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“Work smarter, not harder.”
The harsh reality is that you will have to do both if you want your agency to stay alive in 2023.
With the changing world of work, your team’s already feeling the pressure — or, more likely, they’ve been feeling it for the past three years: managing multiple projects at once with higher client expectations and shorter deadlines and trying to strike a balance between productivity and burnout, all while making your wildest agency dreams come true.
But, this year, the thing that will separate who survives and who thrives will come down to one word: technology.
As someone who wanted to grow my agency but wasn’t sure how, I can confidently say having the right integrated tech tools in place is essential if you really want to quell the chaos and unlock growth. Here’s where to start:
1. Get super organized with checklist templates
One of the biggest mistakes agencies make is not getting organized because they’re so busy. I talk to hundreds of agency leaders yearly and have found that the best agencies get hyper-organized by using checklists for everything. Checklists are vital to getting your business organized and set up for growth. You should be using them for onboarding, training, off-boarding, setting up new clients, invoicing and for your everyday projects.
Using project management platforms is the easiest way to integrate checklists into every function of your business to protect your team from missing important deadlines or overlooking vital steps of your processes. Then, once you’ve set up fool-proof, repeatable checklists for all of the different client projects you’re running, you can easily duplicate them for future work, saving time and a whole lot of headaches. Put simply, systemizing with digital checklists is the first step to scaling your business.
2. Make better, data-backed decisions with time tracking
It’s the bane of every agency worker’s existence, but to stay out of the red, you need to know exactly how your team is spending every working minute and which projects and clients are most profitable.
Lots of small teams still use spreadsheets to track time, but why? You want to make it as easy as possible for your account and creative teams to track their hours, which is why a designated time-tracking tool is what you really need. To keep your tech stack economical and streamlined, consider looking for a time-tracking app that works with the software platforms you’re already using.
Time tracking can also help you combat burnout and improve employee happiness when it’s rolled out correctly. And when you better understand where your team is spending their time, you can make better resource decisions for all, leading to better business outcomes.
3. Put an end to manual invoicing and cost tracking
This may seem obvious, but I’m never surprised to learn about smaller agencies that aren’t invoicing and tracking expenses properly. They’re eager about the work and want to jump right in. Or, they’re still manually tracking project estimates and actual costs.
The problem is a massive part of your growth relies on your ability to charge, track and invoice every billable minute you spend on client work. An automated system for cost tracking and invoicing will keep you from going over budget and help you better allocate resources and estimate budgets in the future.
Look for invoicing and cost-tracking software to create invoices based on your team’s time sheets. Small but effective adjustments like this (with the help of tech) will go a long way toward improving your agency’s efficiency, so you can focus on growing.
4. Survey customers with smart software
When you first started your agency or client work business, the goal was really quite simple: getting enough work done to keep the lights on. When you’re in the growth stage of your journey, your focus pivots. It’s not enough to simply have clients; you need to ensure they’re satisfied every step of the way, and that’s where the right technology can help. The happier your clients are, the more likely they are to recommend your agency to a friend. Lean on affordable NPS (Net Promoter Score) to help you create quick and easy-to-use surveys to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty and provide actionable feedback to help you grow your business.
5. Centralize communication for better collaboration between teams and clients
Even if you don’t feel the communication strain early on, things will surely come to a head when your agency reaches 20 to 30 employees. Centralizing your internal and client communications in a project management platform is one of the best ways I’ve seen agencies differentiate themselves in a competitive market and set themselves up for growth.
Most project management tools allow clients to access projects and task lists. This gives them greater visibility into your team’s work and provides more accountability regarding approvals and deliverables.
Having your communication in one platform as you grow is essential, so files and meaningful conversations don’t disappear with turnover and changes. Plus, integrations with Gmail and Outlook allow attachments and asks to be automatically copied into projects so your team doesn’t miss a beat, even on the busiest days.
The most successful agencies and client-facing businesses are using many of these tools already, but the best have embraced having a project management platform that does everything.
For agencies in 2023, there’s no shortcut to working hard — but with smart systems and processes in place, you at least have a chance at spending your time on the activities that have the potential to move the needle and, as a result, move you into the next stage of growth.