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How to Pick Advertising Agency Project Management Software

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Updated on:
February 18, 2024
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Gone are the days when project management was done on pen and paper or by manually inputting copious amounts of data into Excel sheets. Today, it would be concerning if you didn’t have multiple pieces of software to manage your vital business information.

If you’re running an advertising agency, you know how challenging it can get to keep every client’s information updated and ensure that each receives the unique treatment they deserve. Furthermore, you have to do all that while juggling multiple clients, each demanding your utmost attention so they don’t fall behind in brand outreach.

That’s where advertising agency project management software comes in to save the day. By utilizing cloud-based tech with tailored management solutions, you can give your project management a helping hand. The right software ensures you have a reliable platform to store and track all that’s happening to your clients.

Read on to learn all the benefits project management software can give your agency and which solution will fit you best.

What Is Project Management Software?

Project management software is a centralized platform that allows teams, big or small, to access vital project information efficiently and keep track of their pipelines. It’s a pivotal tool for ensuring the entire team stays on track and the critical waypoints in the project’s lifetime are being met.

The actual specifics of the software—i.e., what it can do—highly depend on the software in question and sometimes even the industry it targets. However, most project management software takes a generalistic approach with minor customization to ensure it flows well regardless of the type of business you have.

For an advertising agency, project management software usually helps allocate the right tasks to the right people and ensures that any given client’s marketing campaign is tightly controlled. Apart from that, feature-rich project management software can also include elements of customer relationship management (CRM) software. It allows the entire team to keep track of and contribute to client profiles and ensure their needs are being met appropriately.

Project management software streamlines more repetitive tasks such as data entry. According to Monday, roughly a quarter of project managers believe this kind of rote inputting is eating away at their time and making them unable to focus on what truly matters in projects.

As a result, the ultimate goal of any project management software is to streamline agency operations and ensure the team works at peak efficiency. It allows a business to save money and time that would be spent manually inputting and sourcing data into clunky sheets.

How to Pick Advertising Agency Project Management Software

Like most software, project management tools are not one-size-fits-all solutions. But the broad range of options you can get with any given tool ensures that you probably can find one that suits your needs excellently.

Additionally, there are so many solid tools available it can be challenging to find the best fit. Use these criteria to help you figure out if a given tool is right for you.

1. Determine Your Most Common Projects

Before you can dive into the first advertising agency project management software you find online, you’ll need to perform a thorough project and marketing audit. Determine the common denominator in the clients and projects your business is currently handling. Then, construct a pipeline that fits most of the projects you operate and see how it’s structured.

Answer the following questions:

  • What is the most common industry your clients belong to?
  • How are the projects structured?
  • What are your typical project milestones and deadlines?
  • Who are the key team members assigned to these projects?
  • Are there currently communication channels in place to ease collaboration, both internally and externally?
  • What are your current documentation and reporting measures?
  • How do you measure success (i.e., what are your agency KPIs)?
  • Do you want to leverage AI assistants to streamline your work?

Once you’ve figured out exactly how you work on projects, you can use the answers as a checklist when figuring out new project management tools to use.

2. Note Your Biggest Challenges and Limitations

The goal of every project management software is to solve a problem a company is facing somewhere in its service or production pipelines. But to really make the most use of any given tool, you have to understand the biggest issues your company is experiencing.

Perhaps your team lacks proper organization to make the most use of their time, and you have assistants unsure of who to respond to when issues arise. Or, you have recently expanded your operations so much that it’s hard to keep track of what your personnel is doing and how they are contributing to your clients’ successes. While this might seem unassuming, it can be a significant issue for small businesses. Uncontrolled expansion is one of the primary reasons new businesses fail.

Some companies simply struggle with scheduling and budget organization. This can lead to overspending on things you don’t need. It can also lead to another common reason for startup failure – not being able to deliver results that the clients expect due to time constraints.

Once you figure out your biggest challenges, you need to explore any limitations or considerations specific to your company. It also helps to consider your industry or the industry of the clients you’re working with. Are there any compliance issues that you must abide by?

If your main limitation is technological in your advertising agency, project management software is a great first step. It provides you with a much clearer overview of the inner workings of the team and how each puzzle piece fits to solve your issues.

Be careful not to focus too much on solving every single problem you have. It can be helpful to enlist your stakeholders and team members to figure out which challenges are urgent and which can be left for later. Otherwise, you run the risk of trying to find the perfect solution for all your issues, which can be prohibitively costly to implement or even entirely unavailable. In those cases, try to get the most versatile option available for agencies—like Bonsai—and reassess how you can integrate it with problem-specific solutions.

3. Note the Must-Have Features

When you have a list of the biggest challenges and what makes your projects “tick,” you can define the features your project management tool needs. For example, if time management is your most pressing, you’ll need a scheduling and time-tracking tool. It provides a quick overview of what each team member should be doing at any given time.

Refer to the lists you made before. See what it would take to manage challenges, if not eliminate them entirely.

It goes without saying that a tool should have most key features built-in to be even considered in the running. Here are some top condenders for the features to look out for:

  • Budget planning: A tool that can set up your budget for the project and then track all your expenses could be vital. It ensures you don’t overspend on a client that takes too long to pay (which can be a considerable issue for a new business).
  • Task scheduling: This can be done in multiple ways, such as a Kanban board, a to-do list, or calendar integration. Tracking priority tasks is a must here, so tools that have visual notifications will do better.
  • Bookkeeping: Being able to send invoices to clients and keep them neatly stored on your end can be an excellent way to track your income sources. It ensures you’re getting paid on time and can plan future interactions.
  • Resource management: Resources can mean a few different things: infrastructure, funds, tools, and even people. If you have a resource that’s your company’s crowning achievement and use it for the most valuable clients, then you need to know whether you’re using it optimally.
  • Tracking and reporting: This can come in a few different forms. If you’ve set your agency KPIs properly, then the ability to review them quickly and with the help of AI-assisted trackers can ensure that you’re meeting your target. Kanban and Gantt charts can help you overview the project pipeline to determine whether you’re on track.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): Although not the focal point of project management software (usually), an integrated CRM system can greatly improve the information throughput. Doing this ensures all departments know the status of projects on both their and the client’s end. Furthermore, being able to incorporate leads and onboard them into your existing schedule can greatly speed up how much you can grow.
  • Collaboration options: Remote and hybrid work have become the name of the game in modern businesses. If your team is spread across the globe, the platform needs to seamlessly translate between different timezones and languages while maintaining near-perfect availability.
  • Flexibility: This can be a rather vague criterion considering how different one advertising agency is from the next one. In general, project management systems should scale with your team. It should give you more insights and features as your team grows while maintaining the original ease of use when you first bought it.

When determining which feature should take priority, look inward. Talk with your team to find out what they think has the most issues in the current project pipeline. Also, discuss what features would help them do their jobs best. If you improve company productivity and morale, the rest will likely follow.

4. Research

Even if a tool looks good on paper, you’ll never know how it will work for your company unless you try it. But there’s only so many tools you can try.

Use the following to cull down the list of features to a more manageable level:

  • Reviews and ratings: Feedback from your peers will likely be the tie-breaker between even the most competitive options. Check the most popular industry review websites to get a more rounded view of your options.
  • Blogs and social media: Seek online posts made by industry experts and leaders to get their expert opinions on recommended project management software. Their views will greatly cut down the amount of work you have to do picking your choice.
  • Recommendations: While online reports and reviews are great, nothing beats word-of-mouth. Knowing someone who has gone through the same issues as you do and is willing to help you curb them can be indispensable.

5. Test Your Options

Most modern tools offer a 7- or 14-day trial of their most impressive options before you need to commit to using the software. It’s a great way to see if the tool works as advertised. However, keep in mind that you have limited time to make your choice. Additionally, endless free trials will likely make it impossible to manage the company during the nearly constant adjustment periods.

It might be better to start small at first. Use the software on only one client or project to see how it functions and whether its features and benefits could work for your company. Use simple use cases to figure out how easy the tool is to navigate:

  • Assigning projects to team members
  • Determining the project pipeline
  • Setting priorities and deadlines
  • Tracking task progress
  • Identifying and examining dependencies
  • Breaking down the pipeline into smaller tasks
  • Inputting new client information and tracking leads

Use easy test cases, but design them in such a way that you can tangibly measure the efficacy of the tool.

After that, you can test the tool with a few team members and see how well it meshes with your team.

6. Determine Your Budget

While you might think that the cost of new advertising agency project management software lies solely in the subscription plan you choose, the reality is a bit more complex. You have to consider the initial adjustment period and training, as well as integration costs with additional software that you’re currently using.

You may need multiple days or weeks to transition from an old system—or no system at all—to new software. This can cause disruptions to multiple project pipelines and sidetrack project management members while they juggle teaching other employees how to use the software.

Expect your team members to start a bit less productive than usual. Some might even abhor the notion of using the software you chose, but the long-term positive effects should greatly outweigh this cost.

Based on Capterra’s findings, the basic version of project management software can cost you as low as $5 per user and as much as more than $5,000 per month. This colossal price range means that you need to carefully consider how much you’re willing to spend on the tools. Perform a cost analysis to determine how much you’re expected to pay for your software long-term.

7. Pick the Winner – Bonsai

With all these considerations, it can still be daunting to go through piles of data and reviews to pick a project management solution for your company. Let us introduce Bonsai as your perfect choice.

Bonsai is an all-inclusive project management software, CRM software, and bookkeeping assistant. It provides you with pretty much everything you will ever need to turn your business from a one-person startup to an international corporation.

Here’s what you can expect with Bonsai:

  • Top-of-the-line CRM: Keep your friends (clients) close with rich client profiles you can manage with a few clicks. Each profile comes with a history of projects, campaigns, and upcoming tasks, as well as all the vital information you’ll need to help you get paid faster.
  • Client scheduling and management: Make it easy for your clients to schedule calls with you through a customizable calendar.
  • Task scheduling and overviews: Simplify your campaign pipelines by putting the best people on the priority tasks and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Client portal and collaboration: Invite your clients and collaborators to the platform so everyone gets a complete overview of the tasks that need to be done. Clients can get tailored information about the progress of your services and can be sent invoices through the platform.
  • Bookkeeping and e-banking: Bonsai partners with Stripe to bring you a fully online bank at your fingertips. Manage income and expenditure and get paid seamlessly without leaving the platform. You can also automatically manage future investments in the company.
  • Contract samples and form templates: When managing an agency, you must maintain agency contracts with your clients to ensure both sides know the ins and outs of your business relationship. If you’re not well-versed in legal matters, Bonsai has a rich contract sample base you can freely modify and send to your clients to minimize confusion and ambiguity.
  • Ease of use: Bonsai is simple to set up, and its functionalities scale as you grow your team.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Bonsai’s project management tool for agencies is one of the most affordable yet potent options on the market. The basic version comes with all the bells and whistles you need to grow for only $21 a month.

8. Implement and Optimize

Once you’ve found a tool that checks all these boxes, it’s time to commit. Press that purchase button and contact the software development team to help you set up the platform for your company.

Now that you know that Bonsai is definitely the right pick for you, start your free 7-day trial and see how much your business can improve with project management software that delivers a great client experience.

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