The marketing and media landscape in Canada can be brutal. Successful companies in this sector must innovate relentlessly, deliver exceptional results and keep demanding clients content to stay ahead of the often-cutthroat competition.
The 37 marketing and media companies on the 2014 PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies have figured out what it takes to thrive in a ruthlessly competitive marketplace. On average, their sales grew by 541% between 2008 and 2013. (For the Top 10 companies, that average spikes to 1,423%.) Together, all the companies on this list contributed $841 million to the Canadian economy in 2013.
What’s more, over the past five years, these companies have created 1,630 net new full-time jobs. In 2013, they had a total of 2,758 people on their payrolls.
But there’s more to Canada’s Fastest-Growing Marketers than these numbers (impressive though they are). Here’s a look at who they are and what sets them apart:
Five-year revenue growth: 4,903% (PROFIT 500 rank: 6)
Chief executive(s): Josh Singer
FTE employees: 330
Provides sales-focused experiential marketing
On the value of happy clients: “We work on a lot of results-based programs, so when you deliver really strong results, we get more business from our existing clients,” says Singer. “Our strategy has always been over-deliver on our existing programs so our clients will naturally want to give us more business. And that’s exactly how we’ve grown.”
Five-year revenue growth: 2,545% (PROFIT 500 rank: 21)
Chief executive(s): David U.K.
FTE employees: 12
Advertising brokerage focused on sports and men’s interest
How to get the most out of Millennials: “Millennials want to feel empowered to be involved in the evolution of the company. They aspire to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and, not to be a cog,” says U.K. “So I manage very transparently. There are no verticals or hierarchy. And I bring in a lot of interns—two or three at a time. I groom some into full-time employees. I give them opportunity to grow. I am big on grooming and teaching, not bringing in people with bad habits.”
Five-year revenue growth: 1,285% (PROFIT 500 rank: 52)
Chief executive(s): Zeeshan Hayat & S. Karina Hayat
FTE employees: 18
Provides online, mobile and offline marketing tools
Proof that it’s smart to be proactive: “Each time the compliance process changes, it poses a major challenge to generate the leads to serve our clients,” says Hayat. “So we’re constantly having to change our marketing strategy. We’re always reinventing the wheel.”
Five-year revenue growth: 1,014% (PROFIT 500 rank: 71)
Chief executive(s): Nancy Peterson
FTE employees: 27
Provides an online database of user-reviewed home-renovation contractors
A lesson in generating buzz: “Our ‘Best Of’ awards for the contractors listed on our site are very effective,” says Peterson. “In every market in Canada we run an algorithm that looks at a whole host of factors in the ratings. That reputation rank gives us a winner per category. It’s published on our website, we do press releases and host an event in eight cities. It drives awareness among all of our constituents. It drives business to the contractors, too.”
Five-year revenue growth: 1,013% (PROFIT 500 rank: 72)
Chief executive(s): Grail Noble
FTE employees: 15
Event marketing and creative services
Pick your clients wisely: “The first thing that gets cut in a tight economy is events; we are absolutely not recession-proof,” explains Noble. “We’ve overcome that by aligning with clients who are recession-proof. The kinds of clients that we’ve had are companies that are going to do well regardless.”
Five-year revenue growth: 920% (PROFIT 500 rank: 84)
Chief executive(s): Andrew Faridani
FTE employees: 32
Digital marketing promotional tools
It pays to play up your local presence: “The biggest threat to our industry is competition from places like the Philippines, Singapore, the Caribbean and India. They’re infiltrating the North American market with lower prices,” says Faridani. “We’re doing that by adding to and elevating the level of service we offer to our customer base. We’re showing that we have the local presence and local know-how to help our customers. They can call us any time they want at a local number. Their CEO wants to talk? We can meet them at Tim Horton’s down the street. If they want to come see our offices and have a meeting in our boardroom, they can. None of that is true of our overseas competitors.”
Five-year revenue growth: 803% (PROFIT 500 rank: 89)
Chief executive(s): Peri Luel & Steven Lewis
FTE employees: 205
Experiential marketing services
Yes, you can measure ROI: “Like many marketing companies, our biggest challenge is proving the effectiveness and ROI of our work,” says Luel. “So, we developed a solution for that called MeasureIt. It’s a tool that we use to demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs. It’s a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the programs we’ve developed and put in place, pre-launch and post, to provide a picture of the effectiveness.”
8. Le Site Inc.
Five-year revenue growth: 596% (PROFIT 500 rank: 105)
Chief executive(s): Michael Bliah & Jean-Philippe Cormier
FTE employees: 47
E-commerce, interactive competitions, marketing campaigns and branded content
Never stop selling: “We are very focused on sales,” explains Bliah. “There’s aren’t a lot of agencies with a sales force. I have two people, plus me, who are doing sales. Right now we are hiring someone to do cold calls. It’s working fantastically for us. Production is one thing, but sales is very important, too.”
Five-year revenue growth: 587% (PROFIT 500 rank: 106)
Chief executive(s): Eric Boyko
FTE employees: 205
Multiplatform music services
Startup tip: “Raise enough capital for the first year, because things never go as planned,” says Boyko.
Five-year revenue growth: 564% (PROFIT 500 rank: 109)
Chief executive(s): Jeff Quipp & Jennifer Osborne
FTE employees: 97
Marketing services focused on generating sales leads
On finding great talent in a new field: “They don’t teach what we do in colleges or universities yet,” says Quipp. “We have to take people who are relatively green and train them from scratch. And I say ‘relatively green’ because we don’t want to hire people who have been trained for other companies, because then there’s a whole process of untraining them, before we can retrain them. We’ve developed really good training programs internally, and it helps a lot.”
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The Next 10:
19. Klick Inc.
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Other fast-growing marketing and media firms on the 2014 PROFIT 500:
Astound Group Inc., Aura XM Inc., Best Displays & Graphics Inc., BrandFire Marketing Group Inc., Candia Group Inc., Danatec Educational Services Ltd., Eventive Marketing Inc., Innovative Vision Marketing Inc., KMI Publishing and Events Ltd., My Broadcasting Corp., PCMusic, Points Intl. Ltd., REC Media Inc., Rhoddy Design Inc., Sirius XM Canada Inc., Vigorate Inc., and Zenergy Communications North America Inc.