Teri Hansen founded Priority Marketing on her kitchen table in 1992. She did so about a month after the birth of her daughter, Anna, after walking away from a marketing job with a real estate company.
“I still love it,” Hansen said. “I actually love it more today than when I started.”
Priority Marketing is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week. The original plan was to party last fall, but Hurricane Ian’s devastation of the region Sept. 28 prompted the company to wait until exactly six months later. The company actually turns 31 years old in April.
Hansen named it Priority Marketing because she wanted to reorder the priorities of her life. She knew her 14-hour workdays of the early 1990s wouldn’t be conducive to raising her daughter. The Fort Myers native graduated from the University of South Florida and began her career as the community services director and special events publicist at WINK-TV before moving on to a real estate company.
“I very much wanted to have an ordered life,” Hansen said.
For the first couple of years at Priority Marketing, Hansen was the only employee and had only a couple of clients. One of them was Westinghouse Communities, which at the time was the largest developer of master-planned communities in Southwest Florida. It later became WCI and was Hansen’s most recent employer.
Another was Heritage National Bank. The leaders who sold it went on to start another one that became one of Priority Marketing’s longest-running clients, Edison National Bank.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Stevens Construction, LSI Companies and Norman Love Confections are also long-running brands that Hansen’s team has helped behind the scenes to build.
The nonprofit organizations that have been clients of Priority Marketing have combined to raise more than $100 million for Southwest Florida communities, Hansen said, which gives her a point of pride.
“I’m a native of Fort Myers, and giving back to the community is a really important priority to me as well,” Hansen said. “So that was my purpose, and that was my vision when I started the company 30 years ago. And, today, it remains the same.”
After her first four years in business, Hansen realized that piling business items in spare rooms of her house wouldn’t cut it. That’s when she began to expand.
Priority Marketing now numbers 56 employees, including Anna Price, Hansen’s daughter and the company’s social media manager. It now has about 11,000 square feet of office space in south Fort Myers, just north of Daniels Parkway off Six Mile Cypress Parkway.
“The fax machine was the new technology when I started Priority Marketing,” Hansen said. “There was no voicemail. No computers. We did everything longhand or on a typewriter.”
Now, the company offers a full, in-house array of brand-building services for businesses. Many of them are in Southwest Florida, but others are located throughout the state and beyond.
“Graphic design, video, web design, public relations, digital marketing, social media, media buying …” Hansen said of Priority Marketing’s offerings.
Through the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic and a number of major hurricanes, Priority Marketing has not had any layoffs. Hansen said she takes pride in that as well – and that companies that continue to market during economic downturns are rewarded in the long run.
“The temptation during those types of situations is to pull back,” Hansen said. “The businesses that don’t pull back end up owning the market. What they can’t see is the long-term effects are so much greater. We saw it during the recession, and we saw it during the pandemic.”