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The ultimate guide to marketing agency time tracking software

minute read
Updated on:
February 24, 2024
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Time is money. There’s a lot of truth to those three words, especially in the world of marketing agencies. With marketing becoming increasingly competitive, it’s never been more important to make the most of every second and run your agency as efficiently as possible. Time tracking software is one of the many technological tools that can help.

Tellingly, many agency owners who’ve adopted time tracking technology feel much more in control of their agency operations. But you still might not be sure if time tracking software is the right fit for your marketing agency. To help you decide, this guide will cover all you need to know about what this software is, how it works, and what benefits it brings.

What is time tracking software?

The concept of time tracking has been around for centuries. Originally, it was a completely manual process. Clerks would be tasked with tracking the arrival of each worker and noting down any latecomers. Later on, working clocks or time clocks were invented, allowing employees to “punch in” with their own stamped timecards.

In essence, time tracking software is simply a continuation of this. It’s the modern equivalent of the old time clock. As the name states, this software is designed to track time. Specifically, it tracks how much time your team and individual workers spend on various tasks and processes. It keeps detailed logs of time spent that you can review later on, and many tracking apps offer other features, too.

Key features of time tracking software

For a more detailed look at how time tracking software works, here’s a breakdown of the key features present in most programs.

Real-time tracking

Obviously, it wouldn’t be called time tracking software if it wasn’t capable of tracking time. This is the core function of every tracking app. They should all be able to monitor and log the amount of time a worker or team spends on a process or task. Many of them also make this process easy. Workers can simply click a button, for example, to start the clock and click again when they finish their tasks.

Logs and reports

Time tracking software also maintains logs and reports of the data it collects. So, at the end of each day, week, or month, for example, supervisors can review how much time has been spent on particular tasks. This is invaluable when it comes to optimizing an agency’s operations, working out where time is being wasted and where processes can be improved.

Timesheet generation

The best time tracking apps are also capable of using the data they gather to generate timesheets. They can automatically create detailed documents showing exactly how many billable hours have been spent on a particular project. This helps to make other parts of your agency operations – like invoicing and payroll – much more streamlined.

Invoice integration

While many time tracking apps are capable of timesheet generation, some go even further. They can take the data of timesheets and use that to generate detailed and accurate invoices for you to send straight out to your clients. This is another huge time-saver for the average marketing agency, helping you get paid for work done quickly and efficiently.

Reasons to invest in marketing agency time tracking software

The advantages of time tracking software for marketing agencies can’t be understated, and owners aren’t the only ones who can benefit. Individual workers and teams can also reap the rewards of time tracking technology.

Here are just some of the ways in which the right time tracking app can transform an agency.

Reason 1 – Analyzing and improving productivity

Every marketing agency should strive to be as productive as possible. The more efficient your agency, the easier it’ll be take on more clients and projects, and thereby make more money. It’s simple logic, and time tracking software is a powerful tool to help you hit your productivity goals.

By collecting data on how much time is being spent on different tasks, time tracking software allows you to analyze your agency’s productivity levels. You’ll be able to see exactly what’s working, and what’s not – where time is being optimized, and where it’s being wasted.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that deadlines are being missed and want to know why. Or maybe you feel certain workers aren’t pulling their weight. Either way, time tracking software helps you find out. It provides a clear picture of your operations, and you can use that picture to boost productivity.

Reason 2 – Efficient project and task management

Managing projects effectively and efficiently is a crucial part of running a successful marketing agency. If you fail to hit your goals and meet your deadlines, clients will often end up unhappy and less likely to return to your firm in the future.

In contrast, an agency that completes tasks and projects on-time is like a well-oiled machine. It has a much better chance of attracting long-term, loyal clients and cementing itself as an industry leader. The right time tracking software has a big part to play here.

It helps you organize project tasks, set realistic deadlines, and identify priorities. As explained in the previous point, it also allows you to spot possible weaknesses in your existing project management processes and address them.

Reason 3 – Accurate client billing and payroll

Ultimately, every business exists to make money. That goes for marketing agencies, too. But sometimes, even the process of getting paid can feel like an extra level of work. You have to calculate how much clients owe you, produce timesheets, and generating invoices.

Time tracking software helps to speed up and simplify every step of that process. It lets you track exactly how many billable hours you spend on each task. The best apps also produce reliable, accurate timesheets that you can show to your clients as proof of your efforts.

As a result, you can rapidly create and send accurate invoices and reduce the risk of any payment disputes. Alternatively, to make matters even easier, you can use a marketing agency time tracking app with invoice generation built-in.

This software is also useful for keeping track of payroll. It helps you see how many hours each employee has worked, along with any overtime they’ve put in. That way, you can ensure that everyone is paid at the right rate, again reducing the risk of any disputes or disagreements.

Reason 4 – A more accountable and focused workforce

It may seem that marketing agency time tracking software is only beneficial for agency owners and their bottom lines. However, individual employees can also benefit from it in various ways, such as becoming more focused on their work and aware of their time.

In fact, a lot of workers say that time tracking software helps them keep track of their priorities and tasks more easily. Some even find it motivating, encouraging them to try to get things done more efficiently and hit their own personal deadlines.

Others enjoy how time tracking apps can make them – and their colleagues – more accountable. It puts everyone on a level playing field, so the hardest workers can rest assured that their efforts are being noticed, and any “time wasters” will be weeded out.

Reason 5 – Better allocation of time and resources

Even the best and biggest agencies have finite resources and have to manage them appropriately. But it can be hard to know how best to use your resources and how to spend your time if you don’t have the right kind of data to guide you.

Once again, time tracking software changes the game. It tells you exactly how long it takes to get certain projects and processes done. You can use that to see which areas of operations are running ahead of time and may not need quite as many resources.

Simultaneously, you can also identify tasks that tend to get delayed or take longer than they should. Then, you can reallocate your resources accordingly, ensuring that all teams have what they need to get things done.

Reason 6 – An essential tech stack element for remote operations

These days, more and more people are working remotely. A marketing agency can have employees spread out all over the country or even the globe. Keeping track of such a disparate and diverse workforce is often difficult, but time tracking technology can make the difference.

Time tracking tech allows agency owners to see how their various remote teams and workers are operating. It keeps everyone accountable and helps work get done, even across different continents and time zones.

It’s also useful for the workers themselves. Remote workers can use this software to see exactly how many hours they’re putting in. This can help them manage their work-life balance, as well as ensuring they get paid appropriately for their efforts.

Reason 7 – Acknowledging and rewarding your best workers

The best workers put in huge amounts of hard work and effort to get things done. They strive to hit deadlines, clocking extra hours of overtime and doing their absolute best to help the company succeed. Unfortunately, their efforts can sometimes go unnoticed and unrewarded.

That’s a problem.

Workers want to feel valued and seen. If they put in all that hard work and receive no kind of acknowledgment, they may be less motivated to work as hard in the future. Worse still, they might even be tempted to leave the company entirely and head somewhere else.

Time tracking software helps with that, too. It lets you track the performance of teams and individual workers, easily spotting those who consistently meet deadlines and exceed expectations. That makes it straightforward to reward those workers, as well as inspiring others to match them.

This can even lead to various additional benefits, such as the development of friendly competition among the workforce. The spirit of competition can be a valuable motivator, encouraging everyone to work harder and helping projects get done faster and more efficiently than ever.

Tips and tricks to get the most of marketing agency time tracking apps

Simply downloading and installing a random piece of time tracking software won’t magically transform your agency overnight. Instead, you have to carefully choose which program to try, and use it correctly to get maximum value from its features and functions.

Here are some smart tips, tricks, and strategies to help you make the most of time tracking technology.

Choose carefully

There are lots of time tracking apps out there, and they’re not all made equal. Some are immensely basic, for example, doing little more than serving as a digital “clocking in” and “clocking out” button. Others are much more in-depth and fully-featured, offering advanced functions such as invoice generation and reporting.

That’s why you won’t want to rush in and pick the first piece of software you see. Instead, it’s much wiser to compare your options and focus on various factors in order to pick the right program. You’ll need to ask questions like “How much is the agency prepared to spend on time tracking software?” and “What features do we need to support our work?”

Some of the most important factors to look at when making your decision include:

  • Features: Naturally, you need to ensure that whichever program you choose has the right features to support your marketing agency. It needs to track time effectively, of course, but you may also benefit from timesheets, reporting, and integrations with other software.
  • Compatibility: Time tracking software isn’t just for desktop computers. You can also find apps that work on mobile devices with varying operating systems. Consider what kind of devices your agency uses and ensure you have an app that covers them all.
  • Cost: There are free marketing agency time tracking apps out there, but they’re generally less fully-featured and effective than others. In most cases, to get the results you need, you’ll have to pay, but make sure to find an app that fits within your agency’s tech budget.
  • Standalone or Suite: Some time tracking apps exist on their own as standalone programs. Others are part of more comprehensive software suits, like Bonsai’s all-in-one agency package, which fuses time tracking with invoicing, scheduling, and more.

Include your team in the decision

A common mistake that many agency owners make is to select new pieces of technology themselves, without involving anyone else in the process. Alternatively, they might ask their head of IT to make the call, but fail to seek feedback and input from other workers lower down the pyramid. This can often end badly, as the people who actually use the software – your employees – may have valuable advice and opinions to share.

Therefore, it’s best to bring them in on the decision-making process. Speak with employees and team leaders about your plans to implement time tracking software. Ask for their thoughts and what kinds of features they feel would be most useful. You can then use that information to help you make a smart and sensible decision about which tool to use.

Introduce time tracking gradually and explain it to your employees

It can be jarring for employees who weren’t used to having their time tracked to suddenly find themselves dealing with time tracking software. Many will adapt to it with time, but they might need to be eased in, rather than rushed. For that reason, you may like to introduce time tracking systems gradually, explaining their benefits to workers and helping them see why these tools are needed.

A lot of workers worry that time tracking software is simply an intense form of micromanagement. They worry that their every action is about to come under the microscope, or that they’ll be chastised for taking breaks or failing to perform at peak speed. It’s important to help them understand the reality, assuaging their concerns, and showing them how the system will work.

Utilize time tracking software to aid automation

If you want to get maximum value from any piece of time tracking software, it’s best to use it in conjunction with other elements of your tech stack. For example, a lot of marketing agencies take the timesheets made by their tracking apps and then use those to generate accurate invoices for clients.

It’s even better if you can use your time tracking tools to support automated processes and workflows. For instance, you can try setting up your invoicing app to automatically read through timesheets and create invoices with minimal manual effort. Or, you could configure your payroll program to track the time workers are active and use that to manage salaries more efficiently. Alternatively, use a time tracking app that is part of an all-in-one agency software suite.

Regular review your time tracking reports to find areas of improvement

One of the keys to running a successful marketing agency is to always seek improvement. Never rest on your laurels. Constantly look for ways to improve efficiency, cut down on wasted time, and optimize your processes. Use time tracking software to help with that by regularly reviewing the reports and logs that it stores.

The vast majority of time tracking apps will maintain accurate, reliable records. If you don’t take the time to look through those records, or only check them out intermittently, you won’t be getting much value from the software. Try to get into the habit of reviewing the logs on a set schedule, looking for processes that take longer than others and then digging into the reasons why.

Summing up: Use marketing agency time tracking software to optimize your agency

We began this guide with a reminder of the old adage, “Time is money.” But, in reality, time is much more than that. It’s an immensely precious but limited resource that has to be managed with care and attention to detail. This is especially important in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of marketing agencies, which simply have to be on top of their time management to succeed.

As shown above, time tracking software can help with every aspect of your agency’s time management, making it an invaluable addition to your agency stack. For best results, choose time tracking software that integrates seamlessly with other must-have stack components, like your CRM and invoice generation.

That’s where Bonsai comes in. Bonsai’s all-in-one agency software features fantastic time-tracking features, including real-time tracking, reports, precise timesheets, and automatic invoicing. Contact the Bonsai team today to learn all about it.

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