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The best advertising agency CRM: Features, capabilities, and benefits

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Updated on:
March 10, 2024
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CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and can have two meanings. It can refer to an organization’s overall strategy for managing client expectations and satisfaction or a software app. However, it’s all about software platforms here. An advertising agency CRM is a hub for client information, campaign details, and project assets.

The majority of agencies have between 50 and 100 clients. Managing these through manual databases or spreadsheets is challenging and unsustainable as agencies grow. A CRM provides a way to bring multiple avenues of information into a single destination, streamlining processes and workflows.

Choosing your advertising agency CRM is tricky, especially with so many offerings on the market. In this article, you’ll discover why it’s important to invest in a CRM and the features you should expect your new software to offer.

Advertising agency CRM basics: What is a CRM?

Advertising agencies need large volumes of data from their clients. Assets such as account logins and branding packages need to be shared. Agencies also require contact details for multiple stakeholders and ways to communicate progress, ideally in real time.

A CRM provides simple ways to manage data, files, and various aspects of project management. It’s usually a single software platform with logins for authorized personnel. Some CRMs even offer a client portal, allowing administrators to create external logins. Clients can then utilize this portal to check on the completion of projects, review results, or send messages to their account managers.

Different types of advertising agency CRMs

Cloud-based, computer-based, or server-based CRMs are the norm. The primary difference between these three options is how data is stored and accessed. Computer-based (or desktop-based) CRMs exist solely on a single computer or possibly a small network of machines. These types may be cost-effective for small agencies but aren’t often scalable enough for ambitious organizations.

CRMs based on servers are in-house solutions that connect to multiple machines. However, servers require maintenance and can be expensive to run. Still, this CRM variant is easy to expand and grows with the business.

Cloud-based CRMs still utilize large, scalable server-type solutions but the onus of managing these servers lies with a trusted third party. The software usually exists via an online login, so it doesn’t use the agency’s resources. It takes up no space on the business’s computers or servers, but data is still instantly accessible via secure logins.

Most growing agencies will opt for a cloud-based solution unless they already have in-house software development teams.

Benefits of an advertising agency CRM

Two professionals leaning over a desk discussing design aspect, possibly to upload this data onto an advertising agency CRM.

Choosing the right CRM means understanding the benefits this platform can bring to your advertising agency. You work hard to deliver amazing content, campaign structures, and advertising advice to other businesses. It makes sense, then, that you want software that works just as hard for you. Assessing the return on investment (ROI) of an advertising agency CRM means figuring out how it improves your business processes.

Improved client relationships

The first major benefit of an effective CRM is the way it can improve relationships with your clients. As an advertising agency, you have the potential to create lasting partnerships that bring profit for many years to come. After all, advertising is rarely a “one-and-done” job. Continuous campaigns and brand adjustments are part and parcel of effective marketing.

When you can quickly access a client’s contact details and previous projects, it helps you build a much closer relationship with them. You’re perceived as professional yet caring, which helps clients feel valued. CRMs empower agencies to perform effective follow-ups, offer appropriate products and services based on previous purchases, and quickly share project-critical information. Some CRMs like Bonsai even provide ways to reduce friction from the onboarding process. All these factors and more contribute to more satisfied clients who are increasingly likely to provide repeat business for your agency.

Reduced client churn

Happy clients are less likely to go to your competitors, reducing the risk of client attrition. While repeat business is great, what’s even better is knowing that you’re cornering your market. CRMs help agencies get closer to this goal by providing ways to deliver consistently improving experiences.

It generally costs more to onboard a new client than it does to look after your existing ones. Of course, for continuous growth, you need to keep both your new and your current clients happy. CRMs support your agency to do just that.

Increased client lifetime value (CLV)

The longer a client stays with you, the more likely they will spend. Business analysts refer to this as the customer lifetime value or CLV. However, CLV isn’t solely about how much a client boosts your cash flow.

While revenue is a critical consideration, CLV also includes aspects such as referrals, earned media, and shared experiences. For example, a client telling a peer about your services instantly increases their CLV. Likewise, when they share your online content or write a glowing review, that’s another way they’re bringing value to your agency. CRMs organically boost the CLV by enabling you to do more for your clients, be more productive, and provide the right support.

Smarter decision making

CRMs benefit your teams as well as your clients. When you can quickly access contact details, assets, and project timelines, you and your personnel can make decisions faster. You gain a holistic view of your client information, which can drive smarter, more profitable actions.

For example, your Google Ads expert can swiftly check if they have access to the relevant login details from the client. If not, they can send a message through the platform to request the information. In the meantime, they can start strategizing based on the assets they already have access to.

Sales managers can review how many leads currently require follow-up calls and allocate those tasks to the relevant team members. There’s no need to check around the whole team to see who’s on which task. An effective CRM shows who is doing what and how long it’s taking.


Bonsai allows agencies to allocate tasks with set priorities and tags so anyone can quickly collate connected assignments. The upshot of this organization-wide viewpoint is faster, more productive teams delivering excellent client experiences.

Secure data management

Keeping all client data within a single, secure system is safer than having it spread across multiple storage facilities. When contact details and project assets are held in email inboxes, spreadsheets, and databases, there are more potential vulnerabilities, putting data at risk from cybercriminals.

The number of data breaches is increasing all the time. In 2023, Statista noted that there were at least 3,205 instances of compromised data impacting over 350 million individuals. These figures indicate a sharp increase in the number of cyberattacks, highlighting an increasing need for secure systems.

Avoiding long email chains with attached client data can help reduce the risk of data breaches. A CRM with file-sharing and communication capabilities can help improve your organization’s overall cybersecurity posture.

Features every advertising agency CRM should have

It’s clear that there are so many benefits gained from investing in an advertising agency CRM. But how should you go about choosing the best one? It helps to assess what you need from your agency software platforms. As advertising and marketing specialists, it’s unlikely that you’ll solely need sales support —although this can be a handy feature. You may need to think about features that help you manage complex projects, keep clients informed, and improve productivity. Here are some of the top features advertisers look for in a powerful CRM solution.

Lead management

As you expand, jotting down a lead’s contact details on the back of a brochure is not sustainable. Nor is it ideal to have a separate database of contact details. If just one person doesn’t have access, you could be stymying your profits without even realizing it. A CRM provides a single repository for lead information and may include far more detail than just a name and contact number.

Some CRMs are capable of integrating with other business data sources to pull through prospective client details. For example, if an interested party signs up for your email newsletter, this may also include consent to contact them about the services you offer. Your CRM can record this and even send an automated email confirming their subscription. From here, you can send follow-up emails and assess the lead’s potential as a future client.

Quote and proposal generation

Once you have a lead who is genuinely interested in your advertising services, you’ll want to send a proposal. Great proposals provide a clear image of exactly what you want to do for the client and the benefits it can bring them. It’s also a chance to promote your values and differentiators — what sets you apart from your colleagues. CRMs that help you quickly generate proposals, and quotes increase the speed at which you can respond to queries and offer your services.

A screenshot of some of Bonsai's many proposal templates, great features for an advertising agency CRM.

Bonsai’s CRM includes links to a vast resource library, including forms and templates to make quotes and proposals simpler. Choose a template and add your own personalization and branding, then send it directly from the CRM for added security.

Collaboration tools

Once you know what you’re going to do, it’s time to decide who’s going to do it. A CRM with collaborative solutions helps allocate tasks and balance workloads. Managers can monitor their teams more effectively and provide support where it’s needed. Individuals quickly see which responsibilities lie under their remit and can mark jobs as complete as required.

Reports suggest that employee burnout is a major factor contributing to churn. As many as 76% of individuals experience burnout, with top reasons including unclear communication and unreasonable time pressures. You can utilize effective collaboration software to mitigate these challenges, delegating tasks with clear instructions and distributing workloads fairly.

File sharing capabilities

Part of effective collaboration is the ability to send the relevant data where it needs to be. For advertising agencies, this could include analysis of campaign results, new ad content, or suggested photos and videos for future marketing efforts. Sending these files via email or media-sharing platforms isn’t necessarily secure and can create inconsistencies in tone and branding.

When you can use your CRM to send media and other assets, everything comes from a single destination, which increases client confidence. You can also ensure that your logos, signatures, and other company details are consistent across all your communications.

Client communication solutions

Sharing files and assets is just one way your CRM can support positive interactions with clients. Ask your software vendor if their platform allows you to send and receive real-time messages. It’s common for agencies to have separate communication and messaging tools, perhaps not realizing that some CRMs offer this feature. The advantage of bringing all those conversations into a single place is that everyone is kept in the loop, and you reduce the risk of miscommunication.


Clear communication is important for your teams, too. One aspect of that is everyone knowing what they’re doing and when they should be doing it. Clear deadlines and goals are essential, but so is effective time-tracking software.

Check if your advertising agency CRM can provide a straightforward project timeline with a list of allocated duties and their end dates and times. Bonsai offers this, as well as the ability to track billed hours and import them into itemized invoices for your clients. In fact, Bonsai was recently hailed as one of the top time-tracking tools for 2024 by respected B2B software experts Tekpon.

Scheduling tools

Another aspect of time management is scheduling meetings at appropriate times. If you’re deep into creating a powerful social media advertising campaign, the last thing you need is to break off suddenly. But if clients can’t book catchups with you at times that suit them, they can become disgruntled, which can lead to client churn.

CRMs with scheduling tools take your internal calendars and create a list of available times and dates. The client can see these and book a meeting at a time that suits both them and your team. Clients remain informed and satisfied that you’re contactable and your employees stay productive and on task.

Invoicing and payment support


Another factor impacting client satisfaction is invoicing and payments. Clients want simple ways to pay and don’t want to spend time dealing with complex, time-consuming systems. Opt for an advertising agency CRM that provides automatic invoice creation, sending and follow-ups. You can also check if there are ways to personalize and add your own brand to invoices to make them more professional.

Bonsai offers a clean, uncluttered interface that makes both creating and paying invoices intuitive. You can connect invoices to service bundles or billed hours and even make recurring invoices for subscriptions. Find out your client’s preferred payment methods and add those to your invoices.

Client portals

Sending timely invoices helps clients pay promptly and keeps you top-of-mind when they’re considering the next steps for their advertising efforts. You can also empower your clients to contact you proactively by providing an external portal. CRMs may offer the ability to create a quick way for clients to log in and see the progress of campaigns and associated projects.

Providing ways to improve client experiences could boost revenue by as much as 15%. Client portals are just one of the ways a great advertising agency CRM helps give customers better support and service.

Customer support

Of course, it’s not just the clients that need good support. When you invest in a CRM, you want to know that you’ll be able to get help if you come across any issues. A single technical glitch could become a disaster if not handled correctly.

Check if your software vendor offers a help center or other supportive resources. If it’s not clear on their website, ask a sales rep or take a look at reviews from other users.

All these features help you transform your advertising agency into a client-focused powerhouse. You should also ask CRM vendors about the scalability of their solutions. CRMs that grow with you won’t become outdated as you surpass 100, 200, or 500 clients.

How an all-in-one advertising agency CRM helps

Is it possible to get an advertising agency CRM with all these features? Yes, and Bonsai offers exactly that. The Bonsai CRM includes integrated time tracking, scheduling, and collaboration tools to keep everyone productive and on task. There are also multiple financial solutions, from tax support to general bookkeeping. More importantly, Bonsai provides multiple ways to contact clients, store assets, and become a more productive advertising agency.

Globally, the advertising industry is set to reach $319.8 billion by 2025. Agencies with the ability to manage lead and client information better have plenty of opportunities for growth and increased profits. If you want a CRM that was created with agencies in mind, start your free Bonsai trial today and see how it can support your advertising agency.

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