Agency project management

A Complete Guide To Project Management For Agencies

Advertising is one of the core pillars of the media and commerce industries. If Amazon’s advertising earnings are any indication (they made $10 billion in ad revenue in 2018), the ad industry isn’t slowing down any time soon. The industry is slated to spend nearly $260 billion in 2021, up from $183 billion in 2015. The brains behind the operation? Advertising agencies. And one of the biggest advantages they can have is access to the right tools to enable successful project management for agencies.

The Importance of Agency Project Management

Powerhouse agencies like Dentsu, Ogilvy, and Omnicom Group have clients ranging from Budweiser to Microsoft and Chevrolet — some of the biggest corporations in their respective fields. Advertising agencies specialize in the marketing of a product, everything from digital banners and ads, to television spots and events. There are typically different groups throughout agencies that specialize in each of the aforementioned fields, and agency personnel can either be locked onto one specific client or tasked with working on several different accounts.

Oftentimes, these groups are international, and operating on tight deadlines. That’s where project management becomes their best friend — the Gronkowski to their Tom Brady. Can you imagine vetting several rounds of creative assets for dozens of ads without a tool or platform to help you track everything? Since agency work is project based at its core, applying project management systems and methods are key. In other words: effective project management for agencies is critical.

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Project Management Methods For Agencies

There are tons of different project management methodologies that can help agencies organize their life — and clients — better. Here are a few ways to approach your agency projects.

Time Blocking

One of our favorites is time-blocking, a scheduling mechanism where you block off chunks of your calendar for specific actions and tasks only. For example, some people time-block windows to address their emails, allotting only two hours per day to tend to their inboxes, utilizing the rest of the day for other pending items on their to-do list. 

This is an ideal methodology for someone who isn’t in the midst of an intense round of client approvals, as that would likely require attending to one’s inbox every 15-30 minutes. But if you’re in an analytics or mainly execution-style role at an agency, this could be a great strategy to test out.

Strategic Roadmap

Another project management methodology that would work well for agencies is designing and implementing an in-depth strategic planning process, timeline, or roadmap, to guide a project. By outlining and defining the 4-5 key stages of a project, agency members are able to map out length of time per stage, which checkpoints involve client approvals, and set out specific goals, responsibilities and expectations. Check out a full strategic planning timeline here.

What Does An Agency Project Manager Do?

Since project management is crucial at an agency, let’s take a look at what the specific project manager at an agency would be doing. At an agency, a project manager would be helping oversee all aspects of a project from initiation to completion. They would be responsible for keeping teams on time and on task throughout often lengthy project timelines. The PM would also be the go-between for all the different internal teams working on a specific project.

Some of the most important components of an agency project manager’s job include:

  • Creating a project calendar with deadlines and phases
  • Managing project budget and scope
  • Sending all project updates to external parties and clients
  • Finalizing full project deliverables and vetting client feedback
  • Conducting a project review process to ensure projects are met client expectations

11 Best Agency Project Management Software & Tools

The agency project manager does a lot, and often needs the right tools and software to help their team succeed. If your team is in the market for a tool or product over a general strategy, we’ve got you covered. This is where a tool that enables project management for agencies comes in. Here’s a list of our favorites:

1. Hive 

Hive offers real-time transparent progress on campaigns throughout their lifecycle, as opposed to simple weekly status updates that can become stale and inaccurate. Hive allows individuals, teams and agencies to work together internally as well as externally — with Hive’s external user functionality, agency clients can access specific parts of the Hive dashboard and projects to see campaign progress in real-time. Some of the largest and most influential brands in the world rely on Hive within their agencies to run and execute flawless global campaigns. 

Hive also offers a robust proofing feature, which lets users attach a PDF, JPG and many other files for proofing in-app. It’s perfect for agencies who work on several iterations of creative and need to keep track of each different version. If you’re interested in seeing how Hive can help your agency improve day-to-day workflow and productivity, start a free 14-day trial today.

2. Teamwork

Teamwork Agency Project Management

Teamwork can be used by agencies of all shapes and sizes. It was built by 2 guys who were running a web design agency and grew frustrated with the lack of project management options for agencies, so they built their own platform. With Teamwork you can manage projects of all shapes and sizes. They’ve also got an option to add unlimited client users. This is great for agencies as it means you can give clients full visibility over your projects, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra to do so.

3. Slack 

Agency communication and project management tool

Slack, a workplace chat app, has changed the way people communicate at work. The app has 10 million active users, and integrates with over 1,500 other tools across the web. Different Slack groups could be used for different projects or teams at agencies, and Slack also integrates with Hive for added project management power. You can utilize Slack to communicate about upcoming projects, due-dates, and share documents and notes within Hive — it’s the best of both worlds!

4. Trello 

Trello Project Management Tool

If you’re in the market for a simple, Kanban style productivity tool, Trello could be your answer. The no-frills boards make it easy to view and plot out tasks by client. Each board is made up of cards, which contain to-dos, checklists, pictures, hyperlinks and files. You can add team members to different Trello cards, and drag and drop cards between sections to mark completion.

To learn about other similar Kanban tools, check out these top Trello alternatives on the market.

5. Rescue Time 

Agency project management tool

Rescue Time is ideal for agency project management because you can determine exactly who spent time on which tasks, as it tracks time spent on applications and websites. You can also block certain websites if you find yourself spending a few too many minutes watching cute cat videos on YouTube.

6. SEMRush

SEMrush Agency Tool

SEMRush is a helpful tool for agencies to manage SEO or content projects. With SEMRush, you can track SEO and Google progress for specific keywords, complete full competitor audits, and dig into specifics regarding organic, paid and search traffic. You can also conduct keyword research, create projects and set up automatic reports to keep tabs on specific keywords and campaigns you are interested in. This especially comes in handy if you are in competitive niches doing SEO for lawyers or saas companies, for example.

Check out this complete SemRush review to learn more about what it can do for your agency today.

7. Asana

Asana timeline plan

Asana is an all-in-one platform that helps agencies manage projects, prioritize tasks, and collaborate in real-time. It also helps agencies track progress, manage resources, and keep everyone accountable and on the same page. If you’re looking for more advanced resourcing and time tracking, we’d recommend something like Hive, but for light PM, Asana is a good option.

8. Sprout Social

Sprout Social dashboard

If your agency is scaling, a good way to generate more leads is by understanding your current customers and finding a similar target audience. Sprout Social might be able to help you do just that as a social media management tool with robust business intelligence capabilities. The platform helps you with content publishing, social listening, engagement, analytics, and customer care. Sprout Social  integrates with most popular CRM systems. Sprout Social offers a 30-day trial and its paid plan starts at $249 per month — with limited capabilities.

9. Mailchimp

Mailchimp Marketing Tool

How your customer interacts with your product or service is key in measuring the scalability of your business, a client might buy more products or services if they are constantly engaged with your brand. Agencies that invest in a marketing automation tool such as Mailchimp are targeting their business overall health. That’s because Mailchimp helps agencies to create, send, and track email campaigns. Plus, the tool also has features for landing page creation, social media marketing, and e-commerce tools. Agencies can manage all their clients in one place with a customizable dashboard. With Mailchimp, your agency can send weekly newsletters, create target email campaigns for different segments, automate onboarding email campaigns and even sell products and services through the Mailchimp e-commerce platform. Mailchimp has a free plan with limited features. Their paid plan starts at $13 a month.

10. Canva

Canva dashboard

The dynamic environment of marketing agencies sometimes means that people wear many hats. Canva is a great tool to assist marketers collaborating together in different assets. The platform is easy to use and allows copywriters, producers and designers to stay on brand while creating content for their email campaigns, social media and internal communication. With a generous library of branded content and premium template with stock photos options, marketing agencies can create social media images, videos, presentations within a few clicks. Canva also makes it easy to customize, resize and share content, helping agencies to deploy their campaigns faster. Canva has a free plan with limited capabilities and Canva for Teams starts at a monthly flat rate of $29.99 for teams of up to 5 people.

11. Wave

Wave invoice

No matter the size of your agency — invoicing is always an important element of your process. After all, you want to make sure you are getting paid accurately for the services you are providing. Wave is an invoicing software that allows you to do just that. The solution allows you to create customized invoices, accept online payments. Wave lets you set up recurring invoices and automatic credit card payments for your repeat customers, so no need to be chasing payments. You can also pay your independent contractors, freelancers and staff, generate W2 and 1099 forms for tax season, while also managing all your payroll, direct deposits, journal entries. Wave also has self-service pay stubs for tax forms. Pro-tip: If you use Hive as your project management software, you can easily connect Hive to Wave and facilitate your accounting processes. You can always send professional invoices for free and keep your accounting organized with Wave free plan. But to collect payments, get mobile receipts and to have payroll services you will need to get one of its paid plans.

Clearly, simplifying agency work isn’t an easy task, but utilizing some of these project management methodologies, and implementing a few of these tools, can help get agency teams on the right track. Do you know of any major agency-friendly tools that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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