Sun Tzu once famously said,

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

What did he mean?

Two things…

First, having a high-level strategy without knowing the exact how-to for accomplishing that strategy might lead to victory, but it will be slow and painful. Most of your time will be spent trying tactics that may or may not work.

Second, a strong sense of day-to-day tactics and granular activities without strategy is just the noise before defeat… because there’s no vision guiding those tactics. In other words, you’ll be doing a lot of stuff, all of it directionless.

How does this apply to email marketing?

Email marketers often confuse strategy for tactics.

Strategy is macro

  • The “why” behind your whole campaign or business

Tactic are micro

  • Open and click rates
  • Split testing subject lines
  • Time zone sending

To be successful, you need a strong sense of both strategies and tactics — that’s as true for your email marketing efforts as it is for your business growth or your personal development, whenever you’re trying to accomplish something.

I wrote an entire article on Email Mastery about the critical difference between email marketing strategies and email marketing tactics.

Measure tactics. Make decisions based on high level strategy.

Ultimately, you should measure tactical metrics, but you should make decisions based on high-level strategies.

  • You should track click-through rates, but you should make decisions based on business revenue.
  • You should track open rates, but you should make decisions based on your desired brand image.
  • You should track unsubscribe rates, but you should make decisions based on your desire to have the right audience and great content.