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The Best Tools of 2016

We use a ton of tools to make the business development and client services portion of our gig work right.

Beyond just the standard toolset of After Effects, Getty Images, and other serviceswe have also found our favorites. Our clients have noticed – our surveys on “how we’re doing” have begun to RAVE about our project management and service levels (after we weren’t where we needed to be earlier).

So, we’ve decided to make a list of our ten favorite tools that we rely on every day.

The Best Agency CRMs

insightl-ly

 

 

 

Close.io for acquiring customers. Insight.ly for staying organized and serving them.

Close.IO has everything you need to begin great relationships with your customers. Close.IO is a Ferrari. You can create amazing queries and get through a sales or prospecting session faster with it than with anything else I know. You can create scripted sequences with all of your customers and configure it quite easily. The reason I love it is because I can do the sales I need to do in about 90 minutes a day. They also nailed the frictionless component of it, so there’s very little data entry.

We also use Insight.ly for retaining customers. Insight.ly is a work truck – hauls gravel, does a great job of it. Insight.ly is great for light project management, for collaboration and keeping information in one place. It’s got a friendly mobile app. Our “two-headed” system may not be ideal, but what Close.IO does, it does really well. (A special mention goes to Contactually which is so tempting and so close to being amazing).

The Best Proposal Engine

The best proposal engine for agencies is hands down, Proposify. We did a comprehensive review of ALL the software out there at the beginning of the year, and Proposify was the very best. There was other software that works, and Proposify does have some areas of opportunity.

But when you want to get a proposal out the door that gets the deal signed, this is the way to go.

The Best Online Meeting Tool

Zoom.US. This has been the winner for us – hands down. It’s elegant, fast, and “client ready.” Google Hangouts was what we were using before, but there were often issues with clients, scheduling, conferencing options (like easy calling in via phone), and meeting time reminders.

Zoom fixed that. We can record, memorialize, and do whatever we need to do.

There are LOTS of decent contenders in this category. Skype works fairly well as do some other platforms.

The Best Project Management Tool For Agencies

Basecamp 3. Hands down. The reason it works is that it is tuned to have *just* the right amount of detail, and *just* the right amount of notifications. The biggest benefit is that we can onboard people right away. We use it for a lot of different parts of our program.

We have experimented with their “templating” system which is essentially creating a master project and doing a copy of that to start new work.

There are features we miss but essentially, Basecamp does a great job for us.

Other good stuff: Trello works and our friends at Fizzle use it for big picture planning.

The Best WordPress Platform:

Thrive Themes. We haven’t even fully implemented what Thrive can do, yet we’re getting more leads and better results than we had in the past. We’re putting more of our work on Thrive and once we roll out the full implementation we’ll be happy.

Thrive allows us to build pages, save templates and create boxes that convert on the fly.

The Best Writing App For 2016.

ulysses-app

Ulysses is certainly our best writing app.

It takes a different – and better – approach as it organizes large text files in both “smart folders” and normal ones. It takes what IA Writer started and perfects it with a “just works on any OS” ethos. I use it every day for:

  1. A personal journal
  2. Writing Simplifilm Scripts
  3. Writing Blog Posts
  4. Writing Bigger projects

There’s a distraction free mode that just works, and they’ve got the inbox nailed down as well. The speed with which you can put stuff out is plenty remarkable.

Best Email Service For 2016

MailChimp. Why? Because it’s simple, it’s affordable (with a FREE tier that is really generous) and you can make beautiful emails on it without any problems. We’ve tried the higher end ones (Drip) and what they add in features, they give up in usability. If our list gets bigger, we’ll reevaluate, but at  6080 subscribers, MailChimp is the only serious choice.

Best Scheduling Service for 2016

YouCanBook.Me. It has really great features, and when someone books, I can craft a custom experience at any level. The one bummer about their service is that they overuse internal notifications, and tell us we have an important message when it’s simply an ad for more of their service. I can’t abide that.

Calend.ly is the runner up. Calendly looks way nicer and way better, but it fails because, at any price tier, you can’t redirect someone to a custom page after booking them. On YouCanBook.Me, you can easily do this with zero problems.

Most Underrated Tool For 2016: The Status Update

Nothing has saved us more time than getting the Status Update dialed in correctly. At our company, we’ve tuned our Status Updates to near perfection so our clients know what to do, they know when, and they know when we need to have them do it.

Our Status Update works great.

What Tools Do You Use?

Most of these tools were recommended by a client or a friend. Which ones do YOU use at the moment? Please, take a moment to leave a message in the comments. What are YOUR favorite tools? I’d love to see them in the comments or you can email me!

About the Author Chris Johnson

Christopher Johnson is the founder of Simplifilm, INC., and Flowtility (exit to Telestream in 2015). He's written or produced hundreds of video projects in the 6 years for startups, authors and the likes of Ryan Holiday, Seth Godin, Brad Feld and many more.

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