I see (and participate) in many discussions online about various tools and services to use within your web agency. There’s a few favourites people have, and some absolute gem’s that don’t get mentioned often.
There’s a million and one blog posts about tools for sending emails, billing, project management – but it’s pretty hard to sort that because what works for me and my business might not work for you.
I wanted to put together this list with a very specific focus – tools and services that you can leverage to help scale faster with less work. Tools that aren’t tied to a single specific workflow (i.e. like a project management tool).
These are the tools that I believe can help you on your journey to a larger or more profitable website agency.
And just a note that any links listed below are NOT affiliate links. If I recommend something it’s because I use it, believe in it, or love it – not because I get paid if you use it.
On the path of growth, you need something to help you find new leads, convert those leads, and also get more work from existing clients.
The tool I keep going back to for this is a website audit using My Web Audit.
My Web Audit started out as better website audit tool. Most others are automated and only check for the SEO basics, or speed – there’s no human involvement. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen sites that load quick and are SEO optimised to hell, but look disgusting.
This is where My Web Audit is a bit different. It combines automated checks with visual checking – you access the site and tick items off a checklist. For WordPress sites, you can even install a plugin that incorporates a whole back of technical “behind the scenes” items about security and such. It then generates a report with major issues and suggested solutions.
This alone is gold, but they have a whole bunch of other cool features:
- Other types of audits (e-commerce, landing page audits, SEO only audits, page speed audits, and others)
- Audit builder. Yes, you can use My Web Audit to build your own audit. In my case, I can build an audit to review brand messaging, or a Facebook ads campaign.
- Widget for your website. You can add a widget to your site that allows a visitor to request an audit. Depending on the audit, you can set it to automatically deliver!
That’s not to mention the other aspects of the service, like all the templates and guides to help you convert leads and sell your services, the lead finder tool (which could be a blog post all of its own), and the continual small things they keep adding.
If outbound forms ANY part of your lead gen strategy, My Web Audit is non negotiable. You need it. If you’re more of an inbound person, it can make a huge difference if you are actually getting leads and then take the time to incorporate it into your process.
If you’re in marketing and haven’t heard the term “funnel” before, well… you’re not in marketing.
A funnel is a process that guides visitors through the buying journey, taking them from visitor through to a lead, and they are absolutely ESSENTIAL when doing online marketing.
I mean think about it, you get all this traffic to your site – how many are likely to contact you immediately? Possibly a handful?
So what do you do about the rest?
The answer is you come up with a way to get their details, so you can nurture that relationship until they ARE ready to talk.
So generally what people do is come up with something that will entice the visitor to give you their email address in exchange for. This is typically called a lead magnet. After receiving that lead magnet, you’ll then send a sequence of emails over a period of time that are aimed to build on that relationship. That sequence will often culminate in a final offer of some sort, which is how the visitor ultimately becomes a lead.
The problem with marketing funnels is that they can be quite extensive (and expensive) to set up. I’ve spent WEEKS crafting funnels in the past for myself. I’ve charged clients THOUSANDS of dollars for even a very basic funnel. So if you’re NOT an experienced funnel builder, and don’t have THOUSANDS of dollars to spend to hire one, you’re left in a pretty tough spot.
This is where Funnel Packs comes in. They’re prebuilt funnels marketing funnels that you can use to help generate leads.
Matt and Mel (the founders) have put together a series of funnels specifically written for agency owners, and deliver them as packs that you can buy and have live on your site within an hour.
Each funnel has a lead magnet, a landing page for that lead magnet, a thank you page, and a series of emails – generally 5 nurture emails and a final offer email. Best of all, there are around 20 funnel packs already released for categories such as website design, digital marketing, branding, and many many more (I’ve bought 5 so far).
As you can imagine, this is an absolute life saver for agency owners that are looking to get their marketing sorted without spending a fortune.
And it doesn’t just need to be to capture leads. I actually use my lead magnets as resource guides for existing clients – if a client needs help with marketing, I’ll send them to the digital marketing landing page so they can download the guide. After anywhere from a few days to a week or so, I end up getting a consultation to discuss their digital marketing. This can be super powerful for leveraging your existing clients to get more work, but does require a larger number of funnel packs to really be of most use.
Funnel Packs would win as one of my favourite tools because it suits my marketing approach perfectly. Funnels are designed to bring the client to you, ready and wanting to talk – and that’s my specialty.
Proposals and Document Signing
One of my favourite things is to get proposals signed. It means money will come in, work will come in, someone likes and trusts you enough to work with you – all the good stuff.
Back in the day, proposals used to be these fancy documents you’d send. Clients would print them out, sign off, then either post them (ugh) or scan and then email them back.
Then digital signatures became a thing, so people would send the PDF via a digital signature tool, allowing the client to sign electronically. Big time saver.
Now though, we’ve got people using their mobile phones more than ever. Not sure about you, but have you opened a typical PDF on your phone? It’s very hard to read and consume the content, it becomes frustrating to deal with, and you end up just deciding to do it later when you’re at the computer.
This is where Better Proposals comes in.
Imagine it this way:
- You prepare the proposal
- You embed a short custom video of you talking to the person and introducing the proposal
- You send it to them
- You get an alert when they open it, and what device they’ve used (yup, it’s their phone)
- They watch the video
- They read through it comfortably even on their phone
- You get to see how long they spend on each page
- They sign it on whatever device they’re using
- They pay their deposit immediately via credit card
- You have automation set up that automatically adds them to your project management system
Yeah, this is basically what happens when I send a proposal today. Better Proposals is amazing. I’ve got my main proposal templates set up with a whole heap of nice design features, I can quickly bring in the client data from my CRM and then customise the proposal, embed an intro video, and then send it.
Not only that, but you can use Better Proposals for other things like sign offs, quick quotes, legal contracts, and much more. And all the while, you get stats and data on how the document recipient is using it.
I think Better Proposals has been the tool I’ve recommended the most, because of how much better it makes you look. I get complimented all the time about the quality of my proposals (and they’re just slightly modified better proposals templates).
In the web game there’s one thing you can’t avoid, and that’s content.
The majority of my project delays are content oriented, either at the start or at the end.
I’ve tried not starting a project until they had their content ready (have had people disappear and go elsewhere). I’ve tried finishing a project and then having the client enter their content (had to chase someone for two years once).
The big pains are:
- Structuring the content you need
- Telling the client what you need
- Reminding them about it
- Reviewing their (often terrible) content and telling them to make changes
So I brought Content Snare into the mix, which I use like a client document portal.
It doesn’t magically solve the content problem, but it definitely reduces the challenges in content collection (the “magic” part comes from your own processes).
For the longest time I used to focus on content after the site was complete (because that way I get paid the soonest), but it did have problems sometimes where you end up with a finished site sitting on your staging server for years. Thankfully, with Content Snare I’ve been able to improve my content collection process.
I now have a “content planning” template, that includes some general questions to get the client thinking and to give me some core information. For example, for their services I ask for each service, whether they will be able to provide a gallery of images, whether they’ll have a short description, whether they’ll be able to provide a list of benefits, whether they have service specific testimonials, and a bunch more. My objective (before we start designing) is to know what sort of content will be available, and how much of it, so I can factor that into the design.
That’s why I ask questions to find out how far they will be able to go with content (I don’t want to end up with a content heavy design and then they can only provide the bare minimum). This makes it a lot easier for them, because they at least have some ideas about what sort of content they will need.
And of course, I then get to use Content Snare for getting the final information (if the client is getting my team to enter it into the site). Since we’ve already outlined how the content will be structured, I get to make my request very specific which results in a final site that has a consistent vibe between the content and the look and feel.
And of course, I get to use it for ongoing content needs like blog post outlines for clients, adding new pages to their sites, requesting testimonials, and anything else you can think of.
Okay, so while emailing is loads of fun (lol jk, I hate it), going next level with your agency means email – and generally communicating with text – starts becoming a drag.
If you have team members or people you outsource to, written instructions can be easily misinterpreted. Or with clients, writing out your design decisions doesn’t really have all that much impact.
So my method of overcoming this is to use video.
If I want to explain a concept to a team member, I’ll usually record my screen while explaining what I want.
Or if I’m presenting a design to a client and I can’t do it live (happens with international clients sometimes due to timezone), I’ll record a video of me showing them the site and explaining my design thinking.
Or when I’m handing over a finished website, rather than just sending the link and access details, I’ll record a quick walkthrough to explain how it all works.
So why do I do this?
- It cuts out questions and misunderstanding, which prevents back and forth
- It’s a much quicker way to communicate, which saves you heaps of time
- Hearing your voice and potentially seeing your face helps you connect better with the recipient than just some words on a page, building trust
The tool I use for this is Loom. I’ve been a user of Loom since they started, although I’ve never really used it too often in my agency until probably the last year or so.
Now I have hundreds of videos in my dashboard. Loom also lets you organise your videos into folders, so you can save all client videos to one folder, team explainers into another, etc. And if you can spring for a pro account, you can even draw on the screen to help you explain things.
Loom works either as an extension on your Chrome browser, or a desktop app. You simply trigger it, pick what you’re recording, and then start.
Once you’re done it automatically uploads it and gives you a link that you can use to share the video with others.
It’s definitely the type of tool that can have a HUGE impact on how professional you look.
White Label Maintenance
If you aren’t already, you should be maintaining your clients websites via a set monthly fee. Keep the tech up to date, maintain backups, keep things secure, etc. Sometimes you can even offer support hours as part of your plan.
The entire benefit of this is to build up a nice little pot of recurring revenue, so the more care plans you get, the more money you have coming in on a regular basis, and the more reliable your income.
But as you grow, those support requests can start to be a pain.
Imagine you have 5 clients all request some changes made at the same time? Even if each change is 10 minutes, you need to factor the time in reviewing the request, logging in, actioning it, and then moving on. You’ll probably be working on it for at least two hours out of your day.
Do you really want to deal with that? Not me.
That’s why any of my care plans that include unlimited WordPress support are outsourced to a white label maintenance provider like Go WP.
I have a support email that they have access to, support requests go to that email, they handle it, and I don’t have to stress. I even get a nifty dashboard to keep track of what’s happening.
I really don’t want to spend time on support (and you shouldn’t either), so this is hugely beneficial to allowing me to focus on my specialty areas (like consulting and strategy).
Care plan sales tool
So you have a team to help you actually execute on your care plans, but you still need to be able to sell them.
I’m a fan of education, so I like to run my clients through what is required to be done via maintenance. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t really sink in because they don’t really understand it.
One tool that has made this process a lot smoother and easier for me is the Website Owners Manual. This unbelievably affordable tool gives you:
- A document you can give your client that records important website details, maintenance overview schedule, and includes a guide for trouble shooting common issues
- Email scripts to close maintenance deals – prelaunch, post launch, and even retention emails for clients that want to cancel
- Training videos on how to set up and use your website owners manual, as well as some tips and best practices from the team
So how do you use it?
Well ultimately, you send your clients the website owners manual. It outlines all the stuff that needs to happen in order to maintain the website properly. Obviously it’s going to be a fairly comprehensive list – which is great because it means that the client won’t miss anything.
Well… theoretically anyway.
In practice, what happens is the client realises that it’s a lot more work than they thought, and usually wants you to take care of it for them.
Sending the manual does a really good job of educating the client and communicating the benefits of a care plan.
White Label SEO
I’ve already written about the importance of building recurring revenue, but the best way to actually do it is to sell ongoing services – and search engine optimisation is one of the most natural to sell as a web agency.
The problem though – what if you don’t know how (or just don’t want to) actually do the service?
Well, that’s where a white label SEO partner comes in.
I was really struggling to stay on top of all the SEO work I needed to do, but also struggled to find quality providers. Everyone seemed to do some shady stuff involving personal link building networks and other things I’m not comfortable with for my clients. This left me working reallllly hard on stuff I wasn’t super interested in.
And then one day, SEO Hive launched.
SEO Hive is a white label SEO company that’s run by Pete Everett, who:
- Has his own SEO agency
- Teaches SEO to web agency owners
- Focuses on a high quality and ethical approach to SEO
That sounded perfect for me, so I ended up handing over all my SEO clients to Pete and his team.
Since then my workload for SEO is practically non-existent, but I’m making a nice margin on every single client (and that’s still higher than I’d make on any of my care plans). Plus I’ve got the peace of mind of knowing the SEO work is done the right way!
One of the big things I love with SEO Hive is that it operates on pathways – you can pick from a Content Pathway, Link Building Pathway, an On-Page SEO pathway, or any combo of them (even all three at once). This might not mean much to you, but in the end it means that I can scale up or down the solutions based on what the client needs and how much they’re willing to pay.
All of my clients have every pathway active at once. But if I were to work with someone who didn’t really need any content added for example, I could remove that pathway and it would bring my cost down (so I could reduce the fee if I needed to).
This means I get plenty of flexibility in selling and delivering the service, while still delivering great results.
If you want to grow some serious recurring revenue without incurring all that recurring work, getting a white label SEO provider involved is a great way to achieve that.
Let’s recap here. You hopefully want to scale and grow. You also hopefully don’t want to incur a whole bunch more work personally to achieve this.
This article has given you tools and services for:
- Lead Generation and Conversion
- Content and Communication
- Extra Revenue Sources
Next up is implementation. You don’t need to go do all of this tomorrow, but look at where you can implement ONE thing now that would make your business run easier and better.