It's no secret that there's a lot of SEO / inbound marketing software out there. Arguably too much. And each seems to solve about 2% of the big picture. Even those $3,000-minimum "Enterprise SEO solutions".
But one piece of software that I'm particularly in love with this month is BuzzStream. It works fantastically for what it's made for; accelerating the process of finding and placing editorial PR/backlink opportunities.
First, a Story
When I first tried BuzzStream, looking for a CRM to totally manage all that we're doing, I hated it. It didn't fit what I was after at that moment, and so I didn't get what the fuss was about. When our initial free trial slipped into the first day of paid subscription, I put in a cancelation request, and received a polite, unrequested, and (what many would say was) an undue refund.
Fast-forward to MozCon 2012 about six months later, I accidentally bump into Paul May at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle. After realizing who I was talking to, I mentioned how I find myself constantly writing trinkets of code to help people solve piles of common SEO problems. And I start to bridge the gaps of what BuzzStream was made to do (especially, managing the guest posting process), and what it was not made to do (that is, everything that an SEO agency might need ... although ... I still believe that no software/service really does).
After our team was given a little guided tour from Paul/Tim over at BuzzStream last week, a chord was really struck, and we instantly became paying subscribers. BuzzStream doesn't manage everything that we do, but it actually manages a lot more than I ever would have expected. It also helps that after doing some extra hiring this past month, we now have some serious resources working towards placing some high quality guest blog posts, while building up a solid database of relationships, right at our top list of priorities. But to my surprise my favorite features aren't actually advertised as features. It was all about making BuzzStream do a few things that it wasn't made to do.
Doing it Wrong
My favorite features of BuzzStream aren't actually features. They're the ways that I've tried to bastardize it to do other things. And it's working great. If you have an agency that's using BuzzStream, and are not doing these things, I'd recommend at least bringing it up for discussion.
1.) Quick/efficient Organization of
Link Partners Clients
BuzzStream is all about understanding the people behind a web site first. That's followed by key metrics, their content, social influence, and so on. This is crucial for the outreach process.
And, this is crucial for the consulting process too. If you don't understand the company and that you're working with and the key players involved on a deeper level, also tracking the site and social/content marketing that follows, something's wrong. BuzzStream lets you keep a profile on everyone that's involved with a company and their web site. Take the time to get to know them, and give them in their own BuzzStream profiles too.
2.) Organizing Team Collaboration
BuzzStream has this awesome feature where it integrates with Gmail, and automatically collects any communication associated with outreach to a given Link Partner from your agency, past or present. But what happens when you have more than one team member working on a given marketing initiative. How do you keep a grasp on everything that's been discussed?
Just like this.
3.) No Man Left Behind
There are a lot of great things about the marketing agency -> client relationship. We can build fantastic databases of relationships and opportunities. We can subscribe to more just in the way of fancy marketing software than our clients pay us directly while making it efficient for them. We can leverage all the fancy SEO conferences, we can leverage bulk discounts on everything from newswire releases to ad buying, and we can even make decisions based on the marketing trends seen across large pools of sites.
But one thing that's surely a challenge for all agencies at some point is doing project management for multiple projects. BuzzStream won't manage a whole inbound marketing project. Or even a whole SEO or link building project (at least, not in a way that enables how we do it). From BuzzStream, I don't know how many measurable contributions that I've made for someone on the whole, what's in the pipeline, or a million other things that we really need to know. But I do know one more thing that I didn't know before: how I'm doing at keeping communication flowing.
Some agencies talk to clients once a month when they deliver reports. Others will say that they do it at least once a week. For our purposes, I like to to keep it flowing at least once every few days if the client has the time/interest to devote, to all interested parties, but I realized that I've been better at this than some times than others. Since so many of our marketing contributions happen silently and simultaneously once they've been proposed/agreed upon, it's very easy for the client to lose touch with what's happening or how things are doing. This simple feature allows us to fix that.
I think I'll leave it at that before this really reaches TL;DR territory. And, we'll save the reviews for what BuzzStream is actually made to do for another day. Have you seen SEO or project management success by ruining a great product and making it do things that it's not made to do? Feel free to chime in via the comments section below!