What Dan Doesn’t Do With Numbers

Posted by on January 13, 2014

Really smart marketers screw up badly when they move from “Metrics are Good” to “Metrics are God.” Dan doesn’t do this.

Dan came to Wizard Academy in 2001, determined to build an online business. He was 22 years old. A few months later I was asked to speak at the annual convention of the Direct Marketing Association in New York. Jeffrey Eisenberg mentioned that Dan would be attending and said that it would probably mean a lot to him if I set aside an afternoon to just walk the streets of Manhattan with him. This idea appealed to me. Dan is good people.

Dan said he wanted to pop into a little shop in an obscure corner of Manhattan to look at handmade paper on which he might send notes to his customers. Dan is meticulous about presentation.

He’s also meticulous about studying the numbers generated within his business.

Generally, this terrifies me since I spend a great deal of time each week explaining to clients that, “correlation does not equal causation.” Just because you can see a relationship between two numbers doesn’t mean that one of them caused the other one.

Dan, thankfully, doesn’t confuse correlation with causation.

I worked in a steel fabrication shop throughout high school and for a short time after I was married. That was where I had my first encounter with the confusion between correlation and causation.

“You know why you’re losing your hair, don’t you?” said Ted.

I shook my head no.

“It’s because you’re growing a beard. Haven’t you ever noticed that most bald men have beards?” I arched an eyebrow to indicate suspicion of this hypothesis, so Ted continued, “Your body has the ability to grow only so much hair. If you use it all up growing it on your chin, there’s none left to grow on the top of your head.”

He was serious.

A few months later I met another victim of this misbegotten logic known as “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.”

“You know why you’re losing your hair, don’t you?” said Fred. (I swear I’m not making this up. Ted and Fred were their real names. They never met each other.)

I shook my head no to Fred.

“It’s because you wear a cap. Haven’t you ever noticed that most bald men caps?”

Again I arched an eyebrow to indicate suspicion, so Fred went on, “Caps wear all the hair off the top of your head. If you wear a cap, you’ll go bald.”

Misbegotten logic is harmless enough, I suppose, but it becomes insidious when you apply it to marketing. But this logic of “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc” is almost irresistible: “The second thing followed the first thing, therefore the second thing was caused by the first thing.”

Dan is resistant to the seduction of “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” so his attention to metrics has served him well.

Following his first visit to Wizard Academy, Dan tumbled $70,000 into credit card debt. He sold his car and moved in with his parents but he never quit studying, never quit tweaking, never quit believing. Finally, things began to turn around. Today Dan has 180 employees. His company did $85,000,000 in sales last year at an impressive profit margin. He was going to be our surprise guest speaker at last week’s class, How to Write Direct Response Ads, but heavy snow shut down the airport in the town where he lives. Undeterred, Dan spent 2 hours sharing his secrets with our students and answering questions via Skype.

Dan looked good up on the 16-foot screen in The Eye of the Storm. The students were transported. One cognoscenti, Donald, the owner of a hugely successful online business, said, “Dan, if I move to your city, will you let me become your apprentice for a year?”

Six other registrants were snowed in as well, so we agreed to host a second class. We’ll announce those dates as soon as we can triangulate Dan’s schedule with Jeff Sexton’s schedule and an open window in the Academy schedule.

Dan is anxious to walk the campus. He hasn’t yet seen the Tower or Spence Manor or the Enchanted Emporium, our new Welcome Center.

If you’d like to be notified the moment a date is agreed upon, let Vice-Chancellor Daniel Whittington hear from you at Daniel@WizardAcademy.org or call him at (512) 720-8801.

It’s a tough but spellbinding class.

I hope to see you there.

Roy H. Williams

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