One of the biggest complaints in client services is that it is so difficult to take a vacation and really cut the cord. The internet is always on, clients are still paying for service, and money is still being spent. However, no project is a one-man (or woman) show, and there are ways to achieve a “real” vacation while still keeping everyone happy.

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1.       Keep your team members in the loop. At 3Q Digital a typical account team has, at the bare minimum, a primary account manager and a member of the production team. Throughout all work on the account, taking the extra effort to keep everyone engaged and giving context where necessary will pay dividends down the road.

In my experience when I have gone on vacation, I was able to rely on my accounts’ production team members to fill in the majority of gaps left by my absence. This is because they are familiar with the account, know what to look for in terms of irregularities, and know how to tackle most if not all of the major tasks on the account. This means when you leave for vacation, there is hardly even a need for an account manager to fill in (though you should have one lined up just in case).

2.       Prepare a lesson plan for the time you are gone. Typically you will have an account manager fill in for you during your time off. However, this does not mean you just give them an intro to the client and wish them good luck. This system works best when you prepare a guide for your account.

The guide should include: key KPIs and what they should expect, segmented by category (brand, non-brand, product type, etc.), what should be communicated to the client and how often, and any other relevant information. In addition to preparing them for the more passive work of watching an account, you should also prepare them to manage more “active” tasks. While you may not want to plan any massive projects for while you are gone, there are a number of tasks well suited to account coverage that may actually help optimize your account in your absence.

While there’s a second, more unfamiliar set of eyes looking at the account, ask for audits on things like reverse negative scrubs, bids, account setup, duplicate ads, bid modifiers, and other tasks that can be scheduled out and tackled without the primary AM present. When you get back, you can huddle on audit findings and report outward.

In tandem, the production team can also carry out various “housecleaning” tasks in addition to their regularly scheduled tasks. These can be communicated externally to the client, which lets them know the account hasn’t just been abandoned while their day-to-day is vacationing.

3.       Review the plans with each substitute. This is critical, as your written plan may not be as straightforward as you thought. In the worst-case scenario, you leave them with unclear guidelines and don’t review with them before leaving for vacation. In my experience, this WILL result in people asking questions while you’re supposed to be relaxing. All it takes is a 15-minute meeting to get everyone on the same page.

4.       Create a template for client updates. It can be stressful for your replacement to try and figure out what the client needs to know in a weekly update. An easy way to resolve this is to create a template for what they like to see on a weekly basis. This can be as simple as linking to emails previously sent, or going as far as actually creating a “fill in the blank” template.  Hint: people won’t want to help you out the next time if you leave them with nothing to work with! This can also help in the event a client still wants to keep the weekly call, as your fill-in will have a format to follow and report back on.

5.       Remove your work email from your phone. Sounds like a risky move, right? Well, here’s the deal – if something is really wrong, your team can still reach you by phone or text. But the reality is, if you leave email on your phone, you WILL check it. Maybe while looking at personal email, a work message that seems alarming catches your eye. Or maybe there is a funny internal email thread that grabs your interest, and it seems harmless enough to check it out. In my experience, though, things always snowball from there and next thing you know, it’s 30 minutes later and you can’t stop thinking about that client request for an in-person annual review 2 weeks after you get back from vacation.

The purpose of account coverage is being able to trust your colleagues, and being able to disconnect from work. That’s what keeps us coming back refreshed and ready to get back after it.

6.       This is a big bonus tip, but don’t forget the people who helped you out. Vacation coverage means additional work for the people covering for you, so when it comes time for them to go on vacation, step up and volunteer! It also may help to bribe them with some kind of small gift from wherever your vacation destination might be.

This all may sound like a lot of work up front, but if you are leaving for more than a few days, it is completely worth it. You shouldn’t take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe only to find yourself checking in on performance and emails every day. Vacations are typically a large financial investment, so why not invest just a little more time in making sure it is the best it can possibly be?

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Bob Sturges
Account Director Bob Sturges joined the online marketing industry in 2009 and 3Q Digital in March of 2011. He has directly managed paid search accounts across many industries, including travel, automotive, and professional services. Prior to his entry into paid search, he worked as a project manager for a construction management company in Los Angeles. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he is a devoted follower of Cal Football.