Step Up Your Productivity Game: My Top 16 Tools for Running a High-Performing Agency in 2024

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Today's episode is all about my favourite tools and apps that have helped me run my business more efficiently and effectively.

I'll be sharing 16 productivity tool recommendations across various categories, including AI tools, podcast production, all-in-one tools, communication tools, video production, LinkedIn management, and planning and productivity.

These tools have been game-changers for me, and I hope they inspire you to discover new tools to optimise your agency operations.

So, grab a pen and paper or head to the show notes to download the accompanying PDF guide, as we dive into my top tool recommendations for 2024. Let's get started!

Topics Covered In This Episode:

[01:12] Introduction to my top 16 tools of 2023

[01:50] My choice of AI tools

[04:56] Podcast production tools

[06:25] All-In-One Tools

[09:00] Communication Tools

[10:30] Video Production

[11:30] LinkedIn Management

[13:21] Planning and Productivity

[16:50] Conclusion

Download your free guide: Top 17 Tools & Apps To Help You Become More Productive

Quotations

“Tools & Apps should free up your time to focus on higher value tasks” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Rob Da Costa [00:00:00]:

Hey, everyone. I hope you're having a fantastic week. It's Rob Costa here, your host of the agency Accelerator Podcast. And it's that time of year when I'm sharing with you my best tools and apps that have helped me run my business in an efficient and effective way. In the hope that they will inspire you, perhaps you'll learn about some new tools that will help you run your business more effectively as well. Now, together with this episode, I've put together a handy PDF guide that you can download. So just make sure you go into the show notes and grab your free copy of that. But let's jump into today's episode, which is my top 16 productivity tool recommendations for 2024.

Rob Da Costa [00:00:38]:

I'm Rob Costa, and this is the agency Accelerator Podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guest's experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. Can you believe we're coming to the end of the year? And that means the time when I share with you my favourite tools and apps of the year. Now, I'll be giving you a rundown of each tool, explaining the key benefits and how I use them in my business. And my goal is to provide you with some actionable recommendations to help you work smarter. So let's dive in. Now, I'm going to categorise the tools together under a number of headings.

Rob Da Costa [00:01:25]:

So we're going to talk about AI tools, we're going to talk about podcast production. I'm going to share with you my favourite all-in-one tools, talk about communication tools, video production, LinkedIn management and finally, planning and productivity. So let's kick things off in the most logical place. And that's talking about AI because we cannot turn anywhere these days without being inundated with discussions around AI and AI tools. And indeed, they have had a significant impact on my business. And you should definitely be using them in your agency as well because they will help you work more efficiently and more rapidly. And ultimately, that means you're going to give your team members more capacity in their business as well. So let's jump into two AI tools that have been a super game changer for me.

Rob Da Costa [00:02:11]:

So, obviously, I can't talk about AI tools without talking about Chat GBT. And indeed, that was the first tool that I started using probably a year ago when I first started learning about AI. And it's been super useful for helping me research content and create draughts of podcasts and emails and so on. Now, the key with any of the AI tools is you have to give it a really clear context. I tell the tool who you want them to be, tell them about your target audience and exactly what you want them to do. But then I discovered Claude AI and I found that Claude wrote in a more human-like way also I was able to upload things like PDFs, so I could say review this PDF and write in this style or add some more sections or whatever. So Claude AI has become my go-to tool now and I always use it as a research tool. And at the time, the other big advantage of Claude was that it was using more recent data up to 2023, whereas Chat GBT was only using data from 2021.

Rob Da Costa [00:03:13]:

Although I believe that has changed now. So I use Claude for researching, for content creation, for outlining podcasts like this and a whole lot more. And it delivers me content much quicker than I would create it and it saves me a tonne of time. Now, I view these tools as a way of getting from zero to 50 really quickly and then you have to edit from 50 to 100. Don't just copy and paste exactly what they come up with. And as I said earlier, make sure you're giving these tools a really clear context of who you want them to be, who your target audience is, and exactly what you want them to write about and the style you want them to write in. So, for example, I might say something like, you are an agency expert coach and you are going to write an email that's aimed at small to mid-sized marketing agencies taking a pain agitate-solve approach on a topic of blah, blah, blah. Now, if you give it that context, it's much more likely to write something that is more what you want them to write.

Rob Da Costa [00:04:11]:

And of course, you might say write it in a conversational style or you might say use some examples or share my own experience to help it create that content for you. And anyway, as I say, I use this tool to get me from zero to 50 and then my editing time and writing time is from 51 to 100. So that is Claude AI. And obviously, Chat GBT is in a similar vein and it can do the same types of things. So it's just a case of which one do you prefer? And of course, there are other tools like Bard as well that I haven't really used. So those are the first two tools that fit under the AI category. Now, there is a third tool that I use every single week and that is a tool called Cast Magic and that helps me with my podcast creation. So let's move on to podcast production and I'll tell you more about Cast Magic there.

Rob Da Costa [00:04:56]:

So, of course, I recognise that everybody doesn't have their own podcast. So if you are ever thinking about creating one, then here's two tools that I find super useful. So, first of all, I use Zencaster for recording all my podcasts, especially with my guests. And the key reason for that is it does some post-production magic, which means it sorts out recording levels and it also records locally. So if I'm interviewing someone in Australia, for example, it will record locally at their end and record locally at my end, and then I upload it to my desktop. And that means that if there's a dodgy Wi-Fi connection, I'm not going to lose quality because it's recording at both ends. Now, if I'm honest with you, I don't particularly like doing all the editing. And the post-production of my podcasts.

Rob Da Costa [00:05:40]:

And Castmagic came along last year as an AI tool to support this. So basically, you upload your video or your MP3 of your podcast, it does some analysis, it creates the transcription for you and it also uses AI tools to come up with titles to write social media posts, to write the timestamp, to create the show notes and so on. Now, this is a tool in its development, so you still need to do quite a bit of editing, but it's similar to the other tools I was using earlier. It gets you from zero to 50% really quickly and then you just have to work on the 51% to 100% to get your podcast right and it certainly makes life a lot easier. So that is my second podcasting tool, which is Castmagic. So let's move on to the next category, which is all-in-one tools. And I am still a big, massive user of Cartra. And if you don't know, Cartra is like Kajabi or one of those other platforms that basically handles most of my business.

Rob Da Costa [00:06:36]:

So it does all my email marketing with all the automation that you'd expect. I host my membership on the Cartra platform, I take all my payments through Cartra, it can host videos, I have calendars, and it has a few great new features this year. So one of them is that it has webinars embedded in it. Now, that is going to save me some money, which means I don't need to renew my Webinar Jam or Ever Webinar licences, which those two products have always made this list. And Webinar Jam is my live webinar platform and EverWebinar is the on-demand platform. So I won't be renewing those licences next year when they come up for renewal, but instead, we'll be hosting them through Cartra. Now, Kartra, Webinar Jam and EverWebinar are kind of under the same parent umbrella, so the webinar functionality in Cartra doesn't look that different to Webinar Jam. We will see when I start using it in earnest next year.

Rob Da Costa [00:07:29]:

Now, Cartra does an awful lot of things and it runs many aspects of my business, but it's also the most expensive tool, costing me over $2,000 a year to buy the platform. So unless you're looking for an all-in-one platform, that can run much of your business and you're in the online world, then Cartra is probably not the right platform for you, but you'd be better off using the individual tools that will serve the purpose for what you need, and I'll come on to those shortly. Now, Searchie is another interesting tool that I have started using this year. I was part of Stu McLaren's, Membership experience group coaching programme, and Stu's company is the producer of this new course hosting platform, I guess you would call it called Searchie. And what's really interesting about Searchie is you upload a video and it transcribes it and you can search that video based on the transcription. And when you've searched for a particular term, it will take you to that particular point in the video. And they also have some really interesting AI tools connected with Searches. So I bought a licence for that and I started hosting my videos on there for my membership programme so that it gives my members a much more easy way to search through the video content.

Rob Da Costa [00:08:42]:

That is great. Now, I could actually host my membership on Searchie, but I'm not willing to move away from Cartra and it's a danger of being a shiny new object. So I'm sticking with Cartra playing around with Searchi this year to see how it improves because it's a fairly new tool, but it is interesting in terms of making videos much more searchable, hence the product being called Searchi. So, moving on to communication tools, I really rely on Zoom and Loom still, and of course, we are all probably pretty familiar with both of those. Zoom is a great tool that facilitates my client coaching calls, and my group coaching meetings for part of the self-running agency. I also run my bi-weekly agency Accelerator live workshops on Zoom. And then I use Loom, that's L-O-O-M which enables me to record quick videos to communicate with clients. And it saves me a tonne of time when they are asking for feedback.

Rob Da Costa [00:09:37]:

And instead of writing a long email, I can just open the document they want me to review and create a live video and then just send them my link. And of course, it creates a lot more engagement as well. So, of course, there are other ways you can use Loom, such as part of your prospecting process to send personalised videos to your audience. So, not particularly exciting, sexy tools, but Loom and Zoom are both really robust tools and interestingly enough, both have introduced an AI element. So with Zoom, you can now get all the transcription from your calls, which is great. I use the paid version of Loom, but if I upgrade it even further, then there's a whole set of AI tools that I could use that would also transcribe the videos and so on. So those are my two communication tools, Loom and Zoom that I use. Moving on to the video production category, I'm still using Final Cut Pro to create all of my videos.

Rob Da Costa [00:10:33]:

It's a really sophisticated tool that is only a one-off payment, so you're not paying for it monthly and you can do an awful lot, but it means I can produce vaguely decent, I hope you agree, quality videos on there. I'm still using Canva for all of my design and my VA team are good at using that. So we can create all our social media graphics, our YouTube thumbnails and everything else using Canva. And again, I use a paid version of Canva. And again, Canva has introduced quite a few AI elements into their product. Now, I'm not quite sure how good they are yet, so you can type in text and it will supposedly create an image for you, but I'm not sure how good they are yet. But of course, like many products, they're in their early days of development and no doubt will get a lot better. So those are my two key video production tools that I use and let's move on to LinkedIn management now.

Rob Da Costa [00:11:25]:

Well, firstly, LinkedIn is a super important platform for any of us who are working in that B-to-B space. And unless you've got the time to spend every day researching your right audience and then creating some kind of outreach programme to them, which you should be doing, you then want to look at using some automation. So some people will agree with this and others won't, and that's perfectly fine. But I've used a number of tools over the years, including duck soup, dux soup and Linked Helper. And these days I use Waalaxy, W-A-A-L-A-X-Y seem to use tools with very strange names, but anyway, I use a tool called Walixy, which is very simple to use, which is why I do it. So basically what you do is you do a search on LinkedIn, either in the free version or Sales Navigator. Sales Navigator will enable you to drill down your search much better.

Rob Da Costa [00:12:14]:

You create a list of a target audience, you import that list into Wallaxy and then you set up an outreach campaign. Now, if you want these things to work, it's super important that you are building relationships with people and nurturing those relationships before you start to sell anything. So if you want LinkedIn outreach to work, then that is exactly what you need to do and that's a topic for another podcast, but basically, that's what I do. So it's basically like having an assistant sitting in the background reaching out to people every single day. And it's been a great way for me to add people to the top of my sales funnel, to invite them to my agency Accelerator Live workshops, or to offer them a copy of my book and start building a relationship with people. So that is Waxy, which is a really great simple tool to use, that you basically import lists from LinkedIn and then you set up sequences which are either LinkedIn messaging or visiting profiles and all that kind of stuff, or also trying to find their email address and sending them an email. So that is Waalaxy. So let's move on to the last category, which is planning and productivity.

Rob Da Costa [00:13:22]:

And here are some of my favourite tools, including my Remarkable, Toby, Asana, adevent and TicTic. And the last two are new additions to this year's list. So let's start off with Toby because this is a really great free Chrome extension where you can organise all of the tabs that you often use, or the websites that you want to visit, or Google Drive and so on. So that becomes your home screen and that is a lifesaver for me, because if you're like anything like me and fairly disorganised, then this helps you become organised. So that is Toby. It's a free Chrome extension that has got better and better and better. And then probably my favourite tool still after several years of use is my Remarkable, which is my Epaper tablet. And as you know, this has enabled me to completely become paper-free and keep all of my notes in one place on my Remarkable.

Rob Da Costa [00:14:13]:

And what I love about the Remarkable is that it gives you a very much writing on a paper experience and it only does that one thing and it does it really, really well, and you store the information in its cloud and that connects with your desktop remarkable app as well. So you can easily transfer documents between the desktop and your remarkable. And I absolutely love it and I use it every single day. And I haven't bought any paper for years and I haven't bought a printer cartridge either for years. So it just goes to show how important Remarkable has been for me. And by the way, I'll put links to all of the tools and apps that I've mentioned today in the show notes. So that's Toby and remarkable. And then Asana is my project management tool of choice.

Rob Da Costa [00:14:56]:

And this is the tool that I use with my VA team and everybody else that works for me so that we can all stay on track of projects that we're working on. We're clear about deadlines, we're clear about who's responsible for what, and it just becomes a fantastic communication tool. Now, there are, of course, other tools like Monday, ClickUp or Basecamp that people use. It's just a case of finding a project management tool of choice that works for you. And Asana is our tool of choice. The other two tools I want to mention are I used to talk about Amazing Marvin as my to-do list management, I've moved over to an app that was cheaper, to be honest, called Tick. Tick another crazy name, but I guess the point is that you're ticking off tasks during your day. So I have this integrated into my Google Calendar and I make sure that I am allocating time every day to get the task done and it syncs with the app on my phone and my computer and so on.

Rob Da Costa [00:15:48]:

So it's a great task list or to-do list planner that becomes my bible. I have a whole bunch of reoccurring tasks such as doing my zero reconciliation on a Monday morning, I have a team meeting on a Monday morning, so those are all set up as recurring meetings in TickTick. And what's great is you can literally tick them off and you get a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Then the last tool I wanted to mention is a tool called Add Event. And Add Event basically enables people to instantly add an event to their diary no matter where they host their diary. By just giving them a link that they click on and then choosing which calendar app they want to use, they can instantly put that appointment into their diary. I find this super useful for my group coaching programme where we have twice monthly calls and I can just update the ad event and the link is the same so they can instantly put the next appointment into their diary. So this just makes getting appointments into people's diaries all way easier.

Rob Da Costa [00:16:45]:

Okay, so there you have it. Here are my top 16 tools for productivity and efficiency. These are the tools that I'm using in my business, so I hope I've introduced you to one or two new tools to go and look at. But do let me know if you've got any other recommendations that I should be trying, because, of course, software and systems are key to running our businesses making us work smarter and boosting our output. So I hope these give some ideas on how you can improve your own workflow. And of course, if you've enjoyed this and you want to read more about it, then make sure you download the free guide that's associated with this week's podcast and please do share that and the podcast with your friends. And as ever, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts if you enjoyed this episode and found it useful. But other than that, I hope you have a great rest of your week and I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of the Agency Accelerator Podcast.

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