All great copywriters start here
All great copywriters start at a swipe file – a file that records a copy you have. A swipe file can contain both good and bad copy. Good copy so you can take inspiration and bad copy so you can avoid making the mistakes. That’s the aim of a swipe file – to inspire and to avoid.
The key to keeping an effective swipe file is not just keeping for the sake of it. Analyze each piece of copy in your file using the insights you’ll learn in this summary.
The importance of rote learning
When it comes to finding successful long copy sales letters, a good resource is affiliate networks like Clickbank and JVZoo. Put it simply, they’re a marketplace for people to sell their goods and in doing so, you’ll find hundreds of good long copy sales letters there. Not all of them are good but you can see from the sales figures which ones are with looking at.
Understanding your audience
Write with a specific reader in mind. The more specific you can be around this reader, the better your copy will be. In targeting your copy at a specific person you already know, your copy will sound more human, authentic and instantly relatable to a wider audience.
If the product is intended for an older generation, write as if you’re speaking to your granddad. If it’s intended for a younger generation, write as if you’re speaking to your niece.
Doing your research
When researching for a copy project, split your job into two parts.
Part one is the research itself. This is where you read books and look up social media and the Internet. At this part, you’re not really an expert and because you’ve only looked at stuff online, everything is potentially interesting to you. Once you’ve done your part one, you’ve got to go deeper.
In part two, you’re looking into the points of interest you discovered and figure out which of them are already known in the industry and which are genuinely new discoveries. The key is to understand the value of that part one research in bringing you up to speed in the industry you’re writing for.
The importance of good ideas
James Altucher, the author and entrepreneur, argues the brain is like any other muscle and you need to exercise it if you want to grow it. Exercising a brain is as simple as keeping a pen and paper and jot down at least ten ideas every day. They can be completely random, either related to what you’re working on or anything else that pops in your head. This daily ritual keeps your brain active. Think about it for a moment.
If you generate ten ideas a day, you’ll have generated 3,650 ideas by the end of the year. And at least one of them is bound to be great, and hopefully many more besides.
Features versus benefits
If you’re writing copy in an industry you’re not familiar with, don’t just rely on your assumptions. It’s possible to draw out some benefits yourself but you’ll be able to tap into much more interesting and authentic benefits if you speak to people who use the product firsthand. They might even give you the details you wouldn’t have normally thought about. And this tiny detail might just be the thing that really hits home and helps others relate to your product at a deeper level.
Promise, picture, proof and push
The four Ps – promise, picture, proof, push – is pretty universal. The key is to use the four P as a guideline, not as a commandment. Sometimes, to invigorate a piece of copy, you need to break the rules. If you find a copy isn’t hitting the mark, try leading with a picture or a proof, instead of starting with a promise. Assuming the key elements are all still included, mixing up the order of the Ps doesn’t really make a difference.
Urgent, useful, unique and ultra-specific
If you’ve ever stuck with a headline that’s not working as well as you hoped, look at it again with 4U. But you should think about the 4U – urgent, useful, unique and ultra-specific – only after you finish writing the first draft of your copy. Copywriting is ultimately a creative act and creativity is all about finding the strange cave of secrets in your subconscious. One you’ve got the weird and wonderful ideas from your subconscious, that’s when you apply the 4U concept to your copy. Use them to direct, not dictate.
Grabbing and holding the reader’s attention
When writing a long piece of copy such as a blog post or sales letter, you need to create a hook for people to notice. It’s natural for any reader to get distracted no matter how good your copy is.
We live in a world of constant distractions and it’s important to regularly engage your reader. You can do this by breaking up your copy with exclamations such as “Wait! Did you just read that right?” or “What you’ll read next will shock you!”
Alternatively, well-designed images and a series of short, punchy bullet points can also draw the reader’s attention back to your agenda.
Salutations, fellow cop writer
When you write any piece of copy, make sure you start with a salutation in your draft and finish by signing it off, even if it doesn’t have your name at the end.
Doing so reminds you that you’re writing for a human that will be read by a human. Even a basic salutation like Dear John helps remind you to keep things human. This is especially handy because when we hide behind a laptop screen for hours, it’s so easy to get lost in our own head and forget who we’re writing to.
The importance of narrative
When it comes to direct response copywriting, try to write in second person as often as you can. Do so and your copy will be much more compelling for the person reading it. That strange but effective second person viewpoint brings the reader into writing. It makes the reader the hero of the story.
Even if your grammar teacher disagrees, do your best to go with what’s engagingly good, not necessarily what’s grammatically right.
The paradox of testimonials
Embrace the negative testimonials, instead of shying away from them. Providing the product or service you’re writing for is good and you can stand for it, don’t be afraid of using negative feedback in a positive way. Address the concerns they raise and give counter arguments as to why the customer may have not had a good experience. When done successfully, overcoming objections this way can be extremely authentic and compelling.
Making an offer
Present the price in a way that makes it seem more palatable.
Spending $100 on an e-reader may sound like a lot, but if you say “30 pennies a day to read all the books you need”, it instantly sounds more reasonable.
Alternatively, you can transfer the cost to something the customer already knows and takes for granted. Spending $100 for a year of access to expert financial advice might sound expensive, but when you consider it’s less than you’d spend on a cup of coffee each day, it seems a much better value.
If in doubt, cut it out
Ask a couple of friends, families, coworkers to review your writing. The key is to have a group of people who can openly criticize you and won’t be offended by any disagreement you might have. Honesty is essential. If you haven’t got a peer group yet, try to cultivate one as soon as you can. It’ll make you a much better copywriter.
Time management tips for writing copy
When you learn your content isn’t working, before you throw it away… stop and think. Despite the initial failure, you have something black and white on your hands. You know the copy doesn’t work but the problem could be one of these three things:
- People aren’t just interested in the idea.
- It’s the wrong time for the idea.
- People don’t understand the idea.
If people aren’t interested in the idea, you’ll only waste your time tweaking something that’s fundamentally broken. If it’s not the right time, again you’ll only waste your time convincing the time is right. In both cases, set your copy aside and make a note to revisit when the situation changes. The good news is if people don’t understand the idea, you can try a different headline that more explicitly expresses the idea. If you don’t see any improvements, chances are that people are not getting it and now you can spend more time rewriting your idea so people do.
Sell or share?
Sure, copywriting is sometimes a lonely game. But as much as you want to picture the cliched image of a lonesome writer in their ivory tower, a good copy is never the product of a single person.
A good copy is a collaborative effort that represents a multitude of experiences and mindsets.
So next time you lock yourself away with your laptop, think about it. Avoid the restrictive nature of working alone and find ways to bring others into your work. Be open to ideas and share yours too. You’ll be almost guaranteed for a stronger copy.