The Fastest Way To Writing Great Copy: Your Swipe File

(Today’s article is by Guerrilla Marketer Lorrie Morgan Ferraro where she illustrates the importance of building a “swipe file”. Enjoy. This was excepted from a book I co-authored, Guerrilla Marketing On The Front Lines).

Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero

Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero

So you’re ready to raise your hand and have a try at honing your own copy? Great! Let me take some of the guesswork out of it for you and pull back the curtain to reveal some time-tested copywriting tricks…the GUERRILLA WAY!

Guerrilla Tactic #1:  If  Writers Write, Do Copywriters COPY? “Yes!”

Believe it or not in the copywriting industry one of the fastest and most reliable ways to write copy is to start your own swipe file.

A swipe file is a collection of copy that has been previously field-tested. I want to be clear – the purpose isn’t to plagiarize other people’s copy. Swipe files are kept to not only inspire you, but they are helpful templates for your own copy. Study them and you’ll soon begin to see formulaic word patterns emerging.

 What Qualifies As a “Swipe?”

Just as copy is everywhere there are words, swipes are everywhere there is copy. To be sure your swipe file is brimming with GOOD copy here are some places to collect it from:
•  Junk mail – There’s gold in that thar mail; don’t just toss it in the trash anymore! Millions of dollars are spent by mega-corporations on field-testing that copy. See what you can learn from it – especially the more prolific conglomerates like the credit card, airline, and phone companies. You should also sign up for mailing lists in your own industry.

•  Print ads – Go through the back pages of some of your favorite magazines and look for the word-dense ads. Those are the ones for your target. Again, big bucks goes into paying for those ads. If you see them reappear month after month, you know they are earning their keep.

•  Infomercials and radio spots – Even though these are verbal versions of copy, be sure to pay attention to them. An infomercial is like a long copy sales letter read aloud. It is designed to grab attention and work the listener into a frothy state of excitement. Radio spots are shorter and pithier. They also are written with excitement-driven language to get the prospect to take some sort of action.

•  Historical copy – There are classic examples of proven copy you should definitely have in a swipe file to model. For starters, look for ads by P.T. Barnum, Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Claude Hopkins, Joseph Sugarman, Gary Halbert, John Carlton, and Dan Kennedy. This site has a pretty comprehensive collection,  What worked 100 years ago continues to work today because as human beings we are still wired the same, regardless of our high tech world.

• Copy that made you buy –Something pushed your hot buttons to get you pull out your credit card and buy. Trace it back to the exact page, phrase, or sentence that got your juices flowing. If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for your audience.

Start collecting your own swipe arsenal and watch your copy improve tenfold!