© 2000, Andy Brocklehurst
When I first started out selling though direct mail, many of the books and courses I learnt from would talk about "Swipe Files". Sadly, many of today's modern marketing courses either fail to mention this simple concept at all, or play down the important role it has in improving your sales copy writing skills.
WHAT IS A SWIPE FILE?
Simply put, it's a collection of other peoples ad copy. Before the days of the Internet it would usually consist of a folder or scrap book. Every time you spotted some good advertising copy, either from a newspaper or from some letter that arrived in the mail that morning, you would keep it in your 'swipe file'.
Whenever you came to write some new copy of your own, you could use these clippings and letters for inspiration and ideas.
With more and more sales copy appearing on the web, you can formulate an 'electronic' version of the same idea. I store web pages with good sales copy in my favorites and sometimes I even print out copies and drop them in my now large collection of paper clippings and letters.
HOW TO DECIDE WHAT GOES INTO YOUR SWIPE FILE?
Whenever you come across a piece of sales copy, whether it's on the web, in your email, in a newspaper or it arrives in your postal mail, you need to take a couple of moments to look it over. If the headline grabs your attention and the letter draws you in then the chances are you are holding a good piece of copy in your hands. Never assume that every piece of copy you see is working well for it's author, I've seen some hopeless examples arrive from even the largest companies (who also should be paying the best copy writers).
I actually have three sections to my personal swipe files. The first is what I considered to be good copy. The second is copy that has some good points but is weak in a few areas. The third is for total trash copy. I keep the trash copy for one reason - I can pull it out now and again and for practice I have a go at re-working some of it. Practice makes perfect and no matter how long you've been trying to sell through direct copy, the more practice you have, the better.
HOW TO USE YOUR SWIPE FILE?
The main use of this collection of copy is to learn from the 'good' stuff. I use it for inspiration, and sometimes I pull out some good copy, and then with pen and highlighter marker in hand, I go through it and highlight the parts that are really holding it together and really making me get drawn in and convinced. I scribble notes in the margins too (now you see why I often print off good web copy).
As time goes on you will become better at working out which parts work and why certain things have the effect they do.
The only word of warning I have is this: Never just try to rip-off someone else's copy. Firstly because it's a breach of copyright and that happens to be illegal. Secondly, because you will never become good at writing copy yourself if all you do is copy someone else. And thirdly, although their copy looks good - there's no guarantee it is definitely working for them, and no guarantee that what works for their product will work for yours. You always need to test copy yourself, but that is a whole separate issue.
If you are not already keeping a swipe file - start today. No matter what level you are at, as far as copy writing ability is concerned, you will always benefit from this powerful resource.
Andy Brocklehurst is the owner/founder of succeed4u.com, a site dedicated to providing information that will help people succeed in starting, building and promoting their own business. For more top sales copy tricks and other marketing tips, tricks and secrets, visit:
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