“Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal” – Pablo Picasso or T.S. Eliot or Igor Stravinsky (it's actually not known where this quote originated[source])
While I never, ever, recommend stealing someone else's work … I do recommend using legal and ethical ways (ie. modeling) to use other people's work in order to gain inspiration, perspective, and direction.
This particularly applies to copywriting, where having a “swipe file” is a must.
What's a swipe file?
“A collection of tested and proven advertising and sales letters.” [wikipedia]
In this post I'll show you where to find copy, how to build your own swipe file, and the most important part – how to use the swipes.
Big Picture Stuff
The ultimate goal is to have a collection of proven ads in your swipe file; however, it's not always easy to tell if something is proven or not unless the advertiser comes out and says it (even then, they could make up their results).
My recommendation is – if you see something that catches your attention – swipe it.
Also, just because one ad worked well in one market, doesn't mean it'll necessarily work well in another.
For example, being buddy-buddy and using slang in your copy may work well when advertising to “hip” people; however, using slang around lawyers, doctors, and other professionals may not perform as well.
Bottom line: know your market.
Where To Find Swipes
Ads and copy are everywhere, so this shouldn't be difficult.
Facebook ads can be found on Facebook, Twitter ads on Twitter, etc.
Email copy can be found by subscribing to peoples' email lists.
Banner ads can be found dang near everywhere.
My Favorite Place To Find Swipes
I recently came across Swiped.co which is probably the most useful resource I've found in quite some time.
There are hundreds of swipes across various niches, in every format imaginable from ads, to emails, to landing pages, and more.
How To Build A Swipe File
This is more of a personal preference.
I'm not going to go into anything technical here because it's pretty straightforward; however, here are a few ideas:
- Evernote. Evernote seems like the “go-to” place to store swipe files; however, it's not for me.
- Pinterest. Some people make secret boards and pin their swipes there.
- Save the swipes in folders on your computer. This is what I do. Technically they're all in Google Drive and I just copy and paste the swipes into Google Docs. Simple and it works.
The point is, use what you're comfortable with.
How To Use Swipes
So what? You have a bunch of swipes … that's cool. But, how do you use them for inspiration, perspective, and direction?
I'm about to show you!
The idea is to take a swipe, examine its structure, and “extract” its formula.
By using the formula you'll be able to format the swipe to suit your needs!
- Formula (Text): Call-To-Action (CTA) + product/service for only $X
- Formula (Picture): Compare how realistically affordable your product/service is
- Formula (Description): Social proof, qualify lead
Longer Copy (Emails, Sales Pages, Direct Response)
With the longer swipes, your goal is to extract the story and format.
Do not go line by line, sentence by sentence trying to extract the formula of every sentence. That'll take entirely too much time and be counterproductive.
- Title: “The man's” dirty little secret
- Who am I and why you should listen to me, add a picture
- I'm just like you, “the little guy”
- “The man” wants us to believe one thing
- However, after digging deeper and reading “legitimate” reports – we know “the man” is hiding something
- “The man” is saying one thing and doing another
- If you've believed/followed “the man” before and thought you were doing things right …
- CTA to discover what's really going on (“the man's” dirty little secret)
Example Sales Page
- Bad things are in red
- Title/Headline: Something bad is going to happen to you [soon (today)]
- Sub Headline: According to someone with authority
- Emotional story – setting the stage
- Emotional story – authority telling me if I don't do X now, I'll have the worst possible outcome within a [timeframe (year)]
- Emotional story – lifelong goals vanishing in front of me
- All because of one thing that affects so many
- Description of thing that affects so many
- Why am I sharing this story (I don't want you to suffer the same fate)
- Swipe files can make your life easier by providing inspiration, perspective, and direction.
- Any time you see an ad that catches your eye – swipe it!
- If you need to get a jump start on your swipe file, go to Swiped.co.
- Focus on extracting the formula, story, and format of the swipes.
- Write great copy!