Today’s guest has one of the whackiest, most inspiring stories I’ve come across. I’ve seen him around because he’s hard to miss—he’s always wearing a yellow tux. When Jesse Cole took over a college summer league team called the Savannah Bananas, they weren’t selling any tickets. He got a call at his best friend’s wedding that they were completely out of money, so he and his wife decided to sell their house and empty their savings account. The one thing that he knew was that he had to do things completely differently. As Jesse says, “No one was paying attention to us because we didn't give them a reason to pay attention.”
What Jesse realized is that they needed to convince even people who didn’t want to see a baseball game that they should come to a Savannah Bananas game. They needed to be fan-focused and generate those kind of “you wouldn’t believe” moments I talk about in Superfans. They thought through the entire customer experience, every touch-point, every moment of the game. They had their players learn choreography, their dance squad is made up of seventy-year-old women called the Banana Nanas. They eliminated everything about the experience that wasn’t fans-first, including going so far as to become the first-ever ad-free stadium. Their tickets are all-inclusive, so all your concessions are already paid for and you feel like you’re actually taking advantage of the team because of all the free stuff you get.
Right now, you can’t even get a ticket to a Savannah Bananas game. There’s a waitlist. Jesse travels all over the world in his yellow tux to help businesses do things differently and create amazing customer experiences. As he says, the secret is to “love your customers more than you love your product.” There are so many great nuggets in our conversation, so take a listen to the full episode. And if Jesse inspires you as much as he inspires me, check out his book, Find Your Yellow Tux (Amazon link), and take a listen to the Business Done Differently Podcast, where I’ll be making an appearance in season three.
Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas and host of the Business Done Differently Podcast, tells us how he turned around a floundering team to the point where they sell out every game and even have a waitlist for tickets.
- Why Jesse wears a yellow tux to every event he attends.
- What he learned from P.T. Barnum.
- How he completely turned around the worst-performing baseball team in the country.
- Why you need to ask yourself what business you’re really in.
- How they confound expectations by doing the exact opposite of normal.
- What happened when Russell Wilson played for the Bananas.
- Why you start with getting people’s attention.
- How they plan every touch-point of the fan experience.
- Why they call every fan who buys a ticket.
- Why the Bananas eliminated all advertising from their stadium.
- What lessons Jesse teaches businesses in other industries.
- Why the most important thing is to keep showing up.
- The Savannah Bananas
- “Can’t Stop the Peeling”
- The Banana Nanas
- Superfans by Pat Flynn
- Find Your Yellow Tux by Jesse Cole (Amazon link)
- The Business Done Differently Podcast
- The Thank You Experiment
SPI 401: Jesse Cole—The Yellow Tux Guy
Pat Flynn: Have you ever heard of the Savannah Bananas? This is a college summer baseball team, so college and summer only. It's not Major League Baseball. It's not even Minor League. It's the lowest of the low on the totem pole of baseball leagues. Yet, somehow, they've been able to sell out every single game and then some. There's a waitlist to get into the stadium.
I have with me today a special guest. His name is Jesse Cole. He is the owner of the team who has done some tremendous, unbelievable work to help turn this team around from hardly selling any tickets at all to one of the most sought-after experiences that you could ever have in baseball. And I want him to talk about this because, as many of you know, I wrote a book called Superfans. He is living, breathing, practicing, implementing everything that I talked about in this book and more. I want you to get inspired because no matter what kind of business you have, whether it's a baseball team in a summer league or an online business helping people, or teaching, or coaching, or anything that you offer, this is going to be high value for you, so make sure you stick around. But first, the intro.
Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. Now your host, he prefers blue ink over black ink, Pat Flynn.
Pat: Welcome, everybody. My name is Pat Flynn. Here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people, too. This is Session 401. We're going to start off the four-hundreds with a doozy, a good friend of mine, Jesse Cole. I've seen him and have heard about him for quite a while. Actually, for years now. I used to go to a number of different events, and I would see him because he stood out like a yellow banana because he wears a yellow suit with a yellow hat. I thought it was just . . . Honestly, first impression, I was like, “This guy is trying a little too hard.”
But honestly, when I discovered more about his story and what he's done with the Savannah Bananas and the other companies that he works with, I mean, this guy, Jesse, he travels the world, does keynotes for all different kinds of companies, and he teaches them how to build fans and get people to come back. Wow, I'm so impressed. My initial impression was incorrect. This guy has inspired me, and he's here to inspire you, too. He's also the host of the Business Done Differently Podcast. You'll find him at events wearing a yellow tux, but here he is, Jesse Cole. You'll love it.
Jesse, welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thanks so much for being here, man.
Jesse Cole: I'm fired up to be with you, Pat.
Pat: If you could only see what Jesse is wearing right now, he is wearing a bright yellow suit. Every time I see him in person, he's wearing the same thing. What's with the suit? What's with the getup, Jesse?
Jesse: Yeah, it's my uniform. Pat, I played baseball my whole life, played in college, and there's a difference between a practice uniform and a game uniform. When you put on your uniform, it's game time, and for me, and being in the baseball industry that's more like a circus, this is my uniform. So when I put on this, it's showtime. We teach everyone in our staff and everyone at our ballpark to always be on stage, and so this is it for me. One of my biggest mentors is P.T. Barnum, so channeling a little bit of my P.T. when I'm wearing this wherever I go, whether I'm speaking, whether I'm at a conference, and wherever I've seen you, obviously, I've been in this crazy, outrageous yellow tuxedo.
Pat: I love it. Well, you stand out like crazy, and you don't just stand up because you wear something different. You stand out because of how you run your businesses. You are the owner of a couple of multimillion-dollar summer league baseball teams. Jesse had to correct me, actually, before we hit record. I thought it was a minor league team that you are known for, but it's not even minor league. How did you get involved with owning a couple baseball teams?
Jesse: Yeah. I was afraid, at first, to tell people that because I was almost ashamed. We're the lowest level of all baseball, but now that we've been fortunate to have success, I tell everyone because it makes the story even better. But yeah, no, I played baseball my whole life. I went to college, full scholarship, tore everything in my shoulder my senior year, and that ended my career.
I didn't know what I was going to do. I got an email about an internship on the front office. I took that. I had a lot of fun trying to sell the idea of coming to a baseball game, and I got offered the job as a general manager of a team at twenty-three years old in a little town of Gastonia, North Carolina, and it was the worst-performing team in the entire country. Literally, Pat, two hundred fans coming to the games, and there was only $268 in the bank account on my first day, and we had three full-time employees, and payroll was on Friday. That's how I started, and so at that point, it was then that I realized that, hey, baseball wasn't working. I think that's something that I preach to everyone to have a mirror moment and to realize what business are you in. What business are you really in?
It was then that I realized we couldn't be a baseball team and be successful. We had to be all about entertainment. We had to create a circus-like atmosphere and create baseball fans, and that's when we started experimenting and trying tons of different things, and fortunately, had a lot of success there. I ended up buying that team, recently sold that team, and then really, the huge adventure and success, and even more challenges happened with Savannah, Georgia and the Savannah Bananas.
Pat: The Savannah Bananas. Yes, I've been hearing a lot about this and following your story a little bit. So when you took on, and this was the Gastonia Grizzlies, I believe, is that right?
Pat: What were some of the things you did, and what was the major goal there? I'm curious because to take something that really wasn't working, and then putting flavor on top of it and generating fans, that's really what had it become successful. What were some of those things that you did?
Jesse: Well, yeah. It was at first survival. I couldn't pay myself for the first three months on the job because there was no money coming in. So whenever I met with people, they'd say, “We don't like baseball,” and I said, “Well, we've got to figure out what can we get people that say they don't like baseball, but they want to come and see our games.” So we changed the language.
As you shared in Superfans, know the lyrics, share the lyrics. We changed our language to being about the show. “Welcome to the show. Enjoy the show.” Everything became about the show, so what did we do? We said, “Whatever is normal, do the exact opposite.” Pat, I know you're the same way beliefs here. I believe normal gets normal results, and if you do things like everyone else, you're going to get results like everyone else, so we said, “What would be the exact opposite? Our players play baseball. What if our players did choreographed dances every game?” So we started having our players get instructed by dance choreographers to teach them how to do dances during the games. We had our players start delivering roses to little girls in the crowd during the games. We started having grandma beauty pageants during the games. We even, Pat, did crazy things like we had a Dig to China Night, where we buried a certificate to China in the infield dirt, and we let fans dig to try to find this trip to China. However, when the woman found it, it was just a one-way ticket to China, no accommodations and no flight back.
Pat: So what was your . . . I'm curious, like to the players, specifically, who were . . . They're baseball players, but then you kind of come up as GM, and then you're like, “Hey guys, this is what we're going to do. We're going to dance.” What's the reaction?
Jesse: Before they practiced, the first time I brought the dance instructor and the guys were shaking their heads, they're like, “No way.” I remember one of our pitchers ran off into the bullpen. He goes, “I'm not dancing. I'm here to pitch.” But a few of the other guys danced, and let me tell you, they could maybe play baseball, but they could not dance. It was the grossest, nastiest dancing I've ever seen.
But what happened, the first night that the players danced, all of a sudden, the fans started paying attention. Then, the next night, the players that danced, they were the most popular. They were signing the most autographs. Halfway through the season, that pitcher that ran off into the bullpen, he said, “Forget it. I want to be out there.” So he got on the field, ripped his belt off, started throwing his bat over his head like the lasso, and he started becoming the most popular player because he was seeing them being loved by the fans. I found out later that that pitcher, he was on a billboard in LA. He's now a male model.
Pat: Wow, that's crazy.
Jesse: So it took time, but like in 2009, Russell Wilson, Pat, played for us. So the quarterback for the Seahawks, the highest-paid player in the NFL, Superbowl quarterback, he played for us. And even him, halfway through the season, he was like, “I'm going to dance,” because what we realized, baseball is long, slow, and boring. But if people have fun and the players have fun, they played better, and we've actually proven it. They played better by being in a better atmosphere and culture. I think it's the case for anyone. If you're doing something you love and you enjoy, you'll perform better.
So the guys just started having fun, and we mic up all our players right now in Savannah. Our players go on dates with fans during the games. Like literally, will go on a date in the stands with like roses. We'll have our sexy saxophone player serenading them. I mean, it's an absolute circus, but the guys say, “I'll never ever forget the summer I had in Savannah,” and that's one of our big goals.
Pat: That's really amazing, and so the transformation here really is sort of player and game-focused to fan-focused.
Jesse: Yes. Yeah.
Pat: With the Savannah Bananas, I mean, tell me what the results have been like. This is a college summer baseball league. What's it like on game day?
Jesse: So at first, it was one of the biggest struggles I could ever imagine. So just to kind of take it back just four years ago. So there was professional baseball in Savannah, Georgia for ninety years. The stadium that we play in was built in 1926. Hank Aaron played there. Babe Ruth played there.
Pat: Wow, wow.
Jesse: Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle. I mean, you name it, they played at that stadium. Even FDR gave a presidential address in 1933 at the ballpark. Tons of history, but for some reason, baseball never worked there. They could never draw crowds because all they did was focus on baseball. So in 2015, the former professional team said, “We need a new stadium if we're going to draw fans,” and the city said no. City of Savannah said, “We're not going to give you a new stadium. You're not drawing fans,” so they left.
We somehow convinced Savannah to let in a college summer team. They expected us to fail. We showed up that first day on October 5th, 2015, just four years ago, and the former team cut the phone lines. They cut the internet lines. They took everything out of the stadium. It was myself, my wife, our twenty-four-year-old team president, and three twenty-two-year-olds right out of college. We grabbed a picnic table from outside in the park, and we brought it into an old, abandoned storage building, and we started using our cell phones to call everyone in town to see if they would give us a chance.
Unfortunately, Pat, after two months, no one was giving us a chance. We sold only one ticket to that gentleman giving us a donation. It was bad, and then fast forward to January 15th, 2016 at 4:45 PM. I'll never forget it. I'm with my wife. I'm at my best friend's wedding, and we got a call from one of our employees that we over-drafted our account and that we're completely out of money.
So it was then, less than four years ago, that my wife turned to me and said, “We have to sell our house,” so we sold our house. We emptied out our savings account. We ended up finding the nastiest, grossest place you can ever imagine down in Savannah that was on the market for over three years. We got an air bed, and we started just trying to make ends meet. But what we realized, for six months, we were trying to do things like everyone else. We were marketing like everyone else. We were trying to spread the word like everyone else, and we were getting these very poor results because no one had experienced our games.
So that's the starting point, and I'll get to it, but I think it's very important like we wanted to create the attention. We wanted to create the excitement, but we couldn't do it. And the name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. Our mission is, fans first, entertain always, but we didn't have any fans. We didn't have any customers. We had nobody in the beginning, until we started making a few changes.
Pat: Yeah, that's the big conundrum, right? It's like people are reading Superfans and they're like, “Okay. This is great, but like how do I even get people to pay attention to me, let alone become a fan?” and that's kind of where you were at. How did you get people to start paying attention to you?
Jesse: You have to get people's attention. It is the number one starting point, and I believe attention beats marketing one thousand percent of the time. If you don't have attention, if you don't have the eyes and the ears of your customers, good luck trying to create superfans. And so no one was paying attention to us because we didn't give them a reason to pay attention. So we determined, at that point, we had to go dramatically different.
We had to really tell everyone and show everyone we are not like your normal baseball team. And so we became the first team ever to name themselves after a fruit. So we named ourselves the Savannah Bananas, but we didn't just end it there. We came up with a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas, right? Literally, they dance to Justin Timberlake and, I mean, you name it. Bruno Mars. They're over seventy years old. Then, we named our mascot Split. Then, we came up with a male cheerleading team called the Mananas, which is now referred to as the Dad Bod Cheerleading Squad. Alright?
Jesse: We came up with a break dancing first base coach. We came up with a thirty-piece Banana Pep Band. We have our Banana Baby before the game, where we actually put a baby in a banana costume, bring it to home plate, have all the players hover around, lift their hands in the air, and lift the baby up to the crowd, and play (singing). It's the weirdest ritual you've ever seen in a ballpark, and so we went all-in on being dramatically different. We even offered President Obama an internship with us after his term was over. We still haven't heard from him, so we're . . . Yeah, but we went crazy, and then . . . just to get the attention. Then, once they came to our ballpark, that's when we went all-in on the experience.
Pat, what we do, and a lot we've learned from you and learned from so many others, raving fans and customers for life, we literally map every single piece of the journey when they come to our ballpark with that big point of them leaving the ballpark and saying, “You won't believe what happened at the stadium tonight.” Today, fast forward, we've spent zero dollars on marketing, and we've sold out every single game and have a waitlist in the thousands for tickets.
Pat: Bro, dude, I got like goosebumps when you told that story. Holy moly. I got to go to a game. How do I get on that waitlist, number one?
Jesse: I think you know some people to get connected. I might sneak you in the back, Pat, but yeah, it's been amazing. The people that have been visiting us the last few years and what we hear is like, “I never imagined a baseball game could be like this,” and that's literally what we think about. When we have idea-paloozas with our staff, when we put ideas in our idea box, every day, we're thinking of those ideas that people will come and say, “This is unbelievable. You won't believe what happened at the ballpark.” That's kind of the framework we use with companies. What are those you-wouldn't-believe moments that you're creating? That's the most powerful form of marketing, when people leave not just saying, “I had a good time,” but saying, “You wouldn't believe what happened.”
Pat: Yeah, that phrase that you mentioned really stuck out to me the, “I never imagined.” That's how you want people to sort of finish that in some way.
Jesse: Yes, yes.
Pat: Like, “I never imagined I'd have a computer in my pocket, and it's a phone at the same time. I'd never imagined that a tripod could move this quickly, and open and close so fast.” That kind of thing, and so walk me through—because Superfans is all about the experiences that you create over time, right? So from the first moment to the last moment, walk me through, and I know I'm spoiling it for myself because I'd love to experience it for the first time in person, but if you could walk me through what that experience is like for somebody brand new and the little moments that you create for them during the entire game to have them coming back again. Walk me through that.
Jesse: Of course. Alright. I'll go through the whole experience, and to be honest, that doesn't scare me at all. I think everyone says my team is like, “Jesse, when you share everyone on stage and in the stories about the experience, it's going to be . . . You might let people down.” I go, “No, that puts more accountability and responsibility on me and the team to keep pushing ourselves and competing against ourselves.” So no big deal there., but alright, so the experience.
So, again, when you first buy tickets from us, the experience starts then. A lot of people, you get a regular payment confirmation. For us, you get a video that's sent right to you, and the video begins with, “You just made the best decision of your day. Right now, as your ticket order came in, a high-priority siren went off in our stadium, and our Bananiacs put on their banana costumes and ran to the ticket laboratory to select your tickets. Then, a Banana Nana slowly walked in, and hand-picked your tickets, and placed them on a silk pillow. We raised the silk pillow up into the air, and we all sang “Circle of Life” by Lion King. Then, we walked your tickets all the way to our vault where they are now in maximum security, ready for you to go bananas.”
Jesse: So that's how it starts, then . . .
Pat: So right away, it's like, “Whoa, this is different.”
Jesse: This is different so . . . and again, this is whether you're an online company or any company, you can make that payment confirmation fun. The next step is every single person that buys a ticket gets a thank you call from someone on our staff. We sell over a hundred thousand tickets. We spread out an Excel sheet, and they get a thank you call, and I do ten every day. and so I get, during the season, like, “I can't believe you actually called me.” A lot of people say, “Did my credit card not work?” I'm like, “No, we call you and say thank you.” So that's the next step. Now, our ticket experience coordinator came up with the idea to send a playlist of music for people to listen to on the way to the game. So we're setting the tone as they're coming to the ballpark. Alright?
Jesse: Next, as they're coming to the ballpark, the first thing they'll see is parking penguins. We actually dress up people in penguin costumes, and they're parking your car. Does it make any sense? Of course not, but we thought it would be funny if you got parked by a penguin. So they park your car, and then they hand you or a kid, they hand you a freezie pop and say, “Stay cool tonight.” Alright?
So after they pass the penguins, the next thing you'll see is the players. We have between four and six players lined up outside the gate in full uniform, signing autographs, passing out programs, greeting with the fans. Then, you pass the players, and then you might see DJ Peels on Wheels, who's our mobile DJ that rides a Segway all around the stadium. After you pass him, then you're going to see our pep band playing “Rocky” or “Final Countdown” as you come into the ballpark. Then, you're going to go up to the ticket gate, and you're going to see our ticket-takers in full banana costumes ripping your banana-shaped tickets that are scratch-and-sniff and smell like bananas.
Pat: I haven't even sat down yet?
Jesse: Yes, because again, it's every touchpoint. Again, this is something over fifteen years, Pat, that like we're still working on.
Jesse: Like next year, I want our players to ride a golf cart and have a golf cart karaoke as they pick up fans in the parking lot. We keep thinking of new things that we can do to add to that experience. Then, as you pass through the line, you'll probably see our professional high-fiver. We hired a six-year-old with a jersey. On the back, his name is High, and his number is five, and his sole job is to high-five every fan at the stadium. We paid him fifteen hundred dollars this past year to high-five fans. We probably broke every child labor law there is, but the goal was, hey, we're actually going to invest in the experience. We don't invest in the market. We invest in the experience.
So again, this is just getting into the ballpark. And as you walk in, it's a 1926 stadium. Our bathrooms are old. You can't be perfect at everything. We don't have a video scoreboard. There's paint falling off the seats. There's weeds. It's an older ballpark, but our bathrooms, we can still have fun. So our biggest rival is the Macon Bacon. So, of course, in the men's room, all the urinal cakes are Macon Bacon urinal cakes. So our fans are literally peeing on our rival. It's the details, and then there's “No farting” signs in the men's stalls. One of our Fans First director who did women's stalls came up with the idea of having, “Drop it like it's hot,” a sign in the women's bathrooms, which doesn't even make sense to me. I don't even know what it means, but people laugh coming out of the bathrooms.
So it's details like that, like we'll put our saxophone player and our tuba player in the bathrooms. We'll have a DJ in the bathrooms, and then throughout the game, we have a parade like Disney before the game starts. When the umpire meeting happens, we'll have Barney come out, and give massages to the umpires, and play the “I Love You” song. Our pre-game announcements, we have a singer sing the pre-game announcements, and it's like . . . She sings, “Smoking is prohibited inside Grayson Stadium, so please take it outside. There's a place in the front smoke if you want. Thank you for all your cooperation.” So you look at all these different details, and then we have our break dancing first-base coach, and promotions. Every half-inning, we have a two-page to three-page script every night.
I know that sounds like a lot, but like that's what we put into it, and then the last impression leaves a lasting impression. So we have our pep band playing at the end of the night. We have a DJ. We have a free s’mores station for the fans, and we have all the players out thanking and the staff thanking the fans as they leave.
Pat: Wow, that's amazing. I want to be a part of this pep band, by the way. I used to play trumpet, so I need to . . .
Jesse: I know you used to play. I mean, Pat, seriously, if you come this summer, you need to jump in. We'll get you in a costume, we'll get you in a pep band t-shirt, pep band jersey, and you would rock it, man.
Pat: Oh my god, I would love that.
Jesse: They go around the crowd playing throughout the night. So they will go out and like our sexy saxophone player will stop one half-inning and just have him serenade women throughout the crowd. So like we actually do like . . . They go around playing at different points while the game is being played. That's the key. Because baseball can be too long, too slow, too boring, you need to have constant action.
Pat: That's amazing. I need to work on my chops, but we'll get there, and we'll see if we can make it happen. So what has this done for . . . For people listening, this is amazing, all these incredible touchpoints. What has this done for business now? How has that grown since you were in that sort of storage unit with a picnic table trying to figure things out? How is the business running now?
Jesse: Yeah. Well, I mean, four years ago, like we were really down to our last dollar. I mean, Pat, I remember my wife and I going to Walmart and saying, “We have thirty dollars to grocery shop this week,” and getting ramen noodles, and Hot Pockets, and food that didn't even look like food. It was tough, so we were as low as it could go.
We had rapid years of seven-figure growth, and now, we've maxed out and sold every ticket. We're fortunate to be very profitable, and we have a growing team. Still all millennials. Everyone is very young, and they've been with us since the beginning, started as interns. A lot of opportunities are opening their doors now. From TV, we've been reached out to inside a few agreements for TV opportunities, and we're looking at potentially taking the show on the road and traveling, and now, we . . . Here's another crazy thing too, Pat. We're always trying to enhance the experience. So we just eliminated all advertising from our stadium, every single sponsorship, all billboards. We're creating the first-ever ad-free sporting experience.
Pat: Wow. Tell me about that.
Jesse: Well, we believe, again, if you're trying to provide the best experience for your fans, stop doing things that people hate and they don't like. If you go to most stadiums, you hear constant ads, and constant announcements, and constant things just bombarding you about sponsors. We said, “That's not the best way to experience one of our games. That is not fans-first,” and every decision we make is fans-first, so we eliminated a lot of dollars to enhance the experience.
Jesse: The way we're offsetting that is we're staying true to what we believe in. Similar to Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A is closed fifty-two Sundays a year, yet they do more revenue than any other fast-food place, and it's not even close. We believe that the experience is the future of all marketing and that the customers are your marketers. The raving fans are your marketers, so we are teaching the fans-first experience, and we're doing workshops, and bringing businesses in, and speaking, and so we're teaching what we believe in.
We're not taking a check for a billboard and something that we will never buy. I think something that I've learned a lot from you is always sell things you believe in, and that's . . . Even when you first started with the exam, it's like, “Hey, this worked for me. I'm going to teach this.” We never want to sell something we don't believe in, so now we're creating the first-ever ad-free stadium and short-term losing money, but to create even more long-term fans.
Pat: That's amazing, Jesse. Congrats to you, and your entire staff, and the team, and everything you've done there. I'm just so inspired. I'm curious. I know you speak around the world talking about this story and teaching other businesses that aren't in sports or entertainment, but corporate companies. You speak in front of them. How do you position your fans-first approach where it's very P.T. Barnum in the baseball world, but how might you teach similar strategies in a world where that kind of stuff, it just isn't impossible?
Jesse: It's a great question because I think that's one of . . . There's a lot of skepticism, and I think, at first, everyone, “This guy in this yellow tuxedo, he's in the baseball, sports industry, entertainment industry. This doesn't fit.”
Jesse: Ironically, Pat, we don't hear from any sports teams. They think we're too crazy, but we hear from numerous other industries. From working with car dealerships to banks to . . . I just mentioned a big bike company. I mean, it's amazing that we look at this aspect as, “What is the experience you're providing from the beginning, and what are you delivering to your fans? How are you turning customers into fans?”
We've learned over struggle, challenges—I mean, from doing promotions that didn't work—a framework, just like you with creating that Superfans and the “Pyramid of Fandom.” It's a framework that we've seen work, and when I see a car dealership, which . . . When you look at a car dealership and you think about experience, you don't think that great, but when you see they started a whole campaign built on stopping doing what your customers hate and creating you-wouldn't-believe moments. Now, they've got customers giving raving reviews on Google. It's fascinating to me. We get more purpose out of seeing other companies create this framework and looking at whatever's normal and doing the exact opposite.
Then, most importantly, Pat, something that you preach on, love your customers more than you love your product. When people get asked, “What do you do?” Do you answer about the product you sell, or do you answer on who do you serve? We're really trying to change that conversation and get people to focus on where your customers are going, not where you want to go with your product.
Pat: I love that. On the car dealership, what are a couple of things that were implemented that changes that experience from normal to incredible, if you don't mind sharing?
Jesse: Sure. Well, here are some of the conversations. So think about what are all those friction points? When you first go to a car dealership, people are scared to even walk on the lot because they're going to get . . .
Pat: Yeah, they're getting sold to.
Jesse: Yeah, just running at you, and then you never know with the bargaining back . . . negotiating back and forth. I mean, just looking at all those things that people hate. I mean, how many times do you call somewhere, Pat, and it's like, “Listen closely as our menu options have changed,” or you call to talk to a company, and all of a sudden, you get put on hold, and you're talking to automation for ten minutes before you can finally talk to someone?
Jesse: Yeah. “Speak to someone, representative, representative.” So we looked at all of those friction points. They started a Stop the Hate campaign. So they literally sent all their team members to send out to their friends and family, and write down what are all the things that you hate about the car industry. They started writing down and said, “Alright. How are we eliminating this?”
Jesse: Then, what I love is I started doing a You Wouldn't Believe section during my workshop with them, and a guy in the front row . . . I said, “Guys, what would be a you-wouldn't-believe moment that someone would leave the car dealership talking about?” He said, “Well, we give car washes to brand new cars. What if we washed every single car of every person that showed up at our lot, whether they went to buy a car or not?” I go, “Wow, that's a you-wouldn't-believe moment.”
Jesse: All of a sudden, they'd be known, “Hey, they're just taking care of people. They're going to wash cars whether you buy a car or not.” That would get people talking.
Pat: I love that. How might a bank make something interesting? A bank is also very dry and just transactional. I'm curious.
Jesse: Yeah. Well, what business are you really in? I think if a bank thinks they're just about in the financial business, they're in the wrong business. I'm working with a big credit union in Saskatchewan next week. I'm flying up there to work with them. I'm excited about it, but one bank that went to our workshop previously, they said, “Well, what are we trying to do? We're trying to enhance lives in our community.” I said, “Okay,” and so they embraced the whole wow mentality, and they actually bought a wagon.
They call it the Wow Wagon, and they actually go out and deliver ice cream in the community for free, and they're just trying to enhance the community. They're not trying to sell checking accounts. They're not trying to sell anything in regards to the bank. They are just giving out ice cream. It's called the Wow Wagon, and it goes out throughout the summer and just shows up at places to deliver free ice cream. That is a bank who is enriching that community, and it's not just about what they're selling, and so that's a, literally, wow moment.
Pat: Yeah, that's cool.
Jesse: Yeah. So I mean, it's just those little moments. Again, whatever is normal, do the exact opposite. Pat, you've been doing this. I mean, the way you connect with your fans is so inspirational, and I have been following and our whole team has been following it. I mean, it can just be a wow by a simple way. “Was that just a video from Pat just sending to me? Like I didn't even know he knew I existed. I was just another transaction.” It's a thank you letter.
I mean, I started this in 2016, the Thank You Experiment, and I said, “I'm going to challenge myself to write a thank you letter every single day.” Of all the craziness, you see the yellow tuxedo and the break dancing first-base coach and all the things we do. The one thing that changed my life more was the Thank You Experiment, and I haven't stopped since 2016.
Every day, I have a thank you letter, and I write it to someone in my life that's made an impact on me. I can't tell you the connections and the difference that it’s made in my life, and just spreading that gratitude. So even if you're an introvert, how can you just tell someone that you care for them? How can you focus on one fan a day? I think that can create these you-wouldn't-believe moments and really make an impact in your life and in your business.
Pat: Thank you for that. How does one who is doing business online who's just starting out, and they have a small email list, and they just started their podcast, and they're not getting many downloads, and they hear the numbers from others. They're getting a little down on themselves. How might they take advantage of the fact that they have just started and start to make an impact on others?
Jesse: Well, I think you talk about this all the time. It's how can you give more? How can you look to give more value than extract value? I think it's so tough because so many of us want to play. What can we do to see those results? We need to feel progress, and even on our staff, our Fans First director, just started posting on LinkedIn. She's like, “I'm not getting tons of likes and not tons of comments.” I mean, Pat, when your first podcast launched many years ago, you weren't getting many likes, or comments, or downloads.
Pat: Yeah, none, hardly.
Jesse: I mean, I committed myself. I wrote 159 blogs before I posted my first one. I was too scared. I was too scared. I wrote my book, and I was too scared to put it out for a while. Finally, I decided on September 18th, 2017. I was like, “I'm just going to start posting every day,” and so I started posting on LinkedIn every day. Just one post. Something. I was sharing the journey, and just like you being so open and even sharing your financial records, which is just fascinating. All of a sudden, people were like, “Wow, he just keeps showing up.”
So if you're just starting your online business, how do you just keep showing up? Keep showing up trying to give. What is that value you can do of sharing the journey? Don't worry about how many likes, comments. How can you just give, give, give? I know you get booked for speeches all over the world as well. I've never posted an ad, or a request, or something to book me to speak, but I was so fortunate to get requests every single week because for two years, I've been trying to give value as opposed to extract value.
So I know that's a long-winded kind of politically correct answer, but every day, if your intention is, “What can I put out in the world to give?” and whether it's . . . Be different. Whether it is special videos that you send, whether when someone buys, you do a celebrating video of like you getting so excited, whether it is, like you mentioned, seeing what they're doing on their social media and commenting on it, “Wow, that's really cool project you're working on,” how do you jump into the conversations of them and just make them feel good? I think lifting people up is something that everyone should focus on every single day.
Pat: I'm considering the listener who's listening to this who might work for a company and maybe they're part of a marketing team, and they're hearing this, and they're like, “Yes, this makes complete sense, business done differently,” which, by the way, is the name of your podcast. Everybody should check that out, Business Done Differently, but they're going to get that conversation with their higher-up who goes, “Yeah. I know, but like what's the ROI on that? How do we measure this?” How do you answer that question?
Jesse: What sports did you play as a kid, Pat?
Pat: Soccer, baseball, and roller hockey, actually.
Jesse: Okay. Awesome. In baseball, you often have the coach that tells you to do something when you're hitting like, “Hey, keep your elbow up. Keep your elbow up. Keep your elbow . . .” Something like that. “Keep your weight back.” They're giving you instructions, right? Then, a couple of times, you don't do it, and your elbow doesn't go up, but you hit a double, and then you get another hit. That coach will never, as you're rounding a sac and you're running into the base, never say, “Ugh, you didn't do it the way I wanted to.” They're going to clap and say, “Great work. Just as I wanted it. Just as I was teaching you.”
Jesse: You see what I'm saying?
Jesse: So the point there is if you just keep staying true and doing it, and then you start showing results, that is what any manager or leader is going to look for. And however you get the results and I’ll tell you, every leader—I'm with you—wants the results faster and faster, but I don't believe that's the game we're playing. We're playing the long game to create fans, and you don't create fans in a fast way. You create fans by the consistency and being there for them. I think that's what takes time, but once they start seeing, “Wow, the numbers are increasing. We're getting more opportunities. We're getting more business from not actually just trying to do a quick sale or a quick discount.”
I mean, Pat, I can't tell you. We've never done a sale with the Bananas because I think if you're discounting, that's just . . . You're basically saying that, “Hey, we're not good enough,” or, “Our value’s not there.” I didn't share with you, but every single ticket we have is all-inclusive. Every ticket includes all your burgers, your hotdogs, your chicken sandwiches, your soda, your water, your popcorn, and your ticket for eighteen dollars, and we don't stop. It's not like cut off at the eighth inning or the ninth inning. it's from the beginning to the end. How can you provide so much value that your customers even feel like they're taking advantage of you?
Pat: Then, your customers, they're the ones spreading the word for you. I mean, you make up that money with the ad spend that you don't have to do because they're doing it for you.
Jesse: A hundred percent, and if you've ever been on a cruise, you get all your food and your entertainment included. You probably might buy a few drinks. You might buy some merchandise. You might buy some other things as well because you feel guilty you've got so much value.
Pat: Yeah. Jesse, this has been an amazing conversation. Just thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here. I know you just kind of flew in from a conference that you delivered a keynote at and you're about to fly out to another one, so thank you so much for taking the time. What can people expect when they go, and subscribe, and download Business Done Differently?
Jesse: Unique, wild, fun conversations with amazing people. Like I said, I'm honored to have you on the show for season three coming up, but I think looking at the world differently, thinking differently, acting differently, it's a lot of fun. I think a lot of us, it just has to do with taking that first step, taking a chance, taking an experiment, and I experiment on the show. I experiment in my book, Find Your Yellow Tux (Amazon link). I do a lot of experimenting constantly, and I think that's what makes life fun. [Full Disclaimer: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Pat: Then, where can we go check out the Savannah Bananas?
Jesse: Just search. Search “Savannah Bananas.” You'll find us. We do lots of videos. Our players, we do music videos with our players. We do a lot of ridiculous things, and we keep taking those chances. So Savannah Bananas. You can search us anywhere. Yellow Tux. You can find me anywhere, and just like you, I think if people reach out, I'd love to help and join in on the conversation.
Pat: Well, thank you, Jesse. I appreciate you. I'm a fan of what you do, how you do it, and all you're doing, so thank you so much. I look forward to following up with you, and I'll see you in season three of Business Done Differently.
Jesse: Thank you so much, Pat.
Pat: Alright. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jesse Cole from the Savannah Bananas. Just look up “Yellow Tux Guy” on Google, or Business Done Differently on Apple or wherever you're listening to podcasts. You can check him out and the other great episodes he has there. Jesse, thank you so much. I appreciate you and for sharing Super Fans with your team and your tribe. This is what it's about, connecting with other people who are here.
And know the formula for what it takes to succeed in business today. It's not about strategies that involve likes, and follows, and subscribers. It's about providing those unique experiences that make you go, “Wow, you wouldn't believe . . .” So are you creating any “Wow, you wouldn't believe” moments in your business? If not, then hopefully you can take the lead from Jesse and myself in helping you understand, well, how can you make those moments for your people too?
So hope you enjoyed this episode. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven't already. You can check out the show notes and all the links to everything Jesse has going on at smartpassiveincome.com/session401.
If you haven't picked up Superfans yet, go and do that now. If you are actually listening to this the week it comes out, you have a week to get it at a discount on Amazon, at least in the US. We're going to try for other countries as well, but we're going to have it severely discounted on Kindle, and you can obviously pick up the hardcover and Audible version as well, but this is your time to create these moments for your fans, for your people, for your subscribers.
Like we talked about, you actually have an advantage if you're just starting out because you can provide these experiences much easier than others who have larger brands. So this is how you're going to do it in 2020. 2020 is coming up. Let's focus on fans. Thanks again. I appreciate you. Keep listening in. Subscribe if you haven't already, and I'll see you on the next show. Thanks so much, and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at www.smartpassiveincome.com.