without one mention of SEO or ad banners, since that was handled by our advertising team.

So I decided to do my small part to contribute to the knowledge transfer.  Don’t worry though; I have no intention of writing tutorials around online marketing or product development.  Besides the fact that I’m not a teacher, it would also bore me more to write it than it would be for you to read it.  Instead, I’m largely going to be writing about whatever random techie thing that catches my fancy.  And since I do have a day job, it will be more than likely that I’ll be writing bits of random things and why I think they are cool…or not.

Things that were catching my fancy earlier this year – Lady Gaga’s Born this Way digital launch and LinkedIn’s IPO.  The first because, regardless of how you may feel about her music, you have to agree that this woman pushes boundaries like no one since Madonna was desperately seeking someone named Susan. Incorporating a wide range of partnerships with everything from Farmville to Words with Friends, this launch will one day be used in universities to teach students the power of a truly integrated online campaign.

As for Linkedin, this story deserves it’s own full article.  What’s really exciting about it though is that it’s acting as a harbinger of things to come.  With Facebook, Zynga and Twitter all looking to going public within the next year, the Silicon Valley is all abuzz and I for one cannot wait to see what’s next.

At times feels like we’re too far removed from all the hoopla in the US which makes it all the more important to find a network here in Vietnam who is also following the tech industry.  I’ll be giving you my opinion but I recognize that I’m only one voice amongst many. So here’s my call for techie geeks in Vietnam to unite.  Speak up! Let me know what you think about anything geeky. It’s such a dynamic space so lots of topics to choose from. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • How is iOS 5 still not as good as Android?
  • Do you think GroupOn will ever IPO?
  • What’s next for Bartz now that she’s shed the Yahoo! dead weight?
  • Will George RR Martin take another 6 years to release his next book?