What does Jesse Cole, founder of Savannah Bananas, collegiate summer baseball team based in Savannah, Georgia have to say about building a great business?

“Stop chasing customers and start creating fans!”

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Under his leadership, his team has gained popularity for their unique fan experiences and marketing strategies and Jesse presenting during the Friday morning keynote at #ITNation this week. It was fun, educational, and inspirational! He taught us the 3 core components of creating loyal fans which in today’s highly competitive business landscape, creating fans, not just customers, is the key to sustainable success.

#1 Eliminate Friction:

“Look in the mirror and make that change,” as Michael Jackson famously sang in “Man in the Mirror.” This principle applies to businesses looking to grow. To start, identify and eliminate friction points in your customer experience. Imagine yourself in your customers’ shoes and pinpoint what hinders their journey with your brand and your competitors. For baseball, people who aren’t raving fans point out that the games are long, boring, and expensive. After Jesse himself took the time to go through the entire process as an attendee to many baseball games, he felt the same pains that the other attendees did. It’s a long walk from affordable parking to the ticket booth. Once you buy the ticket, you realize that hotdogs are $12 and your favorite beer is $14 dollars. Bring your kids and this expense really adds up! Jesse then set out to remove the friction from the experience – he standardized pricing, eliminated extraneous fees, and shortened the game to also include fun and entertaining players and staff.

Micro-frictions, like voicemail or invoicing processes, can accumulate and drive customers away. To be a “friction fighter,” leaders should go through the customer experience themselves and resolve these issues. Sometimes, doing the unscalable (addressing unique customer concerns) can pave the way for scalable fan-building strategies.

Creating a script to turn a negative experience into a positive one is invaluable. Even when things go wrong, your approach can leave a lasting impression. 

#2 Understand What Business You’re Really In:

Leaders, “What business are you in? What business are you really in?” These questions urge you to think beyond your products and delve into the realm of relationships. To create fans, you need to make people think about you, not just as another vendor but as a unique and trustworthy partner.

Jesse came to understand that if attendees avoid baseball games because they are too long and boring, that he wasn’t really in the “sports” business, he was in the “entertainment” business. This then allowed him to think differently about how to execute on growing the business, i.e. his fan base.

Differentiation is the key. Stand out from the crowd and be willing to go through the messy process of finding your greatness. Leaders should empower themselves to do something different and then inspire & empower their teams to follow suit.

#3 Experiment Constantly:

To stand out and create fans, you must constantly experiment. Most teams sell t-shirts and hats. Savannah Bannanas did that too, but also created and sold their Official Dolce Banana underwear selling out of those consistently.

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Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson’s stories underline the importance of persistence and positivity. You can’t have the most home runs unless you have the most at bats! Keep swinging hard, even if you strike out, and maintain a positive attitude.


To sum it up, the road to creating fans involves eliminating friction, redefining your business in terms of relationships, and constantly experimenting to stand out. Remember, it’s not about chasing customers; it’s about creating loyal fans who will stick with your brand through thick and thin. Embrace these three steps, and you’ll be well on your way to building a dedicated following that supports and promotes your business.

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