How to Let Readers Sell to Themselves

You may have heard of the 60/40 content ratio: send helpful or fun information as 60% of your content, and the 40% of promotions will be easier to swallow. But coming up with enough informative content to mix and match with your sales pushes with can be challenging. So a few companies have tried an innovative technique: a choose-your-identity game that entertains and informs and all the while, sells products. Keep reading to see the technique for yourself, then get ideas for how you can adopt it in your own email marketing campaigns.

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You may have heard of the 60/40 content ratio: send helpful or fun information as 60% of your content, and the 40% of promotions will be easier to swallow.

But coming up with enough informative content to mix and match with your sales pushes with can be challenging.

So a few companies have tried an innovative technique: a choose-your-identity game that entertains and informs and all the while, sells products.

Keep reading to see the technique for yourself, then get ideas for how you can adopt it in your own email marketing campaigns.

Discover Your Doppelganger

The Container Store, peddler of myriad storage solutions, created four personas of women who use their products. (I’m curious if male subscribers received different options!)

Subscribers can choose which character they identify with, then read just what product that character needs and why.

Why this is genius: Since their alter ego needs the product, the reader needs it, too. The Container Store has just created a need that only their product can fill.

Container Traveler Sm

Choose Your Truffle-Twin

Vosges, a chocolate boutique, sent an email that works in the opposite direction. First, readers choose their favorite truffle, then they read the matching personality description.

If the reader’s nature doesn’t match their chosen truffle’s fortune, can keep scanning ’til they find a match. Then they’ll have to explore their new suggested favorite!

Why this is genius: The truffle is presented as an expression of the reader, who may accept it as part of their self-perception. Whether they try it once or start using it as their signature gift, their interest in tweaked and their loyalty is increased.

Vosges What Truffle

Creating One Yourself

You can adapt this technique to your own products any way you like, but if you want more inspiration, here are some suggestions:

If you’re a fitness trainer, choose the items you want to promote, whether they’re classes, fitness plans or equipment. Then let readers pick their lifestyle – corporate traveler, college student, stay-at-home mom – to see which is right for them.

If you own a cafe or restaurant, consider your clientele. Ladies who lunch have different needs from businessmen closing deals and families with children. Suggest a perfect dish for each.

If you sell clothing, find inspiration in the personal ads – play pick-the-perfect-date. Think mountain hike, dinner in the city, movies and popcorn. Then suggest an outfit for each, available at your store!

Your Suggestions Welcome

What do you think of these choose-your-identity games? Do you have an idea for creating one in another industry?

We want to hear from you, so share your thoughts in the comment space below!


  1. rich

    11/4/2010 9:02 am

    like the interactive ideas, i always heard at least 80\20 as opposed to 60\40. Suppose it depends on your approach but i like to stay content heavy as much as possible.

  2. Ivan Walsh

    11/4/2010 9:19 am

    Hi Amanda,

    It can work if the designers create identities that reflect their target customers.

    Too often designers, business owners, etc create products that reflect and/or flatter their own interests.

    But do they really know their customers?

    Some do, others take a little more time to see the light.

    Great examples, by the way.

  3. Shaun Sinclair

    11/4/2010 9:48 am

    You’ve just sparked a fitness trainers creative brain for his upcoming fitness plan 🙂

  4. Maureen

    11/4/2010 9:50 am

    This idea of letting people choose your product or service based on their personality, is genius! It makes it fun and informative. I’m going to be thinking today how to incorporate that with my business. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Salvatore McDonagh

    11/4/2010 10:01 am

    Thanks Amanda

    These are pure genius – creating personas that your prospects identify with, and linking them to the specific product you are offering them. This technique has worked on me as a consumer, but I never "saw" it. Your article has given me some immediate ideas – I’ll be trying this out for some of my search engine marketing B2C clients.

    Has anyone had any success using this technique in the B2B space – I’ve got some ideas but I’d love to hear if anyone else has experience using this to sell to businesses. I imagine it will work well in the small business sector…

  6. Kathy Kirk

    11/4/2010 10:24 am

    Brilliant. You’ve got my gears turning for an application for me. Thanks!
    My question is how do they create these beautiful e-mail images???

  7. Maria Annell

    11/4/2010 10:26 am

    GREAT ideas, thank you, Amanda! 🙂

    I’m a personal development coach, mainly using EFT, and I’ve had this idea for a while to create a "quiz" (SurveyMonkey, here I come! Again!) to let people pre-qualify themselves (no strings attached!) for my different coaching programs… And also to weed out those whiners-complainers who wouldn’t be a fit at all for my way of working, actually!

    This post reminded me about this back burner project, which may very well get a new priority now…

    Thank you!!!

    PS And besides, I’m ALL the trufle types… 😀

  8. art

    11/4/2010 11:24 am

    I’m a guy so I didn’t identify with any of the 4 female icons other than I’ve dated each type at some time or another.

    To really make their message more effective it should be more gender specific to make an identity connection. The idea seems valid, non-threatening, and easy to work with.

    Thumb up.

  9. Maria

    11/4/2010 11:31 am

    This is a brilliant way to engage customers. It is light, fun and intriguing.

  10. Patricia

    11/4/2010 11:58 am

    Wow, of course! I can use this in relation to the different ways parents try to help their children learn – parent have four distinct styles – time to tell them!

  11. jim cockrum

    11/4/2010 3:20 pm

    This might be stating the obvious, but when attempting to determine which "personas" are in your audience DON’T GUESS.

    Do a survey!

    Find out the general needs, expectations, preferences, gender etc and THEN set up the options based on what you learn.

    Just trying to save ya’ll a ton of potentially irrelevant guesswork…

    Even a free survey will tell you a ton about who is listening and what they want.

  12. Cynthia

    11/4/2010 3:26 pm

    Awesome!!!this is the wave of the Future…Spectacular views give a insight vision to the end result…Finished Product,close deal,solutions,etc…Brilliance,is a key to success…

  13. Mary Benson

    11/4/2010 4:54 pm

    This is a comment for Rich, who said he thought this was a 60/40 rule variation on the 80/20 rule. I had never heard the 60/40 rule (give 60% information to 40% sales push), but I like the concept a lot.

    The 80/20 rule is actually different from this–basically put, 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts (or 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers).

    Like the article–it makes me realize how my product is too general and needs to have a focus for each target market.

  14. Ryan

    11/4/2010 5:24 pm

    I really like the idea.

    One of the hidden benefits is that it gets your readers to interact. Not only does that naturally get them interested but naturally leads them to the next step… a sale.

    Another great part of this article is that the concept can be adapted to fit many business models. Thanks for the suggestions 🙂

  15. David Stewart

    11/4/2010 7:37 pm

    Hi Amanda,

    Having a little game is an interesting thought but maybe not to sell maybe just as a point of interest on your topic. I think that might be a nice addition to a monthly newsletter.

  16. Teasastips

    11/4/2010 8:16 pm

    Good post! I’ve heard of 80/20, but like Rich said earlier, never 60/40!
    And if I may say so, 60% of anything is a very good stat.

  17. Yoichi

    11/5/2010 1:34 am

    I think if YOU genuinely love whatever you are trying to market to them yourself, you shouldn’t really worry about what to email your list. I think of it as Celebrity type promotion, fans buy whatever you buy because they trust them and their taste. It is really that simple.

  18. Charles Kaluwasha

    11/5/2010 2:51 am

    I sell reshaping garments, but give it to my wife who relates well with other ladies. I have found it more useful than if it were me promoting ladies garments.
    Your ideas are very brilliant!
    Thank you and God bless

  19. Dona

    11/5/2010 8:08 am

    Very very interesting idea. I will use this tips for my new site

  20. Adele

    11/5/2010 7:33 pm

    I remember a technique using Aweber that allowed you to split out your list based on which ‘avatar’ the list subscriber clicked on. Maybe you should have that as a ‘related’ post.

    That way, when you find people that fit one of your avatars or personnas, you can tailor messages directly to them.

  21. Pat

    11/6/2010 2:12 am

    great tip, many thanks. I will keep this in mind

  22. Wayne

    11/7/2010 12:53 am

    Thank you for the tip. What i found interesting is that when you know your audience it is very much easier to write or promote your product and services.

  23. Thomas

    11/7/2010 11:01 am

    The books and articles I have read related to Internet marketing recommend 9 fun, informative messages to 1 selling message, even higher than the 60/40. I actually take if further with about a 25:1 ratio but, I have more content to post than most so it’s feasible for me. After reading this article, I will definitely restructure my selling messages to include choices and more creativity. This article was very helpful. Thank you!

  24. CB

    11/8/2010 12:22 am

    Seems too complicated. Isn’t the goal to get the person to click to your website not dwell on your email.

  25. Amanda Gagnon

    11/8/2010 9:19 am

    CB ~ Exactly. The email is designed to make them want to click a product. When they do, they should be taken to a page on your site where they can purchase it.

  26. Lalitha Brahma

    11/8/2010 7:24 pm

    Excellent strategy and it has now inspired me to start thinking of my prospects in different ways, group them and create something for each group.

  27. Carolyn Small

    11/9/2010 4:12 pm

    What an interesting idea. I’m going to give it a try. Thanks.

  28. Alex

    11/9/2010 10:47 pm

    The ratio numbers 60/40 or 80/20 are not relevant. What is relevant – you make your final sales (or pre-sell) speech more targeted and it could make a big difference. I will most definitely use your idea.

    Thank you for sharing!

  29. r.c. beckom

    11/10/2010 12:21 am

    Hmmmmm, sounds okay, now lets see it in action, thanks 4 da post.

  30. Mark

    11/11/2010 12:59 am

    Excellent advice. Keep it up. The more ways we have to engage with our subscribers the better. Thanks heaps.

  31. Javel

    11/12/2010 5:37 am

    I am very interested in your work on this, and look forward to reading more from your blog

  32. Peter Johnson

    11/12/2010 12:04 pm

    Just about eveything human beings do is emotional at some level. A much better idea to let your prospect/customer enage their own emotions rather than you actively trying to stir theirs. Feels less like pandering and more like respecting their power of choice. Is anyone aware of effective ways or examples to implement this?

  33. Peter Johnson

    11/12/2010 12:08 pm

    Thomas, I would be interested in hearing what you’re doing. This approach makes alot of sense to me.

  34. Teena

    11/13/2010 6:25 pm

    Hey there Amanda, thanks so much for this post! I’ve been juggling too many balls in the air with different websites, and sometimes I forget the simplest of things – this highlights one of those things I could do to better target my customers.

    Love the real world examples! Brilliant!

    Now my brain’s in overdrive coming up with new strategies and focussing on the TYPES of potential clients.

    And yes, I do use SurveyMonkey with subscribers, now I just need to think outside the box 🙂

    Merci beaucoup!

  35. Rick Falls

    11/15/2010 4:28 pm

    Good thinking to let them sell themselves, especially when you consider that we would rather be in the "create the solution" mode for them rather than the "selling them’ mode anyway.

    It fits nicely with the asking them what they want premise (largely overlooked and underrated as well) and brings them even further along in the process of committing to making a purchase.

    I have several various service packages and I’m in the process of breaking down who each one would be most useful and beneficial for.

    Guiding them to the right solution for them, Wow, are you creative or what ?

    Very cool. Thanks.

  36. Barbara

    12/1/2010 5:04 pm

    I am setting up an online class and this is a great idea for personalizing the benefits of the class based on what each person is looking for. Thanks for sharing such a creative idea!