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Start with a Cost/Driver analysis

Opportunity decision matrix can help you decide between alternatives
Opportunity decision matrix can help you decide between alternatives
John Edwards, The Pursuit Group

Marketing and sales at a startup business presents a universe of possible options. So how do you decide where to spend your scarce time and money?

Well, at our company, we evaluate alternatives across two continuums - difficulty and effectiveness.

Any items that are considered highly effective (for driving traffic, leads, etc.) and low effort are where we start first. E-mail marketing is a good example of what industry experts consider both highly effective and relatively low effort (in comparison to other things like search-engine-optimization) for lead generation.

Your next choice presents the most interesting option. Do you pursue what is easy (but not as effective), or pursue what is effective (but not very easy)? The short answer is - impact always translates into income faster than time savings. Effort is something you experience. Impact is what your customers and prospects experience. Customers and prospects pay in cash. What falls in this category? SEO, content marketing (including blogging, e-books, white papers, etc.), and trade shows to name a few.

When you have the luxury of time (and the successful completion of the first two quadrants), you should then look for incremental gains in the easy/low category. For lead generation, examples here include social media and print advertising. But note that if your goal is building brand awareness, social media falls in the high impact, low effort range. So the same item can fall into different boxes depending on the goal.

And finally, never pursue low-impact, high effort tasks. The real (and opportunity) costs just aren't worth it. What's a good example here? Cold calling unqualified prospects for starters.