I’d venture to say that 98% of remodeling companies do not have a professional copywriter and/or art director on their staff. But what if I told you that you could get the expertise of these talented (and expensive) professionals for free?
You may be thinking “Mark, you’re nuts.”
Then again, “what’s a copywriter?” or “why would I need an art director?” are also valid responses to my bold statement.
So, for those who haven’t seen Mad Men yet, here’s a quick definition courtesy of Wikipedia:
The copywriter has ultimate responsibility for the … verbal or textual content, [she is] responsible for telling the story, crafting it in such a way that it resonates with the [prospect], ideally producing an emotional response.
The art director has ultimate responsibility for visual communication and, particularly in the case of print work, may oversee production. Although, in many instances, either person may come up with the overall idea for the advertisement .. (typically referred to as the concept) the process of collaboration often improves the work.
As you can imagine, it can be expensive to hire these pros on a freelance basis and, for most, having them on staff is flat out crazy.
But samples of their work — the techniques and strategy they use — are all around you.
Every day you are bombarded with advertising messages. Even the most conservative estimates say you’re exposed to 5,000 per day. The problem is you have convinced yourself that these messages are an intrusion in your life. You have trained yourself to ignore these messages.
These “intrusions” are the result of countless hours of work by marketing professionals. They’ve spent days (if not weeks) crafting the perfect words, the perfect call-to-action, the perfect visuals…the perfect marketing message.
What do you do with this stuff?
You create a Swipe File. Despite the “shady feel” of the name, swipe files are not illegal nor unethical. Every copywriter worth her salt has a swipe file. In fact, most college students in the field are required to start building their own as part of the curriculum.
Your swipe file is where you keep any piece of marketing communication that stands out to you. This includes sales letters, print ads, post cards, email newsletters, email offers, banner ads, and so on.
Before I get into the structure, I have to comment on this list. Notice I said email newsletters and offers? It amazes me each and every week when I look at our PowerTips newsletter performance reports and see the handful of people that unsubscribed. You should never unsubscribe from an email list (not just ours). Doing so is giving away a treasure trove of information that you can swipe for your own use.
I am currently subscribed to well over 100 email lists. Obviously, most of them go unread. But the ones that I do open are pure gold.
Because I opened it!
Something about that email worked on me. So I may file it in my Subject Line Swipe folder. If I take further action within the email (like click the link or download the thing-a-ma-bob) I’ll file another copy in the appropriate swipe folder (such as the Calls-To-Action folder or the Great Storytelling folder.)
Which brings me to file structure.
You can setup your swipe file however works best for you. For some it’s by category; like emails, post cards, print ads, etc. For others it’s by marketing piece anatomy. For example: great subject lines, calls-to-action, great layouts, impactful color schemes, and so on.
I prefer the latter because it’s easier to filter through when I hit writers block. If I’m trying to create a post card but I’m stuck crafting an attention-grabbing headline, I refer to my great subject lines folder. What do I care if it was originally the subject of an email? Or the title of a blog post? If the copy inspires me to come up with a headline for the post card, great!
Notice I said inspires me. It’s important to understand that your swipe file is for inspiration; not straight out duplication. Use it whenever you get stuck–whenever you know what you want to say, but you’re not quite sure how to say it.
Armed with your new swipe file you’ll be able to tackle any situation, from client letters to newspaper ads. It’s like having your very own copywriter and art director on call 24 hours a day.
A word about the complimentary creative.
Most advertising salespeople will tell you the “creative is included with your investment,” when they sell you ad space. But that doesn’t mean you should take it. You have much more invested in the performance of your ad than the entry-level college kids working at the magazine or newspaper where your ad is going to run. (Like Victoria said in this episode of PowerTips TV, you should be spending most of your time on sales and marketing.)
Don’t get me wrong, you should use their art department (unless you’re a graphic designer by night), but consider crafting the message yourself. It’s the rare publication that will have a crack-team of copywriters on staff for you (those guys are working at the advertising agencies).
What about you?
Do you create your own marketing pieces? Do you have any you’re particularly proud of? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
BONUS! RAD LIBS: The Ultimate Blog Idea Generator
It can take a while to get your swipe file built up. So here’s a free Blog Post Title Generator. It’s no swipe file, but it will hold you over (on the subject line front at least) until you build up your swipe file. Enjoy!