Wizards of Web report

kinnon —  November 24, 2005 — Leave a comment

In a previous blog post, I promised to report on the course I took last week at Wizard Academy. A combination of fatigue and the onset of a cold (the joys of traveling in aluminum tubes at 35,000 Ft) has delayed that report.

Let me put this course in perspective.

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About six years ago in Atlanta, I good friend of mine asked me a question; “Bill, have I ever mentioned Roy Williams to you.” “No Tom, you haven’t.” Tom’s response, “We’re going to Borders. I’m buying you a book.” Minutes later I was reading The Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams’ first New York Times best-seller. (Tom was featured in one of the chapters.) I wanted to meet this man.

I had read most of what Roy had written before I ventured to Austin to attend a Wizard Academy course. (The Academy was a direct result of Roy’s life and business partner, Penny, asking why Roy needed to travel all the time to teach the stuff.) My first course – Advanced Wordsmithing taught by Wizard of Ads partner, Chris Maddock, in the spring of 2004. Later that year in beautiful Stratford, Ontario, Roy enthralled about 100 radio advertising people with his Wizard of Ads two day seminar. Imbi, our friend Joseph and I attended the event. During that time, Roy gave us a taste of the Magical Worlds Communications Workshop and the three of us realized we needed to attend it. We did in November of last year.

Roy is a polymath – he knows an awful lot, about an awful lot. As Neurologist and Theoretical Physicist, Larry McCleary states “I wish Roy Williams had been my very first college professor. If he had been, everything I learned after that would have made a lot more sense and been a lot more useful… Astounding stuff.” The good doctor, an earlier Magical Worlds grad, called it, “Alice in Wonderland on steroids!“

Academy grads have been accused of sounding like we’ve partaken of the Kool-Aid – or, perhaps, been assimilated by the Borg. The reality is that Roy opens up entire new ways of understanding the communications arts – drawing from sources as disparate as the Torah and the research of neurological scientists like Dr. Roger Sperry. Just one part of Magical Worlds has Roy unlocking the neuroscience behind hit songs, books and movies – while teaching us about the power of Third Gravitating Bodies – I won’t even attempt to explain that here (if I even could).

Wizards of Web

Jeffrey & Bryan Eisenberg came to a Wizard of Ads workshop many years ago and realized that they were of the same “tribe” as Roy and Penny. Their company, FutureNow Inc became a Wizard of Ads partner.

Bryan and Jeff are persuasion architects – consultants to some of the most successful websites in the world in terms of conversion rate. (The process of turning a website hit into an actual customer – the industry average running in the very low single digits.)

Earlier this year, the Eisenbrothers released, Call to Action which quickly became a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. Their book details their methodology behind the success experienced by their clients.

The three day WoW course was their book “live” and in your face – a good thing. They walked us through the process of how they build effective websites – from Uncovery and Persona development to the Wireframe creation of the site – and then the Execution and Optimization stages. They effectively critiqued sites of participants in the seminar (a lot cheaper than their consulting fees) and gave us insight into some of the simple things they’ve done for clients to increase their conversion rates. Like changing a button from “Learn More” to “Help Me Choose.” We were walked through the power of copy that is customer-centric – rather than me/we centric. (Run your site through Bryan’s wewe generator to see exactly how customer focussed you are.)

Bryan and Jeffrey showed us designs that worked – unpacking why they work. Probably the story that hit me the most was their impact on Max-Effect. Read the case study.

When websites are about us – we fill them full of cool designs (or our feeble attempts), have fun with Flash and generally annoy our potential clients. (Roy Williams line: “Speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, with what matters to the heart of the dog!”) We get confused because we think it’s all about us. It’s not. It’s about the customer, stupid. I’ve already begun changes here at ae – and have done a basic redesign of mkpl.tv. However, the copy desperately needs work there (it’s about us – rather than our clients) and that will happen as quickly as I can get to it.

The bottom line is that the course was worth every penny spent – and then some. (Wizard Academy grads get subsequent courses at half price.)If you make money from your website, or designing websites – the course is a must. If your web business is big enough, or wants to be – get FutureNow working for you. At the very least buy “Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results” and “Persuasive Online Copywriting.

And get to one of Wizard Academy’s courses. (There’s also some great free stuff available for download.)

For those of you who have a similar faith position to my own and are concerned about anyone known as the Wizard, read this and then this. And get over it. Please.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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