You can perfectly outline the tasks, major milestones, and timeline for each project, but in the end, things happen: clients don't send the information you need, a key employee walks out the door, a technical issue pops up that requires you to rethink the approach.
This can spiral out of control when everyone is simply referring to a color-coded spreadsheet and replying to a confusing email thread.
According to the Marketing Agency Growth Report 2018, lack of a project management system has been one of the biggest pain points for agencies. Agencies face daily growth challenges for not being able to manage their time and projects efficiently. Roughly 20% of them have never used project management software to date.
And the consequences can be stressful -- 43% of agencies don't find enough free time to focus on administrative tasks such as staffing, client on-boarding, new business investments, etc. 29% of agencies experience difficulties in maintaining cashflows and 35% of agencies face hiring and talent management problems.
Inefficient time management practices have prevented 55% of agencies from growing their sales and marketing efforts, 24% of them faced differentiation challenges in the market and lack of processes or organization has kept 18% agencies from retaining clients. That's why so many agencies invest in project management software and the best apps for their services.
They need an easy-to-use interface to track timelines, tasks, time, and budgets. They need something people will actually want to use on a daily basis. And every agency is different, which means every agency needs a different type of project management system.
10 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Project Management System
We've put together a list of some of the top platforms that are made with agencies in mind. As you review this list, you should consider:
Is This Project Management System A Good Investment?
- Is scalability a key issue?
- Is it user-friendly?
- Is it flexible?
- Does it provide enough customization?
- What features really matter?
- How will clients use the tool?
- Does it have email integration? Is email integration needed?
- Can it be used on-the-go?
- Is there support or training?
- What is your goal for the project management tool?
1) Is scalabililty a key issue?
Is your agency growing fast, and do you want it to grow even faster? Can the tools scale with you?
2) Is it user-friendly?
Will your staff like using the interface to schedule projects, track their time, and stay up-to-date on a client's status?
3) Is it flexible?
How does the tool integrate with other software your agency uses? Do you want the software to work with your billing processes, time tracking software, CRM, or marketing automation tool?
4) Does it provide enough customization?
What reports and features do you absolutely need, and does the software allow you to make those the focus of your experience? Do you need to collaborate with clients from the platform? Do you want your agency's branding to be featured on the client's view?
5) What features really matter?
There are project management systems that come loaded with everything you could ever want to use and there are those that focus on doing just one thing really well. What does your agency really need to make projects easier to manage?
6) How will your clients use the tool?
Will the project management system be easy for clients to navigate? What permission levels can be customized? Are there options to keep some communication private and some public? If your clients are Microsoft users, will the product look just as great in Internet Explorer?
7) Do you need email integration?
Have you tried other project management systems and people still bypass the system? Consider if you need something that employees can use within their email client.
8) Do your employees need to use it on-the-go?
Does the product offer an iPhone or Android app? What remote working functions make it invaluable for a remote working staff or teams in various different offices?
9) Do you need support and training?
A more complex and customizable tool may require setup, training, and ongoing support. What's the customer service reputation of the company? What days of the week and hours are their team members available for help and guidance?
10) What's the goal of using a project management system?
Do you want to streamline processes? Improve efficiency and profitability? Will the tool give you better insight into the types of clients and projects you want to go after? Will it help you to deliver a higher quality product? Consider the goals and how you can track the return on your investment.
24 Marketing Agency Project Management Systems to Consider
If you are looking for a new project management software or are looking to implement your first tool, check out these options:
24 Marketing Agency Project Management Tools
Basecamp is the go-to option for many agencies looking for a simple, easy-to-use task management and communication that just works.
- Assign to-do tasks to one or multiple people
- Message boards for discussing a project or idea
- Chat function for communicating with team members
- Reports for better understanding a team's capacity and projects
- Separate screen for managing projects with a client
Price: $99/month with all features for the entire company
- Easy project creation allows you to create fully scheduled projects in just a few clicks
- Finance & Accounting will keep your agency’s financial health on track with key reports
- Task Management gives more transparency and billable hours to keep projects on schedule
- Project Templates can be created easily and quickly for efficient project management
- Real Business Insight to forecast revenue and grow your agency
- Customizable Reports with all the data that matters to you
ProofHub is an all-in-one project management and team collaboration software that helps teams of all sizes and types to manage complex tasks and work together seamlessly.
- Custom workflows and Kanban boards
- Gantt charts and project calendars
- In-built chat and real-time discussions
- Robust Table view to keep track of every product detail
- Automatic and manual time trackers to keep track of your team’s productivity
- Project reports
- Proofing tool to streamline your review and approval process
- File management
- Stickies and notes
Pricing: The Essential plan starts at $45/motnth and the Ultimate Control plan is $89/month.
nTask offers a wide variety of features and customization options to adapt to the way your team works. For instance, they recently introduced an interactive Gantt Chart user-experience where everything can be customized as per user requirements.
Furthermore, nTask includes all of the typical project management tools, such as: time tracking, recurring tasks, notification, reminders, and collaboration
- Calendar management
- Time tracking and timesheets
- Create recurring tasks concerning the day of the week, month or any specific time stretch
- Admin approval process control
- Budget and resource management
- Create and manage tasks at various team levels
- Team management
Basic Version is introduced for free. Premium and Business Plan scale up from $2.99 to $7.99 per user/ per month.
Many marketing agencies use ClickUp to manage their campaigns, clients, SOPs, and more. You can collaborate with your team, work with contractors and clients through guest permissions, and connect your data all in one place. Furthermore, if you need help getting started, ClickUp offers multiple templates for various marketing workflows.
- Dashboards and Chat view to communicate with clients and stakeholders
- Gantt and Timeline view to visualize campaigns and relationships between tasks
- Proofing and annotation features to get feedback directly on files
- Docs to create content, outline processes and save internal wikis
- Recurring tasks and reminders to automate repeated tasks
- Sync with your calendar to view all your tasks, events and reminders in one place
- 1000+ Integrations to connect your marketing apps
Price: Free Forever (unlimited users), $5/mo. for Unlimited, $9/mo. for Business, Enterprise Plan available
FunctionPoint provides tools for multiple departments, including new business, accounting, client services, traffic, and creative.
- File sharing and approvals workflows
- Scheduling and assigning tasks and managing individual workloads
- Financial reporting and invoicing
- Project and task dashboard for understanding timelines and profitability of projects
PSOhub is the all-in-one project management solution tailored to professional services and designed with HubSpot users in mind. PSOhub provides everything businesses need to manage projects plus robust integrations to keep contracts, time tracking, team collaboration, and more under one digital roof.
- Self driving time tracking to eliminate manual entry and promote productivity
- Contract management for retainers, time-and-material, fixed-price, recurring, and installments with dashboards and reporting plus smart contract generation
- Task management/collaboration to assign tasks and share information
Price: Free 60-day trial. Starter at $12.50/user/month; Rise at $16.50/user/month; Growth $20.50/user/month
10,000ft is a visually pleasing project management and planning tool with an interactive interface. The company also offers a design collaboration software program that has built-in design thinking tools and a way to gather data and analysis for presenting the design rationale to clients.
- Drap-and-drop interface allowing managers to adjust timelines and projects based on evolving needs
- Dashboard allows managers to see each project's status based on time, fees, and expenses
- Visual reporting for viewing the big picture of how teams, clients, and projects are doing against goals
Price: $10/user/month for Basic, $20/user/month for integration capabilities and additional IT requirements, $45/user/month for a dedicated account manager
Teamwork is a team project management tool that specializes in bringing together remote workers. (Disclosure: Teamwork is a HubSpot integration partner.)
- Customizable navigation for showing what matters most to teams
- Ganntt chart for visualizing milestones and a drap-and-drop interface for changing project timelines
- Private messaging to individuals or a group and email integration
- Select certain project details to be private
- Team member status updates so remote and flexible teams know each other's schedules
Price: Free for 2-5 users, $9/month/user for 5-100 users, larger companies contact the company
10) iMeet Central
iMeet Central (formerly Central Desktop) is an online-based collaboration tool that helps the entire agency stay on-task and informed of a project's status.
- Online moodboard for sharing inspiration between creatives
- Customizable workflows that will automatically assign tasks
- Meetings feature to schedule events, upload notes, and share documents
- Ability to make certain files and folders viewable to only agency employees
- Centralized feedback system that organizes comments and shows who has reviewed, approved, or ignored the notice
Price: $45/user/month for Marketers + Agencies, $25/user/month for Enterprise
11) Zoho Projects
Zoho provides tools for a variety of different business functions, including finance, HR, sales and marketing, and project managements. The Zoho Projects tool provides agency teams with an easy way to manage communication and track progress.
- Employees log billable and non-billable hours
- Ability to see actual versus project time it took to complete specific milestones
- Integration with Google Apps for more efficient collaboration
- Project chat rooms that can be public or private
Price: Free for one project, $25/month for 20 projects, $50/month for 50 projects, $100/month for unlimited projects
WorkflowMax is a full-featured project management system that provides agencies with the ability to also manage finances and billing, leads and sales, and productivity. (WorkflowMax is a HubSpot integration partner.)
- Reporting to uncover inefficiency and the agency's most profitable projects and clients
- Job costing system to keep track of all expenses per project and actual versus predicted costs to better understand profitability
- Create customized fields to better suit the individual needs of the agency
- Tool for sending accurate quotes to prospects quickly
Price: $15/month for 1 user, $49/month for 2-5 users, $110/month for 6-10 users, $170/month for 11-20 users, $250/month for 21-50 users
Brightpod has a Trello-like board interface that allows users to track projects, ideas, and tasks.
- Custom workflows for different types of projects
- An editorial calendar for managers who track social and content plans
- Individual dashboards so team members can track their high-priority items each day
- Log time per task and create recurring tasks
- Ability to add tasks, messages, and files via email
Price: $29/month for 10 users, $69/month for 25 users, $129/month for 50 users, $199/month for unlimited users
Function Fox provides three different levels of project management software -- from simple project and time tracking to advanced reporting and project management.
- A dedicated account manager who helps agencies set up the software and provides support as the company changes and grows
- Client- and project-based reporting
- Dashboard so leadership can view profitability and productivity
- Custom fields for adding information unique to your agency
- Group and individual calendars
Price: $35/month for 1 user + $5/month per additional user for timesheets and project tracking, $50/month for 1 user + $10/month per additional user for advanced project management, $150/month for 1 user + $20/month per additional user for in-house creative teams
DoInbound provides a framework for agencies sell, service, and deliver inbound marketing services. It breaks down projects into smaller, repeatable tasks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the team.
- Manage projects by campaign, task, and deliverables
- Share files, track time, and keep all communication organized with the associated campaign or task
- Training to help agencies document processes and create templates for more predictable work product
Price: $99/month for 3 users, $199/month for 20 users, $299/month for unlimited users
Workfront is a customizable tool that allows agencies to set priorities, assign tasks, manage projects, and keep stakeholders up to date. The company recently acquired ProofHQ, allowing teams to streamline the review and approval of content and creative.
- Built-in approval paths for getting work out the door more quickly
- Visibility of team-wide resources for better managing workloads
- Work backlog feature for organizing and prioritizing creative requests
- Ability to mark teams as Agile to organize work into stories or points
Price: Contact company for pricing information
Podio helps to organize all of a team's communication into one tool that's easy to customize.
- Tons of integrations and extensions, such as SmartGantt, and the option to build a custom integration
- Apps that can be added to the core product to customize the project management system for the way a team works
- Automated workflows triggered by a task completion
- Ability to create custom webforms for collecting information to be sent directly to the tool
Price: $9/month for Basic, $14/month for Plus, $24/month for Premium, Custom Pricing for Enterprise
LiquidPlanner has a different methodology for project management in that it sets timelines based on estimates. It then gives you a realistic due date based on best-case and worst-case scenarios. It also provides a priority-based scheduler, so teams can understand which projects to prioritize to get everything completed and sent to the client on time.
- Time tracking features integrate with a rate sheet
- Resource management screen for viewing who is at capacity and who can take on more projects
- Note features for adding obstacles to getting projects done
- Communication boards that are task-specific
Price: $10/user/month for 5 users, $45/user/month for Professional, $69/user/month for Enterprise
19) Traffic LIVE
TrafficLIVE works to give account managers, sales professionals, financial managers, and leadership the tools they need to service clients more effectively and be more profitable.
- Integrates with MS Project so account managers can easily import and export project plans
- Visual dashboard shows the breakdown of time spent, money, over-runs, deadlines, deliveries, and more for each project
- Native CRM for business development to track clients and prospects
- Custom rate cards that can be applied to new client projects
- Utilization charts so agency owners can determine staffing needs
Price: Contact company for pricing information
Advantage assigns every account an implementation specialist, so this project management software is perfect for those who need more in-depth training and support or are looking for individual consulting.
- Preset templates for creating schedules automatically
- Ability to change schedules and tasks for multiple projects at once
- Burn rate charts and a risk analysis summary to discover what projects are at-risk
- Media department support with flow charts, templates, and authorization forms
- Agency owner dashboard with views of cash balance, fees, and forecasting
Price: Contact company for pricing information
Clients & Profits provides four levels of its tool for growing and changing agencies.
- Account management tools, such as creative briefs, change orders, status reports, and a CRM
- Web portal for client access to job status, calendar, and reports
- Asset manager, production reports, and new job checklists
- Time sheets, approval workflows, and productivity report
- Multi-job, retainer, and media billing
Price: $49/month/user for Studio, $69/month/user for Marcom, $99/month/user for Agency
Workbook is a project management software that allows agencies to customize the platform based on what the agency specifically needs. You start with a basic plan and add features, such as invoicing and billing, vendor orders and purchase orders, finance and accounting, customer portal, or CRM and pipeline.
- Adding all costs, including mileage and personal expenses, to a project
- Extensive financial reporting system with 300 built-in reports
- Inter-company transaction capabilities and automatic billing feature
- Weighted pipeline to reveal the potential cash flow of an agency
- Ability to convert a prospect from the CRM into a project
Price: $19/user/month + modular pricing option
Hive is the project management tool behind rockstar teams at Uber, Google, Starbucks, Essence and more. Hive is dedicated to connecting all aspects of your work and helping teams move faster.
- Flexible project layouts
- Native email
- Group messaging
- File sharing
- Proofing and approvals
Price: Hive starts at $12 per user per month when billed annually.
Preceden is one of the few timeline tools which allows you to manage your projects by creating professional timeline visualizations and roadmaps. You can collaborate with your team on timelines representing project plans, marketing campaigns, product launches, and more.
- Organize your timeline's content with layers
- Templates to kickstart your timeline
- Numerous options for customizing your timeline's appearance
- Share your timeline in a variety of ways by exporting it as a PDF, image, PowerPoint/Keynote slide, a shareable link, embedding it on your own site, and more
Want more project management tips? Check out these basic principles of agile project management.