Even the smallest advertising agencies are likely using a handful of tools to manage their operations. In working with agencies of all sizes, we’ve noticed that the software they typically need to run their businesses can be grouped into four broad categories:
Agencies are likely using these tools in their day-to-day, or they have created in-house processes, such as exporting data out of native advertising platforms and creating graphs and visual aids in PowerPoint. Either way, the extent to which these tools fit and work together is crucial when choosing which advertising agency software to invest in.
For example, is the data that you’re collecting in your CRM tool being pulled into your marketing dashboard to help with analytics and reporting? Are you able to assign tasks to your team on project management platforms with all of the relevant details from client orders?
The more manual work your team has to do to make these various categories speak to one another, the more money you’re spending on recurring tasks that can be solved by software.
In this post, we’re going to look at three tools for every use case, and describe how advertising agencies can use each specific software to build an optimal tech stack for managing operations and execution.
We built TapClicks to be a powerful tool for reporting and analytics, that connects to your agency’s CRM and project management platforms. To see how we can help you streamline your processes, check out our free 14-day trial.
The best advertising agency software for reporting and analytics will do three things.
TapClicks is an all-in-one marketing analytics and reporting tool for advertising agencies. We’ve been building it alongside our customers over the past ten years, and offer our clients powerful and customizable reporting and analytics. Specifically, we made TapClicks so agencies can demonstrate a more accurate picture of their marketing efforts by empowering them with data enrichment and data transformation.
First, let’s focus on the basics of how TapClicks works with your agency. TapClicks allows you to set up dashboards for each client (or dashboards for each campaign or strategy within each client). Using over 240+ marketing-specific data connectors, you can import all the relevant data (from tools such as Google Ads to Salesforce) into a single dashboard.
From there, you can:
With TapClicks analytics, your advertising agency can also enrich your data by merging data sources. For example, if your agency is utilizing omnichannel marketing — advertising to target customers across various social media channels and advertising platforms — merging your data allows you to see your campaign’s multi-touch attribution. If you’re just looking at your Google Ads click-through rate (CTR) without looking at it in context to see how your Facebook Ads impacted your Google Ads, then you’re getting an inaccurate view of your strategies. Similarly, if you’re just focusing on how many potential customers you get to click on an ad or fill out a lead form, but not how many of those leads get converted through the sales pipelines in Salesforce, then it’s hard for you to show value to your clients.
With data enrichment, your advertising team can more accurately say how much revenue you’re funneling to your clients via your marketing efforts.
You can also transform your data to make report sharing (and wins) easier to read. Without data transformation, you’re going to have multiple data sets with different names. For example, what Facebook calls cost, Google calls spend. By transforming your data, you’re grouping like with like and letting your report give an accurate picture of what the client is spending versus what they’re getting in return.
With TapReporting, your agency can fully automate the reporting process. Sometimes clients want to see data from a specific timeframe outside of the recurring report schedule agreed upon in the SOW. This can take a significant amount of time if you’re using manual reporting because now your marketing team has to comb through the data, export it out of any native advertising platform, and then turn it into a report. By using TapClicks, your team already has the data in a dashboard, and now with a few clicks of a button, you can create a new report and send it out as a PDF, CSV, or PPT file.
With TapOrders, your agency can also put order info directly into TapClicks. This means you can see what services or packages — such as different tiers of SEO or PPC packages — your clients are purchasing. This helps you see which services are underperforming. If you’re an agency with a full-service outbound sales team that uses Salesforce to collect leads, you can import that sales data out of Salesforce and into TapClicks.
If you’re using TapClicks as your billing system interface, then you can use that data to create a product catalog catered towards the services that give you the most margins. By using these two features, agencies can discover which services are profitable and ought to be scaled up.
Finally, there is TapWorkflow, which helps automate your teams’ recurring tasks. But more than automating recurring tasks — such as kicking off a project to design once the copy has been approved — your marketing team can set notifications. Let’s say one of your accounts’ campaigns is scheduled to launch next week but the creative is still waiting in the design queue. Instead of having your team check every day or send a flurry of emails to see where the creative is, TapWorkflow proactively warns the design team that this campaign is approaching launch and then let’s the Campaign manager know as soon as the design team finishes and the campaign can launch. Automation with Google Ads and Google Ad Manager can even send the campaign details and creative directly into the ad platform.
We built TapClicks to be a powerful tool for reporting and analytics, that connects to your agency’s CRM and project management platforms. To see how we can help you streamline your processes, check out our free 14-day trial.
Depending on your advertising agency’s size, you might not need a full-service, all-in-one reporting and analytics marketing dashboard such as TapClicks. That doesn’t mean your agency won’t benefit from moving out of Excel spreadsheets and into a more advanced reporting and analytics platform.
Exporting data from native advertising platforms into spreadsheets is time-consuming. Your marketing team needs to re-arrange the data within the spreadsheet and then upload it into a tool like PowerPoint or Google Data Studio (GDS) to create compelling visualization and reports to send to your clients.
Agencies can easily sacrifice an entire day each week to exporting, organizing, and importing data. Plus, this process is error-prone — you’re organizing your data manually in columns and rows, and your teams are reliant on typed out formulas.
A quicker (and more accurate) way to get your data into Google Data Studio is by using data connectors, such as our Megalytic data connectors.
Megalytic data connectors automatically bring in your data sets across several different marketing-specific advertising platforms, such as Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Microsoft Ads. Then, within GDS, you can create visually compelling charts and graphs and set up an automated report for your clients.
By removing the manual parts of the process, you save time and reduce errors, letting your marketing team focus more of their week on developing, executing, and maintaining marketing campaigns.
Based on our customers’ feedback, we can estimate that using Megalytic connectors (compared to using spreadsheets with GDS) saves them at least 90 minutes per report each month. This means if you have 100 reports each month (across all of your clients and campaigns), you’re saving 150 hours per month. Eliminating 150 hours per month is equivalent to saving your agency between $4,000 and $6,000 per month.
If you’re looking to analyze and report on non-Google data inside your GDS dashboard, see how our GDS Community Connector can help.
DashThis uses 34+ integrations to help you get the data you need into your marketing software. These include popular advertising platforms, such as Google Ads, Google My Business, Instagram Ads, and Facebook Ads.
DashThis is more similar to TapClicks than Megalytic, as DashThis positions itself as a reporting and analytics tool. However, it’s more accurate to view DashThis as a tool that’s built on pre-made templates and more straight forward analytics, as it doesn’t offer data enrichment or data transformation.
DashThis pricing is set by the number of dashboards your agency needs. The number of dashboards you’ll need varies depending on your agency’s size and how you compartmentalize your teams. A dashboard is one automated report. This means you need at least one dashboard per client. However, some agencies also want to give clients a more segmented view of their data. For example, you may want a different marketing dashboard for the owners then you do for the marketing team. This means you could end up needing several dashboards for just one client.
Since DashThis pricing structure is dependent on the number of dashboards you need (and nothing else, as features stay the same across pricing tiers), it’s worth taking the time to see how many dashboards you’ll need to run your advertising agency. Plus, also consider how many dashboards you’ll need to add as your agency grows.
The best project management software excels in one critical area: increased collaboration and communication.
Project management software helps team members work together on tasks without muddying the waters of communication. This means that file sharing, messaging, notifications, due dates, and custom filters should be intuitive and included in the most basic pricing tier.
With agency work, there are a lot of moving parts to manage, from taking in orders to assigning tasks out to creative (e.g., your design team, your copywriting team), to getting campaigns developed, and then maintained. Even the smallest agencies we work with are juggling tasks from content writers, editors, designers, SEOs, and PPC managers. To make this manageable, most agencies utilize some kind of workflow management system, such as Asana, Basecamp, and Monday.com.
Asana is a collaboration software tool that is more robust than Trello, yet significantly less complex than Jira.
In Asana, project managers and their teams can:
Asana is user friendly. It’s easy for team members to see what’s due, when it’s due, and who is working on it.
They offer four different pricing tiers, from its basic plan (which is free, though is aimed more towards individuals or very small teams that don’t need a high level of sophistication in their processes) to its enterprise, custom-pricing plan that comes with advanced features such custom branding, data exporting, and personal customer support.
Most agencies will gravitate towards the premium plan ($10.99 a user) or the business plan ($24.99 a user). The main difference between these two plans is that the business plan comes with advanced integrations into platforms such as Salesforce, Tableau, and Power BI. This is helpful for agencies because it makes it easier to share data across tools. For example, you can now graph your team’s output in Tableau, which makes it easier to visualize performance and growth over a set period.
Basecamp is a task management tool that, like Asana, is aimed at helping your team work together on finishing tasks.
The main difference between a tool like Asana and Basecamp — besides the entire UI — is the pricing structure.
Basecamp has two pricing tiers: personal and business. Personal is free but has limited capacities — it offers three projects at a time, a max of 20 users, and only 1GB of storage. We think most agencies won’t get the benefit they need at the personal tier, so let’s focus on the business plan.
Basecamp’s business plan is a flat rate of $99 a month, no matter how many users. So if you need access for only ten users, then you’re paying $9.99 a user, but if you have over 20 users, then the cost per user reduces significantly below the other project management platforms on our list.
It also comes with project templates and advanced client access. Sometimes agencies — especially agencies who work with freelancers or contractors with access to their project management board — struggle to maintain a standard of communication on their client-facing boards. With advanced client access, you control what your clients see and don’t see — this makes it easier to present the results without worrying about your client seeing the in-office communication that isn’t relevant to them.
Plus, Basecamp has an in-house chat service that is a little more sophisticated than leaving comments on Trello. However, depending on how your agency is organized and whether or not you rely heavily on Slack, another chat tool may be redundant at best and confusing at worst.
One major differentiator between Asana and Basecamp: Basecamp doesn’t offer native integration, but they do have a list of third-party tools, such as Automate.io or Zapier, that lets you integrate your Basecamp account with other platforms such as Slack, Gmail, Zendesk, and Power BI. But, as these third-party tools are not part of Basecamp, that’s likely going to add to the cost of using Basecamp versus a tool such as Asana.
Monday.com is a task management system that helps with time tracking, team collaboration, and document management.
One of the features we like the most about Monday.com is its resource management. This lets your view available resources (such as individual team members’ work capacity) before assigning tasks.
However, Monday.com has a unique user interface that is more customizable — which is a nice feature but may be unnecessary for digital marketing agencies that often manage recurring tasks across multiple clients.
Monday.com has four different pricing tiers, ranging from the basic plan (at $8 per user per month) to the enterprise plan (which offers custom pricing based on your agency’s size and needs).
Most agencies will fall either in the standard plan ($10 per user per month) or the pro plan ($16 per user per month).
Where we see most agencies choosing the pro plan is when they need more integrations (the pro plan offers 20 integrations, compared to the standard plan’s 5), and when the agency has more ongoing projects with the same client. This is because the Standard plan only offers three boards per dashboard. So, if you’re working on more than 3 campaigns with the same client that you want on the same dashboard (for workflow management and for letting your client see progress), then you’re going to benefit from the pro plan, which lets you have ten boards per dashboard.
But it’s worth noting that at $16 per user per month, Monday.com is potentially the most expensive project management tool on our list (subject to how many users you have on your flat-rate Basecamp plan).
The best CRM tool for your agency will be heavily dependent on one question: are you an agency built around outbound marketing or inbound marketing?
If your focus is on outbound marketing, with a dedicated sales team to cold call and pitch potential clients, then you’re looking for a CRM tool that facilitates pipeline or lead management.
If your focus is on inbound marketing, then you likely don’t need a robust pipeline management tool.
Either way, it’s good to pair your CRM with your reporting and analytics. If you have a marketing dashboard, like TapClicks, that integrates with your CRM tool, then you can put a dollar value to your specific digital marketing campaigns, by making the relationship between your sales leads and your ad spend.
Salesforce is the go-to-CRM system for several industries, and it’s a tool worth considering if your ad agency has a strong outbound sales team due to its robust pipeline management tool.
The downside of a tool like Salesforce is its size — by creating a tool that can be used by so many large-scale industries, there’s a learning curve that comes with using Salesforce. One blog estimated its readers to expect a solid 6-month onboarding plan to fully embrace the benefits of Salesforce.
Unlike Copper and HubSpot, which we discuss below, Salesforce is a great tool for your outbound sales team to manage leads, putting them through a sales funnel that you tailored to your agency. If you don’t have a dedicated sales team — or if you rely more on inbound marketing and content marketing — Salesforce might be overkill for your needs.
Given the scope of how Salesforce CRM can be tailored towards your needs, pricing is custom and requires a phone consultation with a Salesforce representative.
Copper is a CRM tool built for G Suite. If you’re working out of Outlook or a non-G suite tool, then Copper won’t work for you. However, most creative teams are Google Drive dependent, so Copper is a viable CRM option for advertising agencies.
Unlike Salesforce, Copper has pricing tiers. There is the basic plan ($19 per user per month, with a max of three users), the professional plan ($49 per user per month, no maximum on users) and the business plan ($119 per user per month, no maximum on users).
This makes Copper a good CRM option for agencies that are a little smaller in scope and don’t need the advanced custom options of Salesforce, or agencies that have never used a CRM system before and don’t want to experience the steep learning curve of a tool like Salesforce.
But easier onboarding and lower pricing tiers do come with some restrictions. Copper has fewer built-in integrations. You can integrate your CRM tool with QuickBooks (which helps with your accounting) and Hubspot (another CRM tool we go over below), but there aren’t any out-of-box integration options for digital marketing tools such as DashThis or TapClicks.
If you wanted to integrate with your digital marketing dashboard, you’d just need to use Zapier or do a full-on API integration. These integrations are a little more time-consuming, which works against the common reason you might choose Copper: it’s a straightforward tool that doesn’t require development work on your end.
HubSpot offers a free CRM option that has built-in integration with Gmail, Office 365, and Outlook. Plus, you can use sales email templates (making it easier to scale up proposals) and set up a chatflow (that lets you connect visitors from your live chat directly to your sales team).
In short, it’s a powerful tool considering it comes with a zero dollar price tag.
HubSpot also offers a more advanced CRM for a price.
Overall, HubSpot seems aimed at businesses with a simple, replicable sales cycle — companies and agencies that rely heavily on inbound marketing and content marketing results. If you have a dedicated sales team, Salesforce will likely allow them to bring in more clients thanks to its highly customizable pipeline management features.
The best billing accounting software caters to your agency’s specific needs.
For example, suppose you’re a small to midsize creative agency that works mostly with 1099 contractors and freelancers. In that case, you’re going to need fewer features than a large-scale, enterprise-size agency that deals with expense reports, work trips, and more.
QuickBooks is a household name for accounting services, but what stands out for agencies is how it lets you create smart invoices — this is where you can track the time your team is putting into a project and compare it with the rate you’re invoicing. This is a great tool for agencies because it lets you see the true value of marketing campaigns — how much you’re charging your clients vs. how much of your resources it takes to get those results.
QuickBooks offer three-tiered pricing plans (four if you include its custom-pricing enterprise option).
While the essentials plan is a great price, even smaller agencies will benefit from the plus plan. While you may not need time tracking (which allows you to evaluate timesheets before you pay them) and inventory management, your agency will definitely use it to manage its 1099 contractors.
FreshBooks isn’t so much an alternative to QuickBooks, as a tool aimed at a different target customer. Freshbook really shines as a billing platform for service-based companies (such as marketing agencies) that use a high-level of freelancers or independent contractors.
This is because FreshBooks offers:
At the same time, FreshBooks doesn’t offer expense tracking. It’s a tool aimed mostly at freelancers and marketing agencies whose main expenses will be contract work or digital marketing efforts.
FreshBooks tiers its pricing based on billable clients. This means you can save a chunk of money if you only need what services FreshBooks offers and have 50 billable clients or less.
While it’s a mistake to conflate FreshBooks and QuickBooks, it’s more appropriate to consider Xero as a QuickBooks alternative or QuickBooks-lite tool.
Xero lets you connect with banks (and reconcile bank records with your own accounting records), convert data from QuickBooks (if you’re transitioning away from QuickBooks to Xero), manage expenses (at a more advanced level than FreshBooks, which focuses mostly intangible services), pay bills, manage inventory, send out payroll (via Gusto), and issue pricing quotes.
It’s an accounting software aimed at small businesses or companies that don’t need the scope of QuickBooks but need more than FreshBooks.
Xero offers three different pricing tiers: early, growing, and established.
These pricing tiers reflect the needs of your business, depending on its size.
For example, the early plan is $9 per month, but it only lets you send five invoices and quotes (that’s not likely to work with any agency, let alone more advanced freelancers). This means advertising agencies are going to choose between the growing plan ($30 a month) or the established plan ($60 a month).
The main reason why an agency would go with the most expensive option is they are handling multi-currency (for international clients), expenses or the agency wants to be able to track project time and costs. The last one is significant, but it is only as helpful as the integrations you set up through Zapier. While it’s good to know the dollar value of the projects you’re running, it’s better to know that data when it’s presented alongside the return on ad spend your campaigns are bringing in.
As we said at the beginning, your agency’s operations can be segmented into four broad categories:
You may have built-in processes that serve any of these functions.
For example, you may have created a Google Form document that serves as a lead gen, transmitting that data into a Google Spreadsheet. Or you may use a similar mock-up for recording expenses by your sales team (lunch receipts and gas miles).
The more siloed this information is, the less positive impact it can have on your agency’s operations. This can be because of erroneous analysis where you’re making decisions based on half the picture or the amount of time it takes your agency to understand what is profitable and what is not.
We built TapClicks to be a powerful tool for reporting and analytics, which connects to your agency’s CRM and project management platforms, creating an all-in-one marketing platform. The benefit of having the ability to connect the tools you use most in your business on a daily basis is that it helps to streamline your entire operation, from sales to fulfillment.
Want to see TapClicks in action? We just launched a new version with an updated user interface that users are loving. Check out our 14-day free trial to experience it for yourself.