Choosing the Best Marketing Agency Software for Managing Your Agency
Working in a digital marketing agency is often like competing in a race that has no finish line. To make sure you’re always at the front of this fast-paced industry, there’s one crucial question to consider: do you use the best marketing agency software for your business?
Digital marketing agencies can benefit from a wide range of solutions for their day-to-day operations. Whether you’re providing copywriting, SEO, social media marketing, or a full suite of services, there’s a variety of options available on the market. This fact often proves to be a double-edged sword, as research has shown that the biggest challenge in implementing a software solution is determining the differences in functionalities between various vendors (Venture Beat).
This is why this list will provide an overview of the types of marketing agency software solutions, as well as the most popular options. By the end of this article, you should be better equipped to stay on top of the competition by making well-educated decisions for your marketing software implementation.
What is Marketing Agency Software?
Put in the simplest terms, creative agency software is a suite of systems designed to help marketing agencies accomplish their business goals. Marketing agency software can fulfill different needs within the digital agency ecosystem: from improved team collaboration and client communications, efficient lead tracking and audience insights, social media, and email marketing automation, all the way to generalized business optimization with data-driven analytics.
What’s the catch? Well, implementing a marketing agency software solution is often challenging and time-consuming, as teams need to import their data, connect their current systems to the newly adopted software and get their teams on board for the change. This final step might prove the hardest, as any successful agency management software depends on frequent use to produce results. And even then, making sure your marketing team knows how to use the tool to its full potential is yet another hurdle you will need to overcome.
However, data shows that this process is more than worthwhile. A survey conducted in 2018 reported that 49% of businesses that invested in software implementation improved all of their business processes, with only 5% reporting that it failed to improve upon anything (Panorama Consulting). What is it that advertising agency software can bring to your business? Depending on the software type, this answer can be rather lengthy, but we will go through some of the basic perks of creative agency software in the following section.
The Benefits of Marketing Agency Software
Speaking generally, digital marketing software can bring the following benefits to your day-to-day processes:
- Improved Efficiency
There are multiple ways in which agency management tools can improve your efficiency, but the basis of most great business operations is time tracking. Tracking hours helps managers balance workloads across employees more accurately, ensuring that everyone has as much work on their plate as they are able to finish. This can decrease burnout and improve team relationships, boosting overall productivity and driving business growth in the long term. Secondly, time tracking allows businesses to determine their overall profitability, one of the most important metrics for any project-based business, including digital marketing agencies.
See also: 13 Best Agency Time Tracking Software in 2023
In general, agency project management software is designed to streamline repetitive tasks and let creative teams focus on what they do best: producing great work for their clients. Of course, there are other ways to achieve this aside from time tracking, with, for example, social media management and email marketing software, or marketing automation tools. We will be covering these types of software and their perks in the next section.
- Informed Decision-Making
It’s easy to let data slip through the cracks when you’re doing everything manually. No matter how organized you are, or how many Excel sheets you have prepared, it’s virtually impossible to account for all minor changes occurring during the project life cycle. This is where agency management systems with advanced reporting come in. The best kinds of resource management tools can take your agency resources and transform them into actionable insights in a matter of minutes: for example, by forecasting budget overruns in case of changes in your internal teams or project scheduling due to client requests.
Another important thing that managers should keep an eye out for is agency utilization or the number of hours your employees are putting into client projects vs the total amount of time they are able to work. Linked to utilization is overall agency profitability, the metric that takes into account revenue deducted by total overhead. By tracking their core analytics, businesses can make smart decisions for their current and future projects, driving improvements in the long term. Agency project management software makes all of this much simpler.
See also: Financial Forecasting and Capacity Management For Agencies
- Improved Client Collaboration
A healthy relationship with the other party should be one of the main concerns of any client-facing business. After all, if everything is running smoothly on the project but you can’t communicate this to the client in a timely manner, you’re ultimately wasting some of your effort. Digital marketing software can help you visualize your progress with task management software, keeping all project stakeholders in the loop. Need to share updates? Simply give your clients access to your project boards, by providing them a full or limited view into your operations. Improving your client relationships is key to building long-lasting connections and winning meaningful projects in the future, and marketing agency software helps you achieve just that.
See also: Mastering Agency Project Management: The Ultimate Guide
In the following section, we will go through the main types of tools digital agency managers and their teams might want to consider implementing, along with an overview of some of the best options available on the market today.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools are software solutions that help teams collaborate and stay on track with their project. The main features of good project management tools are workflow and time management, analytics, resource management, and document sharing. Some solutions might be more specialized, while others provide a more comprehensive approach that is suitable for most digital agencies. In general, all-in-one solutions offer significant benefits by centralizing your services on one platform, standardizing your work processes, and saving time on team onboarding.
The Top Pick: Productive – The All-in-one Creative Agency Software Solution
Productive is a comprehensive project management solution for agencies. Productive combines workflow management, resource planning, and financial management in order to deliver a centralized experience for project managers. With time tracking, budgeting and invoicing, project reports, and financial forecasting, the need to invest in multiple solutions is resolved. Let’s go through what Productive can do for your digital marketing agency in more detail.
Check out a digital marketing agency’s growth story: Scaling Success: Refyne’s Journey with Productive
Key Features Include:
As previously mentioned, tracking billable and non-billable hours is at the core of most business management processes. Productive offers an integrated time tracking feature that simplifies the process for employees, while still providing accurate hourly estimates for managers. Time can be tracked directly from tasks or from the calendar, or manually entered after task completion, depending on preference. Productive goes a step further by enabling teams to schedule their leave and sick days through one platform, eliminating the need for specialized human resources management tools.
Productive helps you set up and deliver projects easily. You can get a granular view of your projects with tasks, status updates, and to-dos, coupled with an intuitive notifications system that helps team members and managers stay on top of assignments. Furthermore, with customizable project overviews, your teams and management can enjoy having a personalized overview of project progress. Whether they prefer the Kanban board, list, calendar, table, or timeline view, the choice is up to them. Clients can also be invited to projects with limited or full access rights, improving communications across the board.
Monitor your budgets and handle invoicing on one platform. You can build your budgets no matter which type they are, whether fixed-price, hourly, or mixed. Productive supports it all. Furthermore, you can easily set up retainer work with recurring budgets and even manage complex projects with multiple phases by splitting your budgets. Using tracked time on billable services provides efficient invoicing: for example, you can simply pull in non-invoiced time on hourly-priced projects, or automatically invoice remaining amounts on fixed-price projects.
Productive’s resource planning features let you get optimal team utilization. With heat maps, you can check each team’s workload and ensure that hours are being scheduled properly, without over-utilizing or under-utilizing any particular individual. Thanks to an exhaustive view of each resource available on the project, you can also account for sudden changes and ensure that any roadblocks are resolved effectively. Furthermore, all of this data, including your utilization rate and agency profitability, is available thanks to over 50 customizable agency reports that take into consideration all your project activities on Productive.
- Plans start with the Essential plan at $9 per user per month, which includes essential features such as budgeting, project & task management, docs, time tracking, expense management, reporting, and time off management.
- The Professional plan includes custom fields, recurring budgets, advanced reports, billable time approvals, and many more for $24 per user per month.
- The Ultimate plan has everything that the Essential plan and Professional plan offer, along with the HubSpot integration, advanced forecasting, advanced custom fields, overhead calculations, and more for a custom price.
- You can also check out the Enterprise Plan with custom pricing for companies that would include more than 50 active users per month.
Try out Productive with a 14-day free trial before deciding which plan to choose.
The Runner-Up: Asana – A Good Ad Agency Management Software
Asana is an agency management tool that supports real-time collaboration for advertising agencies. With lightweight workflow management features, Asana is frequently praised for having an “attractive and simple user interface that allows the user to get familiar with it quickly” (Source: Capterra).
- Task management and workflow prioritization
- Native time tracking capabilities
- Customizable project progress views
- Key insights and data visualizations
Although Asana is a great starter pick for a project management tool thanks to its low barrier of entry, teams that are oriented towards growth might out scale the solution rather quickly. Users mention that some more complex features are missing from the tool, for example, more robust financial management insights with utilization rates and profit forecasting. This is why investing in a more comprehensive solution and saving time and money in the long term might be a good choice.
Customer Relationship Management Software
Customer relationship management software (CRM) are solutions designed to help businesses manage their customer interactions. Some main features provided by CRM software are lead tracking, organizing prospect information, pipeline visualization, and data analysis. A good CRM for marketing teams can improve your agency’s customer retention and overall sales growth.
The Top Pick: HubSpot – The Best CRM for Agency Growth
HubSpot is a CRM platform for advertising agencies with a wide range of features for improved interactions with current and potential customers. With an array of products designed for marketing, sales, and customer services, HubSpot helps businesses connect with their audience, drive revenue, and optimize their decision-making.
“HubSpot Sales Hub Pro has improved the efficiency of our sales team, made it easy to identify leads within our database, and provided transparency for our whole team on where each lead sits within a sales funnel” (Source: G2).
- Contact management and sales activities tracking
- Lead generation with online form builder
- Integrations with other CRM systems such as Salesforce
- Data-based analytics, reports, and dashboards
Users on G2 are overall positive about the solutions that the HubSpot platform provides, with the most frequently noted downside being the pricing points, as some find them inaccessible to smaller teams. Other potential cons of the tool are the time needed to onboard new team members onto the sometimes complex functionalities. However, most users that mentioned this downside underlined that this starting difficulty pays off in the future.
Overall, HubSpot is a good choice for teams looking to scale their marketing efforts with a robust CRM system.
The Runner-Up: Productive – A Fine CRM Solution With Essential Features
Productive is an all-in-one software solution for agencies that integrates sales funnels into the project management process. Productive helps project managers streamline their day-to-day operations by providing a unified place for their management of tasks, resources, finances, and all other essential project concerns.
- Sales funnel visualizations with custom reports
- Forecast potential sales revenue
- Convert won deals into projects
- Integrated project management and resource planning
Customers usually praise Productive for its comprehensive agency management features. However, as the CRM side is more lightweight, project managers that are interested in robust features might consider more specialized solutions. This is why Productive is a good fit for teams that are looking for a comprehensive platform that combines the essential features of customer relationship management with more developed project management capabilities.
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation tools are designed for routine marketing tasks. Marketing automation software can target different areas of the day-to-day marketing process, such as email marketing, lead prioritization, drip campaigns, lead scoring, segmentation, etc. Marketing automation tools aim to increase efficiency by letting creative teams eliminate busy work and focus on high-level tasks.
The Top Pick: Marketo Enagage – The Best Creative Agency Software With Workflow Automation
Marketo Engage by Adobe is a marketing automation tool that promises to support the workflows of both marketing and sales teams to ensure effectiveness. Users frequently praise Marketo Engage for its wide range of marketing automation capabilities, along with detailed analytics and reporting that enable data-driven insights.
- AI-supported audience building and segmentation
- Advanced lead management
- Performance analytics with pipeline, ROI, and prospects data
- Integrations with CRM tools
As is customary with robust workflow automation, and any other kind of comprehensive software, users usually highlight the initial learning curve as a downside. Some users also add that the interface could be more user-friendly, but Marketo Engage is still a great choice for agencies that are looking to support both their sales teams and their marketing automation efforts with one tool.
The Runner-Up: Keap – A Solid Automation Tool for Campaign Workflows
Keap is a customer relationship management and marketing automation platform tailored to smaller businesses. With a 4.2 rating out of 1000+ reviews on G2, users are mostly positive about Keap, stating that the software “allows small business owners… to create systems and automation to run, grow and scale our businesses” (Source: G2).
- AI-supported audience building and segmentation
- Advanced lead management
- Performance analytics with pipeline, ROI, and prospects data
- Integrations with CRM tools
Multiple users have commented that the tool is great for smaller companies thanks to a good balance of complex to simple features. However, as the main downside, some criticized the pricing structure, as basing it on the number of contacts can end up scaling costs significantly over the years. Other users repeated the same pricing concerns but added that the initial investment is overall worth it due to Keap’s good cost-to-value ratio.
Email Marketing Software
Email marketing software support digital marketing companies in managing and automating email campaigns. These tools are designed primarily to help standardize your company’s email marketing strategy, organize and manage lists of subscribers, and generate key data such as open and click-through rates. Other features might include scheduling, content personalization, audience segmentation, and advanced customer behavior tracking.
The Top Pick: Mailchimp – The Best Email Marketing Platform for Advertising Agencies
Mailchimp is one of the industry-leading providers of email marketing software, with a 4.5 rating on over 15000+ reviews on Capterra. Mailchimp provides a wide range of services that complement email marketing automation, with landing page creation, data-driven content optimization, marketing CRM with contact management, and robust analytics tools that enable personalized content creation.
- AI-supported content creation
- Audience management with targeting and segmenting
- Integrations with CRM and automation tools
- Advanced analytics and reporting
Users generally love Mailchimp, and underline that its best features are the easy-to-use interface, along with an improved click-through rate that drives overall sales growth. As the downside, most users mention that the free plan is limited and that the paid tiers are somewhat pricey for businesses that use email marketing sparsely. With that being said, the benefits mentioned above are usually seen as large enough to offset the cost, making Mailchimp one of the best choices for marketing automation software.
The Runner-Up: Constant Contact – A Great Marketing Agency Choice for Smaller Businesses
Constant Contact is a digital and email marketing platform that supports smaller businesses with their marketing efforts. Constant Contact offers both a marketing solution and CRM and lead generation solution.
- AI Content Generator for optimized messaging
- Performance metrics and reporting dashboards
- Essential marketing automation with content templates
Overall, customers are satisfied with Constant Contact as an email marketing solution. Some have mentioned a lack of flexibility in email editing options and limited design customization. However, there are mostly no larger complaints, making Constant Contact a fair email marketing solution for smaller teams.
Search engine optimization or SEO software helps companies optimize their websites by analyzing various aspects of their presentation, such as keyword usage and tags, website speed and crawlability, backlinking, and search engine rankings. The main purpose of an SEO tool is to improve the online visibility of a website and to drive higher search engine rankings in order to increase a company’s share of voice.
The Top Pick: Semrush – The Best Ad Agency Management Software
Semrush is an online visibility management platform that supports digital marketing agencies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click campaigns, and content and social media management. Users state that Semrush “offers a pretty complete package for an SEO campaign”, with “in-depth insight into anything from backlink metrics to keyword performance” (Source: G2).
- Competitor analysis and strategies to drive website traffic
- Keyword research and rank tracking
- Content optimization with on-page and local SEO
- PPC keyword research for growing audience engagement
Users highlight the complicated interface as the main downside of Semrush, with the caveat that it’s a characteristic that most all-rounder tools share. Additionally, users mention that the pricing tiers can be high for smaller companies, which is another commonly mentioned downside of creative agency software with more robust features.
The Runner-Up: Moz – A Fair SEO Choice for Marketing Agencies
Moz is an advertising agency tool that provides a range of SEO-related services, including site crawling, rank checking, keyword research, and backlink analysis. Moz separates its solutions into three distinct products, each with its own pricing tiers and target audiences: Moz Local for local SEO, Moz Pro for generalized SEO and online marketing needs, and STAT Search Analysis for advanced insights.
- A suite of solutions customized to business needs
- Local and national ranking tracking
- Content optimization with target keywords
- Link opportunities and custom analytics
The main benefit of Moz is at the same time its main downside. As a marketing platform, Moz offers more choices than all-in-one SEO tools, which complicates decision-making and leaves more room for error, as deciding which features your business needs will be more difficult than with limited offerings. However, for businesses that are ready to invest sufficient time to find the best solution for them, Moz is a great option to consider among other SEO-focused marketing agency tools.
Social Media Management Tools
Social media management tools are solutions designed to help businesses manage their social media presence effectively. The main features that social media management software provides are content scheduling and strategy management with visualizations, cross-platform publishing, social media analytics, and audience insights, among many others.
The Top Pick: Sprout Social – The Best Solution for Effective Social Media Content
Sprout Social is a social media management platform that helps businesses get the most out of their marketing strategy and drive growth in all areas of their business. Sprout Social is designed to streamline all social media platform activities and enable teams to focus on creating and perfecting their content marketing strategies.
- Cross-network scheduling and strategy management
- Campaign performance tracking and optimization
- Comprehensive social data and analytics
- Integrated team collaboration and communication tools
Customers are mainly positive and highlight the benefits of Sprout Social for their social media marketing processes, highlighting better results and improved collaboration. As a downside, users usually mention a slightly difficult onboarding process, as well as steep pricing that makes the tool inaccessible to individuals or smaller companies. With a 4.3 star rating on G2 across 2000+ reviews, Sprout Social is a great choice for social media teams.
The Runner-Up: Hootsuite – A Good Social Media Alternative for Digital Marketing
Hootsuite is a social media marketing tool that helps marketing agencies keep track of their social media accounts and content scheduling across platforms. Customers report overall positive experiences with Hootsuite, reporting that the core features such as in-depth analysis and account management have significantly improved their “social media strategy and efficiency” (Source: Capterra).
- Content scheduling and management
- Centralized communications across networks
- Automated customer behavior tracking for optimized strategies
- Social media analytics and visualizations
As the main downside, users report that the interface takes some getting used to. While Hootsuite does offer extensive onboarding through its learning academy, some users believe that the service is unapproachable for businesses on a tighter budget. However, Hootsuite’s basic plan is more affordable than Social Sprout’s, which might be enough to offset the cost of onboarding.
Other Creative Agency Software
Although we’ve covered the main type of tools digital marketing agencies use to optimize their client work, there are some other adjacent solutions that are also used daily, usually by specific teams within a company. These are:
- Content Management Systems: Content management systems (CMS) are platforms that are used in order to update and publish content on websites. They are usually designed to enable employees with varying technical skill levels to manage digital content, usually with a certain amount of flexibility and customization in page layout and functionality. The most well-known CMS solution is WordPress with 8000+ reviews on G2 and a 4.4-star rating, with commonly known alternatives in Squarespace and Drupal. In general, users that are looking for a robust solution opt for WordPress, with the alternatives providing a simpler, more user-friendly experience with some limitations when it comes to customization and integrations.
- Data Analytics Tools: Data analytics tools are specialized solutions that process and interpret data in order to provide advanced insights into business processes. More often than not, different types of digital marketing tools such as project management software or marketing automation software will come with their own analytics and reporting functionalities. However, when talking about specialized solutions, a well-known data analytics tool is Google Analytics, praised by users for a wide array of visualizations, robust website activity, audience insights, and flexible reporting. A common alternative is Tableau, a similarly comprehensive solution for a wide range of industries.
- Multimedia Design Software: Graphic design software and video editing software can both be subsumed under multimedia design. These solutions are used to produce creative content within marketing design teams, such as infographics, social media posts, video content, webinars, or any kind of visual asset that represents a company’s identity. Some popular graphic design tools are Adobe Creative Cloud for advanced editing and Canva for simpler marketing material templates, with Adobe Premiere Pro and InVideo as their video editing counterparts.
Takeaway: Finding the Best Creative Agency Software
Digital marketing agencies often have their work cut out for them. With the need to efficiently manage their internal teams and maintain steady communication with clients, all the while producing excellent results based on actionable insights, the requirements for successful marketing projects can be quite steep.
Luckily, the diverse solutions for creative agency software can significantly offload the number of responsibilities a project manager has. Once you have pinpointed which area of your business needs the biggest amount of care, the next step is considering which of the software highlighted in this article is the best investment for you.
And if you’re looking for a comprehensive management tool that can help you streamline your projects, manage your sales leads and improve team collaborations on one platform, consider booking a demo with Productive.