For many a Wild Birds Unlimited franchisee, it’s not just about what you do in your stores. It’s also about reaching out to your community and bringing the joy of bird feeding to a larger audience.
Just ask franchisees Laura Fleming and Jeff Glattly.
Fleming owns one Wild Birds Unlimited franchise location in Medford, Oregon, while Glattly owns another in Pearland, Texas. Fleming and Glattly are both involved in out-of-store initiatives that increase their profiles within the communities they serve and also help boost business.
A new beginning
Fleming purchased an existing Wild Birds Unlimited franchise in August of 2014 and reopened it a year later.
The city of Medford is located within Oregon’s Rogue Valley, and it’s prime real estate for a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise. The Klamath Bird Observatory, for one, is located in the nearby city of Ashland.
“The Rogue Valley itself is a spread-out, large valley,” Fleming said. “We have a lot of bird activity because on the Pacific Flyway, we get a lot of migrating birds in the spring and the fall, so there is a relatively large birding community here. We also have a fairly active Audubon Society. I’m on the board of the Rogue Valley chapter of the National Audubon Society and I also have a program with them, so when any Rogue Valley Audubon member comes into my store, I give a donation of five percent of their sales to the Rogue Valley Audubon Society. That’s kind of helped to spur a little bit more growth.”
That said, Fleming’s primary customer base still consists of regular backyard bird feeders.
“A lot of real, true birders don’t often feed birds,” Fleming said. “They are two different populations. Those who do feed birds will patronize my store and buy feed from us.”
Fleming is frequently asked to give talks in her community, at libraries, garden clubs, senior living homes and even before meetings of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“I’ll give a short talk on something bird-related,” she said. “Sometimes it’ll be about attracting hummingbirds to your yard or garden, or about nesting season. I’ve made up a bunch of different PowerPoints depending on the time of year and what’s relevant to the area. I’ll do at least one talk a month, as much as I can. I’m scheduled through May right now.”
Also, two of Fleming’s employees, one a current teacher and the other a former teacher, have participated in kids’ programs at libraries and summer camps, primarily for elementary school students.
“The more you get your name out there, the more you get yourself exposed and the more you get your store exposed,” Fleming said. “If you set yourself up as an expert and a very knowledgeable person about birds, people come in with questions. You are getting yourself known in the community so that people are more apt to use your store as a community resource.”
There are also in-store initiatives that take place on a regular basis at Fleming’s franchise, such as monthly bird walks and educational talks. Fleming’s Wild Birds Unlimited franchise also offers the Chickadee Chat, a bi-monthly, hour-long talk hosted by one of her employees that started in 2018. Birders can socialize with their fellow birders, drink coffee and listen to a lecture.
“She goes in depth each month, twice a month, about a bird, what it eats, what it sounds like and any kind of funny anecdotes she can tell about it,” Fleming said of her employee. “We’ve gotten a good response from that.”
Fleming also goes to events where she sells products such as binoculars and gardening items, including birding festivals, master gardener fairs and spring fairs.
“It’s just another way of getting exposure,” she said. “We have a Rogue Valley Earth Day coming up in April, so we’ll have a booth there. Even if we don’t sell a lot, we can show people and talk about birds.”
The efforts have paid off. Today, Fleming has customers who still remember the original Wild Birds Unlimited store and are thrilled to see it again.
“About a year or so ago, one of my good customers came in and we were just talking and she said, ‘I’m just so happy. Thank you for bringing life back into the store,’” Fleming said. “It was just a really nice feeling, that they’re starting to get involved again in the store and in the in-store programs.”
Fleming’s advice to prospective Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees is to get involved as much as they can in their communities.
“The brand is great,” she said. “It’s got a good reputation and we’re known to be experts in the field. I’d just say go out, do as much as you can, get your name out there and have fun.”
Glattly opened his Wild Birds Unlimited store in April of 2017. He’s been very strategic in his out-of-store initiatives ever since he started, particularly because his store was brand new in the area and he wanted to make sure he was setting it up for success.
“I’ve participated in probably 21 to 24 programs, offsite and on-site,” Glattly said. “One of the initiatives I had was to provide education but also to build the brand, which was essential for a new store in the area.”
Pearland, Glattly said, is a designated bird sanctuary as well as a pathway for migratory birds.
“We do get a diverse population of birds that come through Pearland,” Glattly said. “It’s a growing community. It has neighboring towns that are very receptive to the shop. We have both the individuals that are older and the younger population that are getting involved in the joy of backyard bird feeding.”
He makes sure to give presentations at a variety of locations.
“I do target nature centers for presentations,” Glattly said. “I also target groups such as master gardeners and garden clubs. Senior centers are also a good area. The community can come and gather for events or talks during the week. I’ve also had communities that contact me for presentations.”
Glattly purposefully has his Wild Birds Unlimited store laid out so that space is conducive to giving presentations.
“I can move furniture around that will enable me to seat about 20 to 25 people in the back stockroom and put up a projector and a screen to facilitate a presentation,” Glattly said. “It is imperative that you use your store so that you get out and venture into the community. That’s how I built the brand even before I opened. When I opened the shop, I had between 180 to 200 contacts in my database. The audiences are very receptive and some of the audiences are quite large. This last one I did for a master gardener group had 65 people in attendance and the topic was bluebirds, so that was received very well.”
When Glattly is out and about promoting the Wild Birds Unlimited brand and his store, he also creates a call-to-action to get customers into his store.
“I offer them coupons or a discount, so that brings them to the shop,” Glattly said. “It’s a multi-faceted approach.”
Glattly said that all of these actions have “absolutely” increased traffic to his store.
“You have to have a call-to-action,” Glattly said. “If you don’t have a call-to-action to bring them in, it’s going to be difficult. One way is to offer a discount coupon.”
Glattly advises Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees to take steps to generate interest in their stores.
“First and foremost, they have to begin with monthly programs in their shop that will generate interest, and there you have a captive audience,” Glattly said. “You can do your own presentations or you can do other topics. You don’t necessarily have to keep it about birds. You can expand.”
ABOUT WILD BIRDS UNLIMITED
Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores with more than 300 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited specializes in bringing people and nature together with bird feeding and nature products, expert advice and educational events. Wild Birds Unlimited recently ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 in the Retail category on Franchise Business Review’s prestigious 2018 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards. Visit our website and shop online at www.wbu.com. To learn how you can open your own Wild Birds Unlimited, visit www.wbufranchise.com.