Here's the truth. If you're not adding the right tools to your agency's tech stack, you're setting yourself up for an uphill battle.
Why? You're human. You only have two hands to juggle all the moving parts of running an agency. And as you grow, the software you used on day one will no longer meet your needs.
So, there'll undoubtedly come a time when you must invest in the proper tools to increase productivity and prioritize high-impact tasks. If today is that day, keep reading.
I'm sharing my go-to list of software tools we use at uSERP (a digital PR and SEO agency) to streamline our operations. It's the ideal way to work smarter, not harder, to achieve growth.
Why Do You Need Software to Run Your PR/Marketing Agency?
You need software to run an agency for multiple key reasons. At uSERP, we break it down into five main areas.
1. Internal Project Management
How do you communicate with your team on a daily basis? Where do you manage projects? How do you execute those tasks, depending on your service?
For example, in digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), we need SEO tools to build client strategies. But we also need project management of those tasks to track who does what and when.
2. External Project Management
How do you involve clients in the process and track projects with them? This scenario can often look different than how you do it internally.
Pro tip: It's important to note that you can use the same software for dual purposes. For instance, you can tap into the power of workflow management software for internal workflows and client dashboards.
However, it's important to create some separation (read: unique workflows with proper access entitlements), as your clients don't need to see the intricacies of your internal processes.
The pros of this methodology are that:
Thanks to their daily tasks, you don't have to teach your team how to use an entirely new tool (they're already familiar with the user interface).
You can create automation between the two workflows.
The key to success is building a separate workflow (or dashboard) for client communication and project updates. Avoid giving your clients access to unnecessary internal details.
3. Sales-Driven Software
Sales are the lifeblood of any agency. So, naturally, you need software to manage the sales process, keep track of leads, and connect with leads.
On day one, email and Zoom were sufficient to accomplish our sales-driven tasks. But as we grew, it became more and more important to nurture leads to prevent potential clients from slipping through the cracks.
That's where tools like QuickMail come into play.
4. Marketing Software
Of course, this area sounds silly. Why does a marketing agency need marketing software? You need software to market your company and grow it, right?
Whether choosing content creation tools or a free social media post scheduler, both have worked wonders to help us reduce the manual burden it takes to produce high-quality content that:
Expanded our reach through content repurposing
Established our agency as one of the go-to choices in our niche
5. HR Software
Hiring top talent in your industry is one of the most undervalued ways to fuel your agency's growth. Otherwise, it's easy to remain stagnant.
Trust me, I get it. It's tough to swallow when you cut into your profit margin to hire and pay talent. But it's necessary to take your agency to the next level.
With that comes a lot of new balls to juggle:
Learning when it's the right time to hire for a position
Writing and publishing job descriptions
Tracking and communicating with high-quality candidates
Onboarding new hires into your company culture
Paying your staff (domestically and internationally)
Tracking benefits like computers, software, paid time off, 401k, etc.
The right hiring software (at uSERP, we love Zenefits) turns this circus into a manageable song and dance.
Trials, Tests, and Tribulations: How to Find Your Winning Tech Stack
In 2019, we started with five simple tools:
Zoom - To take client calls
Slack - To communicate internally
Google Sheets - To create client dashboards and track financials
CRM software - To monitor and communicate with leads+
Notion - To take notes and draft initial standard operating procedures (SOPs)
That's it. But these five tools helped us with the basics and organization for future growth.
The question remains: how'd we fill in the gaps to find the winning tech stack that works for uSERP as we grew 7x in 3 years?
The answer is as simple as it gets: mostly just trial and error.
Initially, we had a tight budget and naturally chose options that fit these budget constraints. But your software needs will change as you grow. And budget plays less of a role in your decision (although that's always a factor in the back of your mind).
So, we leveraged free trials to experiment with software at different price points to see what worked best for our specific needs.
Expert tip: The most expensive tools aren't always the best options for your agency. For instance, we experimented with HubSpot as a CRM. It's one of the industry's front-runners, so it's bound to be the perfect fit, right?
Wrong. We quickly realized we didn't need all the bells and whistles it offered.
What we needed was a simple CRM tool to track leads. And far cheaper options (like Salesmate) did just that.
The opposite also holds true. We started with a simple task manager. But now, we use ClickUp for a team of 50.
Is it the cheapest option on the market? No. But it's a tool that we incorporate into our internal and external project management workflows. That makes it worth the bigger price tag.
But how long did we use these cheaper tools until we invested in new ones? And what are some warning signs that software is necessary to improve your workflows?
We invested in new software and tools once we hit ten people in the company. It became too big of an ordeal to use basic task managers. Ideally, you need a central hub to keep everyone on the same page (especially when running an entirely remote team).
Here are a few warning signs that it's time for your agency to invest in new software:
Struggling to meet project deadlines: The classic sign that your existing systems might be slowing you down rather than aiding productivity.
Overwhelming paperwork and manual data entry: Spending too much time on administrative tasks can indicate a need for automation or management software.
Recurring mistakes and oversights: Excessive mistakes can signify insufficient manual processes.
Difficulty tracking work progress: Not knowing where a project stands or who's responsible for what can be a clear sign you need project management software.
Clients asking for more transparency: If clients ask for regular updates or insights into the work process, you need a tool to fill these requests.
Growing client base: As your agency grows, so does the complexity of your operations. If your current systems can't handle this, it's a sign to upgrade.
Knowing the warning signs (or red flags) is the first step to action. From there, it's crucial to continually evaluate your existing tech stack.
For example, every month at uSERP, we compile a list of current tools, log the hours used, and cut any we no longer need.
We can also use this evaluation method to uncover any existing bottlenecks that need addressing (read: identifying the perfect time to add a new tool).
Paying attention to warning signs and constantly evaluating your existing list of tools is the recipe for success in finding the perfect tech stack to help you grow your agency.
The Key to Using PR Agency Software Effectively
And now, the moment you have been waiting for. The complete list of the thirteen software tools we use at uSERP and how we put them to good use.
A Digital PR Agency's Power Tools (Ahrefs, Semrush, ContactOut, and ClickUp)
As a digital PR agency, we rely on various SEO tools to build comprehensive client strategies and track progress.
Our main goal? To harness the power of software to refine our strategies, optimize our workflows, and exceed client expectations.
Here are some power tools we swear by: Ahrefs, Semrush, ContactOut, and ClickUp.
Ahrefs: The Link Encyclopedia
Ahrefs and SEO go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
We use Ahrefs primarily for its unparalleled link data and tracking capabilities. It gives us a crystal-clear view of a website's backlink profile, helping us identify where our clients stand and the direction we need to go when creating a link-building strategy.
Plus, it's easy to see when new backlinks go "live" and on what sites.
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
Semrush: The Content Strategist's Dream
While Ahrefs is our primary SEO tool for link information and SEO targets, Semrush is our go-to for content gap analysis. It helps us navigate the vast landscape of content and spot opportunities for pitching guest posts.
For instance, you can find "weak" or "missing" keywords. These filters show a list of keywords your outreach target isn't ranking well against competitors.
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
But let's address the elephant on the page. Isn't it overkill to have both of these "competing" SEO tools in our toolbox?
Well, it's the intersection of Ahrefs and Semrush that makes the magic happen. While both tools provide SEO insights, their core strengths lie in different areas. Leveraging complementary tools (in your core area of expertise) can give you a competitive edge.
ContactOut: The Digital Rolodex for the Modern PR Pro
Have you ever spent hours trying to find the email of that one editor from a top publication?
You can say goodbye to this common PR headache thanks to ContactOut. It's our secret weapon for uncovering contact details and connecting with relevant media contacts.
From there, we can fill in the contact details (and leverage our research from Semrush) to send out this outreach template for landing guest post opportunities.
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
ClickUp: The Swiss Army Knife
From a humble beginning with a basic task manager, our growth journey led us into the open arms of ClickUp once our team scaled past ten employees.
We consider it a central hub for everything we do. Every client project, every task, every deadline — it's all here.
It's thanks to ClickUp that we can increase productivity and maintain a strong workflow by:
Organizing a large, remote team across 11 time zones
Onboarding external (clients and freelancers) and internal (employees) stakeholders onto one platform
For example, here's a sneak peek into our writing workflow and how we track it via ClickUp:
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
Project management tools are a simple way to keep your team on track, even from remote corners of the world. It's a must-have in any agency's tech stack.
Content Creation & Optimization Tools (Frase and Grammarly)
I'm sure you've heard "content is a king" a million times. Well, it's for good reason. It's still key to a digital PR strategy and building a trustworthy brand online.
Enter Frase and Grammarly, the dynamic duo we at uSERP trust to craft and optimize compelling narratives that resonate with target audiences.
Frase: The Smart Content Assistant
Our goal is to write content that's compelling and competitive in the SERPs.
We think of Frase as an AI-powered content strategist. It helps us craft outlines in half the time. And we can also use it to optimize content to compete with the first page of Google.
Plus, it's easy to share collaborative links with our freelance writers.
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
But why'd we choose Frase over dozens of other alternatives?
We love the seamless blend of AI-driven insights and a user-friendly interface that offers us real, actionable intelligence to give our content the edge we want.
Grammarly: The Editor's Sidekick
Even the most seasoned writers (and editors) need a little guidance from time to time. Grammarly helps us prevent those pesky spelling and grammar mistakes from slipping into the final draft of our content.
It's a surefire way to guarantee that every piece we craft is clear, engaging, and error-free.
Bonus tip: Don't sleep on the power of the Google Suite. We use it to share documents and spreadsheets with team members and stakeholders. It allows everyone to communicate efficiently and access valuable feedback when needed.
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
Automating Routine Tasks Across Verticals (Respona, Salesmate, and Later)
Between email pitches, managing social channels, and client relations, tools that streamline these tasks are invaluable.
Why? Time is money when running an agency. The less time you spend on mundane tasks, the more time you can spend on growth initiatives.
Enter the dream team of Respona, Salesmate, and Later.
Respona: Your Link Building Best Friend
Reaching out to relevant journalists or website owners is the heartbeat of PR. But with a never-ending list of pitches to send, finding the right content (and contact information) is boring (sorry, it's true) and repetitive.
That's where Respona shines as a go-to digital public relations tool. We browse Respona's live search engine to find the perfect candidates for our outreach campaigns and email distributions.
And we can even import data directly from our favorite SEO tools (Ahrefs and Semrush).
Salesmate: Simple yet Effective CRM
Salesmate is my right-hand man. I have it open in one tab at all hours of the day.
Why? I love that I can see a visual version of my sales pipeline, with the ability to streamline sales forecasting in one simple dashboard.
In other words, I can keep a pulse on current leads that need my attention the most in a centralized platform.
The simplicity of Salesmate has been instrumental in uSERP's ability to nurture and grow our client relationships (all while keeping track of and automating parts of our sales processes).
Later: Social Media, Scheduled
No marketing plan is complete without a social media strategy. It's the easiest way to grow your reach. And that's where social media management tools like Later come into play.
With Later, you can schedule posts across social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter), from one centralized dashboard.
A single platform makes it easier to create a batch of LinkedIn content and schedule it over the next few weeks. I can maintain a consistent posting schedule to build a following.
The strategy pays dividends, as I'm honing in on 30,000 followers.
But it's important to understand your target audience. If you're in the B2B space, LinkedIn is a goldmine. You want to publish to this social platform.
On the flip side, if your agency is in the B2C space, Instagram might be your better choice.
So, understanding how to schedule Instagram posts effectively is vital for maintaining a consistent online presence, maximizing engagement, and reaching the target audience at the right time.
Staying Connected With a Remote Team Across 11 Time Zones (Slack and Loom)
Navigating the intricacies of managing a remote team spread across 11 time zones isn't a walk in the park. Thankfully, tools like Slack and Loom have emerged as lifelines for teams like ours.
Slack: Instant Communication
Slack bridges the geographical divide, whether it's a quick message to a team member on the other side of the globe or a group discussion in dedicated channels.
Plus, it's as easy as texting on a phone or desktop, which helps prevent any team member from being truly out of the loop.
We also use it for training new employees and contractors. Over time, we've built dedicated Slack channels for onboarding and tutorials to make the process smooth and interactive.
Loom: Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
Meetings eat into team productivity. So, if we can avoid meetings, I am all for it.
Loom is an easy way to create a walk-through video for someone as an explanation, and it only takes a few minutes. Adding Loom to our tech stack saves us at least five weekly meetings per team.