Running an agency requires a lot of time. The flow of tasks may seem daunting and endless, but by using some smart tips, you can significantly increase your agency’s productivity.
Below, you will find some advice on how you can optimize your workflow to carve out more time, along with some favorite hacks and tools suggested by rockstar marketing experts and agency owners.
1. Optimize your meetings
I am sure everyone knows how disturbing it is when one’s daily workflow is interrupted by endless meetings. But optimizing this process can help you save more time for working.
Try organizing standing or even walking meetings instead of gathering in a conference room. Stand-up meetings encourage everyone to stay focused and speak concisely.
Take time to create a clear agenda and clear objectives. Otherwise, you risk spending too much time in vain discussions.
Stay focused on the topic and stop any off-the-track conversations.
- Start on time. Don’t waste other attendees’ time by waiting for latecomers.
2. Use lead generation software
Generating new leads is possibly one of the biggest challenges for most digital marketing agencies. One useful time-saving solution is to use a relevant widget on your website as a lead generator. The idea is amazingly simple and a win-win for both parties: you offer your website’s visitors something valuable and in return, you get their emails.
As an example, the SEMrush Lead Generation Tool allows you to insert a “free site audit” widget into your website. To use the widget, a visitor just has to enter their domain and email to receive a website health check. The audit is automated, so you don’t have to spend any additional time on it and it simultaneously proves your value to potential clients and provides you with a list of leads.
3. Qualify your leads
After you’ve collected your leads you need to process them. And here you risk wasting a lot of precious time communicating with people who are not potentially interested in your products or services, or are not bringing any value to your business. That is why you need to qualify your leads and focus on the prospective ones.
The criteria by which you define whether or not a lead is worth your attention may differ depending on your company’s goals. For a digital marketing agency, a lead’s business role, their influence on their company’s decisions, and their purchasing power are likely to be your most important considerations.
Ksenia Andreeva defines five key criteria for accessing a lead’s potential:
Do they need what you’re offering?
Are they interested in what you’re offering?
How big is their budget?
How long will it take them to make a decision?
Are they involved in the decision-making process?
4. Outsource some of your tasks
Do not hesitate to outsource specialists – sometimes it is much more effective than trying to do everything in-house. You can’t be a specialist in every field, and we all sometimes face tasks that are beyond our scope.
And if you feel that some tasks don’t come easily for you, you can delegate them to contractors. This allows you to focus on the things your company is really competent in. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing tasks when you simply don’t have enough time to complete them on your own. Doing an excellent job by using outsourced specialists is much better than doing a mediocre job in house.
5. Use automation software
Every marketer’s workflow includes a set of regularly repetitive tasks that you can easily automate, freeing up some time for tasks that require more of your attention. This will help you optimize your time and resources and also reduce your chances of making mistakes.
Here are some tasks that you can easily automate and examples of tools to help you:
- Lead generation ( Agency Partners)
- Client reporting ( My Reports)
- Social media marketing ( Buffer, IFTTT)
- Email marketing ( Act-On, Marketo)
- Lead management ( Client Manager, Leadsius, Zoho)
- A/B testing ( Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer)
Further reading: An Agency Owner’s Guide to Marketing Automation with Semrush
These are just a few ideas of how you can optimize your workflow. To get more real-life examples, we’ve asked some experts to share specific hacks that help increase productivity in their agencies’ daily work.
Simon Penson, founder of Zazzle Media
For me it starts and ends with finance. As strange as it may seem to someone running an entrepreneurial agency with growth in the double digits it’s the last thing you think you need, but having the ability to get your hands on accurate numbers allows you to understand brilliant things like capacity (how much of each team is available), utilization (how much of that time is being effectively used) and then valuable stuff like how that breaks out per client. None of this is possible without first starting with the numbers for operational staff to then build out a more detailed method of measuring the everyday.
Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media
In the beginning, you wear a lot of hats. As the founder of an agency, you'll do all the work yourself. If you offer content services, you'll do everything involved with writing, publishing and promoting.
And as you grow, you'll test your pain threshold before you finally get some help. Then you'll begin to leverage yourself and pass along repeatable tasks to your team.
But soon you'll be pushing your burnout limit again. You'll get more helpers. And maybe there are some tools that will help. Technology can make certain tasks easier.
In each case, as you build your team, take off hats and leverage your own time, success depends on how well you define the tasks that you're delegating. The more clarity around a task, the more likely you are to succeed in handing it off.
So as you go, write the instruction manual for your job. Create a documented system and workflow. It will take time, but it will pay huge dividends in quality and reduced training time. Document, then delegate.
David Jenyns, founder of AuthorityContent.com, systemHUB.com, and MelbourneSEOservices.com
Tips around being effective with your time and workflow management techniques to make it more efficient:
Use project management tools. It is important to have a centralized point of communication for your team, where all the data about the client’s projects are stored. That makes it easy for everybody to be across the project. There are a lot of great tools like Asana , BaseCamp and Podio . (Check how Semrush can help your project management needs)
Use video to document what you are doing. Try to document everything that you do. I would be installing a screen capture software (something like ScreenFlow or Camtasia) and actually start to record yourself doing things as much as possible because most of the times tasks you are doing can be replicated by other team members.
Develop processes and systems. Developing systems of step-by-step explanations why team members would do certain functions within the business will help to articulate very clearly to them what it is that they do. That can then be shared with other team members and it’s great for saving time because you can very quickly onboard stuff. Also, it makes it a lot easier to delegating work because you don’t need to keep saying the same things over and over again. Particularly as the business owner the sooner you can get rid of the day-to-day operations of running your business, the quicker you can start to work on your business to make the big leaps and bounds ahead.
Aaron Aguis, Managing director at Louder Online
Our clients and our staff are all over the world, so we've had to find ways of ensuring multiple time zones are covered, our communication tools are up to scratch, and that we deliver what our clients need on time. We have a pretty impressive productivity- and communication-focused technology stack to help us keep it all happening, including:
And many more.
Paddy Moogan, co-founder of Aira
There are a few tools that I use to save time and increase productivity, which is very handy:
Boomerang for Gmail - saves me from having to remember to chase people down if they haven't replied to an email. I can send an email and ask Boomerang to tell me if that person doesn’t reply to me within a certain time frame. I use it a lot in the sales process and also for delegating work around the team and to clients.
Text Expander - allows you to customize your own shortcodes which you can use anywhere you want. So if you're tired of typing the same things or copying and pasting from somewhere, you can use this tool and simply type in a shortcode to get the text you're looking for. We tend to use this for inserting our company address, phone number, VAT number, etc.
Go Cardless - mainly for UK companies, but this has made invoicing smaller clients a lot easier. It allows clients to set up a direct debit for our monthly invoices, which means they don't need to worry about sending payment and we don't need to worry about chasing them for it! It's super easy to set up and the fees are low too so if you have lots of clients, it's a great way to handle smaller payments.
Talia Wolf, conversion optimization consultant and trainer
One of the most important things to me within a growing agency is ensuring the personal and professional growth of each of my team members. Most roles within an agency require wearing many different hats within the organization, which leads to people chasing their own tails and trying to finish all of their tasks and projects on time, leaving almost no time or energy to learn new things, optimize and remain creative. This is why I implemented a system within the agency that ensures people do have the time and passion to do so.
Each team member is given a subject and a discipline within the world of marketing to take ownership of. Their goal is to read, experiment, research, and test this field as much as possible for their own clients. They then have to prepare a one-hour session and discuss their learnings, findings and suggest tips/ideas for other team members to use. The results of the system in place:
Different team members get new ideas for their own clients, which ensures we're constantly trying new tools, ideas, and hypotheses.
Each team member becomes the in-house expert in their own field; they can review their team members’ work, gather reports, and train others within the company, giving people a higher sense of responsibility and purpose. This also results in the continuous growth of our team members and clients.
Since each team member needs others to cooperate, everyone is happy to help each other out and new relationships are formed within the company.
Dana Kajatezovic, SVP at Vertical Measures
At Vertical Measures, we use several tactics to increase effectiveness within our workflows.
We spend the time upfront to map our processes from beginning to end. This helps identify pain points that are occurring on a regular basis so we can fix them while also documenting the current workflow for staff to use as a reference for consistency. It creates a smooth streamlined workflow allowing the team to stay focused on the task at hand instead of adding additional steps to the process.
We have a data asset management system that holds all of our templates and task instructions in a central repository that is easy for our staff to access and find information when they need it quickly.
We use a robust project management software called Workfront that allows us to manage all of our work in one place. It’s where we communicate client feedback, project status information, and scope details while at the same time tracking and reporting on our current progress using several reoccurring metrics. Workfront helps Vertical Measures improve our bottom-line by calming the chaos of managing complex workflows.
Jonas Holm, SEO consultant at Skyoldby &Co
We work in “blocks”. Every day looks like this:
2 x 3 hours of work for clients.
1 hour of email, the last hour of the day, so that the morning energy isn’t “wasted” on email
Half an hour for lunch and a half-hour for unexpected stuff.
This makes 27 “sellable client-hours” per week per employee. Every Friday we have a meeting where we plan the next week – and talk about what went well – and what didn’t – during the last week.
Andrew Dennis, content marketing specialist at Page One Power
At Page One Power we rely on a diverse suite of tools to help us be efficient and effective in the results we deliver to our clients.
To quickly assess potential link prospects we use tools like SEMrush, Moz, and Majestic. SEMrush provides a quick overview of a prospect’s traffic and engagement, Moz offers a barometer for authority, and Majestic helps us analyze backlink profiles.
To drive our niche research we use BuzzSumo, BuzzStream Discovery, and Twitter to identify popular content, industry influencers, and topics of interest. Securing links in a new niche can be difficult at first, but these tools expedite the research process necessary to build links effectively.
- For organizing our outreach and managing contacts within a project we love BuzzStream. And we recently moved all of our project management over to Asana which has helped us organize tasks on a much more granular level.
Do you have any special hints and hacks to increase your productivity? Share your experience in the comments section!