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3) Build a swipe database
All good copywriters keep a swipe file. Some have entire rooms full of old ads, mail packages, and sales letters that worked in past. And once in awhile they package them up and sell them for a nice profit...
With Internet it's easy to just save good copy to your hard drive or a folder in your email program. When you run across something that catches your eye save it immediately before you do anything else. Otherwise you might suddenly find yourself immersed in other matters and forget about sales letter you just read.
As so often happens in cyberland...
I kick myself sometimes because I forget to save a hot letter. And later on. when I go back to try to find it, it turns out they've already taken it down because product sold out.
You also need to get on email lists of people doing marketing in your niche(s) so you can get their mailings. Some very good sales copy is written specifically for email.
The more material you have to work with better. There just might be one little idea in that ocean of material that makes difference in whether your copy succeeds or fails...that makes difference between small profits and large profits.
So start a virtual swipe database. If you run out of room on your hard drive burn it onto CD's. It'll take a while to fill a room with CD's full of swipe material!
By way, nowadays on Internet there are several "swipe file" products available for purchase, but you need to be careful. These collections of "winning" sales letters are often of very poor quality. So do your due diligence before you buy them.
In direct mail industry quality control is much more stringent. There are several excellent collections published in book form and most good copywriters, online or off, keep a couple of them on their shelves.
Some examples of these great works are Hodgson's "The Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters of All Time", Denny Hatch's "Million Dollar Mailings", and Herschel Lewis and Carol Nelson's "World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters". Hodgson's book is available in PDF form from www.twipress.com , a great website for marketing books in general.
Oh, and don't forget that your own past successful efforts are also good candidates for a swipe or two...
4) Integrate Smoothly
It goes without saying that you should smoothly blend material you swipe into your own copy so that it looks like it belongs there. But it's amazing how often people fail to do this.
Make sure to put copy you borrow into your own voice so it reads as if it were something you wrote. Novice marketing is often easy to spot because of discrepancy between less-than-experienced voice of marketer and confident voice of good copywriter or copywriters he or she has borrowed elements from.
When you've got conflicting voices within a sales letter people pick up on it.
While most buyers don't care about good grammar, they will notice, even if it's on a sub-conscious level, when your copy is out of balance. They'll know that something "just isn't right". And that's all it takes for them to click out.
So make sure you put what you borrow into your own words. Authenticity is a genuine key to direct marketing. Customers identify with a perceived personality behind words, not with letters on page.
You can borrow headlines, sub-headlines, bullets, stories, offers... Even ideas. The list goes on. But make them a part of you! Not just a cut-and-paste job that stands out like a sore thumb.
As long as you retain your own USP (Unique Selling Proposition) throughout your copy, you will maintain your offer's consistency. And within that context you can then borrow copy ideas to your heart's content. But blend borrowed copy in smoothly. Spend a good amount of time with this. It's definitely worth it.
Swiping is a part of everyday life in copywriting world. And once you get hang of it, only hard-core copywriting students will pick up on what you've done.
Which is perfectly alright. You may even get a congratulatory note from them.
So go forth and boldly swipe. Because sometimes good enough is indeed * good enough *!
Bruce Carlson is a 12-year veteran educator and freelance writer who wants to help you improve your online copywriting. Sign up for his FREE newsletter at http://www.dynamic-copywriting.com