The No.1 Business Problem:
Losing Sales Online
We explore the 3 biggest blockers of online sales that any business face, starting with an overview of marketing over the years, evolving customers, and outdated websites and marketing locally.
A Quick History of Marketing and Sales Globally
Here’s a snapshot of marketing over the years, evolving customers, outdated websites, and lost sales.
Just think. How did people find out about products in the early years? How did businesses present them to consumers?
In the time of mass production by pioneers like Ford, generalized newspaper ads with technical info did well. The focus was high sales volume and lower costs. Why market and appeal to people? The aim was just to get products in front of customers and convince them to buy.
But with more competition entering the market, the need to catch consumers’ attention through creative sales promotions and sharper branding became important. Print, radio, and television advertisements became popular. Door-to-door sales were big in this age too.
The focus was still on selling an existing product to the consumer…not the consumers themselves.
Telemarketing came into the picture. Making a sale over the phone was the main goal.
Mail order buying catalogues became all the rage. But the same sales focus remained. That’s making products first, then selling to customers.
Then came the marketing era, with a goal to understand customers’ needs and desires and cater to them. Products changed depending on what was discovered.
Next came the age of holistic marketing, where we are now. Relationships and social responsibility have taken centre stage, with brand loyalty and lifetime value being the prize.
Customers Have Changed, But Sri Lankan Marketers and Websites Haven’t
Whether in Colombo, Tokyo or Karachi, customers now look for experiences and cherished relationships with brands. They want to be understood, not sold to. Over 76% of consumers expect businesses to truly understand their needs, reveals an expert report.
It’s clear customer needs and marketing have evolved.
But most Sri Lankan marketers and websites haven’t. We’re still stuck in the sales era, but online. Many company websites are little more than a sales catalogue or brochure with a url. Just a listing of products and services, a bit about the company, and how to contact them.
So even with internet users in Sri Lanka increasing by 800,000 between 2020 and 2021, reaching 10.9 Million users in total by January 2021 (according to Datareportal’s Digital Sri Lanka 2021 report), it’s not surprising that many local companies don’t do well online. Their sites simply aren’t designed to generate revenue.
To rank higher in search results and generate leads online, just as sales and marketing have continuously changed to match consumer behaviour, your website has to as well.
Remember! Customers don’t like being sold to now, whether offline or online. They want to be understood and not hurried to buy.
They feel understood when you address their unique needs as an individual customer and not try to sell them the same thing as everyone else. And also by answering and solving the various questions and problems they may have, which got them to look online in the first place.
Your product or service may relieve their pain points and fulfill their desires, but if you don’t communicate this properly online, they won’t know.
That’s where website content comes in. And content translates to your future website traffic.
Customers search for content that matches their natural journey, a balance of information and personalized topics that resonate with them. They want to first understand, then feel engaged and only later make a purchase choice.
They want the kind of content that can help YOU nurture leads and influence purchases. 🙂
So it’s a win-win situation!
Because modern marketing websites are beautifully suited to carry lead-nurturing content. Tons of it. The more the merrier in the online game.
Web pages, blogs, calls to action, landing pages, testimonials, case studies, infographics, Ebooks, product pages, and more.
Without customer-focused content on your website, you’re literally just running a super expensive sales catalogue online. Your site won’t be found or people will slip right through. It will simply gather dust, not generating leads or revenue.
A Few Online Problems in Sri Lanka
The challenges we usually run into in the Sri Lankan online marketplace, as we touched on earlier in our short story, are generally threefold.
1. Websites are Underused to Generate Business
Not properly built to be found online and generate leads to make sales
Over 50% of Your Website’s Visitors Come Through Online Searches, and Only Around 6% Come Through Social Media! – Laire Digital
From running paid ads using Facebook Business accounts to boosting posts, us Sri Lankans just love social media marketing. Because it’s easy, quick too.
But our websites? Nope. ‘Long-term wins and life-time customer value don’t interest me’.
Just think about the staggering number from Laire Digital listed on top: a whopping 50% of website traffic.
And imagine the number of Google searches Sri Lankans perform daily with 10.90 Million internet users in the country as of January 2021! Mind-blowing numbers and potential, right?
Yet companies here continue to struggle with generating business online.
Imagine you were in a desert and in need of water and you knew there was a spring close by. Yes, it’ll take a bit of time and effort to get there but you’d be silly not to, right?
This is strangely similar to our attitude to business websites. Websites are one of the most underused online selling platforms by Sri Lankan businesses.
Most companies actively look for leads, customers and more revenue, but ignore their sites’ ability to help. It’s either not known or ‘it’s too difficult or takes too long’ are the usual views.
Many focus on the website’s look, with little thought on how customers will find it and how it can generate revenue.
If a website isn’t optimized for the words people online are interested in and searching for, or it doesn’t carry the topics that resonate with them, it’ll sit there doing little for you.
But your website doesn’t have to be a parched desert with the occasional wanderer. It can be an endless spring of fresh visitors, leads and revenue, if done right.
2. Websites Don’t Target Different Customer Segments
No focus on specific segments with website or content, appealing a little to all but strongly to none
Businesses providing the same website content to all users get 5 times less results than those applying Market Segmentation on their websites! – HubSpot
Let’s say you cast a wide net with your marketing efforts online. You try to appeal to everyone.
Because you’re keen to be the market leader offline, you approach marketing on your website the same way.
You’ll probably attract attention and have people visit your site. But will it be the right people?
Your brand’s ideal customers will probably slip through the net.
Take the example of a study abroad consulting business securing student visas to Australia, Canada, the UK, and the like. Skilled migration, family migration, student migration and more are listed as areas of specialization.
Now, it’s not impossible for one company to be experts at all of this, but it is unlikely potential students or their parents who come across the site will view this confidently.
There are plenty of specialist alternatives in the market. They’ll just move on.
If a business tries to speak with multiple online audiences at the same time, and has no focus, then they risk not speaking directly to anyone.
Without identifying the different customer segments, each of whom possess unique needs, it becomes difficult to market and sell online.
This is a big problem in the online marketplace in Sri Lanka!
Of course, not segmenting your market is a problem that starts offline, and it is a part of a company’s marketing strategy, or lack of one.
But it translates to how well or poorly you can target online.
Going broad and not speaking to specific target audiences through your site means you’ll lose out on content opportunities to speak directly with customers who have specific needs and problems they experience along their journey to becoming a customer.
Business Websites With 31+ Landing Pages (More Targeted Content) Get 7 Times More Leads Than Those With Only 1–5 Landing Pages! – Hubspot
With thousands of business websites appearing on the web in Sri Lanka each year, across every industry, imagine the revenue boost you could enjoy if you focus on a segment or niche and stand out from the rest!
Targeting a particular customer segment or niche doesn’t mean you ignore other segments or target customers, but you hone in on a specialty that you become renowned for and then you can expand at will.
Identifying your customer segments allows you to clearly understand who your target customer is and then match your marketing efforts.
Without understanding your customer segments and by trying to target all customers in the same way, you’ll only dilute your marketing, content, and your site’s targeting potential. This will dampen your ability to generate leads and revenue.
3. Websites Don’t Guide Potential Customers on Their Purchasing Journey
Content doesn’t inform customers, address their pain points, or match their journey
Businesses focusing on lead nurturing with content across the buyer’s journey generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost! – Forrester Research
Remember the bit in the introduction about how most websites are only expensive sales catalogues, but online?
You can pump money into a great-looking website carrying standard content about the company, its culture, your products and services, plus all your activities. But it isn’t enough nowadays to make your ideal customers stay on your website and take value.
If your site doesn’t carry targeted content that is fresh, helps the reader, and is valuable to them in making decisions across the customer’s journey they experience, even if they find your site, they’ll probably dart away quick.
Ever notice how when looking for specific information online in Sri Lanka, international sites come up a lot?
That’s because they tailor their content for specific audiences and target it well. With multiple landing pages and all kinds of valuable content offers like case studies and eBooks, they naturally rank high for local searches too.
Just imagine the lead and revenue potential Lankan businesses could unlock if they could offer such content on their sites!
But to start creating value-giving content, you’ve got to first understand your customers’ needs fully and uncover the unique stages of the journey they follow.
The customer’s journey (in brief( starts with them becoming aware of a problem or need, and then considering the different solutions or alternatives to finally deciding on or purchasing the product or service that meets their need. The different stages of this journey colour what customers search for and shape their buying behaviour online.
The No.1 Online Sri Lankan Business Problem that we see is there’s very little valuable content offered to customers, and the content provided doesn’t match their current intent or the appropriate stage of the journey described above.
Without an ear to the ground to know their needs and journey, we can’t speak the customers language or provide the information and answers that resonate with them at each stage.
Segmented Targeting or Niche Stories Explored in Brief
Now let’s take a look at a couple of super-segmented or niche business success stories to draw inspiration from while understanding what it means to find and target a segment or niche more clearly.
They’re sure to change how we view our own markets and show us how we can identify and target a niche for greater success!
Amazon: Starting With Books Online and Adding Layer on Layer Thereafter
A household name right across the globe, Amazon started off selling books online.
Today, they are the world’s largest online marketplace selling everything from books and kitchen items to lawn mowers.
Story has it that founder Jeff Bezos — currently considered the richest person on Earth — first created a list of 20 possible items that he could market online. He then whittled the list down to 5 items, and this version had included computer software and books among other things.
Finally, he settled on selling books online! This is a perfect example of a niche in practice.
Of course, he based it on data, i.e. the insane demand for literature globally, the massive number of books in print, plus the relatively low unit price of a book.
He could have tried to sell more product types to a broader range of customers, diluting his focus and brand. But he was smart, so he niched down as they say.
Amazon’s example displays how strong niche focus can help you build a brand, develop customer loyalty, and sell in a sustained manner over time.
The potential is endless thereafter. Look at everything that Amazon sells now.
Canva: From A School Yearbook Design Site to Becoming the World’s Biggest Online Graphic Design Platform
A success story with its roots in Perth, Australia, over 40 Million people now use Canva each month from across 190+ countries.
While attending uni and tutoring other students in design, Canva founder Melanie Perkins noticed how conventional design programs were difficult to use for many.
She knew straight away that design needed to go online, be simple and collaborative.
Soon after, along with her partner, she started an online school yearbook design website.
It helped students get online and collaborate on designs for their yearbooks. Super niche.
Their purpose in starting out niche was to show to themselves and everyone else that their fresh outlook to design was practical and also in-demand.
After capturing this market in full, they decided to go wide and cater to the design needs of everyone imaginable.
Today you can design and collaborate on all kinds of visual content on Canva, whether resumes, social media graphics, pitch decks, flyers, or full presentations.
From students, job seekers, and entrepreneurs, to corporate professionals, Canva is now the web-based design site of choice for millions.
Canva’s origins were as niche as niche can get, and look at the design behemoth they are now.
It pays to start niche even in the online business game. More focus, greater understanding of needs, better targeting and messaging, and of course unmatched brand loyalty.
Sets you up perfectly to expand into other niches later!