Tim Ferriss on Swipe Files
“I was the CEO of a direct response-based company that sold sports nutrition products for quite a few years, and have spent many millions of dollars on direct response. I do think there are a few suggestions I might be able to make. In those early days, what I found very useful- in many cases more useful than reading the how-to books on copywriting- was I created what is referred to as a swipe file.
Every time I bought something and that purchase was elicited by an advertisement, if is was print or if it were radio or television, I would make a copy and put it into the swipe file- this collections of ads that caused me to buy or to call for more information, or to sign up as lead gen, or whatever it might have been.
Then, I would practice. I wouldn’t necessarily use these ads, and you certainly don’t want to violate anyone’s copyright, and so forth and so on. I would practice mimicking these ads. Then , I might mimic three or four ads, and this was just drafts on a piece of paper for my own print advertising, in this particular case. I did a lot of big print, all the way up to big ads in USA Today and so forth. Then, I would try to combine my favorite elements of those ads into one ad that was original to me, and I would use that.
I think finding the examples that inspire you, whether that’s inspiring you to call a phone number, go to a website, place a purchase or to change your behavior to go somewhere else, is really valuable. It’s also fun to look back at the things that have influenced you. What are the words that persuade you? Keep a file of these things. It pays dividends to imitate.”