You might think of your agency as tech-forward, but your team could have way more software subscriptions than they need to successfully serve clients — and it could be cutting into your profits.
According to a 2022 report by Vendr, the average company with 50 employees uses 40 SaaS applications. If this number seems high, consider just some of the categories of applications you may already use: internal messaging, file management, sales management, client portal, social media scheduling, video editing and email automation. This list is far from complete!
For most businesses, including agency professionals, it’s time to consolidate.
If you have a suspicion you’re in the too-much-tech boat, it might seem like looking for more software is the last thing you’d want to do right now. However, smart consolidation can require finding a multifaceted platform that replaces several others and reduces inefficiencies.
Where to start?
Along with reviewing must-have agency management tools in a few key categories such as project management, email marketing and customer relationship management, you should research what’s available to marry those functions. We’re here to help.
Let’s look at:
Why Agencies Need More Than Project Management Software
While quality client work is certainly dependent upon solid project management practices, we recommend looking for more than just a project management platform. Your relationships with clients begin from the first moment they interact with your business as a marketing lead and, ideally, don’t end until you’ve been through years of recurring contracts.
To make this happen, you need cloud-based software with more robust features than most project management tools have. From sales opportunity tracking and pipeline visualization to client request intake, workflow management — preferably with custom automations — is a must for a busy agency.
Robust software that’s versatile enough to address your specific industry challenges but not too inflexible to do what you need can help you adjust your pricing and, ultimately, drive profitability.
Top Agency Management Tools by Function
Below is a list of nine popular agency management tools and their key features.
Accelo: Best Overall for Client Work Management
Accelo is a cloud-based client work management platform designed to help professional services firms, including agencies of all sizes, manage client relationships from prospecting and payment through projects and even retainers. The platform provides customizable solutions to expand visibility, improve collaboration and increase profits.
Accelo's retainers dashboard highlights each retainer's remaining budget, payment structure and linked projects and tickets
- Custom workflows to automate and streamline business processes
- Centralized client database connecting client records to projects, tasks and billing
- Project management tools, including automated time trackers, useful project templates and resource management
- Retainer tools, including contract management and recurring work automation
- The platform may be too robust for small businesses seeking only one or two functions
- Not the best fit for teams of under five people
Start a free trial or schedule a demo to see how Accelo could be the agency management software you’ve been searching for.
AgencyAnalytics: Best for Reporting in Marketing Agencies
AgencyAnalytics is a reporting platform built to help marketing agencies complete client reporting automatically. Its 70+ integrations and customizable widgets help agency owners pull clients’ key data into white-labeled dashboards.
- Automated data retrieval and report creation
- Real-time reports for all components of a campaign, including PPC and social media
- SEO tools to help clients improve search rankings
- Client access with custom permissions
- User-friendly interface with customizable dashboards to fit agency preferences
- Control panel templates with text and link markup to easily communicate with clients
- Not the most useful for clients who prefer internal reporting tools, and accurate reporting in the platform requires integrations and maintenance across multiple platforms
- Some users note that the platform is slow to adapt
Deltek WorkBook: Best for Resource Management
Deltek WorkBook is an agency management solution built to maximize internal efficiency and make collaboration simple. It combines project and task management, resource allocation tools, business analytics, cost management and financial reporting and a CRM.
- Resource management tools: calendar sync, drag-and-drop assignments and more
- CRM and pipeline management tools and data
- Business intelligence analytics
- Task assignment based on skills and availability
- Visibility tools for project management are ideal for remote teams
- Clear data about employee performance makes hiring and assignments easier
HubSpot: Best for Marketing Automation
HubSpot is a multipurpose inbound marketing platform. Its Marketing Hub helps agencies publish and store content, send emails, manage client data, track campaign performance and more. The company also offers industry-recognized training and events for agency professionals.
- Free CRM with limited high-level marketing features
- Automated email campaigns and custom workflows with complex logic branching
- Ad tracking and management from within the platform
- File management and tracking
- Free tier with contact management and basic forms for small agencies
- Detailed audience segmentation
- Although created for marketing professionals, the platform is limited in its client work management capabilities — there is not project management or client portal
- Some users report issues with form field mapping and insufficient reports
monday.com: Best for Task Visualization
monday.com is a cloud-based work management platform featuring a variety of apps and integrations. It’s used in 200+ industries, including marketing, retail, finance and tech. Creative agency teams can collaborate in monday.com’s Work OS and its four core apps to manage projects and workflows, follow up with sales leads and more.
- Core apps: monday marketer, monday sales CRM, monday projects and monday dev
- Work OS: a drag-and-drop work management system that uses boards and tables
- Chat and whiteboard for internal communication
- Easily turn documents into checklists or tasks
- Colorful, intuitive task lists with Kanban and Gantt chart visualization options
- Automates daily tasks and notifications and gives options to adjust dependencies
Want more details? Read how monday.com compares to Accelo.
Nimble: Best Simplified CRM
Nimble is a CRM that merges details about business contacts from multiple platforms into one enriched database. Interactions with potential customers and internal actions are tied to a contact record, lending visibility to the entire team.
- Data enrichment via social media and email signatures
- Task, event and call tracking tied to contact history
- Nimble Prospector sends templated group emails and displays contact details on social and email
- Pipeline visualization and deal management tools
- Natively integrates with Microsoft 365 to pull in communication history, calendar data and more about existing contacts
- Simplifies prospecting for those who frequently use social media
Notion: Best for Team Collaboration
Notion is a workspace software built to house notes, documents, design files, publishing calendars and more. It’s a live and centralized source of information about every project and internal process your agency team needs.
- Editable notes and documents for each team and the organization
- Kanban, Gantt and calendar views for defining processes and setting goals
- Templates for roadmaps, design frameworks, job descriptions and more
- Visibility and transparency tools for managers
- Wiki-style collaboration that’s always up to date — great for remote teams
- Helpful for keeping track of design and branding for various clients and projects
Productive: Best for Industry-Specific Features
Productive is an agency operations platform that helps consolidate data about resources and profitability. It can help agency managers keep track of upcoming and existing projects with timelines and budgets, and it connects billable time logs to client billing.
- Budget tracking for fixed price or hourly projects
- Automated time tracking with desktop timer and calendar event time entry
- Project management tools
- Flexible invoicing and retainer billing notifications
- Billable utilization and capacity reports help with resource planning
- Good reviews for customer support
Workamajig: Best for Finance and Billing
Workamajig is a project management software for agencies and creative teams. It features a variety of financial reports that tie time logs and team capacity to projects and tasks, making it a good option for agencies looking to focus on maximizing the profit potential of billable time.
- CRM and sales opportunity tracking
- Project management templates
- Profitability reports by client and project
- Time tracking attached to projects
- Integrated accounting software for easy P&L and cash projections
- Strong resource management tools, including task prioritization and re-assignment, workload forecasting and freelance vendor search
Wrike: Best for Project Management Tools
Wrike is a creative project management software platform built for a variety of industries and teams. Agencies use Wrike’s task management, approval process and custom work items to organize and prioritize fast-paced work.
- Automated approval workflows
- Cross-tagging for managing multiple departments and types of work
- Custom request forms
- In-app proofing for multiple file types
- Templates for creative briefs, intake forms and more can reduce manual work
- Approval process and records of team edits help project managers track changes
How the Right Tech Impacts Customer Relationships
A software with the capacity to change how your team works will inevitably affect the way they interact with clients, for better or worse. In a client-based industry, those relationships are crucial to the long-term success of your business.
Not only should you consider whether the platform you select will make it easier for clients to interact with you directly — via a client portal, perhaps — but you might want to reflect on:
- How newfound efficiencies among your staff can help them feel less burnt out and more present when they’re interacting with clients
- To what extent your chosen software will allow your team to customize communication, such as emails and quotes, to give clients a more personalized experience
- Whether the platform has the capacity to generate the clear and accurate reports and invoices your clients expect
Rolling Out New Software to Your Agency Team
Preparing your team for new software should be a thoughtful process, so you’ll ideally consider what your agency needs long before diving into implementation. Accelo’s Customer Success team has helped professional services businesses adopt our platform for over a decade.
Here’s the process they recommend:
- Get clear about why you’re adopting this new platform. Leadership must be confident in this decision for it to be successful. Stay focused on your core reasons as you communicate with the platform’s team and your own.
- Answer your team’s questions truthfully. It’s best to disseminate information about the new software and its benefits before you ask anything of your team. Depending on the size of your agency, this could look like written memos or verbal discussions.
- Assign a point person and follow a plan. If you don’t have implementation professionals or consultants, one key individual should be responsible for this process. It will make their job simpler to lay out a plan and help them stick to it.
READ MORE ABOUT THE STEPS: Getting Your Team Ready for New Software
Is an End-to-End Work Management Platform the Answer?
Both client benefits and the implementation process can be much simpler when you use a platform built with your type of business in mind. Among other professional services businesses, Accelo equips agencies like yours with the tools they need to save significant time and minimize redundant work so they can serve clients even more fully.
Want to learn more?
Join the thousands of professionals that are running more successful businesses with Accelo
Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.