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Beware the 5-figure Swipe Writers

A few years ago I met a client who was afraid he’d been ripped off.

He’d already paid a ‘Hot Shot A-list’ copywriter $10,000 for a sales letter – and it made him…


“The letter had this little money bag on the top,” he said.

“Can I see the letter?” I replied.

It began like so:

Dear Friend,

As you can see I’ve attached a money bag to the top of this letter. Why have I done this? Actually, there are 2 reasons:

I stopped reading.

“Have I been ripped off?” he asked.

I nodded.

The letter was a $multi-million mailing from the marketing giant Gary Halbert. You can read the actual letter here.

This ‘A-list copywriter’ was actually a template swiper. He’d taken Halbert’s letter and inserted the client’s service into the gaps. The reasoning behind this noob tactic is simple.

“The idea made Gary Halbert millions…

…So why wouldn’t it work everywhere else?”

Well it’s simple.

Halbert’s letter was written for a completely different market and set of appeals. And this was 2, maybe 3 decades ago, when the market was in a very different place.

Gary Halbert was writing to wannabe entrepreneurs looking to set up a business on their kitchen table.

This poor client, on the other hand, was selling to restaurant owners.

The problems, fears, hopes and desires for these 2 groups couldn’t be more different.

It’s like throwing a Ferrari body over a VW bug. If you do not understand the inner working behind why something was successful, you cannot hope to persuade anyone.

And if you’re hiring a copywriter yourself…

You should always be wary of enormous price tags

Yes, it’s true:

There are many A-list copywriters who command deservedly high-fees and earn their money with results.

These writers know their stuff and are in high demand.

But there are other freelance writers who hear about these marketing top-guns making $10,000, $20,000 for a letter. And they think, “Hell. That looks easy. I can do that too.”

And then they start swiping.

These are the people to be wary of.

Now, having said all this…

If you’re a copywriter, I DO suggest putting together a ‘swipe file’ of proven ads

However, don’t use it for quick-and-dirty templates.

Use it to study.

Here are 2 things to do as you read these ads:

  1. Pay attention to your inner emotions: The best ads make you feel something. They make you want the offer. Do you feel that pull? Okay, now stop. Pause. Ask yourself: ‘Why do I want this product? What emotions have been triggered?’
  2. Focus on your market first: You should never start a project by looking through a swipe file for inspiration. Turn to your market instead. What websites do they visit? What articles do they comment on? What do they say on forums? etc.

Now, imagine yourself sitting opposite this prospect. What would you tell them first?

No swipe files allowed. Think. You can do this.

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