Ever try talking with a parrot?
It seems like any time anyone comes across a parrot, they try to strike up a conversation to see if the bird will talk back. And it can be quite amusing when they do.
For a bit.
The problem with conversing with a parrot is that the bird has no idea what its actually saying, or why its saying it. Parrots have no clue about context, and therefore make for bad conversation. The truth is, no one really wants to speak with a parrot.
But you knew that.
What does this have to do with copywriting, you ask?
Many famous copywriting experts recommend you keep a “swipe file.”
A swipe file is simply a folder, real or electronic, containing examples of good copy. You might save a collection of killer headlines, several examples of powerful openings, a funny turn of phrase, a powerful call to action, and so on.
Later when you are stuck, you can turn to your swipe file for inspiration.
Swipe files are good. Excellent, in fact. Learning what works from masters in your field is a wise thing to do. Successful people from Isaac Newton to Tiger Woods would agree.
Why then have I put “dangers” in the headline of this post?
There is a real difference between modeling success and trying to mindlessly copy approaches that have worked before. “Monkey see, monkey do” has only limited value for both parrots and copywriters.
Yes, absolutely take inspiration from your swipe file. You should definitely learn and understand why something worked in the past, all while taking into account the context in which it worked. That context will determine how much of the original copy will be transferable to your situation.
But keep in mind that each and every successful headline, email campaign and sales letter had a huge amount of thought and strategy behind it. The author will have understood the wants and needs of the target audience. They will have written according to how their prospects needed to be approached.
If the motivations of your readers do not match up, even the most brilliant copy and paste job isn’t going to cut it. Do yourself a favor and use a swipe file to better understand the art of copywriting.
But remember… no one really wants to speak with a parrot.
Subscribe to Chris Garrett’s blog to get more blogging, copywriting and marketing advice plus a free ebook on creating flagship content.