Much like the hoaxes for which he became famous, so too was the widely held belief that Barnum was the first to ever say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”. He never did say those words. In fact, quite the opposite was true. More than any of his competitors, Barnum believed in giving his customers more their money’s worth. It was for this reason that people stayed loyal to him, keeping his business afloat when others were sinking around him.
Barnum traveled the world in search of exotic acts for his museum. At one point, he had collected more than half a million exhibits to put on display in his six-story show in New York City. Despite the high costs of finding content and running the establishment, customers were only charged for one 25-cent ticket, which would allow them to stay at the attraction for however long they wanted. He was determined to make the experience as enjoyable for his customers as possible and to deliver on what he promised.
Barnum worked hard to find acts that the public would not only enjoy, but also feel good about spending their money on to come see. Barnum might have used outlandish stunts and provocative advertising to lure customers to his shows, but once he had them there, he did not fail to disappoint. He single-handedly transformed what was once the sleazy and disreputable world of circuses into a respectable and honest one. In the end, people felt good about attending and spending money on his shows. And, Barnum understood that people who felt good at his shows would be both more likely to return to do business with him and also tell their friends.
For Barnum, the real trick was not making money but keeping it. With the right advertisement or exhibition, he could easily attract people to his circus the first time, but after that? How would he get people to keep coming back for more? He knew that it would have to be the unforgettable experience, something that was more than they ever expected.
Rather than a sucker, it is said that Barnum actually believed that there was a customer born every minute. He was always looking for ways to expand his business, placing no limits on the number of people who he thought would buy from him. Barnum might have made a small fortune with his 25-cent tickets in New York, but Barnum did not want a small fortune; he wanted a large one. To this end, Barnum looked beyond his neighbourhood to see the global picture. He took General Tom Thumb to Europe on numerous occasions, and also brought the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ Jenny Lind from Europe to perform in the U.S.
Barnum made it his mission to provide a completely satisfying experience and to do so on a global scale. He wanted people around the world to know his name and what they could expect from him.