SFR 282: The 2nd Millionaire In America – Stephen Larsen

SFR 282: The 2nd Millionaire In America

Oct 8th, 2019 anchorwave

This is one of my favorite, brilliant marketing stories!

I’ve just finished another 20-mile bike ride (in the dark)…

How to market your business

I’m still several miles from home, but my mind’s kinda spinning, so I thought I’d stop in a Staples parking lot to…

  • Drop kinda a cool story about PT Barnum that involves a dead monkey and a fishtail… (Yep, that BT Barnum… and Nope, it’s NOT in the film 😉)
  • Tell you WHY Sales Funnel Radio will be ending soon!

Marketing strategy



I LOVE studying yesteryear’s marketing gurus. I’ve been going back to the 1700s and 1800s…

I’ve been kind of obsessed with studying how these old, rich, dead marketers got their messages out before the internet.

Marketing history

…because we live in a very different world.

And while the internet is beautiful, it’s largely a crutch…

And it’s a HUGE distraction if you don’t understand what marketing truly is.

To illustrate my point, I’m gonna tell you a story of a guy named PT Barnum.

You’ve probably have heard of PT Barnum from the movie, The Greatest Showman, which is …

  1. A largely made up by Hollywood.
  2. A great movie.

Most of what’s in the movie is NOT true.

PT Barnum did have a circus, but it was his retirement project.

PT Barnum marketing history

Barnum was older when he started that circus, but the movie makes it seem like he had this young struggling family and that it was the circus that made him…

That’s NOT at all true.

However, PT Barnum was a brilliant, brilliant guy, and he died in 1891 at 81 years old and by that time,

I believe he was the second millionaire in America… he was definitely the first show business millionaire in America.

A million dollars was waaay more back then than it is now, it was pretty impressive to have a million dollars at that time.


Preinternet marketing strategy

Barnum loved doing hoaxes, or as he called them, ‘humbugs’ for the public.

And there’s a lot of famous quotes from him about that…

I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right. – P. T. Barnum

One of the MOST famous hoaxes that Barnums well-known for is the Feejee Mermaid.

The Feejee Mermaid was widely known in the1800s as being one of the greatest hoaxes ever pulled off.

FeeJee mermaid marketing history

Barnum was famous for saying something to the effect of, ‘The world wants to be fooled, so let it be fooled.’

The bigger the humbug, the better people will like it. – P. T. Barnum

So Barnum would play these tricks on the public and his sales would increase

And so long as he over-delivered on value, he found that nobody really cared that they were hoaxes..

Now, I’m not here to say whether or not that’s right or wrong.

I personally don’t think that’s right.

Don’t lie…

Steve Larsen marketing strategy

However, there’s a lot you can learn from the brilliance of what Barnum did.

And I wanna share a really fascinating story on what I believe true marketing is if you remove the internet…

It’s kind of a funny episode, it’s a cold dark night, and I’m in a Staples parking lot…

Sales funnel radio

(Who says marketing isn’t glamorous? 😉)


But back to the story!


Barnum had this museum in New York and most of his income came from this museum of crazy stuff, NOT the circus.


When in the mid-1850s, ‘a mermaid was caught off of the coast of Feejee’ (#QuoteUnquote) it was brought to PT Barnum to see if he wanted to put it in his museum.

It was literally a monkey’s body that they had been sewn onto a fish, and it’s kind of morbid.

But Barnum decided that he could use the ‘mermaid’ to create a cool buzz!

So he grabbed all of these naturalists to declare, “This is a true Mermaid from Fiji.”

Now, anyone looking at the ‘mermaid’ could tell that it was fake…

So Barnum asked experienced naturalists until finally, he had a naturalist who would declare:

“This is a real mermaid.”

Then he took *that story* and ran with it.

He and one of his associates started sending letters to the newspaper from various locations.

His associate acted as a doctor and they started “leaking” quote after quote of interactions they were having about the Feejee Mermaid and how spectacular it was to the press.

They sent them from anonymous locations throughout the city and the nation.

The press was like:

“Oh my gosh, we’re getting all these letters about this incredible Feejee Mermaid.

Look at this correspondence between this doctor and PT Barnum the museum owner.”

It was completely fake.

However, when they’d created enough buzz, the fake doctor took a trip from New York down to Philadelphia o ‘business’ and brought the Feejee Mermaid with him.

They did their Dream 100 homework and chose a hotel where the owner was friends with a bunch of newspaper editors.

Dr. J. Griffin (fake doctor, fake name)… checks into this hotel and as a thank you for letting him stay, he promises to let the hotel owner see the Feejee Mermaid.

The hotel owner goes, “Oh my gosh. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Do you mind if I bring some of my friends over?”.

Q: Guess who his friends were?

A: Yep, all these editors!

Marketing history PT Barnum

… but wait, it gets even better!

Seriously, this is some AMAZING marketing!

When people are like “I sent a Facebook campaign…”

I’m like, “That’s NOT a campaign, that’s just a Facebook ad. *This* is a campaign. Study what Barnum did”.

Barnum was BRILLIANT at campaigns.

So while this fake doctor is in Philadelphia swooning all of these editors, PT Barnum is busy at work in New York…

He prints off 10,000 fliers with these voluptuous, nude mermaids.

How to market your business like PT Barnum

He literally litters 10,000 Mermaid pamphlets all over New York City.

And what he says on the flyer is:

“Guys, guess what? I am gonna get the Feejee Mermaid to my museum, but it’s only gonna be here for one week, starting on this day.”

Oh my Lanta!

That’s straight scarcity and urgency direct from the1800s!

1800s marketing strategy

(Now, there’s A LOT more to the story, I’m telling the Reader’s Digest version.)


Now that the press in Philadelphia and New York are buzzing, Barnum puts the cherry on the top…

…and this is what he did.

Again, I’m not here to argue whether or not this is right or wrong. I don’t think it’s right, but that’s beside the point…

Just learn from what he did here…


  • There are 10,000 fliers in New York City
  • Philadelphia is buzzing.
  • Everyone knows that the Feejee Mermaid will be in Barnum’s museum for ONE week…

So Barnum goes to the press and says, “Hey, local news-press. I wanna give you exclusive rights to cover the story when the Feejee Mermaid shows up”.

They go, “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome.”

Then he went to the next newspaper and said the same thing… and he did this over and over again!

He told all the newspapers, “You have exclusive rights!”

All the papers were like, “Oh my gosh!”

Learn how to market your business

So the day comes when the Feejee Mermaid will be revealed… and there’s a TON of pressure built up.

  • The newspaper editors know about it and they were excited
  • Over in New York, there are 10,000 leaflets all over the place with (I’ll be honest) voluptuous, largely nude mermaids.

(Again, I’m NOT talking about the morals of this, I’m just saying this is what happened.)

Now ALL the think they have exclusive coverage!


When the day of it comes, and the newspapers learn that all the other newspapers “exclusive coverage.”

But rather than miss out on an opportunity, they ALL decide to l run the story…

1800s marketing strategy

Because they don’t wanna be the newspaper that’s left out!

And that gets ridiculous sales for PT Barnum and was a HUGE deal for his career.

Now here’s my point…


Compare the amount of foot-work that Barnum did to create pressure around a single date and compare it to what MOST people do when they build a funnel and turn Facebook ads on…

Facebook is not a marketing strategy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it AGAIN…

Facebook ads are NOT a campaign.

I’ve had people say, “Steve, what do you mean Facebook ads are NOT campaigns?”

Look, I’m not saying ads can’t be part of a campaign, I’m saying that just running an ad is NOT a campaign.

So let’s think real quick about what PT Barnum did for his campaign to promote a completely fake and NOT valuable thing called the Feejee Mermaid.

It was NOT the voluptuous mermaid in the pictures, it was this rotted to death, stuffed, frozen monkey sewed to the back-end of a fish.

Learn marketing history

First of all…

  • What was the hook that PT Barnum used to get this campaign going?

Probably the picture of the mermaid… that’s definitely one of them.

  • The headline was very, very clever…

I wish I could remember it off the top of my head, it ‘s on the internet, you can go look it up.

  • He created a story.

People do okay with the story, but creating hooks is a work of art. Most people don’t really create a hook.

The next part of EVERY campaign is to attach it to distribution.

Q: What is the distribution channel that PT Barnum used?

A: Newspapers.

He even distributed 10,000 leaflets around New York City.

He used the distribution channels that were already there.

Barnum did NOT create his own newspaper press, he used the existing distribution that was there.

That’s 100% a direct response marketer play.

So there’s a…

  1. Hook
  2. Story
  3. Distribution
  4. Call To Action

Let’s think through the mechanics a little bit…’cause there’s another piece I wanna go hit real quick that’s very key…

You’ll see that Hollywood even does this today.

Inside of the sales letter, he said, “The Feejee Mermaid’s only coming on these days and when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Most of the time, people make the mistake of promoting their products by making it ALWAYS available.

However, Barnum opens and closes the cart on a physical location, his museum.

Offers and marketing history

He opened the cart and closed the cart… that’s HUGE; that was his call to action.

These are ALL the same principles we use today; it’s no different just because we have the internet.

When you remove the internet out of the equation and…

  1. Learn what marketing really is
  2. Learn how to build campaigns

…then, when you add the internet, it’s very powerful.

However, before you learn what marketing is and how to build campaigns, the internet can be a distraction.

Know how to market your business

Now, there’s one other element to this…


Understand that Barnum did NOT start by going to the newspapers and saying, “You have exclusive coverage.”

… that was his final move.

First, he created a series of campaigns.

I literally call campaigns, orchestrated noise.

How to market your business with campaigns

Think about the way Hollywood launches a movie, it’s very similar.

  • A year out, Hollywood will launch a minute-long preview – it doesn’t say much, and they’re probably still editing.

But it just brings a little bit of, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait.”

And who does that attract?

The fans!

When Disney bought Star Wars to start dropping hints that they were gonna drop a movie, all they had to do a year before was play the 15-second Star Wars theme, and say:

“Coming Summer, This Year!”

How to market your business like Hollywood

…that was it.

And what do all the hypers do?

“Oh my gosh!”

They go spread the message all over the place …

Campaigns and marketing strategy

… the ‘sneezers’ spread the message for them.

That’s the beginning of a campaign, it’s a single pressure event

Then six months ahead of time, they release another trailer that’s 90 seconds…

Then in three months, they release another one that’s three minutes.

Next, they release a few different versions and tell a little bit of story around different characters.

…it’s a series of escalating pressure.

That’s a campaign!

A campaign is NOT a single event, it’s a series of events that escalate pressure, and piggyback off of each other.


The greatest marketer in marketing history

You can clearly see this pattern of creating events that build pressure in the PT Barnum example.

  1. Anonymous letters create buzz.
  2. A fake doctor goes to Philadelphia to build MORE pressure.
  3. 10,000 pamphlets with voluptuous mermaids are distributed.
  4. ALL the newspapers are given an ‘EXCLUSIVE.

All these orchestrated events build pressure for a specific date, and that’s very key.

So one of the things I’ve been obsessed with lately is watching what other successful marketers do

  1. Launch
  2. keep the products out, once they’re selling.

That’s two separate styles of campaigns.

  • A Launch Campaign.
  • An Evergreen Campaign.

And I know I’ve beat that to death, but it’s because *that* is how a marketer gets paid on the internet in today.

It’s very powerful.

I want you to analyze how a lot of those guys back in the past created noise and realize that that’s why this stuff works.

I use Facebook campaigns in conjunction with my podcast.

A lot of times we’ll drive ads to a specific podcast episode, NOT a registration page.

People go through the podcast episode, and then we re-target them for a small download…

Once they get the download, we re-target them for the actual thing with more pressure.


Cart closing, only open during this time.

Bam! closeout.

We still use the same principles as Barnum today!

But it’s ONLY when you understand the principles that Barnum used all those years ago that today’s modern tools are really powerful.

Without that backdrop, it’s very easy to take advantage of the tools and use them in weird ways as easy distribution channels…

And NOT actually use real marketing.

That’s NOT marketing, it’s link barfing

Marketing strategy barf


Anyway, hopefully, you enjoyed today’s blog? And I’d really appreciate it if you dropped a review.


The death of sales funnel radio

Just so you know…

( Oh my gosh, I’m gonna start a campaign right here! )

Sales Funnel Radio will most likely be over at episode 300.

(I’ll tell you why in a future episode 😉)

It’s NOT because this show doesn’t do well; we get 2500 – 3000 downloads a day.

I’ll teach you guys the actual strategy of what I’m doing and a pattern that I noticed in content creation…

I’m in a position now that I’ve really fought and worked hard for.

But there is a principle that I’m following and that I want you to take note of.

So, anyway, it’s just a little heads up… in a month or two…

Sales Funnel Radio will be over.

Sales funnel radio is ending

The whole point of the show has been to document my journey from literally broke to…

I’m hoping we hit a gross of 5 million by the end of this year. I still have another million and a half to go, but I think I can hit it and I’m trying to hit it by the end of this show.

So anyway, It’s pretty sick.


Hey, just real quick:

A few months ago Russell asked me to write a chapter for a secret project he was doing. I had to write a chapter for a book, this was the letter I got from him.

He said:

“Hey Stephen, let me ask you a quick question…

You suddenly lose all your money, along with your name and your reputation, and only have your marketing know-how left.

You have bills piled high and people harassing you for money over the phone.

You have a guaranteed roof over your head, a phone line, an internet connection, and a ClickFunnels account for only one month.

You no longer have your big guru name, your following, your JV partners. Other than your vast marketing experience, you’re an unknown newbie…

What would you do from day #1 to day #30 to save yourself?

Russell Brunson

Hey, if you want to see my answer and a bunch of other marketers who also answered that in this amazing book and summit, just go to

30 day challenge sales funnel radio

You can see the entire summit, you can see the book, you can see what we wrote in there and each of our detailed plans. Just go to

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