Lean Agency Tech Tools

A quick overview of the tools and technologies we use to power our agency as well as a look at how we might run leaner with cheaper alternatives.

In this article, we wanted to run through some of the most useful services we use as part of our everyday workflow. Most of these tools are used widely and will already be familiar but hopefully, you’ll find some hidden gems in here too.

As with most small business owners, we have become increasingly sensitive to our large monthly SaaS costs and are always looking to consolidate or trim things down where we can. To that end, we have included the monthly cost of each item and in some cases, a cheaper or free alternative which we are currently looking at adopting.

GSuite

With super-simple setup with familiar Gmail ease-of-use, Google’s GSuite is a fairly ubiquitous option for small business email. Throw in Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc and you have pretty much everything you need to get started your startup running. Amongst the plethora of tools included is Google Sites, a basic web publisher which we use to power our company wiki.

$4.80 per user per month

Shift

Hacking around with browser tabs to view multiple Gmail accounts and calendars at the same time is an absolute pain. A couple of years back we discovered Shift which manages everything beautifully within one simple interface.

$99.99 per user per year

Slack

Though we’ve been using Slack for at least the last six years, it really feels like it has come into its own during the last few months. Slack has become our defacto studio, our water-cooler and our primary comms channel. We have a lot of third-party tools running within Slack which means that a large proportion of our team and project interactions happen within the platform.

£680 per year for 9 users

Or Google Chat – free (included in GSuite)

Vacation Tracker

Vacation Tracker is one of our favourite Slack integrations and manages all aspects of our leave-taking process including leave requests, manager approvals as well as excellent forecasting and dashboard tools.

$25 per month

Or AttendanceBot for Slack and Google Chats – $2 per user per month

Bonusly

Bonusly, also a Slack integration, is our selected employee peer bonus system. Each team member is given a fixed sum at the beginning of each month which they can use to reward their teammates for anything they feel needs to be recognised. Employees can then cash out their Bonusly totals whenever they wish.

$3 per user per month

Zoom 

We’ve used plenty of video calling tools over the years and Zoom provides the right combination of decent call quality and ease of use. Like everyone else, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on video calls over the last few months and have therefore gained an in-depth knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the various platforms. Though none of them is perfect, Zoom definitely seems to suck least.

$149.90 per year for 1 host and 100 participants 

Or Google Meet – free (included in GSuite)

Hubspot

We use Hubspot to manage our CRM and outbound marketing. Whilst the tool has obvious benefits and number of useful features, we find the bait and switch price gouging a little tiresome. On our (not inexpensive) tier, we are mostly offered tasters or dumbed-down versions of features only available in full to those paying to be higher up the Hubspot pyramid. That being said, the contact management and email integration features are excellent.

$480.00 per year for Marketing Hub Starter

Asana

Asana sits at the core of our project and process management. We use it extensively to plan and manage all the work that comes out of the studio. It is an incredibly dense tool with a mass of excellent features which are constantly being enhanced and expanded on. If anything, there is perhaps too much going on for a single tool! We have spent a fair amount of time looking at cheaper, simpler options over the years but always end up back at Asana.

$50 per month

Dropbox 

As part of our workflow, we create and manage a huge number of sizeable files, often many terabytes of data are stored and shared every month. We need a rock-solid cloud storage solution with the flexibility to share and access files anywhere, anytime. Though Dropbox has suffered from inevitable feature bloat as it has tried to position itself as more than just a storage company, it still has everything we need and expect from a cloud storage platform. One recent addition we do love and use often is Paper, a nifty note-taking app baked right into Dropbox.

£84 per month

or Google Drive – free up to 1TB per user (included in GSuite)

Octopus

Excellent little browser-based site mapping tool. Octopus is super simple to use, your site maps are shareable as links or can be exported as decent PDFs.

$7 per month for Pro

Sketch, Invision… and Figma

We have been using Sketch from the very beginning and have been huge advocates for this amazing interface and product design tool. We have used a combination of Sketch and Invision, our goto prototyping and user feedback tool, to conceptualise, test and polish all our major web and app projects over the last five years. However, recently we have begun migrating our workflow over to Figma. This tool integrates design, prototyping and team collaboration into one elegant package. And, it’s a fraction of the price of our current setup.

Sketch – $99 then $79 per year for updates

Invision – $264 per year

or Figma – free or $12 per month for Pro

Adobe CC

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Adobe produces two tools that are the bedrock of all design and layout work we do, Illustrator and InDesign. You also get a truckload of other apps and services thrown in with an Adobe CC subscription including the bloated OG of design tools, Photoshop.

£496.94 per year 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, we use loads of other tools and services across the agency. If you have any suggestions for new apps and services we may have missed then please hit us up on social media or drop us a mail.

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

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