When Teresa Jensen-White of San Antonio first became a fee-based advisor in 1981, she was excited and inspired by her work. She earned her CFP in 1984, and over the years, she built a solid business. But around the 15-year mark, she knew something was wrong. “I hit major burnout,” she says. She began searching for a way to re-ignite the passion she once felt for her job, but the seminars and training programs she attended all missed the mark in some way. “I was working extremely hard, and was very committed to the ideals that brought me into the business, but the challenge of trying to build a business with so little assistance in the area of practice management became increasingly difficult.”
She explained that during the periods of prosperity, she would hire more employees and invest in new computing systems and other infrastructure–all of which added overhead cost. “The more ‘successful’ I became, the harder I had to work to keep up, and the unhappier I became,” she said. The same was true for her peers. Marriages, families, friends, and personal interests all suffered. “I realized there were things that really needed to change if I wanted to make this the lifelong career I had intended it to be,” she says.
To breathe new life into her business, Teresa zeroed in on what she considered her weak point: marketing. While her clients were very satisfied, she didn’t feel like she had an organized, strategic marketing approach to systematically attract new clients. Teresa decided to use my “Effort-Less Marketing” process, which comprises five steps: (1) create your positive vision of the future, (2) target profitable and enjoyable niches, (3) research to learn how to add value, (4) position to attract ideal new clients, and (5) communicate your benefits to your targeted niche.
She has used the process over the past three years to build the business and the life of her dreams.
Teresa’s first step was one of the most difficult: She developed a long-term positive vision for her ideal life and the business that would support it. She documented that vision in writing.
“I was shocked at how difficult my vision was to articulate,” she told me. “It became clear that my goals and dreams were too vague to ever become a reality. I was somewhat successful because I had strong values and beliefs, but I would never reach my full potential on such a weak foundation.”
She began gathering information through a series of research interviews: with her husband, with her staff, and with her clients. Each interview moved her closer to a vision and mission statement. The information she received also prompted her to make a number of business improvements.
With her husband, Teresa discussed the “big picture”–how they wanted to live their lives, and how the business played a supporting role. She knew that she wanted more free time, as well as a business that integrated her personal values. To move in that direction, Teresa first had to determine where the business currently stood. She asked for feedback from her staff about the business and the way it was run. The entire office also filled out personality profiles. “These profiles helped us identify our learning and communication styles so we can build on our strengths and manage–not try to fix–our individual weaknesses,” Teresa says. The surveys and profiles helped Teresa better understand her staff, and clarified some decisions. For instance, she helped one staff member find other employment–a move that significantly improved the harmony of the office.
The feedback also encouraged Teresa to create departments centered on the talents and competencies of the staff. To support this structure, the staff developed policies and procedures that integrated all aspects of client service, administration, trading, financial planning, and compliance. Teresa also upgraded the staff’s licensing and the firm’s errors and omissions insurance so that additional staff members could meet with clients under her supervision. “This gives me more time for business development, networking, and entertaining to attract wonderful new clients,” Teresa says.
Feedback from her best clients also helped Teresa clarify a vision for her business. “A small group of clients helped me craft a business purpose statement and the brochure we use for our business,” she says. “They helped me find specific words that would have attracted them if they were not clients.”
The firm’s marketing material openly discusses Teresa’s values of faith and family, and her belief that you can have everything you want in life–provided that you help enough other people get what they want.
Clients were excited to be part of the process. “One of my clients in particular has become actively involved in introducing me to potential new clients,” Teresa told me. “She also sends me newspaper and magazine articles with new marketing and relationship-building ideas.”
Reshaping the Client Base
As she worked through the five-step program, Teresa also revised her service offerings, identified potential niche markets, and retooled the profile of her ideal client.