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5 Things to Look for Before Hiring a Toronto Digital Marketing Agency

With so many Toronto-based and digital marketing agencies promoting their services to local businesses out there today, a business owner might be inclined to think that hiring a Toronto digital marketing agency is as easy as opening the Yellow Pages, closing one’s eyes and simply picking a name. Or perhaps going the technological route and simply Googling the top local agency.

The reality is though that finding the right agency to work with involves engaging in some sort of proper vetting process. That means asking lots of questions, reviewing an agency’s track record, making sure they understand your business in particular, and ensuring that you have a large enough marketing budget to see through the end results of a long-term strategy.

One of the downfalls of many small business owners is that they hope to throw a bunch of money at a marketing problem and have an outside agency solve it quickly for as little money as possible. But the truth is that hiring a digital marketing agency in Toronto means hiring an agency to compete with other businesses and one of the largest cities in the world. That means it’s going to take time to rank and steal market share from competitors.

It’s no small task. Even a top-notch marketing agency will demand a full year of servicing your account before they can rank you in a major city like Toronto, especially if you’re in a competitive business like dentistry, plumbing, chiropractic care, or legal services.

Yet still, what’s baffling about this reality is that a 2017 survey reveals that most small businesses spend less than $10,000 a year on digital marketing. That’s less than $1,000 a month. Considering that one local business client can potentially be worth many thousands of dollars, the idea that most small businesses in Toronto aren’t investing enough in digital marketing is just crazy.

Hiring a Toronto-Based Digital Agency: The Bottom Line

Every business in Toronto that’s serious about growing revenues year-over-year needs a digital marketing strategy. Period. Once that reality hits, you’re going to need to know how to look for the right agency. Look no further. Here are X things to look for when hiring a digital marketing agency in Toronto.

What’s Your Budget?

The question “what’s your budget?” is actually a classic open-ended question a sales person asks to try to figure out how much money they can get out of a prospect. Think about it. Let’s say a salesman typically only deals with customers spending $5,000 a month, but they haven’t closed a nice deal in a while. They don’t want to scare the prospect away, so they figure out what they come up with a custom offer based on the prospect’s budget. This way, they get to prove themselves to the prospect and hopefully rope them into a bigger contract later?

How does this relate to hiring a Toronto digital marketing agency? Every agency you talk to is going to ask you what you’re budget is and try to work with you, but they may not all tell you that you won’t be able to rank for keywords in your niche without a significant long-term commitment, and the reality is, that’s what you need.

Chima Mmeje is the owner of Zenith Copy. She recommends spending a substantial amount of money if you really want to see a positive return on investment.

You want to work with a digital marketer who has a tried and tested method for delivering results. She goes on to say “… A good marketer will generate leads and help you rank for your money keywords irrespective of niche. Budget to spend a minimum of $10k if you want to see measurable results within a couple of months.”

So What Should the Minimum Budget Be?

Lindsay Stead at Guilded Communications actually has a specific budget in mind for small business owners just looking to get started with the digital marketing agency that falls in line with the research we uncovered earlier. That most business owners spend less than $10,000 a year on digital marketing.

“A good starting point is about $750 a month. Posting [on social media] one time per week isn’t really going to help your digital footprint, so if you can put together a budget that has your posting daily, at least, that is ideal.”

Stead’s advice actually falls in line with how small business owners typically spend the digital marketing dollars they do earmark. Most small business owners will only spend money on two aspects of digital marketing. First, their website, and second, their social media presence

Niche Or Not?

As Mmeje mentions, a good marketer can help rank a business regardless of the niche your business operates in. For most business owners, hiring a digital marketing agency that has a broad range of candidates is just fine. Whether it’s a flower shop, an ice cream parlor, an auto repair business or a local payday loans service, the search engine optimization process is the same.

However, there comes a point where the language and specifics of a niche are just so specialized that it might indeed be worth working with an agency that only deals with lawyers or chiropractors etc… Yes, these agencies will charge more money, but it might be worth getting the bang for the buck.

Take a moment to think about what a chiropractor does. Do you know what a chiropractic adjustment is and what it does for the spine? Do you know what a subluxation is? What about weighted traction?

Chances are you don’t, and a digital marketing agency that serves many different niches probably won’t know either. Another challenge with being in a specialized interest is that it may take more money and more time to acquire a customer. The average customer looking for a lawyer is worth much more money than the average customer looking to buy flowers from a local florist.

Secondly, the decision to buy flowers from a talented florist is much easier to make than the decision to hire the right lawyer to battle a high-stakes legal case on your behalf. This means that a proper digital marketing strategy for a lawyer’s office needs to work more on building a mailing list, putting together a meaningful content marketing strategy that delivers value to prospects and ultimately makes them feel comfortable choosing a specific law firm to deal with what is potentially a very serious case.

Whether a business owner should choose a niche marketing agency depends on both budget and degree of specialization.

Spying on the Competition

Spying on the competition is arguably the most classic internet marketing strategy there is. As somebody focused on your core business, you probably think this means using advanced ad trackers to look at somebody else’s Facebook ads or doing some keyword ninja research to find magic money words that are going to get customers flocking through your doors using tactics you don’t really understand.

That’s partially true. Those tactics are certainly practical and useful for an experienced digital marketer to implement. But it’s also why businesses in Toronto hire them to do the work. Handling advanced tactics on your own is tricky.

That doesn’t mean business owners are totally off the hook in terms of implementing some marketing ninja tactics. The fact is, you need to be part of the process of making your digital marketing strategy a reality too, no matter which firm you work with and how much of a “full service” package they offer you.

Stacy Caprio at Accelerated Growth Marketing has a great response to this. Simply ask around.

 “Start by asking flourishing businesses in your niche or adjacent niches if you don’t want to be asking your competition, who they use for marketing. If they use an agency, ask them if they recommend their agency and listen to how their agency helps them each month. Any business that is doing well and likes their marketing agency is a good sign that their agency is doing a good job finding them new clients and marketing in general. You should gather a list of 5 or so agencies this way and then talk to them on your own to figure out one to try for your business.”

Qualify the Agency to Find the Right Fit

So you’re ready to actually talk to a handful of marketing agencies in Toronto. Some represent recognizable brands across the city. Maybe one of your business associates gave you a referral. But, you still have to know what questions to ask.

Here are some of the key questions you need answers to. They’ll make you more comfortable with the idea of choosing an agency and more importantly, committing to a long-term strategy with the selected partner that will help take your business to the next level. These questions come by way of Brian Koenig at Vortala:

  • How long have you been serving my industry?
  • Who will write the content for my website & marketing campaigns?
  • How will you handle my SEO?
  • What will be expected of me once I sign up?
  • How will I know if you are providing favorable ROI?

The nuts and bolts of these questions revolve around getting your agency to show you their results and share their strategy. Ask them honestly if the keywords your target customer is searching for are hard to rank for. If they promise you they can rank your business for certain keywords in just a few months, chances are those words are of lesser value than the money keywords everyone really wants. Especially in a market like Toronto, which is home to 2.93 million people. That’s just the downtown area, not surrounding suburbs.

Lastly, if you can sneak around and ask local businesses what agencies they might be using and what their results might be like, there’s no reason you can’t ask a Toronto-based agency for their testimonials. If they’re really serious about helping you, they should have plenty of case studies to offer you, perhaps even some from your direct competitors.

Have an Out Clause

So you’ve finally taken the plunge and chosen to work with a specific agency. Yes, you probably have to commit for a year and spend lots of money to get big time results quickly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an out clause.

Make the digital marketing agency you choose to work with set milestones for your growth strategy and different intervals in your time working together. You can have a plan for the first 30 days, 90 days, six months or a year, or really at any point both you and the agency determine. Use that to your advantage. It gives you a chance to continually track results. And you can challenge your agency to do better if they aren’t meeting their targets.

May the best digital marketing agency in Toronto be yours!

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