In a world of digital tools for every conceivable need and aim, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Our decision to build Luma was born out of a frustration from a lack of genuinely useful options to manage the communication between digital agencies and their clients. That, however, does mean there are alternatives. And it turns out some people are still using them rather than Luma.

Strange, we know.

So this post is for all those agencies out there who still haven’t boarded the Luma hype train. Y’all are still running on steam whilst we’re on electric.

First though, it’s important we establish what Luma is, and – perhaps more importantly – what Luma is not.

What is Luma?

A tool for digital agencies to communicate with their clients. You send a message to your clients. They send one back. Great collaboration ensues. You can learn more here.

What is Luma not?

A project management tool. This is the number one thing we tend to be mistaken us for. Kinda like when non-famous people have a famous person’s name and they get a tonne of messages by accident on Twitter.

There are many project management tools. And guys, they’re really, really, really good. Here are some we like:

  • Asana (#1 in the Luma office)
  • Trello
  • Monday

Project management has been covered. It’s an almost impossible space to break into and that’s not our mission. Communication, though, that’s us alright.

But we’re not the only ones in the comms game

Ah, if only we were. Life would be so sweet.

Through our own experiences (two of the three founders have previously worked in agencies for several years), we’ve come across and used the most popular tools for communicating with clients. Here, we’ll take a brief look at each.

Email

Email is very common in the agency world. Why? It’s free. And clients are comfortable with it.

After that, there is literally no other good reason to use email.

It’s simple enough; the client is given an email address they can use to get in touch, which is either a direct address for their account manager or an inbox accessible by multiple agency-side staff.

But it’s too simple. It lacks any features that make your working lives, as agency staff, any easier. Instead it leaves us with several issues:

  • With emails flying in constantly throughout the day, things are easily missed
  • Key information can be split across multiple emails
  • Email chains can become a labyrinth of confusion
  • Clients make requests, ask questions, and report issues. Those actions need to be pulled out of email in order to be dealt with, because there’s no ability to create and assign tasks or actions.
  • There’s no easy way for clients to check on the status of their requests, questions or issues, often leading to them emailing/calling again to find out.
  • As a result, account managers end up doing a tonne of back and forth between their colleagues and the client, all for simple updates like ‘We’re looking into it’ or ‘We’ve done it!’.

The simplicity of email makes it great for clients, but it creates huge efficiency and productivity issues for day-to-day account management on the agency’s side.

Basecamp

To be honest, Basecamp works. It does the job. We used it for years prior to launching Luma.

At the same time though, Basecamp is the exact reason we were motivated to launch Luma.

When Basecamp first came along, it was proposed as a natural evolution of email. And yeah, it was a logical next step. It was the first to say ‘hey, communication is really important’ and put everything on a centralised platform.

And that was successful. Like, really successful. Hundreds of thousands of businesses now use Basecamp.

But then, instead of doubling down on what had made them successful in the first place, Basecamp switched tack and added a bunch of half-baked features for project management. The tool now actively markets itself as ‘project management and team communication software’.

Yet, the communication side of the platform hasn’t progressed in years and the project management side seems like an after-thought in response to the growth of tools like Asana, Trello, and Jira.

All for the princely sum of $99 per month. Basecamp’s deficiencies in its core offering has left a gap in the market for a tool which can better serve the communication needs of agency staff and their clients.

*Cough*Luma*cough*

Slack

We like Slack. Everyone likes Slack. But, everyone likes toast, right? That doesn’t make toast the best thing you eat each day. And you’re certainly not serving up a round of toast when you’re trying to impress at a dinner party.

To give credit where it’s due though, Slack is a good comms tool. Communication is instant, decisions are made quickly, and it’s got the cool factor.

Do you want your clients on Slack though? Absolutely not. And here’s why:

  • Often, it’s a new tool for clients to learn
  • Quickfire messaging means things get lost easily
  • Instant messaging systems create an expectation that you’ll answer straight away – do you want a constant connection to your clients, all day, every day?
  • And just like with email, any actions need to be pulled out of Slack to be dealt with

The thing is, when Slack is used between a team of colleagues, none of the above are issues. And that’s when it works really well. So we’ll rephrase our earlier sentence: Slack is a good internal comms tool.

For what it’s worth, we would group any instant messaging tool with Slack, e.g. Skype and Whatsapp. They all suffer from the exact same set of problems when it comes to agency-to-client communication.

And let’s be honest, Whatsapp is really just for sending dank memes to your group chat. Nothing else.

So, what’s the solution?

Our experiences, both with the tools listed above and interactions with clients in the past, lead us to believe the perfect communications tool should have the following values at its core:

  1. Client friendly – clients should be able to use the tool without having to learn something new
  2. Agency friendly – the tool should aid efficiency and productivity for an agency, whilst providing useful data for business decisions
  3. Centralised – everyone should have access, meaning nothing is missed
  4. Actionable – requests, issues and questions should be captured and resolved within the tool
  5. Transparent – clients should be able to see who is dealing with something, where they’re upto, and if it’s in or out of scope

So we thought about the features that would complement each of those values. And then we built a tool full of them. We are…

Client friendly
In Luma, you can give your clients a single email address to use for sending any new messages, e.g. [email protected] Any messages sent to that address are pulled into the relevant client space in Luma. Any responses are sent back out to the client. And the cycle continues.

All this means, if your clients don’t want to learn a new tool, they don’t have to.

Agency friendly
When clients ask for something to be done, the standard procedure is to let them know how it’s progressing and when it’s completed. This is a waste of time. So we automated it.

As you move actions through the stages of a workflow (e.g. from ‘in progress’ to ‘done’), automated updates are sent out to all stakeholders.

Plus, we make use of the data in your account to help you improve internal processes. Our dashboards will show you how and where time is spent. For example, if 80% of messages from clients are issues, then maybe it’s time to find a better testing process. 🤔💡

Centralised
We’ve done away with long email chains, where you’re unsure of who has seen what.

Conversations are contained within a single thread that everyone on the project automatically has access to. Plus, key information can be highlighted and marked as important. All important information is available for everyone to see in a dedicated expandable area at the top of each thread.

Actionable
Issues, requests, questions. They all require something to be done by you, the agency. So we just call them actions.

Much like with key information, any part of a client’s message can be highlighted and turned into an action. This is great for when clients have multiple questions or requests within the same message, as each action can be assigned and answered by the most relevant team member – all without an account manager needing to act as a go-between.

Transparent
We have agency-side and client-side interfaces containing all of the information you need to know where everything is upto, including an inbox-style list of the latest messages plus the status and assignee of any actions.

Transparency extends further than that too. Sometimes clients ask for things which aren’t quite in scope, so we created a feature where actions can be marked out as ‘out of scope’ and ‘billable’. This means you can let clients know about actions you complete as a gesture of goodwill, and what needs to be billed, in a fair and transparent way.

If all that sounds good to you, then why not give us a try? We’re only £40 a month* and there’s a two month free trial.

*In comparison:
Email – free (but poop)
Basecamp – £78 a month
Slack – £6.30 per user per month