I went to see The Greatest Showman looking for entertainment but I walked out feeling like I had attended a masterclass in entrepreneurship. Check out the trailer to this awesome new movie here:  

Pretty cool, eh? It was a great musical, but I found it even more insightful than entertaining (and it was pretty entertaining!) Now this is what I learned: 

Consider your audience

One of the biggest mistakes I see in copy and advertisements is when entrepreneurs try to sell their products with a pitch based on what THEY think is cool about it. That thing they think is cool, that gets them excited, might not be what their target market thinks is cool about it. Sometimes we get so excited about what our drill bits are made of that we forget people really just need a hole.

In The Greatest Showman, PT Barnum approached Tom Thumb and his initial pitch was based on what he wanted out of the circus himself: to make money. He said, “The world is laughing anyways, you might as well get paid.” This was not a pitch that was well received. When he stopped to think about what Tom valued, that’s when his pitch landed. Tom valued imaginative play and enjoyed pretending to be a soldier. When PT positioned the offer in terms of Tom’s interests, that’s when the pitch landed and converted. 

Product Descriptions Are King 

When PT didn’t have much money, he brought home a makeshift gift for his daughter. The words he used to describe his gift turned something ordinary into something extraordinary. An effective product description can make all the difference in selling your product, so find yourself a great copywriter (shameless plug.)

Be Yourself 

While PT was able to achieve some level of success transitioning out of his initial offering (the circus), when he tried to be something he was not (running Jenny Lind’s show for an upscale audience,) he ultimately fell flat. When he got back to his roots, he found the support he was looking for in his circus company and in his family and he also found success. Likewise, the circus performers found that there was a market for them and what they had to offer in being themselves. They could be who they were and be successful. They were glorious. Pretending to be something you’re not might bring temporary success, but authenticity is what will bring you loyalty and pride in a job well done. 

Banish Imposter Syndrome

PT Barnum felt like he never quite fit in, which is a very relatable feeling. When confronted about the validity of his role by an unimpressed journalist, he said, “A theatre critic who can’t find joy at the theatre – now who’s the fraud?” When you feel like you’re making it up as you go along and people are going to find you out, understand that others feel that way too and still get out of bed and do their jobs. Join them! 

Learn To Embrace Risk 

“It might cost you everything, but you might find yourself a free man.” PT Barnum said these words to Philip Carlyle in attempting to entice him to “run away and join the circus.” There is risk in business – the number of businesses that fail in the first year are staggering. But if it works, you can find yourself a free person. You don’t even have to run away and join the circus (unless that’s your business, of course, in which case, happy trails!) 

Get Back To Basics 

When faced with the high costs of a building, PT Barnum exclaimed, “All we need is a tent.” Truer words were never spoken. I find in so many groups for aspiring online service providers so many people say, “I can’t launch until I have a website. I can’t launch until my branding is just right. I can’t launch until I have a logo. If only I could decide on a name. Maybe next year.” Yes, all of these things are helpful and eventually important. But if you want to bootstrap and make some money, all you need is a tent. Go out. Network. Make friends. Get referrals. Make some money. The rest will come, or you might find you don’t need it, but get back to basics and get yourself some work. 

Remember Why You Started 

Don’t lose sight of your “why” in all the hustle. Let your “why” guide your decision making. Does what you are planning support your goal? Is it consistent with your values? In The Greatest Showman, when PT lost sight of his “why” he paid dearly. Remember why you started and don’t lose sight of where you came from. It’s a thrill to fly through the air, but even the best aerialists need somewhere friendly to land. 

 The folks who made The Greatest Showman likely didn’t intend to give a masterclass in entrepreneurship, but they did. Even for those with no interest in business, it was a magically glorious presentation of music and joy. Go watch it yourself, and come alive! 

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