Ad agencies have a lot on their plate, and they need tools to cope. From survey tools to presentation software, auto-responders, inbound marketing platforms, and list building services, options can start to get overwhelming. While we can't recommend exactly which set of tools is best for every ad agency, we believe that the following three simple tools will put almost any agency ahead of the pack.

 

1. At Least One Social Network


While social media has gone through its stages of hype and backlash, social networks have proven themselves as tools that nearly every ad agency should be using to boost exposure for itself and its clients. The problem is that most ad agencies aren't using them properly.

 

ROI is difficult to measure on Facebook, but one peer-reviewed study has demonstrated in extreme detail just how useful it is. The study compared sales data on 14,000 consumers from an Asian fashion retailer with user activity on Facebook, and came to the following conclusions:

 

  • Users who joined the Facebook page spent $22 more than other customers. Deep analysis revealed that this effect was created by their behavior on the Facebook page, not simply by Liking it. The study controlled for various self-selection factors, so it is very likely that these customers spent more because of their activity on Facebook. It's much less likely that they joined the page because they were going to spend more anyway.
  • Exposure to information rich content from other Facebook users on the brand page had a positive influence on sales. This positive effect was visible whether that information was positive or negative, although positive information from other users had the strongest effect.
  • When it came to communications with a marketer on the Facebook page, only direct communications influenced sales.
  • The more users communicated directly with each other, the more inelastic the commodity became for those particular users.
  • Keep in mind that this study was only investigating the influence of Facebook activity on consumer sales. It wasn't analyzing the potential additional sales that could have come from referrals, or from building up a subscriber base on other channels, like email, as a result of Facebook activity.

 

In short, the evidence that social media can influence sales and demand is overwhelming. The problem is, most ad agencies aren't using them properly. They fail to recognize that they can only produce sales by sparking consumer to consumer communication, and by communicating directly with consumers themselves.

 

Notice that I listed the social networks themselves as the tools. Using scheduling tools for social media is a bad idea. As we pointed out, only direct communications and consumer to consumer communications influence sales. Scheduling tools don't help with this.


2. Base

This is an intuitive CRM tool built for our cross-platform world, and designed to be easily understood by your workforce.

 

Base keeps everything you need to know about each customer on a single card, including any related deals, calls, emails, files, and notes. The Chrome Contact Clipper makes it easy to pull leads straight from your social networks of choice, and visual sales reports let you see past the numbers to refine your strategy.


The sales forecasting feature makes it easy to pinpoint where in the sales funnel to start pushing sales, by providing an estimated close date. It also alerts you when it predicts fluctuations in your future sales, and to filter these predictions based on the user, team, group, or tag.

 

Base offers integrated voice calls on PC, tablet, and mobile, and lets you track the calls by the lead, deal, or contact in question. You can use it to record calls and analyze them later. Automatic reporting allows you to detect trends in which calls lead to sales, and to track which users are having the most successful calls.


After linking it to email, Base will automatically sort incoming mail into contacts and associated deals. It provides easily accessible context to the email so that you don't need to dig through everything to find the history of the conversation.

 

Base offers several other features as well, but the end result isn't a laundry list of features. It's an integrated, easy-to-use interface that puts bloated tools like Salesforce to shame. CRM is essentially useless unless it is widely used within your business, and Base makes its use simple enough that this isn't hard to accomplish.

While Base certainly isn't the only simple CRM tool out there, it's our recommendation.


3. WorkZone

No ad agency can function for very long without project management software, and this is one of the best software choices for an ad agency. WorkZone is cloud-based, and designed for use in the collaborative workspace of the modern agency. While it's currently promoted for various uses, it was originally developed internally by an ad agency.


While it's virtually impossible to talk about this space without mentioning BaseCamp, WorkZone is in many ways a more versatile product. Project managers will appreciate the Gantt charts, cross-product view, subtasks, and task-dependencies that make it easier to deal with how projects are actually managed in the real world.


Despite having more features, WorkZone hasn't sacrificed simplicity. Starting with the ability to remove unwanted features, WorkZone makes it clear from the beginning that they want to provide your entire workforce with an intuitive interface and full functionality.


Features include:

  • A project dashboard summarizing the status of all projects in one place, complete with who's responsible for each project, start and end dates, completion status, and notes.
  • Project to-do lists put everything on the table, so it's clear what needs to be accomplished for each campaign or project.
  • Personal to-do lists let your employees focus exclusively on what they need to know, without being distracted by the big picture. If they need to access the full project to-do list, however, they can, allowing them to stay in touch with what is happening at the company.
  • Status alerts on the project dashboard let you know when projects are falling behind. You can set it up to send out automatic email alerts to the relevant employees when this happens as well.
  • Workload reports and time tracking make it relatively simple to measure where time is being spent, and by who, for billing and strategic purposes.
  • The document sharing capabilities are tailor made for ad agencies. With secure file sharing and flexible permissions, it's easy to keep things synchronized. Image markup makes it easy to add notes to an ad right from WorkZone's interface, and file versioning ensures that you can always look back to previous iterations. Optional email alerts let people know when a relevant document has been posted.
  • Full text search makes this tool's search function more useful than most.

WorkZone is useful for keeping projects organized and up to date, without being so complicated or overbearing that it would limit project flexibility.


Getting to Work


While it should be obvious that these are just a few of the tools that an ad agency needs in order to stay afloat, we feel these three in particular are must-haves. While there's always flexibility in your choice of tools, we recommend these for their simplicity. The most crucial function of a tool is whether or not it gets used in the first place, and these tools have shown themselves to actually get used.