23 brilliant non-SEO tools to boost your agency’s productivity
At every fast-moving digital agency, everyone has a lot on their plate. Productivity apps are incredibly useful when managing roles and tasks that shift between writing, coding, designing and whatever else might come up. We thought we’d ask a few leading agency CEOs what apps their teams can’t live without and how did these impact their business. Beyond the classics — spreadsheets and docs — we found some great apps and inspiring success stories that might motivate you to boost your team’s productivity.
The apps marked with a star are free or have an extended freemium version.
7 tools to improve the success of your sales team
It’s a simple, very visual sales pipeline tool, ideal for result-oriented teams. “Pipedrive has been particularly impactful for us – purely because we actually stick to maintaining and reporting on our pipeline. The ability to assign tasks to different people, forecast sales and generally maintain a CRM has been great for us”, said Paul Rogers, founder of Audited.org and Replatforming.com.
Starting from: €12/month per user (30 days free trial – no billing information required).
Conspire does a brilliant job at helping you find the right path to meeting the people you’re interested in. It taps into your Gmail or Google Apps email and then runs an analysis to find the best chain of connections. It doesn’t just show you who knows who, but (depending on the communication frequency) it can also tell you how strong the relationship is.
It’s a very helpful tool for any salesperson who’s looking for ways to get in touch with new prospects. Conspire’s best case study is actually given by the company’s founder himself.
Great for everyone: It’s free to use. At least for now.
3-4. Sidekick* + HubSpot CRM
These two just had to be mentioned together.
Sidekick is a free email extension that gives you contact insights, email tracking, and email scheduling. It’s extremely useful as it is, but if you integrate it with HubSpot’s CRM, you get even more tools to help you establish better connections. Once you send an email from your Google Apps email, it gets mapped into CRM’s contact record.
If you’re a small agency owner or a sales representative, you just have to try these.
Great for everyone: It has a freemium version.
Another alternative to a sales and marketing CRM for small to medium agencies is Nimble. It has a smart alert to help you keep in touch with your prospects and it pulls in data from different data-points, so you waste as little as possible on updating contact information.
Starting from: $15/month per user (14-day trial, with no credit card information required).
Zoho is especially amazing for mid-size to large agencies. It has plenty of features and it integrates with many other productivity apps, from Google Apps to Gmail, Outlook, MailChimp, Unbounce and many others.
Great for everyone: Free for 10 users.
7. Consumer Barometer*
Did you know that over 70% of UK’s population is now using a smartphone?
If you’re putting together an SEO proposal and you’re looking for market information such as this one, then Consumer Barometer is the go-to platform for you. Google is the data provider for this tool that is designed to help you understand how people use the Internet across the world. There are even great insights on different audience profiles, such as digital moms or millennials.
Great for everyone: It’s free.
9 tools to optimize your time and project management
“Basecamp has significantly improved our team’s productivity, time management, and client communication on a daily basis. This tool enables us to keep a track record of project status and communication, if there’s quite a few team members or client team members involved in an account activity, and has truly helped us manage our time in a more defined and effective way”, said Saija Mahon, the founder of Mahon Digital Marketing Ltd, an international, award-winning digital media agency.
Pricing: $29/month, no matter how many employees you have; $79/month, to use it with your clients.
We asked Dawn Anderson, the Director of Move It Marketing, specialising in technical and architectural SEO along with SEO Web Developing, what tool had the biggest impact on her team’s success. Here’s what she had to say:
“We have found that Trello has become an invaluable part of our day-to-day workflow efficiencies. A lot of our team is remote or on the move, so Trello allows everyone to collaborate very effectively, wherever they are. We have team members working in the UK, Italy, Romania and even Australia, so it’s key that they have this central place to know the stage where every project is at. We are also able to show clients with transparency, the work that we have underway for them and this gives them comfort that we’re making headway in implementing their projects. It’s one of the key components in keeping a strong communication between ourselves and also with clients.”
Great for small teams: It has a freemium version, that you can later upgrade.
TeamGantt is a Gantt chart app with key improvements for team collaboration. It offers a very visual way of planning projects and assigning a task.
Starting from: $29/month for 5 users and 10 projects.
One of the tools on this list that you may already know about. It’s an instant messaging app for teams. This may not sound like much, but wait till you hear Rob Kerry’s story. He’s the Chief Strategy Officer of Ayima, a global search marketing agency, and the way they are using Slack really improved their team’s productivity.
If you’re afraid this is one of those cheesy success stories, don’t worry. Rob admits people weren’t in love and happy to adopt the product from the beginning. It took a lot of work to achieve better productivity. “Slack was first introduced as a potential solution by Tony Spencer, who heads up Ayima’s office in North Carolina. The communication and collaboration platform had only recently been launched and, due to a number of strategic changes happening in our company, Slack wasn’t unfortunately adopted by enough of Ayima to become a success at this point. A conversation over beers at SMX West in March 2015, between Tony and fellow co-founder Mike Nott, re-ignited interest in using Slack to solve our communication issues”, says Rob.
“Making Slack work in a company of our size required a strong commitment from the top down. Ayima decreed that the use of Slack was compulsory for all team members and should be the sole online internal communication method. Email was reserved for client and supplier communications. Key team members were evangelised into pushing any stray internal email threads into Slack. The journey wasn’t without fault and it was a sizeable commitment of trust to move sensitive HR and Senior Management discussions onto the SaaS.“
“A year later, it’s hard to imagine Ayima running without Slack. Slack has brought our globally-distributed team closer together, almost eliminating timezone issues and going a long way to solving the previous feelings of office isolation. Some clients have now adapted the platform themselves, allowing us to add them into our own Slack channels, for almost instant client delivery. Never-ending email threads have been replaced by niche Slack channels, so team members only need to read the information that’s important to them and their clients. There are plenty of fun and social channels for the team to read over lunch or between tasks, but these can easily be muted when it’s time to knuckle down and work. I need to be a member of all Slack channels, to get a full picture of how the company and individual offices are doing, but only get specifically alerted on new messages in a dozen of them”, concluded Rob.
Great for small teams: It has a freemium version, that you can later upgrade.
Asana is another great tool for task and project management. “It really works for a service agency business“, says Nichola Stott, Managing Director of theMediaFlow. “As an agency, it suits a collaborative multi-disciplinary project with component tasks. It works for editorial calendars, internal tasks, client calendar sharing, client task and project task management. Plus, it integrates with Toggl, which we use for time-tracking.“
Great for small teams: It is free for teams of up to 15 members.
Task management + HelpDesk + Chat. You can have them all integrated or choose one stand-alone product. Ayima’s Chief Strategy Officer, Rob Kerry listed TeamWork as part of their essentials, along with Trello, Slack, and Asana.
Great for startups: If you’re a startup, you can get a 1-year-free account (task management + helpdesk + chat).
“Huston, we found something that might help with your problem!”. And yes, it’s called Apollo. It is a Project and Contact Management Software. Paul Hunter, the Marketing Manager at Liberty Marketing, says that the majority of their Account Managers use Apollo. “It can be used to assign tasks to team members, keep track of all project time, comment on tasks and also upload any files that are relevant to the project. It also has the functionality to include people from outside your organisation into the project. This is great for transparency towards clients, as they can see exactly what is being done. It’s also great for anyone new to projects, as all files and previous work can be accessed centrally, allowing someone to get up to speed with a project quickly and easily.”
Starting from: $23/month for 7 users and 18 projects.
8. Liquid Planner
If your digital agency has an extended development team, you might want to try this app. It’s designed to be a project management tool for Technology Teams. Anicca Digital, a team of data-driven marketing specialists from Leicester, UK, uses it for task and time management.
Starting from: $29/month per user (based on an annual plan).
9. Microsoft Office 365
“Office 365 is our company’s go-to tool for productivity. We use it for Outlook, Skype for Business, SharePoint, PowerPoint and, of course, Excel. OneNote is a fantastic addition for note taking, storing ideas and inspiration and keeping lists of tasks the team needs to be working on. The killer functionality lies in the iPhone apps and cloud storage, which makes working on the go a dream“, says Mel Carson, founder of Seattle-based consultancy – Delightful Communications.
7 tools to boost your PR & Outreach activities
If you’re working in this industry you have to know Buzzsumo. Aside from the fact that this is an essential tool for any content specialist out there, you should be following their knowledge-base for “how-to” tips on using Buzzsumo and their blog. Their posts are always useful are very well documented.
Starting from: $99/month.
Almost all of the agency representatives we asked have said their teams are using Buzzstream for managing their outreach projects.
Starting from: $29/month for 2 users.
An app to amplify the content your agency produces in a network of over 100.000 blogs and websites. Liberty Marketing is using both Outbrain and Taboola for boosting their content campaigns.
Speaking of which, this app also does a great job at promoting sponsored content across numerous highly-trafficked sites.
“One of my favorite new tools right now is Pitchbox“, says John Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility. “It’s a great way to streamline guest blogging outreach. It really helps aggregate editorial contacts and keep a running list. I don’t think I’ve seen any tool that’s done such a good job, from making the initial contact, to following up, to getting the story secured, and then to maintaining the relationship. You can tell that the team at Pitchbox worked really hard on it and they did a good job.“
Starting from: $49/month.
If you’re doing native advertising, have a look at SimpleReach. This startup helps marketers and publishers measure the effectiveness of their content and ads. Plus, it has a special set of features for agencies.
This Content Intelligence Platform offers a very bold promise: to help you read your customer’s mind. It analyzes the content your prospects read, in order to predict their most likely interest and intent. That’s why Idio is not only useful for your content team, but also for your sales team.
Not sure how to choose the best tool for your agency?
David McDermott, a seasoned digital professional with over 13 years’ experience within the industry and currently the COO for Harvest Digital, shared his approach when deciding on which tool is the best for his team. “It is my job, along with the operations team, to evaluate the true impact which a tool will have, by answering a couple of very simple questions:
- Will it make us more efficient?
- Will it improve our quality of work?
- Can it integrate into our entire agency offering?“
Still looking for “the perfect tool”?
During the interviews, we learned that Assertive Media is using their own software for improving both sales activities and SEO campaign management.
“For sales, we use our own proprietary software to generate online ranking and visibility reports, which are used as part of the selling process. We also generate our own ranking reports, link reports, and competitor analysis, and we use API data from Majestic, MOZ, etc.“, says Daniel Foley, SEO specialist for Assertive Media.