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Master Class Part 1: Get Your Tools, Resources & Swipe File


Well hello there! This project has been in the works for some time. We wanted to try something a little different with our blog posts, and here it is: A 5-part Master Class. One made specifically for sales professionals looking to improve their copywriting skills.

So each week, for the next five weeks, we're going to roll out the next part. Right here on this very blog. And here's what you'll learn if you keep coming back:

In this Master Class, we will teach you how to…
  • Write email subject lines that are unique, specific, and helpful to your prospects.
  • Keep your emails out of the Gmail promotions tab, or worse, the spam folder.
  • Construct a high-performing lead magnet that works in getting your prospects’ attention, time, and email address.

Sound good? 

Great. Let's dive right in with the first two steps. 

We encourage you to follow each step as you read each section. So bookmark this page and come back to it as often as needed. It's not a race. Read each step. Take action. Then come back and read the next one. 

(For better retention of the material we're going to share, we also recommend taking notes on what you're about to read with a pen and paper. Don't just take notes in a Google Doc. Google Doc's are great, but in terms of memory and recall, paper is best.)

Today's installment of the Master Class will focus on the tools and resources you will use to improve your headlines. 

Step 1: Get Your Tools & Resources Gathered In One Place

Refer to the links below as often as you can to immediately improve your emails and make sure they are delivered successfully. We recommend using Sprout to store important bookmarks related to your projects. Sprout is free and easy to use. Plus you won’t run the possibility of losing those bookmarks in the junk drawer that is everyone’s bookmark folder. So go and set up a free sprout account before proceeding.

Are you back? Alright. Here's the links we suggest you keep saved in Sprout for easy reference:
  • Portent’s Content Idea Generator:
    • Example: Let’s say you’re trying to reach prospects who have an interest in Generation Z. Using Generation Z as your keyword, Portent’s Content Idea Generator gave us the following suggestions:
      • 7 Movies with Unbelievable Scenes About Generation Z
      • The 16 Best Resources for Generation Z
      • Darth Vader's Guide to Generation Z

Now, I had to do some editing and clean-up with the title suggestions from Portent’s tools. It’s important to not just use whatever it gives you, which is great advice, BTW, when it comes to anything generated by Artificial Intelligence.artificial-intelligence-content-generationOptinMonster’s 700+ Power Words That Will Boost Your Conversions and 380 High Persuasion Power Words:

    • Examples of Power Words include: Astonishing, Myths, and Secrets. Let’s try those in a few subject lines using our keyword of Generation Z.
      • Astonishing Truths About Generation Z Revealed Inside
      • Myths and Facts about your Generation Z prospects
      • Generation Z Secrets To Pay Close Attention To in 2022
    • Word’s matter. Don’t let anyone tell you different. One or two power words in your subject line can make all the difference between a prospect opening your email or skipping it. That’s why they are called “power words”. Power words have the power to stop a reader and capture their attention.
  • Hubspot’s The Ultimate List of 394 Email Spam Trigger Words to Avoid in 2021:
    • Example of Spam Trigger Words that’ll get you banished to the promotions tab, or worse, the Spam Folder:
      • Meet Generation Z Singles in Your Area
      • Earn Extra Cash By Selling Steak Knives to Members of Gen Z
      • Are you a Member of Generation Z? There’s an incredible deal inside
    • Spam Trigger Words are the opposite of Power Words. Use them excessively and that will cause your email to skip the inbox every time and find itself in the Promotions Tab.
    • And emails in the promotions tab do not have a high probability of being opened. In fact, only 2 out of every ten emails sent are ever opened in Gmail. Using these Spam Trigger Words will guarantee you’re not one of those two.
  • Copyblogger’s 22 Best Headline Formulas That Work (With Templates):
    • If you’re not creative, and a lot of us aren’t, don’t worry. There are formulas you can use to do all the subject line writing work for you. Then you can just pop in the power words to upgrade what you have, and send away! 

      The following are three, of the 22, formulas Copyblogger recommends you use.
  • The Secret to (Blank) 
    • That’s what I mean by flow. Use the formula to get everything straight, but then say that subject line out loud and ask yourself, “Do I sound like a real person saying this out loud?” If you don’t, tweak it.
    •  You see this one a lot in your inbox. You might need to add a word in if it doesn’t flow properly, like The Secret to Generation Z doesn’t sound so good. But The Secret to Understanding Generation Z does. 
  • Get Rid of (Problem) Once and For All
    1. Get Rid Of Your Office Once and For All
    2. Get Rid of The 9-5 Schedule Once and For All
    3. Get Rid of Meetings Once and For All
    4. When you contact any prospect, you’re in the problem-solving business. If you don’t know what your customer’s top three problems are, you shouldn’t be sending them any sort of marketing messages. Using this formula, you would identify one of the customer’s problems in your subject line. So, in the workplace, Generation Z has the following problems: They want to work where they want, when they want, and how they want, which can often be asynchronous without any face to face meetings. 
    5. One other note about the Get Rid of (Problem) Once and For All is that these often present an opportunity to be re-written as How To Get Rid Of Your Problem Once and For All. I personally like How To better than Get Rid of (Problem), as it seems to convert better, but you’ll need to test this hypothesis on your specific audience to find out if I’m right or not.
  • Give Me [short time period] and I’ll Give You [blank]
    1. Give Me 15 Minutes & I’ll Give You 3 Keys to Understanding Gen Z
    2. Give Me 5 Minutes & I’ll Give You One Secret every HR Manager Should Know About Gen Z
    3. Give Me 10 Minutes & I’ll Give You
      • Just a word of caution: These headlines are great but also kind of long. 12 Words or less should always be your goal. 6 or 7 words is even better given the small amount of screen on a mobile device. So, that second headline I’d re-write to say Give Me 5 Minutes (prospect name), to Talk Gen Z with You.
    4. What makes this headline so powerful is the time element. If you can master the use of time in your subject line and sales copy, you’ll almost always convert a customer to a sale. This is because the time element creates a sense of urgency. I know. This may all sound obvious, but you’d be surprised to learn that it’s not as well known as you’d think. So, in this instance, offering someone a specific and measurable amount of time increases the likelihood that they’ll open your email. Think of it this way: If I ask you if you’re interested in being interviewed, you don’t know how long of a time commitment this will be. So there’s a chance you’ll say no. But if I answer that question before you think to ask it, the probability goes up that you’ll say yes to this request. By giving a specific and measurable amount of time, a prospect knows exactly what they’re getting when they’re getting it, and for how long from you. That open ended commitment just became something specific and measurable. Here are some examples that I would use in an email to HR managers interested in recruiting members of Gen Z:

Pro Tip: Re-Use your great subject lines as the first line of a LinkedIn status update to capture people’s attention on that platform.

Step 2: Start Building a Swipe File 

  • You read headlines multiple times throughout the day. Depending on whether or not you were looking at your phone before, during, or after this meeting, you’re going to see some headlines. Don’t just scroll through them. If a headline stops and makes you click or tap on it, write that headline down. If you saw a headline that you really liked, write that down too.

We use The Onion heavily as a teaching tool. They are masters of headline writing. Later in this Master Class, I’ll show you how to write headlines like they do, but for now, here are three headlines from The Onion  I recently added to my Swipe File inside of


The Swipe File will save you so much time and energy because what you’ll find is that sitting and generating a ton of headlines isn’t a scalable solution. You’re busy and have a lot of other things you need to do. That’s where the Swipe File comes in.

With a good swipe file, you can collect all the best headlines you’ve ever encountered, and you’ll have a deep library to borrow from for your own emails.

A word about “stealing” - As the cliche (or Picasso quote) goes: "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." As long as you’re taking this stuff and making it your own, don’t get hung up about borrowing what other people are doing. 

If it works? Use it. That’s been the mantra in the world of copywriting and direct marketing for a hundred years now. Many of the best copywriters, when teaching copywriting, often talk about their own swipe files they’ve built up over the years. So, recycle  the same formula here for using the headlines you save up in your Swipe File. Just make sure to make them your own before you send them.

Note: There is a difference between a Swipe File (described here in this class) and a reference file.

At Cirrus Insight, we use Confluence for our reference file. Other companies use Notion. And others still use Google Drive.  The difference between a Swipe File and a Reference File is that a reference file in the world of copywriting refers to internal documentation. Something you or your company uses to collect information on your customer, like a Customer Persona. That kind of stuff goes into the Reference File. Only headlines you like go into the Swipe File.

Alright. That's all for Part 1. Make sure to try out what we've recommended above, and if you have any questions we can answer, email them to I may even end up answering your questions in an upcoming post on this very blog!

BJ Mendelson
BJ Mendelson

BJ is a Content Strategist with Cirrus Insight.

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