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Navigating Paid Search Campaigns in Lean Times: Balancing Client Needs and Self-Care


As we wrap up 2023, it's become increasingly clear that this year is characterized by financial tightening. The global economy, marked by inflation and various world events, has undeniably become the backdrop of our marketing campaigns. Traditionally viewed as a revenue driver rather than a mere expense, marketing now faces the dual challenge of delivering exceptional value to clients while operating within tighter constraints.

This year, more than ever, it's crucial to recognize that brands are navigating these challenges alongside agencies. In a world where everyone is under pressure, we often see tighter deadlines, shrinking budgets, and escalating stress levels. So, how do we maintain our well-being in such a scenario while also leaning into the satisfaction of our clients?

In this blog, I'll share some personal strategies that have helped me strike this delicate balance and some tips on how I manage paid search campaigns. Some suggestions include offering extended accessibility to clients, strategically timing my downtime, and focusing on continuous learning and testing. While some of these approaches might spark debate, especially regarding work-life balance, they are what work for me.

I will cover the concept of 'always-on' accessibility and how it can be managed without burning out. I'll also explore the importance of timing our breaks to align with client downtime and why investing in testing can be a game-changer during periods of lower performance. I hope these ideas encourage other marketers to find harmony between delivering value to our brand and caring for ourselves in a challenging economic landscape.

Managing campaigns and self-care is a delicate balancing act: ensuring client satisfaction, achieving campaign objectives, and maintaining personal well-being.

Understanding Client Concerns

1. Transparent Communication:

In times of economic strain, clients need reassurance that their investments are in safe hands. Regular, transparent communication about campaign performance, budget allocation, and strategic adjustments is key. This not only builds trust but also helps in setting realistic expectations.

I personally make sure that clients have my cell phone, and I will respond during the weekend if the brand is running a sale or throughout the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday.

I will then take a break in late December and early January when the shopping frenzy has ended.

2. Strategic Flexibility:

Be prepared to pivot strategies quickly in response to market changes or budget constraints. This agility demonstrates your commitment to maximizing their ROI, even in tough times.

I will build out a brand and non-brand campaign in the campaigns I manage. I may not be running non-brand, but the campaign copy has been updated and can be turned on/off depending on the performance of the other campaigns in the account. This allows for flexibility during a campaign flight.

3. Focus on Metrics that Matter:

In tight periods, emphasize metrics directly impacting the client's bottom line. Conversion rates, cost per acquisition, and ROI should be at the forefront of your reporting and analysis.

This means that some campaigns in the upper funnel are not running fully allocated for the entire year. These campaigns may only be leveraged during pre-sale periods and then paused or pulled back at different times throughout the year.

Maximizing Campaign Efficiency

1. Smart Budget Allocation:

When budgets are tight, every dollar counts. Prioritize campaigns and keywords that have historically performed well. Utilize automation and rules to optimize bids efficiently.

2. Leverage Audience Targeting:

Refine your audience targeting to reach the most relevant and high-converting users. This ensures that your reduced budget is spent on prospects most likely to convert. This tactic works well in non-branded search campaigns. You can increase the effectiveness and slowly expand audiences instead of going full throttle on non-brand, which may not be as efficient in the account.

3. Test and Learn:

Even with limited budgets, testing is vital. Small-scale tests can reveal insights that help optimize campaigns without requiring substantial investment. It is also essential to deliver value for the clients. While paid search is highly effective at driving results, the ability to test and learn quickly is another often overlooked benefit of paid ads.

When both the agency and the brand engage in testing and learning, it creates a collaborative environment. This partnership approach to marketing encourages both parties to contribute ideas, feedback, and insights, leading to more innovative and effective marketing strategies.

Managing Agency Resources

1. Prioritize Tasks:

Resource allocation becomes even more critical in an agency setting. Some agencies look for 80 - 90% utilization to bill as much work as possible. Prioritize tasks based on their potential impact and urgency. This helps in managing workload without compromising campaign performance.

2. Utilize Automation and Tools:

Automation tools can be a lifesaver, especially for repetitive tasks like bid management, reporting, and basic communications. This frees up time for more strategic, high-impact work. I am a huge fan of using AI to rephrase an email or to break down keyword lists into categorized lists.

3. Foster Team Collaboration:

Encourage a collaborative environment where team members can share insights and solutions. A collective approach often leads to more innovative and effective strategies. This also helps build rapport and a feeling of belonging when the pressure of the economy has elevated tension.

Personal Well-being and Self-Care

1. Set Boundaries:

It's easy to blur the lines between personal and professional life, especially under pressure. Set clear boundaries to ensure you have time to recharge. Remember, your well-being is crucial for sustained performance.

2. Take Breaks and Disconnect:

Regular breaks during the workday and periods of disconnection after work help maintain mental health. This can lead to improved focus and productivity when you are working.

3 Seek Support:

Don't hesitate to seek support from colleagues, mentors, or professionals when feeling overwhelmed. A problem shared can often be a problem halved.


Managing paid search campaigns in an economically strained environment is undoubtedly challenging. However, it's possible to navigate these challenges successfully with a strategic approach focused on efficiency, clear communication with clients, resource management within the agency, and a solid commitment to personal well-being. Remember, the key is to be agile, empathetic, and mindful – both professionally and personally.

As marketers, our greatest asset is our skill or strategy and our well-being. The relentless pace of digital marketing can take a toll. Therefore, prioritizing self-care isn't just a personal indulgence; it's a professional necessity.

In the hustle of hitting KPIs and optimizing campaigns, it's easy to overlook the importance of stepping back. But remember, a well-rested mind is more creative, analytical, and capable of innovative thinking. When we care for ourselves, we bring a better version of ourselves to our work, benefiting our clients, teams, and, ultimately, the campaigns we manage.

It's about creating a sustainable work rhythm where success is measured by campaign performance and our ability to maintain balance. It's about setting boundaries that allow us to disconnect, recharge, and return with renewed focus and energy. It's about recognizing when we're stretched too thin and having the courage to ask for support. It's about testing and learning in our campaigns, so success isn't defined solely by performance.

In these challenging times, let's redefine what it means to be successful in digital marketing. Let's build a culture where taking care of our mental and physical health is seen as essential to professional excellence. By doing so, we enhance our lives and set a positive example for our colleagues and clients. And we build better marketing campaigns.

As we continue to adapt and thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of paid search, let's commit to making self-care a non-negotiable part of our professional journey. After all, the accurate measure of our success is not just the results we achieve but also the balance we maintain in our pursuit of them and our ability to communicate and support brands and clients under enormous pressure.

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