Marketing in Calgary is different than other cities for a lot of reasons. Relative to its population, Calgary had the second highest number of small businesses per capita, the highest number of head offices per capita across Canada in 2016 and it’s trending for further growth this year. In simple terms, Calgary is a burgeoning entrepreneurial hub, and yet we’re still a big city with a small town feel.

It’s hard to discuss without making cliché and sweeping generalizations but the big city, small town platitudes exist for a reason. The seven degrees of separation in the Heart of the New West always seem closer to three and a lot of business is still done on the merit of a handshake. This changes the game not only in how business is done, but also how businesses market themselves successfully.

Marketing in Calgary

We’re examining three common marketing challenges in Calgary (and how you can fix them):

#1: Small Businesses Rely Too Much on Social Media

Social media is a necessary and fundamental component of marketing in 2017. Fantastic for brand awareness, B2C sales, and customer interaction, social media serves as an important marketing tool. That being said, in the grand picture of growing a business it’s always better to diversify your efforts rather then put all your eggs (dollars) in one basket (platform).

One of the big problems with social media is how difficult it is to track the effectiveness. According to eMarketer, “6 in 10 small business owners are not able to track ROI from their social media activities.”

Content marketing— such as blog posts, videos, and other content that draw traffic to your business’ actual website— is just as powerful as social media, if not more so because you can easily view the ROI. Social media marketing can be effective, but just remember with any kind of marketing the two most important things are:

A) SMART goals

B) Regular assessments

SMART goals define the parameters of what you want to achieve through your marketing efforts and website metrics that let you know you’re on your way there. For instance, one of your goals might be to get to 1000 page views a month —up from 500—in a 3 month span. It’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely so it meets the requirements to be a SMART goal. We’ve written a great article on setting SMART goals here if you want to learn more on goal setting for business growth.

The regular assessment of effectiveness comes from viewing those stats and seeing what has worked (i.e. high engagement content) and what didn’t (certain types of posts that just don’t perform as well). Varied, trackable content is the key to marketing success and social media is a slice of that pie, but not the whole.

How does this relate to Calgary?

According to Calgary Economic Development, “Of Calgary’s total businesses (58,870) in 2016, small business (businesses with less than 50 employees) accounted for 95.2 per cent (or 55,972).” Small business and Calgary go hand-in-hand. For sustained and significant growth it’s important that those small businesses are spending their money where it has more measurable returns.

#2: Networks Dead End and Growth Stagnates

Very rarely is a business opened without customers in mind. Most business owners have several friends, existing customers, and contacts ready to come on as clients when starting their new venture. Those people become the companies first few patrons and from that stems referrals. It’s very easy for mid-sized, B2B companies to go their first few years without having to invest too much time, money or thought into marketing; that is until those networks start to peter off. After a few years of relying on word of mouth, businesses start to slow as the clients have already referred whom they can.

It’s important to have a good reputation, but it doesn’t attract traffic from anyone outside of your established network.

Even if your company’s website functions well and there is some social media presence, that isn’t enough to attract new growth. Inbound marketing is a great solve for this problem, as it is a highly measurable way of attracting new leads.

Inbound marketing is an approach that aims to speak to a business’s ideal customers where, when, and how they want to be spoken to. It utilizes research and tailored content creation to attract the right type of leads. Inbound marketing is ideal for network dead ends as it doesn’t rely on traditional methods which conventionally only work to attract local buyers; it expands the reach of a business.

How does this relate to Calgary?

In a market that is traditionally heavy in one industry, such as oil and gas, the corporate sector tends to feel smaller than it is because so many people have worked with each other at one point or another. Many Calgary businesses start up with clients ready to go and at some point word of mouth can’t drive all business growth anymore.

#3: Older Companies Struggle to Change with the Times

“This is how it’s always been done” is a mindset that has been plaguing established corporations for years. Just because something has been working doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon, and a lot of young marketing professionals struggle to explain that to their superiors.

Marketing methods and technology have grown drastically since even 10 years ago and flyers and print ads aren’t the only way anymore. Unfortunately many companies fail to realize this and have not changed with the times yet. Many older businesses are weary of taking on any additional costs or implementing changes they don’t fully understand but however difficult it may be, it’s important to understand the benefits of doing things differently.

Growth is not a stagnant process.

Exploring new methods doesn’t have to be a complete marketing overhaul. Try designating at least a portion of the marketing budget to ‘experimental’ where the marketing team can dip their toes into new channels. Designating 15-20% of a total marketing budget as experimental is a great way to keep things fresh and find what works. Experimental doesn’t mean trying unproven cutting edge techniques, it means trying tactics that are new to the company. Bare in mind it’s always important to define goals prior to venturing out on new ideas so that everything is measured for impact and assessed accordingly.

How does this relate to Calgary?

In 2016 Calgary had the highest number of head offices per capita in the country and older, more established companies tend to be more hesitant to implementing changes.

Marketing in Calgary


Despite the recent downturn, “Alberta is expected to lead the country in economic growth this year, according to the Conference Board of Canada,”. The unique factors that make the city so successful are also what make it occasionally difficult to navigate and it takes an experienced hand to understand how to handle these nuances.