What Sri Lanka Can Teach Us About Low-resource Marketing

I was walking through the beachside town of Tangalle today and realized how important analog forms of marketing are to the businesses here. While Sri Lanka was recently awarded Best in Travel #1 Top Country of the Year (2019) by Lonely Planet, the tourism infrastructure and digital presence of the country is still underdeveloped.

This means unlike a highly touristed middle-income Asian country like Thailand, there are no 7-Elevens at every street corner; there are no readily apparent streetfood markets or bougie Instagram-worthy avocado-toast-and-poached-egg Western cafes with snappy WIFI. It’s hard to find and access things like hostels, bike rentals, Western food, etc.

I spent thirty minutes today just trying to find someone who rents push bikes by walking around and asking locals.

There are some TripAdvisor reviews and blogs online, but by far the best way to find things here is following signs on the streets and stopping to ask local people. AKA in marketing speak: print advertising and word-of-mouth.

The simple and small investment of a chalkboard for a local business could literally 100x their sales in a day. Suddenly the hippie ravers on a 3-day trance bender know where to get the best sunset happy hour beachside beer specials. The Scandinavian couple traveling with their young children know where to get their vegan oatmeal with bananas and ginger tea.

What can we extrapolate from this?

Don’t forget the value of simple and cheap yet effective advertising. Don’t forget about analog forms of promotion. Don’t just create content: you have to promote it. Many times, people don’t even know where to look or can’t find what they’re looking for. Be where they are looking and tell everyone you know about what you provide.