February 15

What is a Swipe File and How to Build One

You need to write copy for your next promotion. You sit in front of the computer for hours, mind completely blank as creativity fails you. Enter the swipe file.

Is there an advert you thought was simply ingenious? Have you recently read a landing page you thought was well written? You can compile such pieces into what we call a swipe file, and repurpose them for your own business.

If you don’t know how to get started building a swipe file, read on.

Why use a swipe file

People use swipe files for a lot of reasons. A major one is avoiding writer’s block. Imagine not sitting in front of your computer, mind completely blank as the cursor mockingly blinks at you.

Instead, you can scroll through your swipe file, find an idea you like, and boom goes that creative spark. Now you can start writing without hitting the dreaded writer’s block.

That is probably the most common use of swipe files, but there are a couple of others. 

You can use them to see what’s working. The more attention you spend on marketing, the more you’re going to see trends. You’re going to see the same ads pop up over and over again. 

If you see an ad that continues to run for 234 weeks or longer, that ad is working. That’s something that should definitely go in your swipe file.

You can also use it to get ideas that are outside the box. We sometimes get stuck in our brain’s echo chamber. When we use swipe files to get ideas that are outside our own brain or industry, we’re broadening our horizons.

We’re using what works in other industries to refresh our marketing ideas and gain the upper hand.

How to build a swipe file

There are as many ways under the sun of building a swipe file as there are programs on your computer.

Evernote

I use the paid version of Evernote. I do it because I’m a copywriter. I’m on a lot of lists and I receive a lot of ads.

I upload to Evernote frequently and I hit my limit in no time at all. If I see a well-written web page, whether it be a sales copy, a Facebook ad, a landing page, or an email, I tag it in my Evernote.

I tag all materials by concept and by what it’s promoting. If it’s promoting a lead magnet, I might tag it as a lead magnet but then also I’ll tag it as a landing page so that I can see it when I’m searching for both of those.

Evernote also has a function where you can directly forward emails using a special Evernote address. I saved my Evernote address as a contact in my Gmail. So I can directly forward things I want in my swipe file straight to Evernote.

I spend time scrolling through my phone, finding emails, and quickly forwarding them. By the way, this is a great way to kill time in the line at the grocery store and still build my swipe file.

I’ve also created a throwaway email address to sign up for any offer that sparks my attention. This insures these emails don’t clog up my inbox.

Swipe websites

If I have something specific in mind, there are swipe websites such as WiFied.co. They collect some of the best swipe examples from big names around the industry. 

That can be rather convenient, especially if you’re just starting and don’t have your own swipe file.

Your mailbox

Do you know all those sales offers that always worm their way into your mailbox? The ones you might even be convinced you never signed up to? That right there is another place to check for swipe.

I have both a physical and a digital swipe file. 

I get sales pieces, mail pieces, school mailers, and more copy all the time that I might want to use for clients in concept. That’s why my physical swipe file is a big deal.

Your own marketing

Another place to get swipe is your own marketing. You should always have a repository of your own work at the ready to pull from. You’ve already written it, and all you need to do is copy and paste into a new project.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people write their emails directly in their email marketing system.

Yes, you can write an email in Active Campaign. But then you pretty much have no access to that email, unless you want to dig through all of your past campaigns.

Instead, write your emails in a rolling Google document. Use the header function and the navigation function on the side to easily organize them.

You could do it in Evernote, which is also searchable.

So you can decide you want to base a new campaign on a previous one you did on paperclips. You simply search for paperclips and boom.

Just like that, you have your own copy to swipe from.

Paid sources of swipe

Then, of course, there are also paid sources of swipe.

These typically come with high level marketing masterminds or other marketing memberships. They will provide swipe resources where they’ve done all the work for you.

Some paid sources of swipe include:

  • AutoGrow’s Swipe File
  • Sam’s Instant Swipe File
  • Wendy’s Sizzling Hot Swipe File

How to use a swipe file

So you now know how to build a swipe file. But how exactly do you use it?

A big mistake some people make is thinking that you can just take a whole sales page from your swipe file, change a few details, and wham bam, you have your new sales page ready. 

You have to use a swipe file ethically. This means you’re not stealing the copy word for word, and you’re not stealing the entire hook.

Neither are you stealing the names and the little catchy phrases that the other person has created for their business.

You’re just using the general idea. Maybe you like the structure of that headline, the concept, or the specific hook. Maybe there’s a specific piece you like because you think it was very effective.

That’s what you swipe, not the whole thing.

Diversify swipe sources

Another thing to avoid is only swiping from within your niche.

Don’t be so consumed with staying within your area of expertise, you forget there’s a whole big world out there. There’s a whole lot of stuff that other people have done that can work for you.

Just because they’re in a different industry doesn’t mean that their swipe won’t be effective for you.

I’ve used swipe from a photographer to write for a coaching client. I’ve used swipe from a coaching client to write for a home construction client.

It’s all about how you can repurpose that information to make it work for you and your business.

I don’t only look at coaching swipe for my coaching clients, and I don’t only look at home running swipe for my construction clients because I would be doing them a disservice by only looking at their respective industries.

How to know if my collected swipe ever works

Just because a piece of copy is out there doesn’t mean that it’s working. A business using the same ad for months without end is not always a guarantee the ad works. Maybe it’s one of those big/monopolistic companies that really don’t have competition.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the world of advertising and business, we don’t always have a ton of transparency. We don’t always know if things are working for the person that we’re swiping from.

That’s why you have to use your gut and your brain.

You have to be a student of marketing in order to continually create concepts, ideas, promotions, offers, and marketing that will work for your business.

A swipe file is an amazing tool to use. But it’s not the only tool that should be in your arsenal. 

When in doubt, you can always revert to the trusted method of hiring professionals. If you are looking for a professional, book a call with me today.


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