The heaping pile o' mail

I was starting to write an article for this newsletter about benefits versus features, when I realized I needed some good examples to demonstrate my point. I turned to my “swipe” file to pull out marketing materials that I’ve saved over the years, when it occurred to me…

Does everyone have a swipe file? Because you should.

What is a swipe file?

Brochures, postcards, flyers, direct (aka “junk”) mail, even email spam all go into my swipe file. It’s nothing fancy, just a plain accordion file, and it takes very little time to maintain. Read the piece then throw it in the file to save for later use.

I save almost every piece of marketing material I receive, and I use my swipe file all the time when creating materials for my clients. Virtually all copywriters maintain swipe files, and so should you.

Swipe files let you become an instant expert

For example, I have many newsletters – both print and electronic format – in my swipe file, which came in handy when I decided to do my own e-newsletter. I carefully studied the newsletters I had saved; what did I like about each one, and why? What didn’t work for me, and why? I became an instant expert in newsletters; studying what other people had already done brought me up to speed quickly. It’s an effortless way to learn a lot about many aspects of marketing.

Swipe files let you keep tabs on the competition

A great benefit of reading junk mail is that you can watch what your competition is doing. Get yourself on their mailing lists, clip out their newspaper ads, or hang on to their flyers. And save it all! Put everything in your swipe file, and the next time you’re working on your own marketing materials, pull out the competition’s information and study it.

Are they hitting all of your customers’ key concerns? Do their products have the same benefits/features as yours? Focus on any areas where you and your competition do NOT overlap. This is your competitive advantage – the key message you must put in all your marketing materials – and you didn’t even need a high-priced consultant to figure it out!


Swipe files let you complete new projects more quickly

I hate wasting time. And when I’m working on a client project, I need to make every minute count. But sometimes beginning a project can be difficult when there are so many design and content decisions to make. Again, my swipe file helps me get my projects underway. For example, in my own case, as I studied the other e-newsletters in my swipe file, I developed a good picture in my head of the general format I wanted to use and how I wanted the content to sound, even if I hadn’t decided yet exactly what I would write.

Without my swipe file, had I been creating my own newsletter from scratch, I would have gotten bogged down in the minutiae and the project would have taken me twice as long to complete. This head start from my swipe file sped the whole writing process along.

What’s next on your marketing to-do list?

I’m considering adding the occasional postcard mailing to my marketing efforts. You all will naturally be the first to know when I do. So, as I’m deciding how to create my postcard, guess where I’ll look first? You got it – my swipe file.

What’s your next marketing project, and how can junk mail help you tackle it?