Let’s Talk About Why Strategic Alignment in ABM Matters

Kevin Kerner
June 2, 2024
8 minutes

Let’s Talk About Why Strategic Alignment in ABM Matters

It's no secret that ABM will be a hit for tech marketers in 2024. In fact, according to Demandbase,

A vast majority of ABM users (72%) have plans to increase their usage of ABM over the next year. And a whopping 96% of B2B companies report that ABM significantly impacts their marketing success.1

As companies increasingly adopt account-based marketing (ABM) strategies, many are working to target and engage with those accounts that have the highest opportunities and align with their broader sales and marketing objectives.

However, it can sometimes be confusing who to target, how much to invest, what to do with accounts that don't perfectly fit the ideal customer profile (ICP) or even more telling, how do your ABM efforts help move your company forward. Some accounts may be great fits, while others might only check some boxes but still show potential. This uncertainty can lead to a disconnect between long-term ABM planning and day-to-day investment decisions.

Given the amount of dollars and time directed at ABM in 2024, ABM leaders increasingly need a strategic framework that guides both long-term ABM planning and on-the-ground decision-making. In reality, you can't afford to stop the presses on all the work in flight. You have to fly the plane and rebuild it, too.

At Mighty & True, we've built a strategic framework that helps companies align their ABM efforts with their overall marketing and sales goals while ensuring that the more strategic work guides the day-to-day decision-making on account selection and investment.

The framework's core includes questions your leadership team must answer to refine your approach to ABM, including strategic planning and account prioritization.

Getting ABM right long-term involves a broader vision for strategic success, as well as a process to guide day to day decision making on what accounts to approach and how to invest.

Strategic planning is long-term, includes topics broader than just ABM, and guides more than just who you target and how you invest. It should inform the investment model for ABM.

Account prioritization is the framework that helps align day-to-day decision-making with the strategic plan and ensure that you can create ABM plans at a scale that also helps support the broader, long-term view.

This framework model should help you prioritize accounts, allocate resources effectively, and adapt your approach based on account potential and engagement while aligning the approach to your strategic objectives.

In the blog post below, we'll explore the questions we ask when defining strategic goals (long-term) and account prioritization goals (short-term) in ABM programs. In future blog posts, we'll explain how these questions might work in practice.

Strategic Planning for ABM Success

Before embarking on an ABM program or revisiting your strategic objectives (typically done quarterly), you must answer the critical strategic questions guiding your overall approach to ABM. Without this foundation, we've seen more than one company start their ABM programs without the grounding needed to move the company forward.

These questions help you define your objectives, target markets, resources, and success metrics. Here's a matrix of strategic questions to consider for your long-term ABM planning:

High-Priority Strategic Questions:

  • What specific ABM goals and metrics should we set?
    • Creating specific macro ABM goals and metrics for success can be used on every ABM campaign across the company. Aligning these objectives with decision-making on every account helps the ABM team know what is expected of them as they launch new campaigns.
  • What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for ABM success?
    • Defining and tracking KPIs that align with ABM goals ensures that the team is focused on the most critical metrics and can measure the impact of their efforts. This also helps make data-driven decisions and optimize individual ABM campaigns for better results.
  • How will we ensure alignment with overall strategic priorities?
    • Regularly communicating ABM progress and impact to stakeholders keeps everyone aligned with the bigger picture and ensures that ABM efforts contribute to the organization's strategic goals. This also helps secure ongoing support and resources for the ABM program.
  • What should our ABM playbooks look like, and how can we templatize each investment to be efficient, allow for team training, and measure more effectively what works?
    • Developing standardized ABM playbooks for different account tiers and scenarios enables the team to be more efficient and consistent in their approach. By templatizing the investment and activities for each playbook, the team can streamline their efforts, train new members more efficiently, and measure the effectiveness of specific tactics across multiple campaigns. This ultimately leads to a more scalable and data-driven ABM program.

Medium Priority:

  • What market segments or verticals are we targeting?
    • Prioritizing accounts based on the macro target segments allows the ABM team to focus on the most promising opportunities and allocate resources effectively. This ensures that the team is not spreading themselves too thin and can deliver more personalized and impactful campaigns.
  • What percentage of our budget should we allocate to ABM?
    • Allocating resources based on ABM potential and priorities is crucial for maximizing the return on investment. By strategically distributing the budget across different account tiers and tactics, the team can ensure they invest in the right opportunities and pay attention to less promising accounts.
  • What resources do we need to support our ABM strategy?
    • Identifying and securing necessary resources, such as personnel, technology, and data, is essential for executing successful ABM campaigns. This helps the team have the right tools and expertise and enables them to deliver high-quality, personalized experiences to target accounts.
  • What is the expected ROI for our ABM efforts?
    • Setting realistic expectations and benchmarking against other initiatives helps the team understand what success looks like and how their efforts compare to other marketing and sales activities. This information can be used to justify continued investment in ABM and make a case for expanding the program.
  • What stakeholders need to be involved in ABM strategy?
    • Engaging key stakeholders from marketing, sales, and leadership ensures that the ABM strategy is well-rounded and has buy-in from all relevant parties. This collaboration helps align goals, share insights, and leverage the organization's collective expertise to drive better ABM outcomes.

Strategic Account Prioritization: The key to day-to-day decision making on ABM efforts

At the highest level, it's essential to determine what types of accounts you want to target and how you'll prioritize and invest in them. Ensuring you have a solid investment strategy built upfront will allow the ABM teams to align with where you need to spend money. Additionally, it offers a way to measure success across investment tiers and creates a wealth of data you can use to revise your investment priorities. Let's imagine you have a $1M ABM budget; here's a framework for allocating resources based on account potential and fit:

Create your own investment matrix using this handy Mighty & True model.

Using the matrix above, you can then start making investment decisions for your overall ABM effort.

1. Strategic Accounts ($400K):

  • Highest potential and best fit with ICP
  • Allocate most resources for personalized, multi-touch campaigns
  • Engage with key decision-makers and influencers
  • Develop custom content, solutions, and experiences

2. Major Accounts ($300K):

  • High potential and strong fit with ICP
  • Invest in targeted, account-specific campaigns
  • Focus on building relationships and demonstrating value
  • Provide personalized content and offers

3. Growth Accounts ($200K):

  • Moderate potential and fit with ICP
  • Allocate resources for targeted outreach and nurturing
  • Monitor engagement and intent signals
  • Develop semi-personalized content and offers

4. Nurture Accounts ($100K):

  • Lower potential or fit with ICP, but still valuable
  • Invest in light-touch, automated nurturing campaigns
  • Provide educational content and thought leadership
  • Monitor for changes in engagement or potential

By prioritizing accounts based on potential and fit, you can allocate your ABM budget strategically and maximize the impact of your efforts.

Account-Level Investment Decision-Making

OK, your strategic objective is set, and you can prioritize your overall ABM account strategy. So, what happens when your ABM team starts working with sales? When an ABM marketing manager or salesperson requests investment for a specific account, it's essential to evaluate the opportunity based on criteria that align with your strategic objective and your account investment model.

We've created a sample scoring model below that should help you assess the account's fit, potential, engagement, and resource requirements on every account across your desk. We encourage every account to be run through this model and have honest discussions on each core weighting system with sales and marketing leadership. Doing this can take little time and be systematized to ensure it becomes part of your company's ABM DNA. Either way, it should be non-negotiable for every account.

Here's a sample matrix for scoring individual investment requests that you can tailor to your needs. Note - each level should have a naming system that becomes the lexicon around ABM accounts. Everyone in your organization should be able to rattle them off when asked, which can help build investment discussions into every ABM request. (Note - we named them Green, Yellow, and Red, but you can use any naming system that fits your company or brand.)

Use this account scoring template to align your investments with each account's potential.

To prioritize investment opportunities, score each account based on the criteria above and calculate a weighted total.

Green Accounts (Score 2.5-3):

  • Prioritize for highly personalized ABM campaigns
  • Allocate significant resources (budget, time, personnel)
  • Engage with multiple stakeholders across the buying committee
  • Develop customized content, offers, and experiences

Yellow Accounts (Score 1.5-2.4):

  • Focus on targeted outreach and demand generation
  • Invest in semi-personalized content and offers
  • Identify and engage key decision-makers
  • Monitor intent signals and adjust strategy as needed
  • Assess the potential for moving accounts to Green status

Red Accounts (Score 1-1.4):

  • Monitor for changes in intent or engagement
  • Provide educational content to build awareness and interest
  • Consider automated or programmatic nurturing campaigns
  • Reassess fit with ICP and prioritize accounts that show increased potential
  • Evaluate whether to continue investing in these accounts or reallocate resources

Aligning your ABM Investment with Strategic Objectives

Aligning strategic planning with on-the-ground investment decision-making is crucial for the success of your ABM program. By answering critical strategic questions, evaluating individual investment opportunities, and segmenting accounts based on potential and engagement, you can ensure that your ABM efforts are focused, effective, and aligned with your overall business objectives.

We hope you found this helpful in driving team alignment and overall ABM success! To help you further implement this framework and optimize your ABM campaigns, we've created two other valuable resources for free below:

1. ABM Brief Template: This template will help you clearly define your ABM objectives, target accounts, and investment priorities, ensuring your team is aligned and focused on the right opportunities. Download the template here.

2. Blog Post on Templatizing vs. Customizing ABM Campaigns: In this blog post, we delve into the trade-offs between templatized and customized ABM campaigns, helping you determine the right approach for different account tiers and investment levels.

Remember to regularly review and adjust your ABM strategy based on performance data and changing market conditions. By continuously optimizing your approach and making data-driven decisions, you can maximize the impact of your ABM program and drive sustainable growth for your organization.

Let us know if you'd like to help build a high-performance system and team for account-based marketing. We'd love to help.

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