If you’re looking for inspiration to do great things with your business, look no further than the Savannah Bananas. The summer collegiate baseball team in the coastal Georgia city is a feel-good story if there ever was one.
After the minor league team left town in 2016, Jesse Cole and his wife moved to Savannah with a vision to bring exciting, fan-centric baseball to the community. But they were up against some big obstacles to pull it off. Before we go any further, you need to watch The Bananas Story to understand what we’re talking about here.
OK, now that you’ve watched the video, it’s apparent that Jesse and his young staff have accomplished amazing things: Consistently selling out games, gaining national attention, and endearing fans to the team.
What are practical takeaways from the Savannah Bananas’ experience that can help your business? First, you have to clearly identify what the real problem is. There have always been products and services that attempt to solve a problem, but don’t succeed because customers aren’t willing to pay for that solution. Either the problem isn’t as bad as the entrepreneur thought, or the cost is too high to the consumer.
In the Bananas’ case, Cole recognized baseball was struggling in Savannah at least partly due to the game’s pace: “If the baseball was slow, long, and boring to many, and even myself, how would we make it exciting?” Cole diagnosed a real pain point – one that, if overcome, would be of significant benefit in the minds of fans – and then set out to remove it.
A second lesson is to look at circumstances differently and creatively fix the customer’s difficulty. Explained Cole, “I started trying to learn everything I could about the baseball business, but more about the entertainment business. We started thinking about, how do you create this non-stop show of entertainment?”
The organization has certainly been successful on that front. The team has a bat dog, a troupe of over-65 dancers dubbed the “Banana Nanas,” and a pep band. They even once played a whole game in kilts. The list goes on and on.
You get the point. The Bananas ingeniously solved the game’s boredom factor. According to one fan, “It’s not a baseball game, it’s a circus.” A local sportscaster captured the essence of the team’s strength: “The Bananas do such a great job at transporting you. Yeah, you may be five miles from home or two miles from your office, but when you step foot in historic Grayson Stadium, it’s like you’re at Disneyworld.”
In Part 2 of this article, we’ll look at lessons in marketing and connecting with customers.