Any worker, no matter his industry or job description, is only as good as his tools.

In the agency world, the same holds true.

No digital marketing agency can survive without the proper marketing technology stack.

After testing more SaaS’s, apps and plugins than we care to admit, we’ve settled on 21 tools that are crucial to running our PPC agency.

If you’re struggling with your own marketing stack or just want to see how we run our day to day operation, then keep reading.

You may just find a tool or two that may make your own day to day much easier!

Learn what’s under the Webrunner hood in this week’s Agency Life blog post…

via GIPHY

Pay Per Click Tools

What kind of PPC agency would we be without a full suite of PPC tools? These are the tools we rely on to generate results for our clients, so it’s only fair to put them at the top of the list.

google adwords

For obvious reasons, AdWords is our most important tool, and a lot of our time is spent in the platform managing customer accounts.

Google Analytics lets us track important metrics like clicks, conversions, and events so that we have the data we need to grow our customers’ businesses.

Google’s Keyword Planner is what we use to find the golden keywords that fill our AdWords & Bing Advertising accounts. Yes, there are a ton of other keyword research tools, but 99% of the time we’re using the GKP to find untapped keywords for our customers.

Using tag manager, our marketing team can easily add tracking scripts and create custom events on client websites without having to bother our development team.

Google’s new DataStudio lets us create beautiful, easy-to-digest monthly reports to show customers how we’re helping them and prove our worth while solidifying customer relationships.

And the best part? These 5 crucial tools are 100% free to use.

Facebook advertising

ad espresso by hootsuite

There’s no better tool than AdEspresso for managing and optimizing Facebook & Instagram ads.

Its simplified campaign creation process is a HUGE time-saver and allows us to put more time towards important things like strategy and ad creation.

On top of it all, AdEspresso’s knowledge base is one of the top resources for learning Facebook advertising, so we make it required reading for new hires here at Webrunner.

Landing page creation & optimization

unbounce

In the past, we used to create landing pages from scratch in order to control the entire pay per click journey from start to finish. Not only was this extremely time consuming, but it also hindered or ability to quickly test landing pages against each other.

Using Unbounce allows us to create landing pages in no time at all and easily test any page elements we want, making for higher-converting landing pages and better PPC results for our customers.

More importantly, Unbounce allowed us to scale our agency without having to add a ton of people to our design & development team.

Conversion rate optimization

hotjar

While Unbounce gives us quantitative data about our landing pages, Hotjar gives us qualitative data. With heat mapping, screen recording and feedback surveys, we have all the tools we need to understand exactly how visitors interact with our landing pages.

This allows us to get our PPC campaigns to profitability much quicker and helps keep our customers around much longer.

Sometimes, even the smallest change in structure or flow of a landing page can make all the difference. These are things you can only determine through the use of a CRO tool like Hotjar.

Call tracking

callrail

A lot of our customers rely on closing new business via the phone. As a result, it makes sense for us to also track incoming phone calls generated from PPC and social advertising campaigns on top of form submissions.

Callrail lets us do exactly that, and then some.

Using Callrail’s call-recording functionality, we’re able to hear all incoming calls (with customer consent of course) and gauge the quality of the leads we’re generating.

This lets us know which keywords drive the right kind of leads and which ones attract tire kickers.

From there, we’re able to modify our PPC campaigns accordingly by adding negatives, bidding more aggressively on profitable keywords, and more.

A simple tool, yet one we couldn’t live without.

PPC Competitor research

semrush

When we’re working with a new customer in an industry we’ve never served before, we use SEMRush to do our initial competitive research.

What keywords are our customers’ competitors bidding on? How much are they spending? What are they promoting? What does their ad copy look like?

These are all questions SEMRush helps us solve before even spending $1 in ads. It shortens the learning curve and saves our customer from wasted ad spend.

A win-win for both agency and customer.

That just about does it for our PPC tools.

Content marketing tools

Just because we’re a PPC agency and believe 100% in paid advertising, that doesn’t mean we totally neglect content marketing.

In fact, we rely heavily on content marketing (especially the blog you’re reading) to bring in leads for our own business.

This article on facebook ads for e-commerce store owners brings us new qualified leads on a regular basis

And we leverage our google adwords vs. facebook advertising blog post early on in our sales process to help educate our prospects.

Articles like these, along with a bit of paid promotion, allow us to fill the top of our marketing funnel with qualified leads that need our help.

It works, but we really couldn’t pull it off without the following content marketing tools.

Content management system

wordpress logo

Pretty straightforward. Our blog, along with the rest of our website, is built off of WordPress.

In fact, 74.6 million websites worldwide choose WordPress as their content management system of choice. There really isn’t anything else that comes even close.

What’s more, many tools & plugins are made solely for WordPress, and this can hurt you if you decide to go with another CMS.

Choosing WordPress was really a no-brainer.

Editorial calendar

trello

We like to keep our editorial calendar separate from our internal project management tool. The reason being is that we’re a PPC shop first and foremost, and only a few people contribute to our own marketing initiatives.

Rather than bombard everyone with useless messages and notifications, we keep our content-related tasks separate from the rest and only grant access to those involved.

We’ve found Trello to be the perfect tool for our small team of “part-time” content creators (ie: when we’re not busy on client accounts, we work on creating content for our agency). It’s a Kanban-style bulletin board and has everything we need to stay organized and on task.

A special mention goes out to Coschedule—we’ve used it in the past and will make the switch back once we have a dedicated team of content crafters in-house.

Graphic design

canva logo

Even though we have graphic designers on staff, it helps to be able to create graphics yourself.

With Canva, everyone is a graphic designer!

bob ross

With Canva, everyone is Bob Ross – img src

Okay not quite, but it does make creating graphics for your blog posts and social media networks a little easier.

We use Canva for business to stay organized and quickly create graphics that are on brand—it allows you to save custom colors and fonts that can easily be applied to any document.

Canva is also great for creating Facebook & Instagram ads, and is our go-to when creating ads for clients.

Fancy photoshop isn’t always necessary!

Email marketing

drip email marketing

We use the Drip email marketing platform to share our content with our audience. Every time we publish a  new article, we’ll send off an update through Drip.

But Drip isn’t just your basic email marketing platform—it’s got a ton of automation capabilities without the crazy price tag that comes along with advanced software like that. We’re talking just as powerful, but for only a fraction of the price.

We even recommend Drip to new customers just getting into email marketing because its pricing scales really well with new businesses.

Course creation

teachable

Teachable is a platform for creating online courses. They make it stupid-easy to put your knowledge out into the world.

You don’t have to know HTML or CSS or any of that fancy stuff, which means we don’t have to bother our dev team when the time comes to create our first course (hint: that time will eventually come).

We’re not actively using it just yet, but it’s sitting there…waiting…

Administrative tools

Without these tools, we wouldn’t be in business. They’re what allow us to communicate effectively as a team and with customers, nurture leads into sales, stay on top of cash flow, and more.

They’re the oil to our “well-oiled machine.”

Every-day-must-haves

g suite logo

Sheets, Docs, Drive, Slides—we use all of these in our day-to-day when planning out PPC campaigns, writing rough drafts, storing important files, and creating slide presentations for customers.

Then there’s Google Chat which we use to communicate internally (you know…Friday afternoon memes to colleagues…that kind of stuff) along with Hangouts when we work remotely.

Google apps is a crucial part of our marketing technology stack.

Project management

basecamp logo

Ahhhh…Basecamp makes me breathe a sigh of relief.

After trying out dozens (I’m not even kidding) of project management tools, Basecamp was the clear winner for us.

The way Basecamp works fits perfectly with the way we run our team, so it was a no-brainer as soon as we started using it.

Message boards, scheduling, project templates, campfire chats, to-do lists, direct linking to Google Drive documents and more—it has everything we need to run our pay per click agency and then some.

They say the best PM tool is the one your team actually uses, and this definitely holds true with Basecamp.

A special mention goes out to Dapulse that we absolutely loved back when we took on more web development jobs. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit as nicely once we decided to pivot our agency.

CRM software

pipedrive logo

We chose to go with Pipedrive as our CRM and sales management software, and we’re really happy with where it’s taken us so far.

It has your typical pipeline lay out and allows you to tweak and customize the interface however you see fit, which was really key for us since we had salespeople that were used to working a certain way (hint: don’t mess with your sales peoples’ habits).

The kicker for us though, was how easy the tool is to use. The integration with Zapier also allows us to connect with some of our other tools like Trello and Drip to do some more advanced stuff which saves us a ton of time month over month.

Billing & invoicing

freshbooks logo

This tool is right up there with AdWords competing for the #1 spot in our marketing technology stack.

Why?

Because billing is everything, and Freshbooks lets you automate it.

As a boutique agency, controlling cash flow is key (agency owners I know you can relate), and Freshbooks allows us to get money in faster and without the headaches.

We’ve been using Freshbooks since the very beginning, and even though we’re grandfathered into a special pricing plan, we’d literally pay anything for this tool because that’s how crucial it is to our whole operation.

With automated billing, expense and time tracking, we’ve got everything we need to run a tight ship.

As a result, we spend less time chasing after customers to pay their bills, and more time generating results for our customers.

Phone system

ringcentral logo

This one comes as a surprise to many.

Just because we’re a PPC agency and everything we do is digital, we still have a phone!

And the best part…if you call it, it’ll ring and someone will pick up.

In short, RingCentral lets us use our SmartPhones as our business phones. Whenever someone calls our office number, it’ll ring on a handful of SmartPhones here in the office.

Whoever answers can then patch the person through to whoever they’re looking for with the touch of a button, again putting the call through to their SmartPhone.

RingCentral also makes it easy to setup call extensions, call-forwarding, voicemail, and all that cool stuff.

It pretty much replaces your typical office phone system, and it’s only a fraction of the price. Plus, there’s an awesome app that makes managing everything on the go super easy.

Screensharing

join me logo

When it comes to doing live sales presentations or walking customers through the nitty-gritty of their accounts, we use Join.me’s web conferencing software.

Yes, we could technically use Google Hangouts. But we’ve found Join.me to be more reliable, especially when a handful of people are invited to the session.

Plus, it’s got a whole bunch of cool features like file transferring, session recording, reporting and more.

Hosting & management

flywheel logo

Flywheel is our managed WordPress hosting provider of choice. Many of our customers couldn’t be bothered when it comes to domain registration, hosting, WordPress & plugin updates, and all that other techy stuff (what’s SSL anyways?)

That’s why we decided to invest in Flywheel’s agency plan and offer a great hosting solution at an affordable price to all our existing customers.

Hosting isn’t our core focus (nor is it a cash cow), but being that we’ve grown very close to some of our customers over the years, it only made sense to manage everything from A to Z for them—from hosting and monthly maintenance through to our typical PPC and social advertising management services.

And in case you were wondering…yes, our website is powered by Flywheel.

In fact, moving to Flywheel from our old hosting provider resulted in a significant increase in page load speed which boosted our organic rankings (Google loves fast loading websites!).

Defeinitely worth the investment.

Stock photography

istock logo

Boy would our Facebook ads suffer without our iStock license. iStock just makes it simple to find images and illustrations of anything and everything under the sun.

During a new campaign, our design team will head over to iStock and download a bunch of images to then transform them into banner ads using Photoshop or Canva.

It really reduces our turnaround time, keeps us out of sticky legal situations that come with stealing images, and allow us to test many ad variations a lot faster.

Besides, with Facebook ads, you never know which creatives are going to be a success, so it’s useful to have a never-ending supply of imagery to work with.

Morale booster

spotify logo

Last but not least, we’ve got our beloved Spotify Premium!

We’ve come to the conclusion that our team would be 194% less productive if we didn’t have music running from 9 to 5, 5 days a week.

What kind of music plays around the Webrunner office?

Recently, we’ve been playing some chill out (early in the morning), trance (when the yawns start popping up around the office), some old school rap (on Fridays), and more house music than we care to admit.

My two favorite Spotify playlists at the moment for getting an above-average amount of work done are:

  • Your Favorite Coffee house by Spotify
  • Johnny Famous by Tanner Fielding

Give them a listen…you won’t be disappointed!

That about wraps it up for our marketing technology stack and the 21 tools our PPC agency would die without.

What about you? What marketing tools do you use to get the job done on a day to day basis?

Leave a comment below because I’d love to hear more about your tech stack!

more traffic leads and sales are just around the corner

Ben heads up content marketing at Webrunner Media. He is a full-stack marketer, writer, entrepreneur, and hockey player. Connect with him on Twitter.