As a direct marketer, you face so many challenges in your job. Time, budgets, and creativity are three big ones.

But what if I told you there is a solution to all three: a swipe file?

What’s a swipe file? Let me explain. 

A swipe file is a collection of advertising and direct marketing creative materials that you can tap for use in your career or workplace.

Maybe you focus on direct mail exclusively, or maybe you use it as part of an omnichannel strategy. Either way, figuring out how to grab a customer’s attention, hold their interest, build a case, and then, trigger a response is not easy. Not even for pros with decades of experience.

No matter how successful your direct mail is, you can always improve your ROI by focusing on creative elements that work better in driving response for your campaign.

You need ideas for:

  1. Formats
  2. Designs
  3. Letters
  4. Brochures
  5. Headlines
  6. Images & graphics

Sometimes a minor change or two will make a major difference!

The Value of Who’s Mailing What!

Who’s Mailing What! – the world’s most comprehensive source of direct mail – was founded by Denny Hatch nearly 40 years ago exactly for the purpose of providing creative inspiration for direct marketing professionals.

Hatch attended a Direct Mail Writer’s Guild luncheon in New York where the featured speaker was Dorothy Kerr, Circulation Director of U.S. News & World Report. Her biggest tip for attendees:

“If you want to be successful in direct mail, you have to know who’s mailing what and track which mailings come in over and over again. These are the controls—the hugely profitable money-makers that are making marketers rich. Save them, study them and “STEAL SMART!”

Who’s Mailing What! gives you instant access to literally thousands of letters and other direct mail efforts in dozens of industry categories collected since 1984. With this base, and hundreds more added every month, you’ll never run out of ideas for your own mail.

Who’s Mailing What! is your bank of marketing ideas. Whenever you …

  • Need inspiration or fresh ideas
  • Hit a creative roadblock
  • Get a last-minute request for a direct mail campaign from a client
  • Want to know how a competing brand is marketing
  • Require a crash course in direct mail for a specific industry category, technique, format, or company

You can make a “withdrawal” any time by logging in to the site, searching on industry verticals or companies, and see what’s been mailed.

Save Time & Money

Whether you’re pitching for a new account or a new and improved approach for a current direct mail campaign, you might be working from a blank slate. Having a storehouse of direct mail ideas at your fingertips gives you a shortcut in your planning process. As you work on preparing your creative brief, your Who’s Mailing What! swipe file will save you valuable time if you already have ideas on hand.

The saying is true: time is money. With ideas at hand from your swipe file, you’ll spend less time developing a direct mail campaign. And when you see what ideas have been tried by others – the successes and the failures – you’re buying the experience of other marketers, and improving the ROI of your own efforts.

Find Ideas

Sometimes a great idea can inspire your own great idea. And yours may be nothing like the inspiration. We often need a little creative kick!

A good swipe file can be a wellspring of creativity in so many ways.

Copy, designs, formats, headlines, calls-to-action, letters, brochures … you name it.

By looking at and downloading actual, real-life creative samples for yourself, you can apply any insights to your mail. Then you can decide if or how to incorporate or adapt them.

For example, if you mail in only 1 category or subcategory, look to another sector for ideas. Otherwise your direct mail package will look, read, and sound like every other one. Looking at other, maybe very different types of mail makes it more likely that you’ll come up with an original approach – one that stands out in the customer’s mailbox.

As for your competitors … how are they selling their products or services? What are their price points? Copy highlights? Design elements? Formats used?

When you know those answers, you can make an informed choice about how to proceed.

Research-based ideas from actual mail pieces will help you reconceptualize your marketing efforts and hone your writing and design skills
-real breakthroughs
-refer to when needed 24/7. It’s like your rainy-day fund.

A Big Caution

A few things to remember about “stealing smart”:

Having or using a swipe file is not lifting and passing off lengthy, word-for-word selections of copy, or a proprietary design or format as your own. That would be plagiarism, and it is unethical.

Instead, it’s about adapting an idea for use in your own marketing. There’s room for improvement in every mail campaign, no matter how successful it’s been.

Also, not every successful idea can be plugged into and work anywhere. Many mail pieces have elements that function pretty well together as an integrated unit. With A/B testing, you can discover what really works in motivating prospective customers and buyers.

To quote the late marketer Malcolm Decker:

Two rules and two rules only exist in marketing: Rule No. 1: Test everything. Rule No. 2: See Rule No. 1.

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