Episode 13: Jesse Cole: Putting Fans First

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In this episode of the Manage Your Message Podcast host Jim Karrh sits down with Jesse Cole, the owner of a small-market summer baseball league team that has earned national attention. Jesse is the man behind the Savannah Bananas, and in his signature yellow tuxedo he is easy to spot at the games. But beyond the showmanship and the crazy promotions that make every home game a sellout, Jesse has shown what it takes to be successful, motivate a team, and create a positive customer experience today. He challenges all of us to find our own “yellow tux,” the thing that makes us and our business distinct. Jesse also speaks across the U.S. and is the author of Find Your Yellow Tux: How to be Successful by Standing Out.   

Minor-league baseball had failed after many years in Savannah. Jesse stepped in with a lower-level, college summer team after having turned around a similar team in Gastonia, North Carolina. It was not an immediate hit. But the team continued to innovate with attention-grabbing names and promotions. A few (such as “Wear Underwear on the Outside Night” and “The World’s Largest Ticket”) didn’t work, but more did. The team has involved the entire staff and even the players to create an engaging fans-first experience. Jesse has used the mantra “Whatever’s normal, do the opposite.” Through the process his team has come to appreciate that they’re not in the business of baseball rather the business of entertainment, creating great experiences.

Jesse explains that once you know what business you’re in, it makes your decision making very easy. The Bananas staff goes through the customer experience as “undercover fans” regularly. This practice helped them develop all you can eat food tickets, add a pep band, and the senior citizen pep dance team…fans now know to expect the unexpected.

During the conversation, Jim asks Jesse how he comes up with ideas (Jesse writes 10 of them down every day), how he gets buy-in, how non-extraverts can get attention for their business, and how they keep business momentum during the off-season. Jesse also talks about the inspiration he gets from legendary showmen and creatives such as P.T. Barnum, Bill Veeck and his son Mike, and especially Walt Disney.

Jesse challenges listeners to consider “Are we doing what’s lighting us up?” If you do something that you’re fired up about, you’ll ultimately be successful. Jim and Jesse also talk about combining fun with professionalism, regardless of industry.

Jim’s takeaways include: (1) find the thing that frustrates customers in your industry today, (2) help your customers feel that they’re part of a larger community and story, and (3) reinforce those ideas every day.



Learn more about Jim Karrh, https://jimkarrh.com/

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Listen and subscribe to The Manage Your Message podcast: iTunes and jimkarrh.com/podcast/

Purchase Find Your Yellow Tux: How to be Successful by Standing Out by Jesse Cole

Find more about the Savannah Bananas at: The Savannah Bananas Website and YouTube

Check out more about Mike Veeck and Fun Is Good

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