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How Wild Birds Unlimited Is Supporting Franchisees During this Time

From enhanced communication practices to quickly creating new marketing collateral, the leading franchise that’s known for bringing people and nature together is going above and beyond to support its franchisees right now.

By Cassidy McAloonSenior Writer
SPONSORED 8:08AM 04/15/20

When the coronavirus outbreak led to state and provincial wide shelter in place rules and social distancing, businesses across the country had to pivot in order to navigate through the unknown. The situation brought on by the current crisis is unprecedented—never before have brands universally had to alter their operations seemingly overnight. But even though it’s uncertain as to when the world will go back to normal, one thing is clear: brands that successfully survive the COVID-19 crisis will emerge stronger than ever on the other side.

Wild Birds Unlimited, the franchise best known for connecting people with nature, is doing everything in its power to ensure that its franchisees are among those small business owners who will weather this storm and thrive down the line. According to the brand’s chief development officer Paul Pickett, the first order of business to set franchisees up for success was to quickly and efficiently ensure that as many local owners as possible were onboarded to the MyWBU platform, which facilitates online orders, so that online sales could continue.

“We jumped on this early and set up a daily task force meeting with our entire executive team,” said Pickett. “Very quickly, we saw where the opportunities were and it became clear that online retail would be the only way for people to shop in the near future. While a lot of our franchisees were already set up on our digital platform, we worked to onboard those who weren’t as quickly as possible.”

In addition to helping franchisees keep their businesses open online while customers are stuck at home, Wild Birds Unlimited also rolled out new processes for “curb-side delivery,” which allows customers to place orders over the phone and pick it up from their local store without ever exiting their car or coming in direct contact with anyone. The brand also created many new marketing materials for franchisees to promote this new service.

Pickett said, “We created multiple layers of marketing collateral so that our franchisees could begin communicating with their customers on two different levels. First, we knew that our customers would have more time to be at home and birdwatch, so we wanted to focus on getting the message out that this activity can help give you some reprieve from the current situation. Second, we created a whole new set of marketing materials for people who needed to continue getting product in a safe way in order to continue feeding birds. That meant creating signs for stores and digital collateral for websites, emails and social media for our franchisees.”

The marketing collateral that Wild Birds Unlimited quickly created for its franchisees extended beyond signs to include messaging for location websites and social media pages and the development of a series of videos about birds in nature.

“People need to find ways to relax right now. These videos provide some love in an otherwise challenging day,” Pickett said. “We’re working around the clock to help our stores update materials as things change. We’re also communicating with Google to ensure that store hours of operation are correct, and we’re providing our franchisees with all of the health information and restrictions they need to be aware of to stay safe at this time.”

Having those lines of communication open is standard operating procedure for Wild Birds Unlimited regardless of circumstance, but it’s even more of a priority during the current crisis. In addition to one-on-one consulting, the brand’s support team has been helping franchisees navigate next steps with landlords and rent payments, financial projections and general motivation. Wild Birds Unlimited also set up a coronavirus hotline to ensure that no franchisee question was missed or overlooked.

“In addition to the hotline number, we set up a specific coronavirus email address so that all of our franchisee requests go through that. That’s helped us focus on emails and calls that need to be streamlined. We have a schedule of who monitors that inbox and hotline on a regular basis, too, so that we can be more productive internally,” Pickett said.

One of the brands other focuses has been on helping franchisees navigate the new financing programs that are now available and assisting with rent relief.  “The new financing options from the CARES Act and SBA- Disaster Relief loan programs are complex and changing, sometimes day by day” says Pickett.  “Managing the information and providing resources and partnerships from our financing partners has been more than a full time job over the last few weeks. But, providing financial information and resources has never been more important than right now.” 

Pickett and the rest of the Wild Birds Unlimited team don’t view this level of support as anything extra. According to Pickett, it’s simply a benefit that comes with being a part of a close-knit franchise family. 

“As a franchisor, you have a responsibility to give franchisees the tools that you have—that’s just what you do. You support them and provide them with what they need to help them manage all of the decisions that they’re making, especially at a time when we’re all feeling completely isolated,” Pickett said. “In some cases, this could be the biggest touchpoint that our franchisees have with people right now. They need to know that we’re here for them. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

The cost to open a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise ranges from $170,382 to $281,606, including the franchise fee. To learn more about franchising with Wild Birds Unlimited, please visit https://franchise.wbu.com/.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.

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