Running a marketing agency requires multitasking and staying on top of a variety of clients in different types of industries. Organization is key to a successful business that sticks around for decades, but figuring out how to get and that way isn’t always an easy task.
About half of all businesses fail in the first five years, and about 14 percent of startups crash and burn due to poor marketing. Armed with that knowledge, you should be able to land several small business clients, but keeping them as their companies grow and expand is more of a challenge. Once brands can afford a bigger agency and a slick in-house marketing team, they may reconsider if they really need your agency’s services.
Utilizing the 10 tools below creates a strong impression of a marketing agency on top of its game. If you can prove your value to clients, they’re much more likely to stay with your company for all their needs both now and in the future. They may even recommend you to other business owners they know, expanding your reach via word-of-mouth promotion.
It’s probably no surprise that the biggest reason for business failures is cash flow issues. Around 29 percent of companies that fail do so because they run out of cash. Getting your agency’s finances in order should be one of your top priorities as a service business. Not only should you have a handle on all money going out and coming in, but you should also keep in mind that some clients may pay their invoices late or not at all. That creates a real money crunch for you, especially in the early days of operation. Here are some products that can help:
- Bill.com: This online solution lets you set up automatic invoicing or send one-off bills to clients. You can also pay bills via the system. Even better, it syncs up to popular accounting software such as QuickBooks and Xero. Plans start at $29 per user per month.
- PlanGuru: If you aren’t quite sure where to start with budgeting for your agency, this software gives you a lot of insight into cash flow and shows places where you can save money. It analyzes income and expenses over time and makes adjustments, so you don’t run short of cash. It also helps you determine business opportunities and assess the risk factors for your firm. Plans start at $99 per month. Add additional users for another $29 per month.
- Xero: This online accounting tool is cloud-based and syncs with other systems, such as billing software and budgeting tools. You can access your account at any time via the mobile app and even send invoices or create expense claims while on the road. Send up to five invoices and quotes per month for $9 or up to $60 per month for unlimited.
Using the tools above is a good first step to gaining control of your finances. However, keep in mind that as you grow and expand your customer base, you should let go of clients who are chronically late with payments and replace them with a more dependable source of income.
Marketing agencies often have cutting-edge designers on their staff and already know many of the available tools, such as Adobe Suite. That doesn’t mean there aren’t additional ways to make your work easier or take your designs up a notch. Here are some products to help everyone on your staff with design work:
- Canva: Canva is so simple to use that even someone with very little graphic arts training can figure out how to put together a post for Instagram or create a header for a Facebook business page. Other uses for Canva include creating book covers, flyers and logos. The basic account is free. Some graphics cost $1 each.
- Vectr: This is an online visual editing tool that is advanced enough even for marketing agencies. Create unique vector designs via its online tool, and scale graphics to different sizes for different purposes. The software is free to use.
- Easelly: This online tool helps you take plain data and turn it into an impressive infographic. Customize each visual to meet the needs of specific clients. Get a free account with up to 10 templates or gain access to a Pro Account for only $5 per month.
There are dozens of different viable design tools, but these will get you started and help give your work a professional edge.
About 43 percent of all cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses. Making sure your clients’ private data is secure is a vital part of gaining the trust of your customers. Some of the most common causes of data breaches include human error and outdated systems. There are some tools to help ensure your business is safe:
- PCS: This company offers IT support so you can ensure your systems are secure and not vulnerable to attacks. It also provides emergency help if you find yourself in the middle of a serious data breach and need a quick solution. Costs vary based on business size and needs.
- Nessus: This is a vulnerability tester to help you see what areas of your website or database need better security. This software helps you prevent a security breach before it occurs by ensuring all systems are as protected as possible. The basic software is free to download.
There are a wide variety of security-based tools to keep your information safe and give clients the peace of mind in knowing you’re serious about keeping their personal data out of the hands of criminals.
Creating samples of marketing campaigns and sharing them with clients isn’t always an easy task. You can spend endless hours emailing back and forth with your customers. Instead, use development tools like these and get instant feedback:
- Justinmind: Check out UI design elements and collaborate with clients on ad design, marketing campaigns and concepts. The tool is free to use.
- Balsamiq: Create mockups of designs for clients to approve or for different team members to add input. You can try the software for free or spend $9 per month for up to two projects at a time.
- Animoto: Make online videos on the fly. While you might have software in-house for creating custom videos, there are times when you need to put together something fast just to get it out there. A personal account starts at $5 per month, billed annually.
Creating a schedule of times when you can meet with clients or collaborate with co-workers keeps you on task with your other work. Here are some scheduling tools to help you set up client appointments:
- ScheduleOnce: This highly adaptive tool allows you to customize appointments and set a schedule. You can also set up timelines for team members. The basic service runs $7.50 per month when paid yearly.
- Schedulicity: This is a built-in scheduling app that also offers marketing options for your own business. Send out reminders to clients about important project deadlines or as meeting reminders. The basic account is free, and you can add appointments for $20 per month and up.
Staying on top of your schedule helps you remain organized. These tools work for nearly any type of company, but particularly for service businesses such as marketing agencies.
6. Content Management
If you want to show clients you really know what you’re talking about, you need to give them tidbits of insider information to help them run their business. A blog on your own site and a social media presence is an absolute must. Here are some tools to help with content management:
- WordPress: WordPress is an open source software that serves as a content management system (CMS). Because it’s one of the most popular platforms, there is a ton of support available in forums and through its website. WordPress is free to use, but some add-ons and themes charge a small fee.
- Jekyll: This CMS tool is super simple to use. Take any text and change it into a static website or blog. It doesn’t use databases. You can even migrate a current blog over to Jekyll.
Content management should be simple and easy for anyone on your team to pick up.
7. Time Management
Making the most of your time allows you to grow your agency by leaps and bounds. There are hundreds of time-management tools, but here are a few favorites:
- Toggl: Toggl is an online tool with an available app that allows you to track how much time you’re spending on various projects. It’s also a useful way to help with billable hours. It’s free, but if you want to add features, such as advanced reports, you’ll pay $9 per user per month.
- Replicon: Track employee time to see where moments are wasted and could be better spent. The system also helps with billing for time-based projects, tracking the cost of time spent and managing attendance for your staff. Prices vary, depending upon which services you need.
- TimeCamp: The app tracks time spent on different projects and generates reports for clients. An account for one user is free. Go pro and gain features for $5.25 per user per month.
Gaining control of your time is one of the most powerful things you can do toward growing your agency.
Staying in touch with clients shows you’re in control and also keeps your agency at the forefront of their minds. Here are some communication tools you should invest in:
- Sendy: The online platform puts you in control of sending basic emails and newsletters to your clients. You can also create autoresponders so people know you’ll get back to them within a certain amount of time. The cost is far less than services such as MailChimp and varies based on how many subscribers you have.
- Microsoft Teams: Chat in real time with team members, clients and potential leads. The system offers a free chat hub, and you can upgrade from there starting at $12.50 per month.
Communication is an area you can easily automate and free up time for other endeavors.
9. Social Media
As a marketing agency, you likely use social media often. Promoting your clients is a daily part of your schedule, and you should also highlight your own business. Fortunately, there are tools that help you automate social media marketing and make the most of your time:
- Buffer: Schedule content for major social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The system will inform you when your queue gets empty and also generates reports on the effectiveness of different posts. A basic account allows you to try things out for free, but once you add additional ones, you’ll need to upgrade.
- Sprout Social: Schedule posts to social media, see when teammates reply and measure analytics all from a single dashboard. The standard profile lets you add five social accounts and runs $99 per user per month.
There are many other tools out there, such as Hootsuite and BuzzSumo. Check out their free trials and choose the one that works best for your agency.
10. Project Management
As an agency, you serve dozens of different clients and must juggle various projects. A project management system is a vital part of staying on top of deadlines. Some of the better ones out there include:
- Trello: Trello lets you and your team work collaboratively with boards, moving tasks around, checking them off and reassigning them to new members. Their free account has unlimited boards and cards. If you want to add features such as power-ups and file attachments, it costs $9.99 per month per user.
- Asana: This is another project management tool that also provides file storage solutions. You can create tasks within a larger body of work and assign them to team members. You can also set milestones and send out updates. The basic plan is free. If you need more features, move up to Premium for $9.99 per user per month.
Staying on top of projects is a vital part of marketing. These are just a couple of the better and less expensive marketing tools at your disposal. As your agency grows, you can upgrade to more advanced options or bigger accounts.
New Marketing Tools
Every year, new marketing tools arrive on the market that offer easier ways of doing things. Be aware of your needs as a small business and what might make better use of your time and resources. Seek products that free you up to work on creative elements of your business or networking aspects that help you grow and thrive.
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