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The Case Against Templates And Swipe Files

Do you know what one of the biggest turn-offs when reading a sales letter is?

Knowing what the writer is going to say next.

It suppresses engagement. It dampens curiosity. And I believe it’s probably the #1 reason prospects hit the back button.

However, this email is not about being boring, the #1 sin of copywriters.

This email is about the structure of your copy, how you SEQUENCE what you are going to write.

Here’s the big challenge:

I know there are TONS of templates out there.

Copywriters’ swipe files bulge with ideas.

Unfortunately, the urge for copywriters to take the easy path and follow the flow others have laid out is almost irresistible.

Why? Well it converted, didn’t it?

Maybe so. But it’s also a risk. A big risk, if you want YOUR copy to convert. It’s perhaps a bigger risk than trying something new and different.

I first learned this years ago collaborating with another A-list copywriter.

He’d write something and when I took a look at it, I was amazed how his copy meandered.

It didn’t take a straight line path to the buy button at all.

But you’d have to admit, it was still a thing of beauty to read.

In the beginning, I would “reorganize” his copy, make it more logical by grouping similar ideas and information together.

But looking back, I think it was a mistake.

I hate to admit it now but it killed engagement… perverted the naturally authentic flow… even though it was more logical and to my liking.

It took me a while, but when I finally realized what was happening, it was an epiphany to me.

The circuitous route was a far more beautiful thing to read.

It kinda reminds of a clip from the old Howard Stern movie:

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.
Pig Vomit: How can that be?
Researcher: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”
Pig Vomit: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?
Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.
Pig Vomit: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?
Researcher: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Applied to copywriting, that conversation makes a strong case against templates and swipe files.

Besides being the self-proclaimed “King of All Media,” Howard was the king of unpredictability, especially if you hated him.

Now am I saying abandon templates and swipe files?

No, what I’m really saying is IMPROVISE.

It’s kinda like listening to rock music. There’s a point where the lead guitarist, rather than repeating the same riff, takes off in another direction.

So I encourage you not to be afraid of trying something new, something different, something you may have never seen others do before.

I’ll bet your copy will ooze with originality, unpredictability and variety.

And I strongly suspect engagement will improve.

You may even surprise yourself. And if you do that, chances are, you may surprise the reader.

Talk soon,


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