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There’s a Customer Born Every Minute Book Report

What is your favorite quote from the book?

What was Barnum’s Key Secret to Success in Business?

Barnum shared this with Mark Twain in 1878: “I think it is conceded that I generally do pretty big things as a manager, am audacious in my outlays and risks, give much for little money, and make my shows worthy the support of the moral and refined classes.”

The noblest art is that of making others happy.

You know I’d rather be laughed at than not to be noticed at all.

It has been my universal plan, as you know, to make the public aware of what I was about to offer, to get the best of everything and the most of it, and then to advertise freely and without fear.  Never attempt to catch a whale with a minnow.” PT Barnum 1891 – 5 days before he died.

“People will spend their last nickel to have fun.” – PT Barnum

Stanley Arnold – “I’ve put my entire career on putting carts before horses and feeling before logic.”

You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to be worth much.  There are singers in the world with voices as good as Frank Sinatra’s but they’re singing in their garages because no one has ever heard of them – Donald Trump

“I often seized upon an opportunity by instinct, even before I had a very definite conception as to how it should be used, and it seemed, somehow to mature itself and serve my purpose.” – Barnum – shares the concept of Do and then Learn.

“Time rolls on, troubles come and go, we have darkness at one hour and sunlight at another – but away up, high up above all, is calmness and everlasting quietude…We cannot control fate or destiny, but out of all our chaos and troubles, our excitements and disappointments, we gather lessons of experience and wisdom.”

“Childish wonder is the first step in human wisdom.  To best please a child is the highest triumph of philosophy.  I would rather be called a child’s friend than the world’s king. Amusement to children is like rain to flowers.  Childish laughter is the echo of heavenly music.  The noblest art is that of making others happy.  Innocent amusement transforms tears into rainbows.  I say – as the poet of his ballads – if I might provide the amusements of nation, I would not care who made its laws.


What were the key takeaways/lessons from the book?

In 1865 The total population of the United States was 35 million.  During Barnum’s management of his museum, over 38 million admission tickets were sold.  People kept coming back!

The idea behind publicity stunts is to get attention.  It’s no longer enough to advertise or hand out flyers or sit at a trade show.  You have to think more outrageously and act more boldly, and you have to deliver what you promise, or else.”

10 Rings of Power

  • He believed there was a customer born every minute

-Barnum did not think small.  He went for the World.  4 million people visited his museum.  He took General Tom Thumb to Europe and always thinking more customers.

  • He believed in using skyrockets

-Barnum always thought about how to create attention.  He once had an elephant on his property that was next to railroad tracks to attract customers

  • He believed in giving people more than their money’s worth

He traveled the world looking for the most talented and unique performers.  He called agents all over the world to help recruit talent.

  • He fearlessly believed in the power of the “printer’s ink.”

-He befriended media all over the world and wrote letters to everyone to help promote his business

  • He believed in persistently advertising
  • He believed in helping people get results

When he wanted publicity, he asked for favors from anyone and everyone including the President and from distinguished statesman in England to meet the Queen

  • He believed in negotiating creatively, treating employees and performers with respect

He paid great wages and shared profits with many of his performers and made Jenny Lind, Tom Thumb, Commodore Nut and the Siamese Twins rich.  Often split profits equally.

  • He believed all was well

-Barnum’s museum burned down twice, his home burned down, always rebuilt

  • He believed in the power of the written word
  • He believed in the power of speaking

Barnum’s Rules for Success in Business

Barnum was asked offer thoughts on success for business in an 1852 book.  Here’s what he wrote:

  • Select the Kind of business that suits your natural inclination and temperament
  • Let your pledged word ever be sacred
  • Whatever you do, do with all your might
  • Sobriety
  • Let hope predominate, but be not too visionary
  • Do not scatter your powers

-Engage in one kind of business only and stick to it faithfully until you succeed or until you conclude to abandon it. A constant hammering on one nail will drive it home at last.  When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value which would escape him if his brain were occupied by a dozen different subjects at once. Many a fortune has slipped through men’s fingers by engaging in too many occupations at once.

  • Engage proper employees

Never employ a man of bad habits, when one who’s habits are good can be found to fill his situation.  When you find a man unfit to fill his station, either from incapacity or peculiarity of character or disposition, dispense with his services, and do not drag out a miserable existence in the vain attempt to change his nature.

In other words – Red Flags Never Go Down.

  • Advertise your business. Do not hide your light under a bushel.

Whatever your occupation or calling may be, if it needs support from the public, advertise it thoroughly and efficiently, in some shape or other that will arrest public attention.  I freely confess that what success I have had in my life may fairly be attributed more to the public press than to nearly all cause combined.

Some say they cannot afford to advertise; they mistake – they cannot afford not to advertise.

The farmer plants his seed, and while he is sleeping, his corn and potatoes are growing.  So, with advertising.  While you are sleeping, or eating, or conversing with one set of customers, your advertisement is being read by hundreds or thousands of persons who never saw you, nor heard of your business and never world, had it been for your advertisement.

  • Avoid extravagance; and always live considerably within your income, if you can do so without absolute starvation.
  • Do not depend on others

Your success must depend upon your own individual exertions. Trust not to the assistance of friends but learn that every man must be the architect of his own fortune.


Barnum learned this secret was Monsieur Mangin – Famous French Businessman that sold pencils. He told Barnum “First attract the public by din and tinsel, by brilliant sky-rockets and Bengola lights then give them as much as possible for their money.”

Barnum put flags on top of the roof of his museum that could be seen a mile away.

He put a wraparound balcony and had bad musicians play to draw attention and draw curiosity from others.
He installed a huge revolving lamp on roof, producing the first spotlight
He hung huge color painting of animals on outside and other oversized banners

He hired a man to place bricks all over the city, exchanging bricks and at the end of every hour show your ticket to the museum door and enter – walk through every hall, pass out and then resume the work with bricks.

Upside down violinist – Placed posters of man playing violin backwards

He led elephants over a bridge.

He ordered a magnificent carriage shaped like an English walnut for Commodore Nutt.

He brought Jumbo the Elephant and the first live hippopotamuses to America


A common theme of publicity stunts is a challenge. Houdini – escape from any confinement. He escaped a giant envelope, a football, and US Postal service mailbags.

Barnum created song contests with Jenny Lind.  When he promoted a juggler, he offered $1,000 to anyone who could reproduce all of the juggler’s act.

Other stars did guarantees – Joe Namath, we will win – I guarantee it.  Babe Ruth pointed to stands.  Dominos – pizza in 30 minutes or its free.

Scout for the Best

Barnum was always scouting for new people, products or events to show.  He hired agents around the world to locate new curiosities for him. He wanted to be the first to display the most interesting people and products in the world because he knew the first would get attention.

10 Ways to Grab Attention

  • Hold a contest
  • Hire a band
  • Use costumed characters
  • Hold psychic readings
  • Bring in animals
  • Offer collectibles
  • Hold an art show
  • Sponsor an event
  • Hire an entertainer
  • Break a record

AIDA – Ads must first get attention, then create interest in your product, then develop desire for it and finally request someone to take action.

Barnum used parades, long banners flying in the wind, lighthouse lights on top of the building and even unusual carriages to get attention.  As Seth Godin says – what is your purple cow?

What could we show at the ballpark or have that doesn’t make any sense?  Have fans see something different.  Person coaching first base on stilts, or a contortionist.  Players entering field on a trash truck – taking out the trash.  Coaches riding a horse.

Bananas parade coming through town during our Road Shows.

By thinking of the concept of contrast, you can start to brainstorm ways to grab attention for your own business.  Imagine something so different, so bizarre, so unusual, – something bigger or better than what people see every day – and you will grab attention.  The secret is contrast.



During Depression, after radio swept through the country and people were hit with hard times, people often chose to keep the radio over fridge.  People would sooner starve then lose their ability to have fun

Make your place of business fun to visit, a place where customers can feel good.

Owens Corning Employees Learn How to Juggle.  Keith Lockhart of Boston Pops enters on Rollerblades, in Batman Suits and even on an elephant.

Barnum created lecture room theatre, bowling alley in basement, taxidermist on hand, fortune tellers, rifle and pistol gallery, hall of wax figures, a live whale, professors to reveal people’s personalities, stuffed animals, special acts going on all day. It was the modern-day Disney World.

So much to see, so much to do.  What if a stadium had the same feel?

Twenty Second Rule

Blair Warren Producer – People will watch at most 20 seconds of any show before changing the channel. Need something to compel them. Changing angle of shot, increasing pacing of edits, cutting away to interview, bringing up title or showing something new.  Make it fun and exciting.

Show people having a good time.  That is the key.  On website, on social media.  Show Fun!



I am indebted to the press of the United States for almost every dollar which I possess and for every success as an amusement manager which I have ever received.  The very great popularity which I have attained both at home and abroad I ascribe almost entirely to the liberal and persistent use of the public journals of this country.” – PT Barnum -5 days before he died.

Jenny Lind

Barnum hired 26 reporters to feed the media news stories about Jenny Lind and her talents, arrival and character.  He even had her do a farewell performance in England so it could be reported in the US Papers.  He never heard her sing but wanted to create publicity.  30,000 people met her when she arrived.  Soon there were Jenny Ling songs, gloves, bonnets, riding hats, shawls, robes and even cigars, chewing tobacco and perfume.

Tie Your Business to News

Focus your business on current news and tie your business to it.

Find what is trending what is relevant and jump on it.

Sometimes you have to produce the news.  Barnum did not promote Lind’s singing talents; he promoted her character and generosity. He let the press know that she gave her entire income from performances to a worthy cause.

Read the headlines in the newspaper and then connect your business to it.  Holidays are news.  Think like a reporter.  Think of public, not yourself.

In 1872 – Barnum hired three full time press agents to travel with his circus and place stories in local newspapers.  Later he hired 7 agents and created a huge colorful railroad car advertising coach that would visit each city one week before the show was to arrive.  The agents would paper the city with flyers and flood the newspapers with stories.  This resulted in massive publicity and sold-out events.

Saturate the media. Mail, call, email, text them, meet with them.  Develop network of media who can help you and wants to help you.


What makes you different? Barnum scoured the entire planet in search of unique products, people, items or animals to offer to the public. He was the first to show a live hippo, first to display living giraffes, and whales and largest elephant in capacity.

Share how you get results. Barnum shared that you would get more than just entertainment.  He would educate you.

Plug Electricity into your writing
Speak Actively – Instead of the Meeting is Tonight – The meeting starts at 7:00PM Sharp.  The Bananas create entertainment better than anyone on the planet.

Barnum – the great street procession, three miles long, takes place every morning at half past eight o’ clock.”

Tell them something they don’t know.

Fascinate the readers. The more you tell, the more you sell. Long copy usually works better than short copy.  Share with them something they’ve never seen before.  Intrigue them and fascinate them.  As I always say – How can we be the Only.  Share what makes us the ONLY.


Barnum’s Magic Words

Free, At Last, Announcing, Astonishing, Exciting, Exclusive, Fantastic, Fascinating, First, Guaranteed, Incredible, Initial, Improved, Love, Limited Offer, Powerful, Phenomenal, Revealing, Revolutionary, Special, Successful, Super, Time Sensitive Unique, Urgent, Wonderful, You, Breakthrough, Introducing, New, How-To.

Enthusiasm Sells.

An associate of Barnum said that when he found a new concept “He fairly reeked with his idea.”  Show your excitement for your product.  If you are not pumped about it, good luck selling it.   Barnum always believed in what he was selling.  You have to believe it to sell it!


Barnum purchased the contents of Scudder’s Museum with no money.  He was only making $4 a week writing ads and trying to support his family.   The contents were being sold for $15,000.  Barnum wrote and hand delivered a letter to the owner of the museum outlining an offer. He asked the owner to buy the museum’s collection in his own name and then lease it and the building to Barnum.  Just allow me $12 and half a week to support my family and if he misses installment date, he would vacate premise and forfeit everything paid.

He paid Tom Thumb and Jenny Lind half of their profits.  He gave Jenny Lind $187,500 in advance which was colossal fee at the time.  He then voluntarily raised her fees, $1,000 a show plus half of profits after expenses paid.   He wanted to keep his employees happy.


Do and Learn – How did you come up with ideas?

I often seized upon an opportunity by instinct, even before I had a very definite conception as to how it should be used, and it seemed, somehow to mature itself and serve my purpose.

I studied ways to aren’t public attention; to startle, to make people talk and wonder; in short, to let the world know that I had a museum.



What is something you will implement from this book in the business or in your personal life?

  • Host an auction and bidding for the first ticket of the season or the first ticket of the One City World Tour for the Bananas. The best seats, most VIP experience – have an online auction for it.

This comes directly from the Barnum Bag of Tricks as he did this for the first ticket to Jenny Lind concert in New York.  Hat maker Genin to buy the first tickets for $225 and it gained him national publicity. Later Barnum encouraged an unknown singer Ossian Dodge to buy the highest selling Lind Ticket for $625 and his career took off.

  • Do an audit of website and social media – make sure whatever we show is showing people having fun and having a good time (Look at emotion in picture and videos)
  • Never Forget the Power of the Pen

-WRITE MORE.  Write more articles.  Write more books.

Spend time writing more to promote what we are doing.  Barnum wrote to promote Tom Thumb, Jenny Lind, his museum, the circus and himself. He wrote biographies of Lind, Tom and even Jumbo the Elephant.  He created an illustrated newspaper to promote his circus – called PT Barnum’s Advanced Courier – printed 500,000 copies and distributed it a week before his show’s arrival.

Barnum even added to his autobiography every year.

Being an author makes you an authority

  • Always Ask What Barnum Would Do?

Scout and recruit for unique acts, Break records, host challenges, hire performers boldly, bring in animals,  think big and invest in doing things that are big audacious.  Be bold.

How does something you learned from this book fit into the Fans First Way?


The book fits completely with Fans First Way – with all six of our beliefs.  Caring, Different, Enthusiastic, Fun, Growing and Hungry.


First and foremost, with different.  There was no one better at thinking differently to promote his museum and circus and create attention.  He searched all over for unique curiosities to intrigue the public.  He was caring to his employees and paid above average, split wages and always tried to deliver more to everyone he interacted with.


He brought amazing enthusiasm to every speech, ad, written word he shared as he believed in everything he did.  He believed in having fun and invented the humbug.


He was also tremendously optimistic.  He said he owned “a small dollar book with an admirable selection of fine thoughts, finely expressed by ancient and modern writers.  It teaches in marked degree the whole philosophy of living happily and living long – Its title is “Daily Strength for Daily Needs.”  He was eating breakfast when he learned his museum burned down and proceeded to send some telegrams out and then finish his breakfast. He believed “This too shall pass.”


He was always hungry to take on the next big challenge.  His assistants shared numerous facts and figures that his traveling circus would fail and lose a lot of money.  Barnum listened and then shared he believed it would be wildly successful.  His will and determination helped him make a deal with the railroad to reach more cities and his first year he made more than $1 million touring the country.  He also saw England as a new challenge and went their met the Queen twice with Tom Thumb and created sold out shows.


He understood the Magic of Thinking Big and Acting on It


“When a man is in the right path, he must persevere.”   Work at it, if necessary, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”