Profile: Scott Dorsey TMP '99
Dorsey TMP '99
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robust tools, TMP alum cuts through the clutter to deliver
brand-enhancing communications that get results for ExactTarget's
Scott Dorsey TMP '99 donned his gown for his Kellogg
School graduation seven years ago, the Internet bubble was
sailing high. In fact the new grad's first job was a yearlong
stint with the now-defunct dot-com holding company Divine
year later when Dorsey launched his own business — a
permission-based e-mail marketing software firm called ExactTarget
— the bubble was little more than a puddle of suds.
As one Internet firm after another went bust, venture capital
was becoming scarce, a fact for which the alum says he is
really bootstrapped the company and that's one of the things
I'm most proud of," says Dorsey, a graduate of The
Managers' Program, the Kellogg School's part-time MBA
offering. To launch the venture he used personal savings and
$200,000 from family and friends. "We were kind of the
anti-dot-com. We worked without salaries for months and shared
hotel rooms when we hit the road. In our early days, we were
this day, visitors won't find free massages and foosball tables
at the Indianapolis offices of ExactTarget. What they will
find is a company with some 200 employees, 5,000 customers
and more than $25 million in sales in 2005. Dorsey says the
firm, which recently snagged the No. 56 spot on the Inc. 500,
a list of the nation's fastest-growing private companies,
is committed to helping companies revolutionize their e-mail
most sophisticated users of ExactTarget's e-mail marketing
software utilize the product to integrate sales and customer
data, sending electronic messages tailored to the recipient's
interests. An online shopper who recently browsed through
a retailer's sweater inventory, for instance, might receive
a message luring him back to complete the purchase —
perhaps by offering a discount.
real-life client, Hotels.com, uses ExactTarget's software
to send a message to anyone who books a hotel room on its
site. In addition to a confirmation number, the message provides
a weather forecast for the booking location and information
about local tourist attractions. Dorsey notes that all marketing
communications are permission-based, not spam, meaning customers
have OK'd them.
founding the company, Dorsey joined Peter McCormick, a colleague
from his days at Divine interVentures, and Chris Baggott,
his brother-in-law, who began in the database marketing arena
with RR Donnelly's catalog business before acquiring several
drycleaners. At family holidays, Dorsey and Baggott would
chat about how Baggott's drycleaning business was growing
thanks, in large part, to his self-created e-mail newsletters
featuring fabric care advice, coupons and anecdotes.
newsletters were "wildly successful but difficult to
execute," Dorsey says. "Not every small business
owner was going to have the skills to do it." The trio
began ExactTarget with the goal of helping small retailers
and local businesses to build customer relationships through
the electronic medium, just as Baggott had.
at the time were producing software with many of the same
functions, Dorsey says, but it was complicated to use and
too costly for small businesses. Today ExactTarget customers
still manage the software themselves, but the client list
has grown to include giants such as Anthem Blue Cross and
Blue Shield, The Home Depot and CareerBuilder.com.
all comes a warning: Proceed carefully. E-mail messages may
be cheap and easy to send, but if mishandled they can quickly
become tedious to recipients, resulting in damage to a company's
brand. "Some of the best marketers in the world are poor
Internet marketers," says Dorsey. "We actually work
with people to send fewer e-mail messages that are more relevant
and deliver a better return."
company headquarters, Dorsey and his team still honor the
can-do spirit that launched the company – traits honed
during his Kellogg days.
attended the Kellogg School during an incredible time,"
he says. "Kellogg very quickly built a curriculum around
the Internet. The school was very agile and entrepreneurial
adds: "I'm a textbook case for what the Kellogg School
can do. It provided experiences and education that changed
my direction and my life."