As a businessman owning a small retail store, we all have the trouble of driving footfalls and we try various forms of marketing to increase them. I was excited to share this anecdote with you when I read about what P.T. Barnum did to increase footfalls to his museum back in the days! What I was more intrigued about, was they way he thinks.
P.T. Barnum is known as the greatest showman the world has ever seen. In 1941, he buys Scudder’s American Museum in New York and renames it to Barnum’s American Museum.
Barnum’s idea is not to own a boring museum that shows historically accurate artifacts. He wants to wow people. Get them to talk about his museum. And so, he converts his museum into a combination of a zoo, a museum, a theatre, a freak show, a wax museum and a lecture hall. He showcases everything from General Grant’s hat to a “Feejee mermaid” to the trunk of a tree under which Jesus’s disciples sat to beluga whales. He also holds performances from magicians and ventriloquists and also organizes prettiest baby contests.
One day, a plump beggar asks Barnum for a handout. Instead of paying him, Barnum offers him a job for one and a half dollars a day. He gives the beggar 5 bricks, and tells him to place 4 bricks on the 4 street corners around the museum. Then walk to the first brick and replace it with the 5th brick. Then walk to the 2nd brick and replace it with the 1st brick. Then walk to the 3rd brick and replace it with the 2nd brick. And so on for an entire hour. At the end of the hour, the beggar is to show a ticket at the museum door. And visit each and every room in the museum. Then leave and continue his brick replacement task. At no time is the beggar to converse with anyone and say what he is doing when asked.
Within the first hour, close to a thousand people start following the beggar to see what he is up to. When he enters the museum, a few dozen buy a ticket and enter behind him too. The beggar continues his brick replacement rigmarole for quite a few days. And every time he enters the museum, people follow him.
Barnum sells more tickets that day than ever before.
Do you have an interesting story too? I’d like to learn from you! Feel free to share interesting ways of how you succeeded in driving footfalls to your store by leaving a comment.