Ad Ops Account Managers: Tips for Managing Expectations with Stakeholders

by Jason Dobrzykowski, on Feb 4, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Jason Dobrzykowski has been working in Ad Tech for over 12 years, with roles ranging from Traffic Coordination to Account Management team management at companies like AOL, Oath and Millennial Media. He spent much of those 12 years focused specifically on leading, managing and growing thriving account management teams.

As an account manager on an Ad Ops team, you have three primary groups of stakeholders to keep happy: clients, sellers and other internal departments (think engineering or product).

Dealing with each separate audience requires a unique approach and set of skills, and doing so effectively is critical to the successful execution of your ad ops strategy.

This is no easy task, and anyone in an Ad Ops Account Manager role is an absolute rock star.

Read on below to learn more about the tips for dealing with each audience:

  • How to manage expectations with clients
  • How to manage expectations with sellers
  • How to manage expectations with internal teams

-- Article Continues Below --


Managing Expectations with External Partners

Usually, the audience you’ll expend most of your energy communicating with is your book of clients. So let’s start with the set of tips that will help you appropriately manage expectations with clients.

1. Under Promise and Over Deliver

This is the motto I live by and (spoiler alert!) you’ll find it is the primary tip for dealing with every single stakeholder.

dealing with stakeholder comic


Particularly with clients, avoid making promises you can’t keep at all costs. It is 100% okay to tell a client that you need to ask a question internally or check with your team before agreeing to a deadline or a deliverable.

2. Ask the Right Questions

In order to properly manage expectations, the first step is making sure you truly understand what you're being asked to do from a client.

When they come to you with a request, make sure you actually know what they are asking. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is an often overlooked step. Many times, clients will not actually know how to ask for what they want, so asking probing questions to get all the way down to their real ask is a must.

A good test is this: if you can repeat back to the client exactly what they are expecting to get from you and get a “yes,” it usually means you’ve gotten down to the right place.

Then, you have to decide if you are able to execute on the ask.

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3. Don’t Overcommit

Now that you know the ask, you should be able to work with your internal teams to understand timing and feasibility. 

Not every ask is executable or aligns with core capabilities. This is where it's important to understand Plan A, B, C and so on. Refrain from the urge to say "no", and focus on what you can accomplish or deliver on that might alternatively meet your customer's needs. And, make sure it doesn't come at a drastic internal cost to your product and engineering teams.

4. You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers

I mentioned this in tip number one above, but it bears repeating: it is ok not to have all the answers.

It can be a knee-jerk reaction of feeling like you have to have all the answers in order to be a good account manager. Far from it. Clients appreciate transparency and prefer a fully fleshed out response that helps provide the right context to all of their questions. 

5. Streamline the Client Experience

Your goal should be to provide clients with the least amount of touch-points possible in order to minimize the time they need to spend “doing things” for you.

This makes it important to make the most of every minute you have with them. Make sure you have every bit of information you need to execute so that you don’t have to keep coming back to them to ask for more information.

someone asks too many questions meme


Avoid piecemealing communications as much as possible. Try to group information into messages that provide all of the updates needed in a single list. Your goal should be to make them feel like you are making progress while saving them time (rather than the opposite).

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6. Know When to Call in Reinforcements

You may not always be the right person to have a conversation with. For instance, if your client has a very technical request, you may need to have a member of the technical operations team present to ensure the ask is understood and, in some cases, ask real-time questions to make the process more seamless.

It’s your job to know when those moments are, and bring the right people in. Your goal should be to only pull them in when absolutely necessary (to save their time).


Managing Expectations with Internal Stakeholders

Your motto here should be: “One Team, One Dream.”

Never forget that it takes a village to execute on client needs. At the end of the day, you are all on the same team and working together towards common goals. 

It's important to have empathy that extends inward to the crew that is helping make it happen and making sure you are accounting for their considerations along the way.

The word "I" shouldn't even be in your vocabulary. It's a team sport and "we" win and lose together. 

1. Prepare for the Unexpected

Because of everything I just mentioned in the previous tip, expect that something will go wrong, or require extra time, during the execution of a change.

As a general rule, I usually add two weeks to the date product or engineering gives you when communicating with the client. This gives you some wiggle room should something happen, or if testing is required.

2. If Everything Is a Priority, Then Nothing Is

Remember your asks can’t all be a priority. The engineering and product teams have a list of priorities already in front of them. And if everything has top priority, then nothing really gets done.

Know which of your asks are actually high priority before going to the team.

Don’t make them feel like this:

sprint planning meme


The Bottom Line

Your job as an account manager ain’t easy. But that’s why you love it, right?

Managing expectations across stakeholders is the single most important skill you can have to make sure you are successful in the role.

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