There’s a Customer Born Every Minute

P.T. Barnum’s Amazing 10 “Rings of Power” for Creating Fame, Fortune, and a Business Empire Today — Guaranteed! 

By Joe Vitale and Jeffrey Gitomer

Wait, isn’t supposed to be, “There’s a sucker born every minute?” Meanwhile, according to this author, it’s a misattributed quote. There’s no evidence that P.T. Barnum ever said it. Playful title nonetheless, but it sets a low bar for readability. 

I came across this book while listening to another Marketing Secrets podcast episode where Russell Brunson recommended the book. It was sitting in my Kindle queue for over a year. Mostly because the few pages I read in the sample weren’t compelling. And the price was double what I usually pay for books. Obviously, I bit the bullet and bought the book. I was tired of seeing it in my queue. And once I’ve committed to something… Would I recommend it to others? No. The authors telegraph a lot of stories early on. The stories don’t seem authentic (like the one where the author is on a plane discussing business with another passenger.) And there’s too much repetition. The forward by Jeffrey Gitomer frames this book as a bible-like phenomenon. I doubt he even read it. 

Not to say there aren’t some good words of wisdom. Below are a few takeaways I teased out. 

  1. Be bold. But don’t be reckless. Some of the examples and recommendations are reckless and not suitable for every business. My beliefs are that relying on gimmicks and outlandish marketing is never an effective long term strategy. 
  2. Invest in press. Earned media is important. Playing on point 1, be bold in your efforts to earn media attention. Be creative in how you frame up your campaigns. 
  3. Don’t oversell. Vitale oversells everything. It feels like the book was written by a used car salesman. No offense to car guys, but people can relate to the analogy. 

Note: The following excerpts include typos. I didn’t put them there. 🙂 

Page: 6

You have to think more outrageously and act more boldly, and you have to deliver what you promise, or else.”

> Yes to both. But temper being bold with being believable and consistent with your brand identity. 

Page: 62

When you create advertising or publicity, remember that you have to disrupt the daily preoccupation people have with themselves. Anything you can do to interrupt their automatic flight through life will bring their attention to you. 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.

> Yes, contrast is key. Neuroscience proves this. Again, though, many of the examples are outlandish and over-the-top. Off brand for many. 

Page: 65

“The noblest art is that of making others happy.”

> Love this. 

Page: 108

“The meeting is tonight” sounds dead; “The meeting starts at 7 P.M. sharp tonight” feels clear, direct, and alive. “Clair Sullivan is the finest promoter in the country” doesn’t convey the excitement that “Clair Sullivan creates corporate events better than anyone else on the planet” does.

> Love the first example of word play. The second? I have challenges with saying, “I’m better than anyone else on the planet.” Or saying that about anyone. It’s rarely true. 

Page: 109

After all, people read whole books. They will read your copy if it interests them.

> Honest truth. People do read, but they don’t read boring stuff. 

Page: 109

Specifics make your copy believable and your ads come alive. Note the details in this 1876 ad by Barnum: “My great Traveling Centennial Academy of Object Teaching cost a million and a half of dollars, employs 1,100 persons, 600 horses and ponies, and will be transported East to Maine and West to Missouri on 100 solid steel railroad cars.”

> They say a good liar always includes details. 

Page: 111

And consider the connotations of the words you use: workshop sounds like hard work whereas seminar sounds easier. Read sounds hard whereas look over sounds easy. Write sounds difficult whereas jot down sounds easy. Be aware of the psychological implications of the words and phrases you use. Sea Lions sounds interesting but lame; Monster Sea Lions sounds like something you must see.

> Great advice. I’ve since changed our own word use from “workshops” to “seminars”.

Page: 111

To state a fact in ordinary language is to permit a doubt concerning the statement. Suppose a grocer should advertise fine, fresh codfish and his rival across the street advertised the largest, sweetest, absolutely the best codfish ever caught, with scales as large as quarters and meat whiter than snow—the finest yielded by the Atlantic Ocean. Which grocer do you think will sell the most codfish?

> While I get the goal of the example, there’s a middle ground. I don’t think you’ll read the words, “Scales as large as quarters”, in any grocery store. It’s too much. I think of this like sprinkling salt. Without it the meal falls flat, too much, and it’s inedible. 

Page: 149

“Anger is something unfinished in you. It’s a sore spot that gets rubbed when you encounter something that reminds you of the past. Clear the past and you won’t have the anger.”

> Sage advice. 

Page: 167

studied ways to arrest public attention; to startle, to make people talk and wonder;

> Yes and no. Some folks need to be startled out of their numb lives. But yet there’s still others that appreciate elegance and tact. We’re not all mindless drones.

Page: 218

Fire off skyrockets. What are you going to do to get attention in today’s competitive marketplace? Be audacious. Often there isn’t much difference between you and your competition. To stand out in the crowd, do something different. Hold an event. Sponsor a contest. Create the world’s largest hot dog. Have a parade. Add some zing to your business.When doctors wanted to give shots to children, they created a campaign that made kids line up, smiling, eager to get poked with needles. Every child got to wear a badge that said “I was shot!”The media coverage was staggering.

> Powerful advice when balanced within your brand identity. I asked myself what we could do differently to earn the attention of our prospects. The question inspired more than a few ideas. 

Page: 224

How to Image Stream First, ask yourself a question. It can be about Barnum, marketing, your business, or anything else on your mind.You name it. Second, set aside 20 minutes where you do nothing but describe aloud the images you see in your mind. Wenger says you must describe the pictures you see, no matter what they are, in vivid detail, and out loud. “By speaking audibly, you create a feedback loop to your brain,” he says. In short, words come out of your brain through your mouth and go back into your brain through your ears. This helps awaken more of your mental powers. You don’t need to know how this process operates for it to work. The images you see are coming from your subconscious mind and may not make any logical sense at first. That’s fine. Don’t try to control or direct what you see. Let the images stream out. As they do, describe them out loud. Finally, determine how the images you see answer your question. In other words, assume the images are your answers. What are they trying to tell you? During this process, the images may suddenly blossom into an obvious answer to your question. If so, great. Usually what happens, however, is that the images will make sense to you a day or so later. Whatever the case, jot down your insights or discuss them with a friend to help make them more concrete and to further your understanding of this process.

> I haven’t tried Image Streaming yet, but look forward to the exercise. 

Excerpted without permission. Buy from Amazon.