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Apr 05

Tips to Leverage Marketing Swipe Files


When it comes to creating marketing copy, you don’t have to start from scratch.

You can find inspiration from your own past marketing efforts.

And you can borrow ideas from others.

The most common method is by creating a swipe file.

Let me give you a simple example. Have you ever been to a trade show, gotten a bag and then filled it with marketing collateral such as flyers, postcards and forms?

Well, that is a good start for a swipe file. You can take all of the postcards you picked up and put them in a manila folder. That is a swipe file.

How to Use a Swipe File

Let’s say you want to create a postcard. Pull out your swipe file. Take out all of the postcards you have collected over the years and lay them out. Then, look at the designs and look at the copy. Pick a few you like and put the rest away. Now, with the remaining postcards in front of you, take a blank sheet of paper and start sketching out a design for your postcard.

Remember to design both the front and back of the postcard.

Instead of starting with a blank page, you can draw inspiration from the designs of others.

This is a great technique to get a marketing project started.

Let Swipe Files Inspire You

A good marketing project is an iterative effort. In other words, it may take a few revisions before you get exactly what you want. If you are working with a graphic designer, be sure to share your design as well as the swipe examples for inspiration. Tell them what you like about each.

Once you have the first design done, you can make more edits.

You can create swipe files for:

  • Website designs
  • Email copy
  • Flyers
  • Direct mail sales letters
  • Postcards
  • Ezines
  • Doorhangers
  • Forms
  • Articles
  • Magalog
  • Newspaper ads
  • Magazine ads
  • Website banner ads
  • Facebook ads
  • LinkedIn ads
  • Twitter ads
  • Google Adwords
  • Lead Capture Pages
  • Online Sales Pages
  • Opt in forms
  • Etc.

Remember to save samples of your own work. That can be added to your swipe file too.

You can create swipe files by:

  • Adding physical samples
  • Printing hardcopy
  • Saving files to pdf
  • Copy and paste text into a notepad file

Tips to Use Swipe Files

A swipe file can take on many forms depending on what you are using.

You might be interested in the design or the copy (words).

You can also save links to web pages to use for swipe copy. Just be aware that the web page might disappear one day. That’s why I prefer to save to pdf. You will likely lose some of the formatting but at least you will have the web copy.

Now keep in mind I am not suggesting that you plagiarize someone else’s copy.

I am suggesting that you analyze the format and design to inspire your own work.

I am suggesting that you look at the length of the copy, keywords and structure of the words for inspiration.

Swipe files give you a jumping off point.

Getting Started with Swipe Files

What kind of swipe files should you create? It depends on what projects you plan to work over the next few months or next few years.

Just get started in collecting samples both online and offline.

Then, whenever you start a new marketing project, pull out your swipe file and get started.

What is the next marketing project you plan to work on?

Why not take 15 minutes to start a swipe file now?

Please comment below to let me know what kind of swipe file you want to create.

Rick Cooper
Online Marketing and Social Media Trainer

14 comments

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  1. Andrea Reynolds

    I had heard of swipe files, but didn’t really know what they were. I wish they were called Idea Files, as “swipe” conveys the idea of taking without permission. I do appreciate that you urged the reader not to plagiarize. Perhaps you could mention that copyright infringement is a federal offense.

    Anyway, I was thinking this could be a chapter of your next book. And my “swipe” file is a big file of news releases I have written over 40 years for myself and clients. Some were a complete waste of time, but some got mentions in Time, Success and Entrepreneur, while still others got clients onto national television. I also have collections of small brochures and tips booklets (pamphlet size).

    1. Rick Cooper

      Thanks for sharing Andrea! I love your suggestion of calling this an Idea File. How clever!

      I don’t know whether most marketers claim copyright on their marketing copy but you certainly don’t want to be perceived as a copycat. You should have a unique message communicated in your voice.

  2. Fay

    Great idea! I have started doing this but need a better system for saving them on my computer so I think I’ll start to call it a swipe file–and save it all there! Never thought about doing that with magazines though. I could start tearing out the pages of the ads I like and the copy I like. I can see how this would save a person so much time–just make your creation a compilation of all the ideas you like. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront of my mind again!

    1. Rick Cooper

      You’re welcome Fay! I think small business owners often make the process of marketing too difficult. You can learn a lot by looking at what other marketers do. To me, the whole grocery store is one big swipe file. I like looking at packaging for inspiration. I pay attention to colors, fonts and other other graphic elements!

  3. James Pereira

    I’ve been swiping files for the last 10 years and it has been a great help in giving me ideas to adopt or adapt.

    I use SnagIt to scan websites and emails.

    For physical pages, I use a mobile app to scan them.

    1. Rick Cooper

      Excellent James! Glad to hear the strategy has worked well for you. And thanks for sharing your own tips!

  4. Gail

    I find swipe files very useful, but haven’t created one in a long while. Thanks for the reminder of how valuable they can be, and for the nudge to get started again.

    1. Rick Cooper

      You’re welcome Gail! Glad to hear it. Just get started with something easy and build upon it.

  5. Carl Holzwarth

    Great idea!! I have used a similar method in the past, but didn’t know it was called a swipe file. I’m going to start collecting examples of different media and keeping them in a separate file drawer for future reference. Thank you again for the inspiration.

    1. Rick Cooper

      You’re welcome Carl! Yes, keep it simple and just get started!

  6. Elizabeth Clark

    Swipe files are fantastic and have saved me hundreds of hours over the years. The biggest use for me is having that framework to place my own copywriting on. Thank you for sharing some great swipe file ideas with us, Rick.

    1. Rick Cooper

      You’re welcome Elizabeth! Glad you got some great insights from my post!

  7. Brenda Adelman

    Really great advice. I’m going to use it!

    1. Rick Cooper

      Thanks Brenda! Make it so!

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