You want to write amazing content and successfully market your business, you really do. But it’s just so hard to come up with good ideas and to come up with them consistently.

Been there.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, and I still have serious marketing/writing envy at times. Sometimes it feels like everybody has better ideas than me, and how could that be?!

A teacher of mine once said, “Want to become a better writer? Start by reading more.” 

Huh? The confusion on my little twelve year old face was rich, I’m sure. But really, what did she mean by that?

Twelve years and a blog later, and it finally makes sense. We naturally have a writing style that is unique to each of us, and a lot of what we write ends up having the same tone of voice and it can seem redundant. Enter the Swipe File.

Swipe File

A Swipe File is a collection of writing and marketing pieces that you keep for reference to help you study and learn other writing/marketing techniques. It is simply a tool that can be used for reference when you’re having a hard time coming up with content or when you want a template for putting together your own writing/marketing pieces.

Your Swipe File can have anything you want in it…blog posts, landing pages, emails, pages ripped from airline magazines (true story), seriously anything. The vast majority of my Swipe File actually comes from material that is outside of my niche. I just built a house and have been getting all kinds of glorious junk mail, and just the other day, I received an [unsolicited] direct mail piece from a lawn care service. While I don’t need lawn care at the moment, I LOVED the mailer itself. It was an oversized postcard that really stood out in my pile of mail, it had a clean design that wasn’t too busy, and the headline read “Because you have enough to do already” with a photo of a stack of moving boxes.

Genius piece.

This company targeted new homeowners and played up the problem of being completely overwhelmed when first moving into a new home. They also offered a solution to the problem of being overwhelmed by ever-so-generously offering their lawn care services. Obviously, I do not own a lawn care business at the moment, and I have no plan of owning one in the future, but I loved this concept and the piece overall – so into my Swipe File it went.

Some other examples of Swipe File items I’ve collected:

  • An email from U-Haul with the subject line “What excuses have you heard so far?” and a photo of a phone with messages (assumingly from a friend) giving excuses as to why they wouldn’t be helping this person move. Again, addressing a problem and offering solutions with their moving supplies.
  • A page ripped out of an American Airlines in-flight magazine (told you this was a true story): This was an ad for the company Regus, which offers rentable office space. It was an all black page with the word “senseless” in bold, white letters. In slightly smaller text at the bottom, it read “55% of office space is empty. Right now.” This ad played on the problem of wasting money on office space that businesspeople don’t use regularly enough, and offering a solution of their rentable office spaces that are “only the space you need.”
  • Various emails from all types of companies: it may be an email from my energy company, Domino’s, my dentist…doesn’t matter. Chances are, if the subject line was catchy enough to make me want to open it, I’m putting it in my Swipe File…because email marketing is HUGE and half the battle is coming up with subject lines that make people want to actually read your emails.

What a Swipe File is NOT:

Your Swipe File is meant to be a resource to give you ideas and inspiration, NOT group of items for you to plagiarize from. This is a big reason that the majority of the items I add to my Swipe File are from outside my niche, to avoid any and all temptation of plagiarizing. If you want to take an idea that intrigued you and transform it into a new piece that fits your business, that is awesome. But taking something, copying it word for word and sticking your name/logo on it is not cool and not the purpose of having a Swipe File.

Some may argue that this is a way to steal ideas from others and use them as your own. In my opinion, there is a BIG difference between stealing work and using work as inspiration. Athletes training to get better will oftentimes watch videos of other athletes and mimic their moves. Artists may draw inspiration from other artists’ work, and even practice painting their work in order to sharpen their skills. A Swipe File is meant to help you learn from others that you admire based on their work. It’s all about seeing something that intrigued you, finding out why it intrigued you, and harnessing those intriguing qualities in your own work.

Different Forms of Swipe Files:

Much like your content, your Swipe File can be whatever you want it to be! Some people prefer to be paperless and others like hard copies of everything…it’s all about what works best for you. I actually have several different Swipe Files, one being an email folder where I save all intriguing emails that I receive, the second being a binder where I keep mail pieces or electronic pieces that I’ve printed to make notes on, and lastly…PINTEREST! Pinterest is basically one big Swipe File when you think about it. You save pins that are useful to you and/or get your attention in some way. Pinterest is an extremely valuable tool for organizing your ideas because you can create as many boards as you want for different topics, and you can even make them private if you don’t want them to be seen by someone other than you.

What is a Swipe File and Why Do I Need One? The Recap:

  • Swipe File: a grouping of writing/marketing pieces that intrigued you in some way, meant for referencing when you are in need of an idea.
  • Meant to give you INSPIRATION, not material to plagiarize.
  • Can be stored in a physical folder or binder, online, in your emails or on a site such as Pinterest.
  • Can include any type of content! Magazine pages, direct mail pieces, emails, pins, photos of logos/advertisements, etc.

Freebie time! Get the most out of your Swipe File with this FREE cheat sheet! (If you’re already a Resource Library Subscriber, it can be downloaded straight from there).

Want more tips and resources to help you market your business? Get access to my Free Resource Library below!