Making Baseball Fun – Jesse Cole of Savannah Bananas

Jesse Cole, Owner of Fans First Entertainment

Jesse Cole, the Owner of Fans First Entertainment, grew his company’s revenue from $556,000 in 2014 to $3.6 m in 2017, a 547% increase, and to double digit growth in 2018.  

Fans First Entertainment owns and operates the Savannah Bananas, a collegiate summer league baseball team.  

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Jesse shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:  

  • Creating attention: Attention beats marketing.  They don’t do normal — they offered Former President Obama an internship position.  
  • Implementing a sell out strategy that allowed them to raise prices and give member and group ticket holders all-they-can-eat food and drink.  
  • Providing a “Fans First Entertainment” experience that begins with a phone call thanking people for buying their tickets and ends only when they leave the stadium.  

Savannah Bananas Interview - (computer generated transcript) (transcribed by Sonix)

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Malcolm Lui: Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today you're speaking with Jesse Cole, the Owner of Fan First Entertainment, the company that owns and operates the Savannah Bananas, a collegiate summer baseball league team. Welcome to the call. Jessie.

Jesse Cole: Pumped to be with you today.

Malcolm Lui: Jessie, you grew your company's revenue from $556,000 in 2014 to $3.6 million in 2017, a 547% increase, and in 2018 you're looking at double digit growth as well. But before we talk about how you grew your company so fast, can you share briefly what your company does beyond my brief intro and how your company differs from the competition?

What they do, and how they differ.

Jesse Cole: Of course and different from the competition is everything for us. As you know I'm in a yellow tuxedo I own seven of these yellow tuxedos and we're all about standing out. So the business that we're in. People from the outside would say we're in the baseball business but we are 1000 percent in the entertainment business. So we started with a small team out in gas only in North Carolina. And that was failing and we turned it into a circus. Literally dancing players Grandma beauty pageants you name it. We tried it at our ballparks. And so when we launched the team in Savannah we knew we had to go crazy to create a lot of excitement and attention and that's what we've done. So basically it is one of the lowest levels of baseball but for some reason we have sold out every single game and have a waitlist in the thousands for tickets because it is not a focus is not baseball. It is the show the entertainment it's the experience and it's how we make people feel when they come to our ballpark and that's everything for us.

Malcolm Lui: So that you view your competition as simply as the other baseball teams in the league or as a competition beyond that

Jesse Cole: I don't think about our competition at all. I believe everyone's competition Amazon's competition Disney's competition the Ritz Carlton is competition. Everyone that touches a customer is competition. However what I think a lot of the businesses do is they focus on their competition. I don't I'm aware of what they're doing but I focus on what we can do to create the best most magical amazing experience for our customers and our employees. So we don't make moves based on the competition. That's why just you know three four years ago when we started we became the first team ever to do all you can eat tickets. Every single ticket had all you can eat hamburgers hot dog chicken sandwiches soda water popcorn you name it for 15 dollars including the ticket. There was no one competing there but we looked at what's the best possible experience for the customer. And people should not be nickel and dime when they come to the ballpark. So you know really I don't look at competition much but I know we're competing with everyone. Anyone that has a great experience with a brand that's our competition. We just have to continue to focus on what we do not what they do

Malcolm Lui: Right. Fifteen dollars per ticket all you can eat and that's really compelling of offer to people to families especially

Jesse Cole: Well yeah. I mean again it's just you know you look at what you're doing the industry you're in and what are those friction points. What are those things that cause you know a challenge for the customer. And we realize not only that I mean baseball is to many long slow and boring. And so we had to have nonstop entertainment. That's why we have a break dancing first base coach. That's why we have a 30 piece pep band a senior citizen dancing called the Banana Nanos. We literally stripped out the entire experience how we're having fun and getting fans dancing and singing but then also when people come to a ballpark they get nickel and dimed you pay six bucks for a drink and eight bucks for a burger you name it. And all of a sudden you've spent 200 bucks. So we eliminated those friction points of baseball being long slow and boring. And then also you get a nickel and dimed and when you start there again you don't really focus on the competition you're so focused on getting better each year on creating a better experience.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So in regards to the say the three factors that drove your sales so dramatically over the past few years and you touched on a lot of points what in your mind are the three most important drivers of your sales growth

Jesse Cole: Well let me start this was saying we failed miserably in the beginning. I mean three years ago it's almost the day I got a phone call on a Friday and I was at my college roommates wedding was at four forty five and we found out from an employee call us that we overdraft to the account we had no money left. And this was three years ago my wife and I drove back down from that wedding she turned to me she said we have no other option we have to sell our house. And at that point we sold our dream house we empty out our savings account. We went all in on moving down to Savannah living there full time. We were sleeping on an air bed and trying to make ends meet. We did not know all the answers. We didn't know what we were doing but we believed that we could create an amazing experience. So when we first started we sold one season ticket in the first two months. That's how bad it was it wasn't until February 25th 2016 that we created attention by naming the team the Savannah bananas. But then having an entire plan of how to market that. And you know from literally naming our mascot split and the Banana Man as to offering former President Obama an internship with us with our team I mean we came up with all these ideas to create that attention.

Their three growth drivers

Jesse Cole: Once people started paying attention to what we're doing then they realized wow this is a pretty good deal. This is fun. This is exciting. And that's when we started growing. So if you want to say the three things that really helped us we were very clear that we had to create attention. Number one because attention beats marketing one thousand percent of the time. Number two we had to have a sell out strategy. Now most teams what they do you can get a ticket at any point where you can get a ticket at any point you can walk up there's no demand. So what we did is we had a strategy on how we were going to first sell out our season tickets. Then we're going to sell out opening night. Then we were going to sell out all of our names our weekend dates. And once we got to that strategy tickets became such a hot item we had scalpers in front of our ballpark literally tickets are on StubHub right now which doesn't make it's crazy for college summer baseball. But once we establish that and then a third piece which I would argue is the most important is the fans first experience and we believe so much in our name or a company's fans first entertainment our mission is fans first entertain always and we had to map out the customer journey from when they first buy from us to all the way when they leave.

Jesse Cole: And so you know during digital marketing we literally think what happens when they buy a ticket. And so we crafted this ridiculous email and video. Congrats you just made the best decision your day right now as you bought your tickets. We ran around the stadium with their tickets. We were celebrating and hoisting in the air. We dumped Gatorade over each other. Now your tickets are under our belt and they're ready for you to go bananas with us as they're in maximum security. You know some draft of that than we would call every one to give a thank you call every single person to buy a ticket individually would call them. Thank you. We mapped out this whole experience when people leave our games we'll have a small station. We'll have our pep band playing music. We'll have our players out there players thanking the fans and greeting the fans as we're singing and dancing because I believe the last impression leaves a lasting impression. So when you put those three pieces together create attention have a sell out strategy and love your customers more than you love your product. Create a fan's first experience. That's how we were able to grow

Malcolm Lui: Fantastic now can you talk a little bit more about how these items. Let's start with. Well first let me recap what you share with me the three drivers create attention create a sell out strategy and have a fans first entertainment philosophy can you develop a deeper and how you create attention

Jesse Cole: Whatever is normal do the exact opposite. That is one of my biggest Montrose that I believe in because normal gets normal results. Normal does not get noticed. So what everyone else is doing go the opposite direction. So for instance I've had to do was when I released my book Find Your yellow tux How do you think I wanted it. What I did was I did a world book tour but not around the world. I went to epcot and I literally I literally went from country to country with my book. And actually I got thrown out by security because they said I was confusing the guest as one of the characters. All right but that created a story because no one else was doing that. So you think if everyone's doing the same thing you've got to go the opposite like this is what we've done with the All You Can Eat tickets. This is why we have dancing players. This is why we did a beer festival not at night. We did it in the morning. We had a tap of the morning beer fest because you can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning. And it created a tension. So it's very hard to kind of put this into practical steps. But what I would say is that's why we don't focus on our competition in the sense that like we don't want to do what they're doing we're going completely different.

Jesse Cole: It's why I'm wearing a yellow tuxedo because I'm a showman. So that's how you create attention and you've got to be very timely. You know obviously you know we offered President Obama an internship right after he was no longer the president. We have a full time biographer on hand that's producing videos we do music videos all the time and parodies you know our biggest video it's can't stop the feeling after the Justin Timberlake song Can't stop the feeling we released that right when the song was at the height of the summer in 2016 and it went viral hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook. And so you know I think you got to be really in tune to jumping on things and knowing you need to go in a different direction. Well people talk about this and I know it's a little more detail Malcolm but I always tell people think like a reporter when a reporter cover you you know when you have a digital agency whether you're a real actor whether it's your story compelling enough that a reporter wants to tell it. And we're constantly thinking about our stories that we're creating every night at the ballpark. What are those stories that you create for your business. Do people care about them. And those are the questions that we asked

Malcolm Lui: Right now did Obama respond to your offer.

Former President Obama's internship offer

Jesse Cole: No but I will tell you this. This is fun. Eight years ago we did the same thing for President Bush or more than 10 years ago. And he didn't. We didn't hear from him on April 1st. We announced that he accepted the position. People started buying tickets was crazy. We offered him an internship and finally in the summer I heard from his executive assistant who said sorry you know we got the letter thank you so much for the quest. You know the president does love baseball but he can't do it. And I said he's three what three weeks late the internship started in May and I wouldn't let her get off the phone I was like he'd be great but we actually got a response from his people but not not about President Obama. We're still waiting on that one

Malcolm Lui: All right. Pretty good. Now you share with us some of the tension things that you've done that it does sound like you work out well but you know how many things you try that kind of fell flat and people kind of and

Jesse Cole: Almost all of them. I mean the reality is we're constantly trying new things like we had salute to underwear night way back to the day where we actually had to wear underwear on the outside. You've got a free ticket. It was the most unfathomably friendly night we've ever done. It was disgusting. It was nasty. We did the world's largest tickets which literally we thought hey whatever is normal do the exact opposite. Everyone has these small tickets. Let's come up with giant poster like souvenir item tickets. Our fans hated them. What are they supposed to do with these giant ticket they will put in their pockets that don't fit in their purse. I mean but again it's part of the story.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah

Jesse Cole: So you know we're trying. We've tried to fit 15 people on a porta john in a game last year. All right. The portage and almost flipped over. That would have been a terrible story. You know we're constantly trying new things so I think people are so afraid to put things out there that we're just constantly trying new things. It all marketing is is just testing and learning. And I think our biggest thing that we believe and it's it's it's doing and learn. We don't know the answers but we just can try new things. We've released hundreds of videos most of them we've got less than 10000 boot views but they're fun and we're learning from a

Malcolm Lui: Now what's the one thing you want to do. Attention wise but you haven't done it yet because of some particular reason. And what was that reason why it's keeping you from doing it

Jesse Cole: Well we haven't done it yet.

Malcolm Lui: Or

Jesse Cole: So

Malcolm Lui: Done

Jesse Cole: I

Malcolm Lui: It

Jesse Cole: Think

Malcolm Lui: Yet.

Jesse Cole: Yes. And we will do it. And that's going to be dramatically changed the game of baseball

Malcolm Lui: Ok. But you know there are other things other ideas that your team suggests that yes. We just can't do that because it's too over the top because it's too expensive because of any other reason.

Jesse Cole: If it goes against the brand. So again what's your decision filter. You know we talked before on this pre call about the you know knowing your avatar who you're going after and so many companies don't even know who they're going after they're trying to be everything to everyone. Well for us we have our decision filters very simple. Is it fans first. Does it entertain always. Does it fit that mentality. And so we if we would do anything that would represent our brand very badly which our brand is a fun you know little out of the box you know we test the envelope you know a little bit. That's who we are. So if we do something that's a little almost too risky. We won't do it. But I mean we we came out with Dolce and banana underwear and we actually did a whole shoot with like literally underwear with a giant banana on the crotch. And we did underwear with a small banana on across the Big Banana and small banana. We had some people that say bananas have gone too far. Well I tell you we had a lot more people talking about us so it's hard for me to think about a specific example because we do a lot of things. But I think what you kind of jumped over the big thing in changing the game of baseball. That's that's the huge scary thing. We are actually going to change the game. It's not going to be a three hour game. We're going to have a game that's an hour and a half two hours that's more fast more exciting and we're gonna make that happen in the next twenty four months. That is this huge scary thing that we're working on doing. And we don't know all the answers but we can start trying things to get there

Malcolm Lui: Very cool. I've heard people and even myself express similar sentiments about golf. Right golf just

Jesse Cole: You

Malcolm Lui: Takes

Jesse Cole: Need

Malcolm Lui: Too long thing 18 holes. But if you can trim it down the twelve and now you can get a gain in know instead of you know two or three hours you do to maybe an hour and a half or so. So

Jesse Cole: Yes. Otherwise I mean this is all these sports that you know used to be so so popular that times are changing dramatically. People want things so quick. You talk about the competition thing about the competition. That's probably the biggest thing when Amazon learn you get one click ordering and now soon your email just things are going to show up at your house that you need in order because it's going to Amazon's going to know that you need them. When all that happens at Uber you know conveniently you know by on your phone. That's the new expectation and I think when you understand the new expectation in sports or other things that are taking too long they're not fast they're not convenient they're going to die. And so we see that trend. And you know we're trying to be first to market and make sure that we can get out there before everyone else

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Yeah. And certainly the the length of an entertainment is a driving factor as to whether or not people will will go for it right. If it takes too long

Jesse Cole: 100

Malcolm Lui: It

Jesse Cole: Is

Malcolm Lui: Just won't work for the schedule.

Jesse Cole: 100 some

Malcolm Lui: So let's talk a little bit more about number two. You're creating a sell out strategy. So you've been successful with it for sure. First of all what gave you that idea to create a sound strategy. And second now that you sold it you know when I've read about how you've had your seasons sold out in advance and yet thousands waiting you know what's it what are your thoughts about raising your prices.

His thoughts on raising prices.

Jesse Cole: And we raised our prices the first time this year. So after three years we got the same price that that 15 da ticket is now an 18 dollar ticket and we haven't had any pushback. People are telling us for a long time we were keeping it too low. But again that's one of the challenges when you have a fan's first philosophy. You know the raising the prices you know was a challenge for us. Well our first thought is how are we adding more value. So we finally did our prices. And as far as the sell out strategy it's a really simple concept. People buy you know when they when they feel like there's a huge demand. You know people want what they can't have. And you know think about anybody who buys something early tickets to a concert or you know the Super Bowl as soon as they come out you know you buy way in advance or get on a waitlist. So you have the opportunity to buy it. Yet in sports it's very rarely done from a seasons season. You know a length of looking at it. So we're like How can we get there. We have to sell out small bites so people know that these tickets aren't easy to come by. And that's been everything for us.

Jesse Cole: I don't think there's very few teams right now that are getting so many write ins so many people joining the waitlist in December and our season then start till June. But it's because they know they can't get tickets. So how do you get there. You know believe our marketing strategy a real tour maybe you look at how many clients do you have. You know if you have if you're unbelievable to 10 or 20 clients you can charge a premium and give an unbelievable value to them and start creating a waitlist for later. Everyone's trying to get more more more more more. We actually were very strategic. Our state and city 4000 most teams what they'll do is they'll sell another thousand standing room only tickets which just to maximize the rubber they can make one game. But also what they're doing is they're making a worst experience for everyone involved. We know once we get over that 4000 mark we have to stop. We don't get greedy. We knew we could have sold more. We could've sold ten or twenty thousand more tickets last year which could have resulted in tremendous amount of revenue but we said no because we were at hands first decision filter. That's not the fans first thing to do.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Exactly. Yeah. I then if you have a bad experience you just never come back and you tell your friends about a unpleasant experience you had of watching the Savannah bananas play with fifteen thousand other people in the stadium.

Jesse Cole: And people did have that experience. I want to be very clear on this. We had no clue how to sell all you. How did you all you can in our ballpark. We. We never did to beat 4000 people. All you can eat and really an hour like because people show up right before the day and that one hour we had no clue. The lines were ridiculous. Malcolm it was the most unvarnished first thing we could've done but

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jesse Cole: We knew we knew the long game in the big picture was we could figure this out and service people faster it'll be a better experience we'll get a wristband they can get a burger when they want their kids can get a drink or soda then get a cookie when they want popcorn. We knew that was the answer but we sort of the fear of all that won't work in our stadium. We tried it and we bit the bullet for a while. It took us weeks before that first season before we start figuring out. And now all of our minds are less than 10 minutes and we're we're solid on that. So I mean it's just I think people are afraid to try things out because they think it can't be done or it won't work. You have to be able to get that deal with the challenges to get to where you're trying to go to

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. So with the 15 dollar ticket all you can eat the numbers they'll work out in the day you're so turning a profit

Jesse Cole: We've been very fortunate. We've been very fortunate. Now my my wife and I you know obviously we took on a tremendous amount of debt to come here but yeah I mean after we're we're going to a great spot in the great space and the team is substantially profitable but we are putting down money reinvesting back into the business and the stadium. We've put a lot of money into the stadium to nineteen twenty six ballpark. So imagine one of the oldest stadiums in the country. It needs a little work. Let's just say that

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. I mean I just the thought of having an all you can eat ticket for 15 bucks. I mean first thought never crossed my mind. Having a finance background myself this isn't gonna work numbers wise or I mean you know what are the people who are loading up on the food and at the end of the day you know I'm gonna have wastage to contend with as well. I definitely want to run out of food that's gonna be a bad experience. I mean just

Jesse Cole: But but you learn it. So that's the thing. Oh yeah. We probably lost money the first few games. We had no idea. What do you think about it. I mean again going into the details that much. I mean how much how many burgers hot dogs and chicken sandwiches could someone eat at a ballgame.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Not that many but practically speaking it wouldn't surprise me if my kid took one of each and had three bites and dust throughout the rest.

Jesse Cole: And we'll be OK. So and we'll be OK. I mean obviously we have such good buying power because you know we're going through ten thousand pieces of meat every single game.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Only 50 pieces of meat left after feeding 4,000 people all-you-can-eat style.

Jesse Cole: So you know that helps get our costs down and still serve a very quality product so we didn't know how the numbers going to work out. We had no because no one was doing it. We don't know what. We don't know what the cost was going to be but we learned and now we get better I mean our waste is minimal and we'll have at the end of a game we'll have less than you know most games less than 50 pieces of money leftover which is just unbelievable for feeding 4000 people

Malcolm Lui: Fifty five zero

Jesse Cole: 5 0 pieces of meat left

Malcolm Lui: Wow you guys got it nailed down to a science

Jesse Cole: Well we're still getting there. There's still things that we can do better. But yeah I mean this is three years of doing it. So we've done it over 100 times.

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jesse Cole: If we can't figure something out over a hundred times then we have some serious problems.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So you know just really quickly what are the things that you had to figure out to serve. All you can eat food to 4000 people. And what did you know before you had a huge long lines. Now you have a line that's less than 10 minutes. I mean I assume you have a lot of food that's premade and always being continually continuously made. Maybe you reduced

Jesse Cole: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Options happy or just

Jesse Cole: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Come up grab it themselves.

Jesse Cole: It's a science now because it's like how how many you know we know how many people are going to eat when we open the gates at five thirty. We know many people are going to eat a six because remember we have the same amount of tickets sold for every game because every game sold out. So we have an idea of what that's going to look like. So yeah it's just having a certain amount of food prepared at five thirty when the gates open and then cooking through that we know by 8:00 it's almost slowed down so we shut down a few stations and we start compromise you know making into Wednesday. So it's just our Director of Operations knows it better than anything and I think that's a really important lesson to the owner and I knew where we wanted to get to. But you have to empower your people to learn themselves and take ownership in it. And I don't know all the details. My goal is to know you know where we're going and why we're doing it and then make sure our team knows the what and the how. And that's what they've been able to learn the details and I know they're doing an unbelievable job. I can't give enough credit to our director of operations for three years we start as an intern an intern and learned it and now is leading the efforts to take care of you know 4000 people every single night

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. And I think the key to what really makes it work right. Because you know how many people are coming every single night that helps tremendously

Jesse Cole: Yes and that goes into then that the silo mentality. So once

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Jesse Cole: You get that in and you'll hear is a great thing to welcome you know sports teams don't think about this. What about rain. You know if all of a sudden they're planning a big night and it rains no one shows up.

Malcolm Lui: Yep

Jesse Cole: However what we've set the precedent is if it rains we're going to put on a huge show at our stadium and we're gonna feed you. So we've had numerous games that we haven't even thrown a pitch but we've had thousands of people show up and we'll have the band playing the players will be up in the stands. We'll be throwing bananas paying people doing giveaways doing dances in the grandstand and we put on a show and a break. So we are able to still feed all those people take care of them. Give them a great experience the fans first experience without throwing a pitch. And still the food is consumed

Malcolm Lui: Right. Because they're not really going there just to watch the game they're going in there for a nice night out with the family and having a good time.

Jesse Cole: Percent. And then what we do on top of that we add another game to the schedule and they get to all come back again for free.

Malcolm Lui: Fantastic.

Jesse Cole: So it's so over the top and the experience is we don't people ever to leave our ballpark let down and most teams if it rains they're let down or maybe people won't even show up because it's already raining and it's just a disaster. We're trying to go all the way above and beyond. Again I'm just trying to say this is in a sense we're still learning and I want to make sure we're it's in the process but that's what we're looking to do.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay. And number three. Your fans first philosophy which is also the name of your company as well. When you do the fans first thing sometimes you do fans first. It's very easy to go to extreme and things don't work out from a numbers perspective. How do you draw the line from a numbers perspective.

Jesse Cole: What

Malcolm Lui: It's

Jesse Cole: Do you mean exactly

Malcolm Lui: Like say you know for example you did that you did the Iki ticket right. And you didn't know that it wasn't going to work but you just did it and see if it would work. Now let's say you went a bit further out and said you get you and give everyone a I don't know a free gift a sense or a free baseball glove or something like that right.

Jesse Cole: Who

Malcolm Lui: And clearly you're going to it's going to put you in a loss column for that. Right. How do you evaluate these sort of ideas and say yeah this makes economic sense. Let's do it. Yes we'll lose money in the beginning but we'll make it back in the back end. What are your filters to to decide if something really makes sense. Yes it's fans first but it doesn't make sense economically.

How they execute their Fans First strategy economically

Jesse Cole: So I started back in Gastonia as I mentioned you know 12 years ago and there was to earn 68 dollars in the bank account. My first day I couldn't pay myself. I was the general manager at that point I had to learn how to bootstrap how to trade with different companies to get things how to come up with ideas to get things for free or very little cost. And so we still embody that we don't I think a lot of times for companies the biggest thing that can cause problems is having too much money. As crazy as that sounds. Companies that get invest tons of investment they'll just use it on anything you can solve your problems by paying for it as opposed to learning how to solve them and unique innovative way. So to give an example one of the best fans first things that people talk about every game is that our players in the middle of the game they come out of the dugout they're holding roses and they go into the crowd and they get down to a knee and deliver a rose to a little girl a three year old a four year old a 2 year old in the middle of the game. Now all those roses are traded for free. Every one them we haven't paid we haven't paid for a rose it's just traded we give a shout out to the florists that helps us. We try to think of all those different things. You know the band was volunteers for us the the first couple of years. You know our break dancing first base coach was party also the first year he was the mask auto and he played another character you played three characters doing all that in one game. We were just how can we figure it out to create a fan's first experience bouts and it's about spending money. That's

Malcolm Lui: Right

Jesse Cole: How we go to the first example we make a thank you call to everyone who buys tickets mentioned that that doesn't cost money. That's just putting emphasis in time to it. So

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jesse Cole: We don't we first think. All right. We have idea palooza is where we actually come up with ideas on how to do a better fan experience. Every day I write down 10 ideas in my journal every day and a lot and I'm like How can we do this without spending money. And some will cost money. Like when people come to our games we have parking penguins literally people dressed up in Penguin costumes park in your car. It doesn't make any sense except I think it's hilarious that you can park by a penguin. But but this year what I'm committing to is I want freezing pops in coolers next to the penguins. So when little kids come by they can give a freezing pot to them as they're going into the ballpark. Now I have no idea how much that'll cost but I'm thinking maybe we could go to a grocery store and make a trading it for free. So that's the framework that we think about. You know I went to the middle of the games this year. I want a mobile carwash company to wash a couple of the dirty cars while they're in the ballpark. And when they go out to see their car it's completely clean completely immaculate. Now maybe there's a way I can trade with the mobile car wash. So that's how we think about it and I hope that kind of explains our mindset.

Malcolm Lui: Yes it does. I mean it's it's a you know I come from a financial background so you know I look at all the numbers and then baseline decisions quantitatively and hearing how you're going about doing your promotions your ways of attracting attention. You look at different from how I personally could do it.

Jesse Cole: Well we'll think about this way. We all have something to offer someone. We all have skills and asset and and I think like even ransom you can get a finance background or digital marketing. What is something that you would want to deliver a better experience for your customers. Could you offer your expertise your time something that you've learned and get that for free. Very few people think in the trade barter system but we all in some way off. I mean I think about accountants like accountants help us with this. If we do this for them. So I think many companies that are so used to spending money for things but we all have so many offer I think we all need to look at that first before saying this will cost x amount of dollars.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Got it. Now you talked a little bit about some of the changes that you have in mind going forward in 2018. You talked about a a shorter a shorter game. And I can see the advantages of that just makes it easier for people to do schedule and participate. What were the plans you share with us for 2018

Jesse Cole: Now that is not for 20 or 19. We are still we are still in contract with the league that we were in for two more seasons. But

Malcolm Lui: Ok

Jesse Cole: So I will say that when you reach a ceiling it is the best opportunity for innovation. And we reached a ceiling. We can't sell any more tickets to the short season. We have very limited opportunities to grow and we care so much about our staff and our people. Those are our true biggest fans that those are the people that we really golf fans first with. If we can grow and offer them opportunities to grow with us then what's the point. And so while we'll look in the next 24 months to go to something new it's gonna be opportunity to potentially own some expansion to own a new sport a new way of playing. And again it's the same mindset that we looked at with the All You Can Eat tickets and the fans first experience.

Malcolm Lui: Uk

Jesse Cole: Our fans are leaving in the sixth or seventh inning even though we are entertaining like crazy. They are leaving in the sixth or seventh inning. That is a friction point. I want our fans. How many times Malcolm have you left a great movie in the middle the movie.

Malcolm Lui: A great movie in a minute of movie. Rarely I can't remember everything unless I had some pressing engagement that I knew in advance that had to go

Jesse Cole: Yeah or you know a great concert or a comedian. People don't leave those in the middle yet baseball games. People leave early if that doesn't say something's wrong with the sport as a whole. I don't know what does. So that's the biggest friction point that we could find. So how do we make it faster and even more entertaining so people won't leave and they can't leave. They're like I can't miss this. And that's our starting point. So we're reverse engineering from there. And I think that's where every business and entrepreneurs should start. Where is what is that big problem and reverse engineer from that and go backwards to just solve that problem.

Malcolm Lui: Right. The solution isn't simply having games that last only six innings

Jesse Cole: No. You got to get creative. I mean obviously if you're trying to dive into what we're doing. No it's you can't just have a regular succeeding baseball game because

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Jesse Cole: Still there's not enough fun and excitement going on

Malcolm Lui: Right.

The problem with baseball

Jesse Cole: And there's I mean baseball there's only a plain baseball ball put into play every three minutes and forty five seconds. So literally every 10 minutes you're seeing two actual plays

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Jesse Cole: There's a problem there and that's what we're working on.

Malcolm Lui: Right now I'm looking forward to hearing what solutions you try out and find out which ones are or which ones work.

Jesse Cole: I'm sure I'm sure we'll fail a lot in the beginning just like we did here. But it'll be worth it. It'll be a great story I'm sure.

Malcolm Lui: So you're saying that then with your current Savannah bananas team because you have contract contractual obligations to the league. You obviously can't really change the rules of the game itself while you're still in this particular league. You know what. How can you grow this current business further. I mean you would have to sell other things on top of what you're currently offering. Right.

Jesse Cole: Playing the long game and I think you know this is important to think about we're all in your show and everyone is obsessed with growth and I think it drives us and growing is one of our fans first way core beliefs but how many years was Amazon not profitable. No I don't. I've heard. I mean literally they weren't they weren't making money but they were playing the long game and now they are killing it and they're dominating.

Malcolm Lui: You need

Jesse Cole: So we we are actually OK without huge growth the next two years. Only if we are setting ourselves up to be unbelievably successful in the future years. So what I mean by that is that we are looking how can we test as many things that we need to next few years whether that streaming and digital whether that's new ways to grow our fanbase without actually having them come to games because obviously there's no there won't be tickets for them to come to games but so we're trying to build this huge kind of platform that we have get known more get out in the world. Bake it so what do we do have our launch we're ready to have that expedited fast. Well that makes sense.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah although it's a bit de Grey in terms of what ideas you have cooking in the pot. Here has

Jesse Cole: Well so

Malcolm Lui: To

Jesse Cole: Was that way. Yeah. So I need to be clear. So we are testing our streaming we're testing and how we're doing our digital King in the sense of building our priority list. So we're looking at growing our priority list dramatically. So we are looking at selling our season out even earlier. So then that creates the demand even more for when we add games. So again just being very clear like there's no more games we have added to the schedule that you can't in this league. So we have to be able to play the long game say how do we get our bigger fan base ready waiting and able and excited. So when we do add the more games the bigger opportunity they can jump on

Malcolm Lui: Right. I said you're doing okay. Good. So what do you see as the biggest challenges in the near term.

Jesse Cole: Baseball. You know it's still I think the relevance of baseball no matter how much we tell people we're about the show we're about the circus we're about the entertainment. We're still a baseball team and there's still people that said you know I just don't like baseball. It's too long. I just don't want to go. Baseball will always be the challenge until we change what the perception of what baseball is. So that's that's the biggest thing and then you know novelty you know you come out the first year we have all these crazy new things we're do it and we're growing and excitement and the banana Nana's and our players are doing dances and all of a sudden every year we have to have new things to. We have to develop new characters at our ballpark that you know we're thinking like Disney you know Disney would pump out new movies new characters new rides new things that their theme parks were the same thing. Every year we have to add something new. So you know I have crazy ideas like you know the man and as a man cheerleading team you know as you have all these different you don't have a back man instead of a bat boy we actually have an adult dressed up as Batman who gets the bats between pitches. We think about all these new characters that we can add to our stadium that will create the excitement so that's what we're working on. And I don't I can tell throw you off because it's like well how are you not going to have huge growth this next year. But I'll tell you oh we'll get there Malcolm. It's just at a point we're going to we're gonna get ready and prime everything for when we do that.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. How about challenges on the marketing front.

Jesse Cole: But then obviously everyone's becoming more tuned into social Facebook YouTube Instagram. Everyone a real one is realizing the importance of that. So everyone's playing the game where it was very easy on Facebook for us to post a video a couple of years ago and get 10 20 30 50 thousand views that's not happening

Malcolm Lui: Yep.

Jesse Cole: Because it's noisy out there. So what we are doing is trying to own the content. So for instance next week we're going to start filming a weekly video show called Bananas unfilled and start really developing characters within our team within our staff that we are just putting out content without asking for any our life. And I think again that goes no long game. You know obviously I look up to Gary banner Chuck I was able to spend some time with him and his team back in December a play the long game. Are you filled with Gary Vaynerchuk.

Malcolm Lui: Who isn't.

Jesse Cole: Yes

Malcolm Lui: He's everywhere.

Their players are a big part of their show and marketing.

Jesse Cole: I good. I mean obviously obviously he played the long game. I mean wine library restarted started on one show with nobody watching. That's the same thing to build the brand. And so that's what we're going to be doing for marketing is start putting on a lot more original content and consistently putting it out even with nobody watching. And obviously that happens in the podcast world people are doing that but it's noisy. So what do you make sure that it stands out. We know our unique thing is our players. Most teams most sports teams they don't have the players involved in the show are players they dance. They're in the music videos they're in parodies. Our players are a big part of the show. We can utilize them in team with them to build more shows and more character so that's that's what we're playing with from a marketing sense

Malcolm Lui: Ok now I know that you guys are sold out. So in one sense you don't need to use marketing to generate more demand. Because if he had nothing to sell other than putting people on the waiting list. But I

Jesse Cole: Well

Malcolm Lui: Did

Jesse Cole: We don't. We do have things to salvage what we couldn't. Like the season is not sold out yet. So like the way a way it works is we we sold out our season like like a week or two into the season last year. So I mean there's over a hundred thousand tickets that have to be sold to sell out the season so we are you know 60 70 percent of the way there. We still have some tickets that need to be sold. So we're still pushing every day

Malcolm Lui: Like now your season that now your season passes are the ones that are sold out right.

Jesse Cole: Season passes. The 10 game plans the five game plans are about to be sold out. Yeah. And then there's a waiting list for all those. As far as getting on at the stadium clubs there's a waiting list for our decks. There's a waiting list for a lot of the different parts of our stadium that people

Malcolm Lui: Okay

Jesse Cole: Can't get tickets to

Malcolm Lui: But then there's some tickets that are like heart that one can buy right before a game.

Jesse Cole: Now. So basically what we'll do in February will unveil the priority list to get a chance to get single game tickets and then what will happen probably that'll come out in April. And people have the opportunity get for the few games that remain might be six games and might be five games they can get tickets to those but

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jesse Cole: Then those won't be available. I mean basically before the season there won't be any tickets.

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK. So so the packages are pretty much sorted out and then the individual games. You have a waiting list of priority list and then

Jesse Cole: And then

Malcolm Lui: Those

Jesse Cole: And

Malcolm Lui: People

Jesse Cole: Then there's groups groups is big too. So people could still get group tickets right now. Companies that want to bring bring their tickets for certain games like I think most of the weekends are sold. There's still certain games that people can buy at this point now we're talking in early January. So again that changes every month. Games get to disappear

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK. So yeah I fired my spy tools to take a little bit. Do you have a peek at what you. But the tools are showing that you're doing on the web and I'm not seeing any paper slick ads running for you right now. What are your thoughts on that

Jesse Cole: Like NCO.

Malcolm Lui: I know literally running Google AdWords showing the seven been in ads. Buy a ticket. All you can eat now taking 15 but I'm not seeing any paid Google AdWords

Jesse Cole: No

Malcolm Lui: Running right now what's there their What's it. What's your take on that. Just not a channel that you need to use

Jesse Cole: No. Obviously there's success in all channels and I'm sure as your digital marker I'm sure you suggest that too too numerous of your clients and I think there's all these opportunities. We haven't played with that yet. We are doing most of ours based on our internal database that we've grown. And then also using Facebook and social that's where we've been spending a lot of money

Malcolm Lui: Like you do much email marketing

Jesse Cole: Yes email marketing as it has been a big tool for us.

Malcolm Lui: Ok. Great. How did you initially acquire the people to add to your database. These are people who bought your tickets and you given the opportunity to sign up or they're buying it online. Hence they have to give you their contact information. And that's

Jesse Cole: Yeah

Malcolm Lui: How you're getting your database

Jesse Cole: Yeah we we basically grown from enough three years when we had zero database where we started. So we're literally the former team there. It was professional baseball here for 90 years and they just took everything they cut the phone lines they cut the internet lines. They left us with nothing. We start with the database at zero. So what we started do we had a sales team reaching out on developing relations. We started selling tickets. We started developing a obviously a newsletter join and it's grown to thousands and thousands and every year it's grown based on qualified prospects that are reaching that are opting in as opposed to US opting

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay. I mean you sound like you're kind of enviable position if in that you have more people wanting to buy your tickets than than are available. So I think you could do very little marketing if you wanted to and still sets that out

Jesse Cole: Wants attention. So we are doing lots of bones about how we creating attention. That's why we're doing all these shows and videos and trying to make the brand cool and then people opt in. You know that that's again that's why I look at there's been attention to market they go hand-in-hand but we're focusing on building the brand and attention and people are coming to us now. Could we do a lot of sales things but people don't want to be sold they want to buy. So we're trying to be very strategic. Even when we announce our tickets we're it's more of an update. Hey let everyone know we are 90 percent sold out of our five game plans. That's where we are. Look forward to having you sign. It's not it's not like you to buy this now or buy this. We're very cognizant of that because we don't want to hurt the brand and make it uncool

Malcolm Lui: Right now for the five game plan. Those are the games are preselected or that people can buy five game and then they pick their games.

Jesse Cole: Yeah unfortunate we can't allow people to pick because there were those won't be available so we had to select. So we've selected three different five game plans the first two already sold out. I think there's a handful left for the third one that we select those five games for them and there are five biggest games we'll try to throw at one fireworks game and then we'll try to throw it a weekend or a Thursday night. So it is the best it's the best opportunity for what we call a just a regular fan someone that wants to come with their family or their friends

Malcolm Lui: Right. Like three last questions for you Jesse. Say someone's cruising on a freeway you know driving 70 75 miles per hour. They see a Savannah but bananas billboard on the side or only see it for five 10 seconds or so. What's the message that's going to be on that billboard

Their billboard slogan: We make baseball fun.

Jesse Cole: We make baseball fun.

Malcolm Lui: Make baseball fun that's awesome. Okay. And the tough questions Who are your ideal customers and what's the best way for them to contact you or your team.

Jesse Cole: You

Malcolm Lui: Team

Jesse Cole: Know the

Malcolm Lui: Meeting

Jesse Cole: Question

Malcolm Lui: You're

Jesse Cole: We're at

Malcolm Lui: A team B. What's the best way for them to get more information on how to buy a ticket than

Jesse Cole: Yeah. You know it's

Malcolm Lui: Catch

Jesse Cole: Funny as

Malcolm Lui: A game.

Jesse Cole: We talked about this earlier before the avatar. It is interesting for us because I've always tried to say here here are our ideal customers but if you come to our ballpark remember Dan Miller the author of 48 days to work you love he came to one of our last games to two years ago and he wrote in the foreword to my book he goes I've never seen such a cross section of people from all different ways of life. It was really interesting when I thought about that. It's I think fun is a universal thing that people want. It attracts from through 2 year olds to 90 year olds. And I love to say that hey are our prime demographic is young families or young professionals. But the reality is we're just providing fun. And you come to our ballpark you'll see always life and not. Malcolm I want to get specific with it. But the reality is we just keep putting on hopefully fun content making our games fun and we're attracting people that want that in their life.

Malcolm Lui: Sure. And for those people who want fun what's the best way for them to get some fun from the Savannah bananas.

Jesse Cole: We post things on Facebook every day on Instagram and then me personally. Jesse called The L.A. Times guy post every single day on LinkedIn Facebook and just ideas on how to stand out how to be different how to create a fan's first experience and I learned a great lesson when I was twenty five years old and I was at a crossroads. Figure out what I wanted to do when I reached out to Mark Cuban and Mark Cuban wrote back. Within two hours and I was blown away by this. Since that day anyone that's reached out to me that sends a note on LinkedIn or Facebook now I make sure I reply because I'll never forget how much that meant to me. If I can help in any way I only reach out I'd love to talk to you.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah well you replied to my message as well so. And I definitely appreciate that.

Jesse Cole: It's definitely

Malcolm Lui: So would you like to share your Facebook page your Web site so people can find you more easily.

Jesse Cole: I mean really if you search Jesse call yellow toxics about bananas there's plenty of thanks for that define it for anyone to find.

Malcolm Lui: Okay

Jesse Cole: Yeah it's it's pretty easy to find it's out there there's not many yellow tux guys out there I'll tell you that.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah yeah. You also share the name of your book that you've usually published that has a five star reviews across the board.

Jesse Cole: Sure find your yellow tux how to be successful by standing out and share the journey of what we're doing to create our experience and what you could do individually to not have to live the 9 to 5. Not put out fires every day and really to live a life of passion. I've been blown away by the response and it's really meant a lot. Hearing from people from all over the world

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Looks like Yeah you're really struck a chord with people with your book

Jesse Cole: Yeah I was very fortunate again and you need a lot of great people to help you. I had a great team at scribe helped me with the book and my publisher was outstanding so very fortunate. But thank you for the platform to share.

Malcolm Lui: Awesome. Thanks for joining us today Jesse in sharing how you accelerated your company's high value sales.

Jesse Cole: Thank you so much. Glad to be with you Malcolm.

Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking of Jesse Cole, the Owner of Fans First Entertainment about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit

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