The Art of War Of the inbox

Principle #2 Vary Your Tactics
12 min to read
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There are two methods of fighting the email inbox war: As a marketer, or as a general.

What ends ups happening in any field, email marketing included, is that look for a tactic that works - a ‘best practice’ in today’s parlance. Then you use that tactic over, and over and over again until it’s no longer effective. Then you go hunting for another best practice. Rinse and repeat as needed.

The emerging popularity of the best practice tactic is what brought it to your attention in the first place. Your use of it increases its popularity - and accelerates its inevitable death. If you want to avoid this cycle of chasing tactics, you have to change up your strategy to “Vary Your Tactics” - Principle #2 in the Art of War of the Inbox.
The second principle is to
Vary Your Tactics
“In the midst of difficulties, we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune” - Sun Tzu
Mixing it up 
is no longer an option
If you want to continually stand out and catch your customers or your pr. If you want to get them to do something, share something, reply to something, or buy something, you have to mix it up.
Novelty grabs attention.
Here’s some of the nerdy science - information theory - behind this principle.
• he two keywords in this theory are signal & noise
• The two key people are: Alan Turing & Claude Shannon (look them up!)
• The key phrase: That which is not surprising contains no information
• The very best sources of information have a very high signal: noise ratio.
If you look at your email inbox, you’ll notice a lot of noise in form of SPAM, cold emails, promotional emails, etc.

What do you look for when you scan your inbox for something relevant & valuable?

It’s two opposing things: the familiar and the new.

On the one hand, you look for familiar names of co-workers, clients, or email newsletters you subscribe to. On the other hand, if the email is 100% predictable i.e you know what to expect, you’ll either ignore it or not give it much attention.
Predictability is the shortest path to failure.
• What happens to an animal that is predictable?
• What happens to a football team that is predictable?
• What happens to your message, when it’s an exact copy of everyone else’s?
It may work because
it’s different
The reason most of the marketing fails is that it blends in.
@Dave Trott in his various talks mentions that of billions spent yearly on advertising & marketing in the U.K - 4% is remembered positively, 7% negatively, and 89% is neither noticed nor remembered. And the problem, which I agree with him, is not the 7% that’s remembered negatively

The disaster is that 89% are simply ignored.

To help illustrate why here’s my fancy drawing:


Which one of the shapes caught your eye first? Don’t lie

The reason X catches your attention is likely our Analogy instinct which helps us make sense of the world around us. It pushes us instinctively to the extremes: this is the same or different.

The keyword, in my opinion, is instinct because instinct is something we do automatically - without thinking. This means that the people who receive your emails ignore/delete your message without a second thought.

Ask yourself
• What emails is my prospect used to seeing?
• What is NOT going to surprise him?

You can’t amp up being
 an annoying pest and get results

I imagine that even if you don’t get them daily, you regularly get these types of messages in your inbox:
Follow-up 1
• Exit the inbox

Follow-up 2
Hey, did you get it?

Follow-up 3
• Did you get it?

Follow-up 4
• Oh man. I must've ruffled your feathers. I'm so sorry. Here's my pitch. A coupon you didn’t ask for. Oh, and schedule a call here. Here's a Calendly link.
I also imagine you’ve never responded to a single message like this.

So, dear marketer - Why the hell do you keep sending these out?
Varied use of tactics
1) Pattern interrupts

This is something a lot of sales coaches talk about, and they are very effective in both the world of B2B and eCommerce.

They can take countless forms, but some ideas include:

• Campaign level: Send two promotional emails and switch things up with one non-promotional email
• Email level: If your prospects are used to seeing serious & boring messages, include a picture of a funny-looking animal at the bottom of your email ([Charm Offensive style](
2) Change of gender of the sender

If your prospects/customers are used to seeing an email from a male persona, switch to a female. If they are used to hearing from both a male & female, switch to a dog (yes, we actually executed that successfully)

Nate story-time:
• Back when Crowdfunding was the hot new thing - the bandwagon at the time. We sent out
3) HTML>text, then Text>HTML

If you typically send graphical campaigns full of images, switch to a simple plain text email. If you sent five plain-text emails, switch to an email with an image.


If these email marketing examples haven’t stimulated your imagination enough, then I’ll leave you with

There’s a great Jack Chan scene in the movie “First Strike”

The data has shown us repeatedly that switching things up will increase the retention rate on your email list and increase the engagement rate over time.


• What surprising tactics can you use to get your prospects to read and reply to your email?*
• What random ideas can you try?*
• What if you did the opposite of everyone else?
• What if you did the opposite of (insert competitor)?
References / 
» Here’s one of his trainings on the Art of Persuasion » Battling our same/different instinct:
May 18, 2022
About The Author
Konrad is a proud grilled cheese enthusiast and content creator who loves to make videos on all things marketing and mindful productivity. When he’s not posting content to her youtube channel (Konrad) and an instagram account (@konrad) he’s usually finding a cool new hiking spot or trying out a new strategy.

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