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When Clients Pause PPC: 5 Survival Tips for Marketers

As an agency-side marketer, here are a few personal and work-related tactics that help me manage and survive these critical times.

When Clients Pause PPC - 5 Survival Tips for Marketers

Let’s be honest: COVID-19 is all over the news.

No one can get away from the latest headlines, projected models, or local news.

But what about those who live and breathe marketing?

As marketers, not only do we have to deal with the personal aspects of a crisis.

We are also dealing with client crisis as our own.

There seems to be no escape.

The world is in the middle of a crisis.

If you’re not careful, a crisis can easily consume your work and personal life.

As an agency-side marketer, here are a few survival tactics that have helped me.

These tactics are both personal and work-related.

Survival Tip #1: Practice Empathy

Empathy is a two-way street.

First, we need to practice empathy with our clients.

Empathy with Clients

For those working in sensitive industries during this time of crisis (hospitality, travel, etc.), there is no doubt that spending has come to a near halt.

Some agencies have been less fortunate than others depending on the industries they serve.

The result of the pandemic includes shrunken contracts, employee furloughs and potentially even layoffs.

What agencies are facing is also happening directly with their clients.

They need our help. And we need theirs.

Now is the time to be having real conversations with our client.

Business aside, it’s more important than ever to start with these simple words:

“How are you doing?”

“How can I help?”

We’re all humans, after all.

Client contracts may have to be re-negotiated for the time being.

Clients may also need to suspend their contracts if the budget simply isn’t there.

Having empathy during a crisis will likely put your business relationship forward in the future.

Empathy with Yourself

Arguably more important, it is vital that we practice empathy with ourselves.

Our brains are going 100 miles an hour trying to:

  • Be proactive.
  • Reacting to client changes.
  • Getting “normal” work done.

We are doing a massive amount of work, at full speed, for weeks now.

What does this lead to?


Practicing empathy for yourself is a priority for survival.

If you cannot give yourself a break for doing the best you can, the stress will catch up with you tenfold in the future.

Be kind to yourself – always.

Survival Tip #2: Pivot Strategy

Across the board, every industry is showing signs of shifting strategy.

We’ve seen extreme shifts in decreasing advertising costs.

The exact opposite is happening in other industries.

If fortunate enough, companies are taking advantage of this time of reduced competition to capture their market more efficiently.

If client budgets have come to a halt, it’s easy to get stuck into a “what should I be doing?” mindset.

Now is the time to get creative.

Instead of weekly optimizations and account management, try spending your time in the following areas:

  • Competitor research.
  • Quarterly business reviews (QBRs).
  • Benchmarking current data.

These types of deep dives can help answer those tough questions in a time of uncertainty:

  • What are other advertisers in the industry doing?
  • Have leads halted to a standstill? What does our sales cycle look like today?
  • What content can be updated to portray a thought-leadership brand instead of promotional during the pandemic?
  • How has user behavior shifted in the industry?

With a shift in advertising strategy, businesses may not see strong leads right away.

There is a lot of window-shopping going on.

What they are doing is keeping the end-user engaged and brand at top of mind for the future.

Bottom line: even if there is no advertising spend, there is always work to be done behind the scenes.

Having strategy take the front seat during these times can help reap benefits in a future growing economy.

Survival Tip #3: Be Proactive

Being proactive goes together with practicing empathy.

Your clients are likely pulled in 1,000 directions right now.

Marketing during a crisis is the time to be proactive with your clients.

A few examples of proactivity include:

  • Check-in with your client daily (email or phone).
  • Be extra mindful of your accounts.
  • Revisit your automated bidding strategies.
  • Review search terms more often for crisis-sensitive subjects.
  • Check on the competition.
  • Bringing new ideas to the table.

Clients are relying on us now more than ever to be the experts in our field. It’s time to take our optimizations off “auto-pilot”.

If you previously had aggressive goal targets, it is crucial to update your campaign settings and bids to adjust to the market you’re seeing now.

Those ideas you were waiting to pitch?

Do it now!

Businesses everywhere are looking to get creative with their marketing efforts.

You’d be surprised what ideas may come to life.

Survival Tip #4: Re-Master Your Skill Set

How many of you have items on your to-do list that keep getting put off?

I am the first to admit to doing so!

Email Inbox of PPC Blog PostsImage credit: My own inbox

You may suddenly be flooded with an extra amount of non-client hours.

If client hours have been cut, it’s easy to mentally check out.

But, what if you spent your time re-mastering your skillset?

That sentence alone sounds daunting, doesn’t it?

Here are a few recommendations to keep your skills sharp during a crisis:

  • Go through those PPC blogs in your email folder! If you’re like me, you’ll have a folder of 200+ blog posts that you “promised” to read through every Friday.
  • Obtain your updated Google and Microsoft Ads certifications.
  • Head to Twitter! Follow along on weekly chats with other marketers such as #PPCChat.
  • Practice the skills you need to re-master on real accounts.

Say your reporting skills are a bit rusty.

This is a perfect time to immerse yourself in creating different types of reports for your clients.

Do the automated strategies in Google scare you? Read up on them and practice laying out a strategy to use them for your clients.

Survival Tip #5: Learn a New Skill

This one may be a no-brainer, but surprisingly an overlooked situation when you have extra time.

Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t learn a new skill during the pandemic that you are wasting time.

There seems to be a polar opposite agreement on that.

My opinion?

You do what’s best for you.

But, if you truly do have extra time during an advertising lull, take advantage of it.

If you’re primarily versed in PPC, why not learn about SEO?

There a ton of free resources, including the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

Maybe you’re passionate about audience targeting or programmatic advertising.

Whatever your passion is, there’s certainly free content out there to digest.

As noted above – connect with other marketers!

There are endless virtual communities to join during this time.

Introduce yourself to others in your field – who knows the relationships that may be formed from it!

These are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning.

Not sure where to start?

Start by asking yourself this question:

“What am I passionate about in my career?”

Start there.

We’re All in This Together

During times of crisis, emotions are high.

Work/life balance has become unbalanced.

Most marketers are working from home.

It’s difficult to navigate, let alone separate, work and personal all in one space.

Bringing it back to survival tip #1: empathy.

Without it, life will be more difficult.

Whatever emotions you’re feeling are ok.

Now is the time to lean on each other – whether that be your employees, your clients, your virtual peers.

Survival during a crisis is not an independent effort.

By focusing on your clients’ needs, as well as being proactive and flexible, these five survival tips will hopefully help you weather the storm of this current crisis.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author, April 2020

Category Careers PPC
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Brooke Osmundson Director of Growth Marketing at Smith Micro Software

Brooke serves as the Director of Growth Marketing at Smith Micro Software, with over 10 years of paid media experience. ...

When Clients Pause PPC: 5 Survival Tips for Marketers

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