On Target: the Success Tactics of ExactTarget

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The economic climate of the past year killed businesses without sound tactics, which is why I decided to interview Scott Dorsey of ExactTarget, who has not only started up  
successfully with 30 employees, but won venture capital and gained 600 customers in the past 12 months. Their flagship product “enables anyone with basic computer skills to easily create, deliver, and track email marketing campaigns.”

I recently spoke with CEO and co-founder of ExactTarget, Scott Dorsey, quizzing him closely on his actionable success tactics for you to consider using in your own business. Today’s article presents these tactics ‘at-a-glance’ for those of you in a hurry, and if you’d like to linger you can read the interview itself.

ExactTarget’s Actionable Success Tactics:
  • Send success emails to all employees when the company has a success, great or small. This increases morale, and reminds everyone that their contributions are crucial to the success of the company. Here’s a success email ExactTarget sent around (using their software of course). http://www.webpronews.com/pages/exacttarget.html

  • For startups – create a motorboat instead of a battle ship. Make your product affordable to small businesses so you’ll have that which fuels enthusiasm: sales.

  • Grow slowly as quickly as you can. New markets provide a wealth of data that patience and analysis turn in to a wealth of profits. In most cases, though, opening markets too quickly brings only short-term gains.

  • Be brutally specific about what problem your product solves.

  • Share company direction, performance metrics, equity and ownership with your employees.

  • Foster strong communication between your tech/production department and sales. Big sales scoreboards help, as well as close proximity between sales and tech (no walls!).
And now for the interview:

Q: How did the products originate (who had the initial vision, briefly describe the stages of development)
A: Chris Baggott, one of our founders, had the initial vision for the company. Chris worked for RR Donnelley during the 90’s and truly became an expert in database marketing. As his entrepreneurial passion grew, he left RR Donnelley and purchased a chain of dry cleaners in Indianapolis.

His theory was that dry cleaning offered an ideal opportunity to capture and leverage customer data. Dry cleaners know the address, phone number and buying patterns of their customers. Armed with this data, he turned to email as a medium to communicate with his customers. Through in-store sign up sheets, he quickly gathered over 2,000 email addresses.

On a weekly basis, he would send coupons, articles about textile care and most importantly would include personal content like pictures of his family, restaurant reviews and coverage of his philanthropic efforts in the community.

The results were overwhelming – 15% coupon redemption rates, improved customer loyalty and lots of reply emails from his customers. These customers began to feel like they knew Chris on a personal level. The only problem was that building and sending visually appealing emails was an enormous chore.

Chris would spend countless hours per week building an HTML email and jury-rigging a solution together to send it to a large group. He ran into many problems and decided to start ExactTarget to create an affordable and easy-to-use solution that would help companies of all sizes leverage the power of email marketing.

Chris recruited me from an Internet venture in Chicago and we formed ExactTarget. We partnered with a small but talented development firm and began creating the software that is now utilized by over 500 companies located around the world.

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Q: Please describe your three products and include prices, specific targets for each, and profile companies to whom you've sold each product
A:Connect – Do-It-Yourself Email Marketing

Overview: Connect enables anyone with basic computer skills to easily create, deliver, and track email marketing campaigns. Organizations implement Connect to improve their customer communications, generate additional revenue and lower their marketing expenses.

Targets: Organizations of all sizes and levels of marketing sophistication.

Clients: Marsh Supermarkets, Conseco, American Cancer Society, Gartner Research

Pricing: Base set-up and subscription fee starts at $2,500

ProConnect – Provide, Share & Sell Email Marketing Services

Overview: ProConnect offers agencies new revenue streams via email marketing. Agencies implement ProConnect to provide, share and sell email marketing services with their clients.

Targets: Marketing service agencies including advertising and public relations firms, graphic design houses and/or other professional service providers.

Clients: Weber Shandwick Worldwide, Ciceron, New Media Worx, and Inbox Marketing

Pricing: Base set-up and subscription fee starts at $9,000

ChannelConnect – Brand Globally, Email Locally

Overview: ChannelConnect engages an organization's entire sales channel in email marketing. ChannelConnect enables sales reps, distributors, and franchisees to deliver branded emails directly from their PC. ChannelConnect offers two implementation options that can be utilized independently or in tandem.

Targets: Organizations with multiple sales channels including sales reps, distributors and/or franchisees.

Clients: Abbott Laboratories, Carpet Network, Computer Renaissance, Jostens and Struers

Pricing: Base set-up and subscription fee starts at $15,000
Q: Is your company revenue supported right now, venture funded, or a percentage of both? If venture capital's involved, how soon will you be entirely revenue supported?
A: Our growth is supported both through client revenue and private funding. We anticipate being completely revenue supported by the end of 2002.
Q: How did you fund your start up?
A: ExactTarget has been funded by strategic individual investors.
Q: What have you learned from your key competitors? (and who are they)
A: Key competitors include Responsys, YesMail and E2Communications.
Q: What advice would you give to CEOs who would like to jumpstart employee enthusiasm?
A: In my experience, employees are looking for a connection with their company that extends far beyond just receiving a paycheck. They want to understand the company’s vision and play a role in helping it come to fruition.

As a result, we work hard to share the company’s direction and performance metrics with every employee. This way, they can see very clearly where the company is heading and how their role fits into the larger picture.

I would encourage CEO’s of both small and large companies to drive this level of communication – and, it must be on a frequent basis. In addition, I suggest sharing many of the incremental day-to-day successes of the company. Send out a company-wide email when an important client comes on board or a significant milestone is met within the company.

By sharing these successes, employees leave the office with a positive feeling about the company – everyone likes to be on a winning team. We also offer many inexpensive social outings for our employees and their families – baseball games, bowling, etc. This way, our employee’s families become integrated into our company. After feeling the vibe and passion of our company, they tend to be more supportive of the long hours and weekends that come with the territory.
Q: How do you foster the relationship between the sales and technical side, and how did this relationship begin?
A: The synergy between technology and sales started as a result of our physical environment. The sales and technology groups were placed in close proximity to one another thus encouraging communication and relationship building.

Also, our sales scoreboard (large whiteboard showing monthly sales by rep) was placed in an open area so that the technology group could be sensitive to our emphasis on customers and sales volume. In addition, we have developed a very collaborative product development process which involves sales, marketing and technology groups.

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