A swipe file is a document that you refer to for headlines and ideas when you are experiencing marketer’s/writer’s block.
Swipe files are great time-savers and money-makers for any business, but it’s often hard to find ones that fit your specific market or industry. You’re often left with example frameworks that you have to fit to your business. By luck, you may find one or two that work specifically for you.
If you are a home contractor or in the home service industry, we’ve made the search a lot easier by choosing the business we know best — Home Services — and delivering specific headlines you can use for your own marketing materials, such as sales pages, presentations, blogs, and social media posts.
Although we have chosen to focus on three industries — HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical — this swipe file will help anyone seeking to simplify and speed up their advertising and headline creation process. Just make sure that the rest of the content is packed with useful and well-written content or you risk losing trust and respectability.
If you are the type to rebel against formulas, keep in mind something John Francis Tighe, a fellow direct-response copywriter, once said:
“We are not in the business of being original. We are in the business of reusing things that work.”
That doesn’t mean you just steal headlines with abandon. Use what works, but apply it to your product or service in a way that’s relevant, memorable, persuasive, and compelling. Lean toward simple, concise and straightforward messages over clever, wordy and obscure ones.
Click here for a Copywriting Guide filled with useful, actionable advice.
SWIPE FILE HEADLINES
for Home Services (HVAC, Plumbing & Electrical)
Here is a partial collection of our swipe file, organized by category (categories come from The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly) and industry:
1. Ask a question in the headline.
HVAC: “Why Suffer Through Another Summer?”
Plumbing: “Why Are My Pipes Making Loud Noises?”
Electrical: “Is My Electrical Panel Safe?”
You can also ask a simple question like “Need an Electrician?” or “Need a Plumber?”
2. Tie-in to current events.
HVAC: “What the R-22 Refrigerant Phase-Out Means for Homeowners”
Plumbing: “Time to Think About Another Kind of Leak”
Electrical: “Police Say HD Security Cameras Are Catching Criminals”
The world wants news — information that will flag interest and stir emotions. Monitor the web for interesting new content with Google Alerts. You can get HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and other related news delivered straight to your inbox.
3. Create a new terminology.
HVAC: “Defeat ‘Killer Germs’ with Revolutionary New Air Cleaner”
Plumbing: “Instantly Get Rid of ‘Plumb Scum’”
Electrical: “’Power Parasites Are Costing You $300+ a Year!”
Neologisms are can be hard to come up with, but can help you avoid clichés and introduce a new level of mystery and intrigue to your readers. Click here for WikiHow article on how to create a made up word.
4. Give news using the words “new,” “introducing,” or “announcing.”
HVAC: “New Technology Shakes Up HVAC Industry”
Plumbing: “Announcing Revolutionary Waterproofing Membrane”
Electrical: “Introducing Home Automation and Smart Home Technologies”
One of the best ways to generate click-worthy and viral content is to come out with “news” before your competitor does. Relevance sells.
5. Give the reader a command – tell him to do something.
HVAC: “Schedule Your Tune-Up Today!”
Plumbing: “Flush Your Water Heater and Inspect Your Anode Rod”
Electrical: “Prevent a Home Fire! Inspect Your Electrical System”
Tell your readers what to do. You can use phrases like:
- “you should…”
- “get excited…”
- “think about…”
- “tell everyone…”
- “attend this…”
- “you will discover…”
- “read this…”
- “use this information…”
- “schedule service…”
- “place your order…”
6. Use numbers and statistics.
HVAC: “One in Four Married Couples Argue Over Temperature Control”
Plumbing: “Average Household Loses Over 10,000 Gallons Every Year”
Electrical: “65% of All Home Fire Deaths Result from No Working Smoke Detectors”
Increase the power and effect of your numbers and statistics by making them as recent as possible. You can also use your own numbers and case studies, such as “99% of Our Customers Prefer Soft Water to Hard Water.” Technical details and data demonstrate expertise and build trust.
Some home service companies offer some sort of deal like “On Time or We Pay You $49.” If you have great Yelp or Google ratings, you can say something like “Over One Hundred 5-Star Ratings on Yelp.”
7. Promise the reader useful information.
HVAC: “Battle of the Thermostats”
Plumbing: “Guide to a Healthy Lawn”
Electrical: “Encyclopedia of Lighting”
Entice your reader by promising a wealth of useful information — and then, deliver.
8. Highlight your offer.
HVAC: “Simplify Life. Automate Your Home Maintenance for $14/Month”
Plumbing: “Any Drain Cleared — Only $99”
Electrical: “Electrical Safety Inspection — Is Your Peace of Mind Worth $89?”
Sometimes the simple approach of stating your offer sells best.
9. Tell a story.
HVAC: “3 Injured in Boiler Explosion”
Plumbing: “The Story of 3 Plumbers”
Electrical: “Breaker Boxes Blamed for Starting House Fire”
Stories sell. Just make sure they are grounded in truth.
10. Make a recommendation.
HVAC: “Save Money and Energy by Switching to a Programmable Thermostat”
Plumbing: “Prevent Frozen Pipes Before They Burst”
Electrical: “Improve Home Safety and Security with Landscape Lighting”
Generate sales and interest by telling your readers what to do. Start your recommendations with a strong verb that demands action.
11. State a benefit.
HVAC: “Easy and Convenient Service — On Your Schedule”
Plumbing: “Better Tasting Food and Water with Whole-Home Filtration System”
Electrical: “Protect All Your Electronics and Save Money with Whole-Home Surge Protection”
Features describe the product or service in factual terms while benefits highlight user experience and the benefits that come from the features. For example, a Ticonderoga pencil is a yellow cylinder surrounded by a graphite and clay core, with a point on one end and an eraser on the other.
Benefits of a Ticonderoga pencil include crisp and clear lines, convenience, comfort, beauty, quality, etc. Mike Rowe, known for his series Dirty Jobs, got his start as an on-air host for QVC. He landed the job after ad-libbing a sales pitch for a Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 Soft pencil:
“Unlike those completely round pencils that press hard into the web of your hand, the Ticonderoga’s circumference is comprised of eight, gently planed surfaces, which dramatically reduce fatigue, and make writing for extended periods an absolute delight.”
For a practical demonstration of features versus benefits, read the full account of Mike Rowe’s 1990 QVC audition on his Facebook page.
12. Make a comparison.
HVAC: “What’s the Difference Between Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers?”
Plumbing: “Is It Time for America to Embrace Japanese Style Toilets?”
Electrical: “Battle of the Bulbs: Incandescent vs CFL vs LED”
Making comparisons between different services and products does a great job at selecting your specific audience and promising a reward for the reader.
13. Use words that help the reader visualize.
HVAC: “Temperature Control in the Palm of Your Hand”
Plumbing: “Rats and Mice Can Swim Up Your Toilet”
Electrical: “ZAP — When Lightning Strikes!”
The mind thinks in terms of images. Create word pictures to paint a picture in someone’s mind. The headline gives a clear image, while the rest of the copy adds to it piece by piece until the image is complete. Don’t be afraid to use metaphors.
For example, if you are talking about a gas furnace, you might choose sensory-rich words to describe your product:
With AFUE ratings as high as 98.5%, our new modulating gas furnaces are clean and energy-efficient. Perfectly aligned and quiet as the sun, the nest of blue flames creates complete combustion.
Modulating (multi-stage) valves configure themselves to a quiet, low-fire setting unless more fire is needed. No soot. No wasted energy. Just beautiful blue flames in a stainless steel frame.
Self-configuring gas valves. More options. Near perfect heat combustion and distribution. It’s going to be hard to improve this heating machine.
Inject life, and fun, into your copy. If you don’t smile, laugh, or have an emotional response, do you really think your readers will? Appeals to emotion win over appeals to intellect every time.
14. Use a testimonial.
HVAC: “Quick, On-Time and Efficient. I’m glad I called.”
Plumbing: “Complicated job expertly completed. Will call again for future plumbing needs.”
Electrical: “He explained everything to me and even found a huge fire hazard in our home!”
Make sure you use real testimonials. Nobody likes being lied to. Just dig through all of your online reviews and testimonials, find a few stand-out lines, and stick them in your headline (or copy).
15. Offer a free special report, catalog, or booklet.
HVAC: “100 Ways to Save Energy and Money at Home ”
Plumbing: “Waterproofing Guide: Understanding and Fixing Moisture Problems ”
Electrical: “FREE Ask-Me-Anything Electrician eBook”
A free report, ebook, guide, or other resource is a great motivator for gathering emails and business. Whatever it is, it should provide some sort of benefit — pleasure, profit, etc.
16. State the selling proposition directly and plainly.
HVAC: “Schedule Service Before Noon for Same-Day Repair”
Plumbing: “Any Drain Cleaned for $99 — Or It’s FREE”
Electrical: “Adding a New Light and Switch? Get a FREE Dimmer Upgrade!”
You may want to combine your proposition with a sense of urgency by providing a countdown clock on your landing page. Urgency and scarcity are two psychological triggers that always seem to work. It’s all about consequences. Combine FOMO with a clear, relevant, and trustworthy ad, and your conversions will skyrocket.
17. Arouse reader curiosity.
HVAC: “Now Is the Time”
Plumbing: “The Case of the Phantom Flush”
Electrical: “World on Wireless”
Arousing emotions and curiosity is the number one job of the headline. Think Gawker, Buzzfeed, and Upworthy with their headlines “It’s NOT What You Think,” “You Won’t Believe What Happened Next,” “It Will Surprise You.”
While “clickbait” headlines receive a lot of criticism, if you deliver great content, there is generally no problem with them. “Clickbait” is just a new term for an old idea — psychological ploys that rely on human curiosity to attract eyeballs. Don’t be afraid to take notes from tabloids, entertainment companies, and “fake news.”
18. Promise to reveal a secret.
HVAC: “The Thing Most HVAC Technicians Will Never Tell You”
Plumbing: “For Brighter Skin and Clothes, We Have the Solution”
Electrical: “Solar Power Secrets Exposed!”
As with any “clickbaity” headline, you want to protect your credibility by serving up the goods as promised. The secret is the bait goading your reader on. The reader wants the thing you promised, so make sure you reveal it in the copy. The trick is how to reveal the secret in a way that will lead to a sale.
19. Be specific.
HVAC: “Indoor Air Purifier Removes 99.9% of Airborne Contaminants”
Plumbing: “Reverse Osmosis Water System Removes 99.99% of Bacteria and Viruses”
Electrical: “Instant Image Alerts on Your Phone When Someone Approaches Your Door”
Describe your product or service with such exactness that your audience can’t help but wanting to try it. Appeal to common motivations and desires such as comfort, survival, pride/duty, pleasure, status/power, and love and belonging.
If you are unfamiliar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you may find it helpful for understanding what motivates people:
20. Target a particular type of reader.
HVAC: “Seeking Skilled HVAC Service Technicians”
Plumbing: “Plumbing Problems for New Homeowners”
Electrical: “Nursing Homes Are Now Required to Have Generators”
Know your audience and appeal directly to them. Now you have their attention.
21. Add a time element.
HVAC: “Constant Communication from On-Time Technicians”
Plumbing: “Call Now — No Visit Fee and Free Quotes!”
Electrical: “Lower Rates. Faster Repairs. Open 24/7.”
Highlight the advantages of your company over your competitor. Then get them to take action.
22. Stress cost savings, discounts, or value.
HVAC: “Get Your Coupon Book with Over $2,000 in Savings!”
Plumbing: “Every Sump Pump Purchase Comes with 3 Years Free Maintenance”
Electrical: “Lower Your Annual Electrical Bill By $200″
This is another example of a direct headline, one which states the proposition clearly and directly.
23. Use a “reasons-why” headline.
HVAC: “5 Reasons Why You Are Overpaying for Gas Heating”
Plumbing: “7 Reasons Why You Should Switch to Tankless Water Heating”
Electrical: “5 Reasons Why You Should Switch to LED Bulbs”
Follow “reasons-why” headlines with copy that highlights the benefits in a clear 1, 2, 3 fashion. The headline works to introduce simple bullet points and lists.
Other words that accomplish the same thing:
- “steps to…”
- “ways to…”
- “here’s how…”
24. Answer important questions about your product or service.
HVAC: “8 Questions to Ask Before Replacing Your HVAC System”
Plumbing: “Find the Right Plumber with These 4 Questions”
Electrical: “Frequently Asked Questions About Residential Solar Panels”
In addition to providing specific answers to specific questions, consider having a FAQ page on your website. People visit your website for information, so give them the content that will help them make a better, more informed decision.
25. Stress the value of your premiums.
HVAC: “Order Today and We’ll Waive the Dispatch Fee”
Plumbing: “Save $300 When You Buy Any Water Heater and Water Softener”
Electrical: “Free Whole-Home Surge Protection with Purchase of Any Generator ”
Rewards, bonuses, and freebies are always appreciated. If you do have an attractive offer, make sure it’s front and center.
26. Help the reader achieve a goal.
HVAC: “Increase Family Happiness and Health with Better Indoor Air”
Plumbing: “Sink into the Bathtub of Your Dreams”
Electrical: “Boost Your Mood with the Right Light”
Ask yourself, “Would you be happier, healthier, or richer by doing this?” Appeal to selfish interests and remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
27. Make a seemingly contradictory statement or promise.
HVAC: “Lower Your Home By 10 Degrees — Without Touching the Thermostat”
Plumbing: “Get Healthier, More Luxurious Skin and Hair — Without Any Products”
Electrical: “You’re Still Using Energy — Even When Devices Are Turned Off”
These types of headlines are unique and useful. Ask yourself, “What does someone gain after reading the copy?” and “What does someone lose by not reading?” Appeal to curiosity and self-interest by offering clear benefits and information in the copy.
Learn more about the functions and strategies of headlines here.
We suggest that you use Evernote or some other system for organizing your swipe files. That way, you can easily reference them if you ever get stuck or need an idea.
Headline Generation Process
Here is a headline generation process that works for us. You may find a different approach more effective, such as writing the body copy first and then finding a headline that fits later.
1. Brainstorm a list of words.
If you are given a product or service to sell, such as Aeroseal Duct Sealing, write down a list of words that relate:
New / Introducing / Effective / Beneficial / Productivity / Equipment / Indoor Air Quality / Air Leak / Hole / Affordable / Energy Savings / Utility Costs / Comfort / Performance / Efficiency / Reliability / Cozy / Technology / Ductwork / Renovation / Upgrade / Humidity / Dust / Allergies / Breakthrough / HVAC / Science / Sealing / NASA / Save
2. Write Down Headlines Using Swipe File Categories
While you are brainstorming words, you may come up with a headline or two. Write them down as they come to you. When the word list is done, mix and match the words to create as many headline as you can. You’ll be able to use some of your discarded headlines for bullet points, subheadings, or sentences in the body copy.
Here are some headlines that could work:
- “Aeroseal Duct Sealing Reduces Energy Loss by up to 40%!”
- “Revolutionary Air Sealing Technology Improves Health and Productivity”
- “Get Rid of Hot and Cold Spots with NASA Technology”
- “Fix Decades of Discomfort in One Day with Aeroseal”
- “Feel the Air. Feel the Savings.”
Don’t get stuck or discouraged. If you can’t find the perfect headline, start writing the body copy and come back to it later. As you begin writing and organizing your notes, a brilliant headline might just pop into your head.
Powerful Attention-Getting Words
How to / Why / Quick / Easy / Bargain / Last Chance / Guarantee / Results / Proven / Save / Useful / Alarming / Gain / Prepare / Make / Enhance / Beautify
Use this list of 500+ Powerful Words For Writing Emotional Headlines from CoSchedule:
For more persuasive words that command a response, check these 1000+ Power Words from Writtent.
- Google List of Swipe File PDFs
- Blog Post Headline Formulas
- Copywriting Guide
- How Content Marketing Is Replacing Extinct SEO Tactics
- Expanded Text Ads Update
Give us a call today for your free marketing consultation: 1-877-311-5695
We’ll assess your current marketing efforts and provide you with a custom walk-through of our services.