March 10, 2018

One strategy at a time

There is lots of confusion about the difference between strategy and tactics.

When someone asks me something like, “Do you have any strategies for improving opt-in rates for my mailing list?” they’re actually asking about tactics, not strategies.

You should only have one strategy at a time.

It’s reasonable to change from Strategy A to Strategy B if it turns out Strategy A isn’t working, but using both strategies at once would pull you in two different directions instead of moving you toward the objective.

Here’s a small example:


Get a refund for a plane ticket

Possible Strategies:


Tactics are extremely granular. In this example, my chosen refund strategy would dictate tactics as subtle as my tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and word choice... all in real time.

The tactics associated with each of these three refund strategies would be wildly different - and more importantly - largely incompatible with each other.

For example, using tactics for both strategies 1 and 2 simultaneously (i.e., charm and rage) would make me look schizophrenic.

If I sense that my first strategy doesn’t seem to be working, I could change to a different one but trying to use two at once would probably just confuse the agent.

Changing strategies can mean starting back at square one with your progress toward reaching the objective. This is a bummer, but pursuing a failed strategy is worse than starting over.

Hopefully this should help clarify why executing a bunch of tactics in absence of a clear strategy (or worse, a clear objective) results in a lot of busyness but little progress.

I’ve you’ve ever looked back on your year and felt like all you’ve done is move one inch in every direction, you probably need to think about your strategy.

Start with an objective, choose a strategy, THEN pick your tactics.