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Advertising agency billing software: Reasons to have one and mistakes to avoid

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Updated on:
March 10, 2024
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No matter how good your agency's advertising services, an inefficient billing system will sink it sooner rather than later.

Once you’ve delivered your end of the bargain, you should be able to prepare invoices accurately, send them to clients, and receive payment on time. However, tracking billable hours, reconciling expenses, and ensuring compliance with client agreements can become a headache with the manual approach.

Conversely, using advertising agency billing software makes all the difference. It automates most of the billing tasks, eliminating human errors and saving time. This guide explores all the reasons why you should have an advertising agency billing tool and the mistakes to avoid when integrating one.

Understanding what advertising agency billing software is

Simply put, advertising agency billing software refers to a specialized tool that seeks to eliminate manual work in the billing process. At its core, this software simplifies the invoicing process by automating tasks that would otherwise be time-consuming and prone to errors.

It creates, sends, and tracks invoices, as well as collects payments from clients. Moreover, it minimizes billing disputes, ultimately leading to smoother client interactions and improved cash flow for the agency.

The software goes beyond invoicing and provides advanced features modified to the specific needs of advertising agencies. These features may include time-tracking tools to monitor billable hours employees spend on different projects. For example, expense tracking functionalities to record project-related expenses and client relationship management (CRM) features to maintain client information and communication history.

What’s more, advertising agency billing software often integrates with other agency systems, such as project management software and accounting platforms. This streamlines data flow and ensures uniformity in all aspects of agency operations. Moreover, it makes it easy to access financial data, which gives insights into how your agency is performing.

The client billing process using advertising agency billing software

Before digging into the reasons why you should have advertising agency billing software, it’s important to understand how it handles the billing process. This way, you’ll be sure of what you’re getting yourself into.

Step 1: Groundwork

Prior to any work beginning, discuss your relationship with the client. At this stage, you agree on the scope of work, deliverables, pricing, and payment terms. Typically, this is the information that goes into an agreement or contract.

Step 2: Setting up projects

After coming to an agreement, what follows is setting up the project in your advertising agency billing software. Here, you enter details such as client information, project description, budget, and terms of payment.

Step 3: Tracking billable hours and expenses

Most, if not all, advertising agencies bill clients based on an hourly rate or time spent on a project, plus attributable costs. When the project begins, therefore, employees have to track the time spent on each task. Usually, they do so using a time-tracking feature built into the billing software. Moreover, the tool allows you to record expenses incurred to run the project from the start to finish.

Step 4: Creating invoice template

Once you achieve the agreed goal, the nitty-gritty of billing now begins. Naturally, each client has unique preferences for how they want to be billed. As such, you’ll need to set up an invoice for first-timers. But this shouldn’t worry you. Billing software comes with tons of billing templates to make your work less daunting.

Better still, you can customize the templates to match your brand logo and colors and simplify the language used. After setting up the template for the first time, you won’t have to do it again for the rest of the client’s project.

Step 5: Preparing and sending the invoice to the client

Once the template is ready, the billing software prepares the invoice based on the tracked time and billed costs or any other agreed criteria and sends it to the client. The software automates this process based on predefined billing cycles or project milestones. Some billing tools facilitate online approval workflows, where clients can review invoices and request revisions if necessary.

Step 6: Payment follow-up

Research shows that 29% of invoices are paid late. If a large portion of your clients delay their payments, you might run into cash flow issues. To avoid this problem, advertising agency billing software comes with automated reminders – usually sent a few days before the payment due date.

Step 7: Getting paid

The final part is receiving payment. The billing software integrates with payment processing systems, allowing your clients to make payments electronically via credit card, bank transfer, or other methods. It also updates payment status and records transactions automatically.

Reasons to have advertising agency billing software

The advantages of advertising agency billing software to both large and small businesses can’t be understated. The best part is that all stakeholders, from agency owners to employees to clients, reap the rewards of this software.

Here are just a few reasons why you should consider getting billing software for your advertising agency.

Reason 1: You will seal all revenue leaks

There’s a lot of work that goes into finding clients and delivering outstanding results in their projects. But, ultimately, the motivating factor is getting paid after putting in all the hard work. Be that as it may, it goes without saying that the billing process has many revenue leaks when not approached carefully.

For instance, there are high chances of errors in manual data entry, which can result in underbilling. Worse still, the lack of real-time monitoring makes it impossible to identify such errors. A survey shows that businesses lose 3% of their revenue because of poor billing data. Another concern is potential delays in generating and sending invoices, leading to unrecognized bills and missed billing cycles. All these are loopholes where you can lose revenue.

Advertising agency billing software ensures you collect more of the unpaid revenue. Besides, it takes over a chunk of important tasks such as tracking invoices, sending reminders, and monitoring unpaid checks without you lifting a finger.

Reason 2: Client churn will reduce

Getting new clients is one thing. But retaining them is just as, if not more, important for the long-term success of an advertising agency. As such, providing a good experience for clients if crucial from the start of your relationship.

One area you want to pay keen attention to is billing. No client wants to receive inaccurate bills every time. Actually, 96% of customers will abandon your agency if they have a bad experience.

With advertising agency billing software, you can improve your customers’ experience in several ways. First, your billing process will be transparent, clearly outlining services rendered, costs, and any additional expenses.

Second, the billing software will give you the flexibility of using different billing options. You can use fixed-rate billing, hourly billing, retainer-based billing, or performance-based billing, catering to the diverse preferences of clients.

Better still, most billing software, like Hello Bonsai, integrates CRM features to facilitate smooth communication with all clients in a central place.

Reason 3: Better decisions driven by data

The financial aspect of your advertising agency is complex because it depends on a number of variables. As such, without proper visibility, you can make poor financial decisions. When you have advertising agency billing software, this will be a problem of the past.

This tool has financial reporting capabilities that show revenue generated, project profitability, and profit margins. After storing this data for some time, you can use the analyzing features in the software to make sense of it. You can identify financial trends and determine whether you’re moving toward your revenue growth and profitability goals.

These data insights help you make better decisions regarding resource allocation, charging rates, and billing cycles.

Reason 4: Improved human capital efficiency

In the world of advertising, the phrase “time is money” is never truer. For your agency to be in a better place to compete, you have to make the most out of every minute. Nonetheless, most tasks, especially in billing, are repetitive and take time. As such, they can reduce the number of hours channeled to creative activities, which an advertising agency largely depends on.

An advertising agency billing software solves the problem by automating data entry, calculations, and invoicing. If you redistribute the offloaded billing time to other activities, you’ll likely increase your annual recurring revenue (ARR).

The increased efficiency will also improve employee morale. According to a study, employees with high morale are more productive than their counterparts. Moreover, the time-tracking tool also makes them accountable even when you’re not monitoring them.

Reason 5: Build a paperless working environment

A paper-based billing system is prone to many challenges. First, it requires lots of time to print, process, and mail, which can delay payment and increase administrative overheads. Second, it doesn’t offer an opportunity to interact with the client in cases where further clarification is required.

What’s more, it attracts additional costs of buying paper, printing equipment, and postage. Plus, there are high risks of losing paper documents.

With most agency processes shifting to digital operations, advertising agency billing software comes in handy. It shifts billing to online, improving efficiency and convenience. You can prepare an invoice and send it instantly regardless of where clients are, eliminating delays.

Better still, digital invoices are readily accessible on all electronic devices, including smartphones and computers. You’ll also have less clutter and become more organized since all your billing records will be in one place.

Reason 6: No more surprises in cash flow management

A simple definition first. Cash flow is the money entering and leaving your agency at any given time. For your business processes to continue running smoothly, the incoming cash should always be higher than the outgoing cash. However, when there are inefficiencies in the billing processes, it’s hard to achieve this goal.

For instance, if billing cycles are irregular, you won’t receive payment on time. Yet, you have operating expenses to cater for. In addition, it can result in a high accounts receivable aging, meaning that a significant portion of the company's outstanding invoices are overdue. This can tie up valuable working capital and increase the risk of bad debts if customers fail to pay. It’s no surprise that 82% of businesses collapse due to cash flow issues.

Advertising agency billing software eliminates these inefficiencies, ensuring you receive payment from all clients on time to meet your business needs.

Reason 7: Effective project management

An advertising agency billing software does more than automate the billing process. It integrates other functionalities like project management. As such, you can bring your team on board, assign tasks to them, and monitor each project’s progress. Most importantly, your team is able to collaborate and share documents easily.

With all information relating to your agency in one place, you can further boost the efficiency of the billing process.

Reason 8: Ease scaling up the billing process with the agency

Most agencies have growth in mind. As they scale, the billing processes increase. If your agency was using the traditional billing process, handling a higher volume of invoices, payments, and client accounts could quickly become overwhelming.

With advertising agency billing software, however, you have lots of flexibility as these systems are designed to adapt to increasing volumes of workload. In addition, they’re mostly cloud-based to offer more storage space. The processing speed is also scalable to ensure you don’t encounter delays while billing clients.

Since billing software supports integrations, you can always add the ones that match your changing business needs for more efficiency.

Mistakes to avoid when implementing advertising agency billing software

Incorporating an advertising agency billing software into your business has benefits that far outweigh the costs. However, making mistakes in the implementation process can result in the software being more of a liability than an asset.

Here are some of the mistakes that business owners should avoid when rolling out advertising agency billing software.

Doing insufficient research

Conducting thorough research is an important step in choosing billing software. The insights you gain doing research give you the flexibility to evaluate available software options, look at features, and test compatibility.

As such, inadequate research restricts you from aligning your business needs with suitable software. Opting for a platform that doesn’t match your requirements leads to compliance issues, customer dissatisfaction, and inaccurate data and billing.

Lack of integration with other apps

A lot of advertising agencies rely heavily on third-party software such as project management platforms, CRMs, and accounting software. Billing software should be able to integrate with such platforms to enhance the billing process and ease workloads.

Even so, implementing software that doesn’t have integration capabilities into your advertising agency can result in a lot of inefficiencies, daunting workarounds, and inaccessible data for most of the employees.

Not migrating data

All agency systems require information in order to process workflows and tasks. Failure to migrate the existing data into a newly incorporated billing software is one of the mistakes many businesses make.

Other times data such as customer addresses, contacts, payment methods, and products, as well as company history, isn’t fully exported to the new system. As a result, billing systems fail to take off successfully due to insufficient and ineffective information. It’s important to do data export trial runs before fully implementing a new billing software to avoid inefficiencies altogether.

Insufficient training

Like many other businesses, employees interact most with the tech stack. In this case, failing to properly train them on how to use the billing software is a huge downside in its implementation.

Staff members who go without informative training might resist adopting the software, which negatively impacts its performance and business operations.

Not securing billing information

Most business owners fail to secure their billing data when implementing new billing software. This can open up the business to fraud, hacking, data theft, and legal consequences for lack of compliance.

It’s prudent to apply security measures such as data encryptions, user authentification, regular data backups, access controls, and data auditing. These practices ensure that your billing data is secure and smooth operation of your billing software.

Lack of continued technical support

Contrary to popular opinion, implementing billing software isn’t a one-time thing. Continued support, software updates, and maintenance are required to ensure the platform operates at peak performance and delivers quality results.

Most businesses neglect this aspect of their software, leading to lots of downtime and low productivity due to glitches caused by bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Not conducting functionality tests

All software developers know that no one software is perfect. As such, it’s always a good idea to test the functionality of the billing software before implementing it. These tests let you know whether the platform is working as intended.

Untested software may have information gaps and bugs that compromise its quality, performance, and reliability. Some of the testing methods agencies can schedule for their software include unit testing, user acceptance, and performance testing.

Little to no involvement of stakeholders

The lack of involvement of key stakeholders in the selection and rollout of advertising billing software is a major cause of failure in many agencies. The reason being, many businesses are often at risk of overlooking important departmental requirements in software.

Such issues can be avoided with the input of project managers, finance executives, and other parties. Their inclusion is also key to ensuring that the software implementation and adoption are successful across the agency.

Neglecting feedback

Many businesses view advertising agency billing software as just a technical platform. However, it’s also a communication tool. It helps connect and build relationships between businesses and customers, regulators, partners, and employees.

Failure to use it as a feedback channel for information, such as complaints and suggestions, can make you miss insights for improvement of the software. Moreover, it affects your ability to measure performance and customer satisfaction based on the platform.

Summing up: Advertising agency billing software will do the donkeywork for you

Among all the factors that affect the success of an advertising agency, billing comes out at the top. Ultimately, you want to balance the billing process to ensure that as you deliver the best services to clients, you get paid the amount worth your effort. With all-in-one advertising billing software for agencies, you can achieve this goal. Furthermore, you’ll simplify the billing process, given that the software automates repetitive tasks while improving efficiency.

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