Using words that work with the people you’re trying to persuade.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Study and draw inspiration from great copy that works.
I’m not talking about copy that you personally think is great. It’s a mistake to judge advertising like regular people do – as entertainment. Madison Avenue has a great gig producing short entertainment pieces called commercials that often don’t sell much of anything.
I’m talking about drawing inspiration from advertising copy that has demonstrated its effectiveness by actually working as intended. Like a direct mail piece that has raked in millions and millions of dollars in sales.
Why Professional Copywriters Use Swipe Files
A copywriting “swipe file” is a collection of winning ads. Sales letters, space ads, headline collections, plus bits and pieces of copy that have been marketplace proven to make big money. A carefully collected swipe file is the essential starting point for most new copywriting campaigns.
It’s a bit like why lawyers begin with a basic form when drafting a new legal document, or why web designers start with a basic code structure. Start with something solid, and customize from there.
The problem with the swipe file approach is context. Many new and inexperienced writers (and often many pros) will miss the mark when trying to adapt past copy to a new situation.
Yep . . . the winning formula becomes a bust when inappropriately applied.
The Art of Listening
Luckily, we’ve got an impressive set of new tools that will let us uncover the context, right down to the very language our prospects are using.
Most marketers make the mistake of thinking social media is a tool for talking. For distributing a message far and wide, and measuring the response that comes back.
And it’s true that the internet is a direct response playground. Marketers haven’t had this clear a picture of their buyers since the days of the bazaar.
But the social web is also the most powerful market research tool you’ll ever use.
Sites like Twitter and FaceBook can tell you the exact words your prospects are using to describe their wishes, hopes, fears, worries, and dissatisfactions. And the words people use when searching for information makes keyword research a goldmine that goes way beyond SEO.
Email marketing and blogs allow your prospects to engage you in a conversation, to tell you what they want and how they want it, and just as important, to demonstrate what they respond to.
The Right Words, in the Right Context
The swipe file still has a place, and smart copywriters still maintain them. (Though they may have more headlines from Google Adwords than from direct mail these days.)
But the most effective copywriters also remember that classic piece of wisdom from Grandma:
You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk.
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