It’s baseball season, so please allow me an analogy.

“Don’t fall in love with the curve ball.”

It’s an old baseball saw—simply meaning don’t fall in love with any one approach (and this is critical), even if that one approach is working for you. However good your curveball may be, someone will time it and turn it around on you.

Marketers are well served to remember this. Whether push notifications, email, video or native advertising…any of these will have diminishing effectiveness with overuse. Where a tired pitch in baseball gets hit hard, a tired pitch in marketing gets ignored with an exhausted eye roll from consumers, not a bang.

Almost without exception, the best pitchers (and their catchers) take context into account before deciding how to initiate with the batter. What’s the situation? What inning? Runners on base? Dog days of summer day game or playoffs? What’s this hitter done today in prior at-bats? What’s his run of form in the games leading up to this game? What does the data show about his performance against different offerings historically? Long story short, all must be factored.

You have your game plan going into the game, and you adjust throughout depending. So too in marketing.

Some marketing is scheduled. For example, this weekend is Memorial Day. If you have a big sale you know well in advance how you’re going to message that and communicate with your customers.

Other marketing is triggered. It’s based on something the customer has done or is doing right now. Last at-bat you got the batter with a big, slow curve. This time around he’s way up in the front of the batter’s box in wait. Time to adjust. Maybe a high fastball will win this particular at-bat. And for marketing, maybe it’s a one-to-one personalized offer that factors in your knowledge of what this customer has done in the past and is apt to do again. While they’re on your site, in your app, or walking through the front door, you need to act decisively in the moment. There’s no telling when they’ll be back again. Maybe something a bit softer with some spin will get the job done.

The key to success is having options. You need variety to succeed in all the situations you’ll find yourself in as a marketer.

Push notifications are a good example. It’s a devastating curveball, so effective when the timing is right. For example, I’m a sports and music junkie. Based on my app habits, three brands have done an amazing job with Push in the last twenty-four hours alone. Last night TuneIn let me know when the Stanley Cup Playoff game was starting so I could “tune in.” Smart. And effective. ESPN let me know that Manchester United had sacked their manager (good riddance). Finally, Spotify let me know that there was a new album from a band I listen to with embarrassing frequency. Yay! On top of those passion points, Amazon Prime let me know a package had been delivered and American Express alerted me to a new charge to my account. Smart.

On the flip-side, there’s a Design and Architecture app I absolutely love and look at almost nightly. It’s a sleek, elegant and content rich treasure. But I don’t need to know urgently when a new mid-century bungalow has been added to the gallery. For me, it’s not time sensitive and doesn’t require a notification to my home screen.

Such is the beauty of one-to-one personalized engagement. You can test at controlled scale, learn, adjust and repeat. If Push doesn’t work for me, maybe an in-app message might. Maybe a full-screen video might get me to increase frequency and duration of visits. That’s the name of the game, isn’t it? Every at-bat is different. The context has changed.

So marketers, have a game plan. Know what you do best and have confidence in your skillset. But take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the other team as well. Who’s standing right in front of you? What do you know about them? What’s worked or not worked historically?

Understand where you are in the game and the season, and make that next pitch accordingly. Sometimes it’s not your dominant pitch that gets the job done. It’s something a little off-speed, a little out of character. Never underestimate the element of surprise.

“Goliath, dissatisfied with his size advantage, has bought David’s sling.”

— Moneyball

Remember, it’s a long season, but every pitch still counts.