Copywriting Shortcuts for faster sales letters

By Travis Lee

Shortcuts are critical to not only getting effective copy written, but written quickly and efficiently. There are numerous ways to speed up the process.

The best shortcut you should have is a big, organized swipe file. I’m a HUGE believer in swipe files.   A swipe file is your collection of tested and proven advertising and sales letters. Mine takes up two giant drawers in a file cabinet, all organized by different topics, media (direct mail, print, postcards etc.), and industry.   I have another third drawer that is not organized, and needs to be at some point.

Just a few of the categories I separate my swipe into are headlines, offers, guarantees, deadlines, articles, ads selling products, ads selling services, ads for live events and boot camps, long form sales letters, postcards, I even print out websites I like and put them in the files! There are about 35 in all.

Here’s something you don’t want to miss: Most of the goods ads you see are good because they did LOTS of things right.   Good headline, good offer, etc. I’ll make multiple copies of the piece and put a copy in each folder. Sometimes, for long form sales letters, I’ll simply copy the one page hat has what I liked, and put it in the folder. It’s a great way to stay organized, and still have all you material in one spot.

The quickest way to grow you swipe file is to constantly be on the lookout for the good marketing you see.   Read the newspaper and magazines.   Watch infomercials (seriously).   Subscribe to tips like this that hand you many items worthy of your swipe file.

And the absolute best way is to study what arrives in your mailbox. Sign up for every mailing list you can, and study what comes in your mailbox. Just a few I suggest are Disney, J. Peterman, charities and non-profits, politicians and businesses using smart, direct response marketing (not big, dumb Madison Avenue marketing).

Here’s another technique I love.   Turn letters into ads, and ads into letters. Here’s an example. We’ve run an ad in a niche magazine for years (the product sold doesn’t matter). It’s been successful for years with a few tweaks every few months to keep it fresh.   Since the ad was successful, we decided to turn the ad into a sales letter and direct mail campaign. We then purchased the subscriber list from the magazine.

The results were good (good enough to warrant the letter). If you have an ad that works in a publication, consider turning it into a sales letter and send the letter to the readers of the publication. This can also work the other way.   If a direct mail letter is working, find a publication the prospects read, and create an ad for it. You’ll essentially get two performing ads for the work of one.

The next shortcut is one I really like. Record the presentation of someone who sells the product or service really well. Then, have it transcribed and use it as the skeleton of your sales letter or ad.   In some cases, you may be your best sales person. Just record your presentations and you have a great start to an ad.

I did this when creating a sales letter for the point of sale computer systems we sell at one of our businesses, American Retail Supply. We have a VERY good sales rep who sells the systems and I wanted to create a book (long form sales letter) for prospects. So I asked the rep to call me as a prospect, and give me the sales pitch. I recorded it, had it transcribed, and within a week I had a complete sales letter written. This would have taken several weeks on my own!

This last one is my favorite, and that’s (ethically) swipe and deploy (S&D). This should come as no shock to you, since I often share letters from various industries in this tip.  This is by far the quickest and easiest short cut I know of. The best ideas to S&D are from outside of your industry. While there may be some OK marketing in your industry, it’s much smarter to look at what’s working in other industries and take the 80-99% of the transferable parts and make them work in your business. To be really good and S&D marketing, it helps to have a huge swipe file as well.

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