ExactTarget’s Future After Scott Dorsey: CEO To Step Down

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scott mccorkle

Story updated with comments from Jay MacDonald of Digital Capital Investors

Salesforce.com’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud has lost its fourth C-level exec since the CRM giant acquired the marketing tech company last June.

ExactTarget CEO and co-founder Scott Dorsey is exiting the company this summer (following former CMO Tim Kopp, CFO Steve Collins and Chief Administrative Officer Traci Dolan).

Scott McCorkle, ExactTarget’s president of technology and strategy, is stepping up as head honcho amid insider rumblings that the $2.5 billion acquisition isn’t well-integrated into Salesforce.com’s marketing cloud.

“ExactTarget co-founder and CEO Scott Dorsey has decided this is the right time to transition out of the business and Scott McCorkle, president of Technology and Strategy, will take over as CEO of the Salesforce.com ExactTarget Marketing Cloud," Salesforce.com said in a statement. "McCorkle led the technology team at ExactTarget for nearly 9 years and was instrumental in every stage of their growth – from the IPO to Salesforce.com's acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013."

Dorsey acknowledged his intent to leave in an internal employee message, picked up by the Indianapolis Business Journal. “We have made enormous strides integrating our business with Salesforce over the last year—and Scott McCorkle ... is absolutely the best leader on the planet to become our next CEO,” wrote Dorsey by way of the memo. Salesforce.com confirmed the memo was legitimate.

That Salesforce.com’s acquisition of ExactTarget has led to an executive exodus shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Most founders don't stick around more than a year after an acquisition,” said R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research. “Scott was an inspirational force in building ExactTarget's culture and of course the spirit of innovation.”

But the transition from Dorsey to McCorkle speaks to one of the major needs within ExactTarget Marketing Cloud  one that Dorsey made a point of praising in his message: integrating the multichannel messaging solution into the greater marketing cloud stack.

Prior to its acquisition, ExactTarget was known as a provider of email marketing solutions. It acquired marketing automation company Pardot in October 2012. So when Salesforce.com snapped up ExactTarget, it got both the email messaging and marketing automation software. On paper, it looked good.

But behind the scenes, Salesforce.com partners and prospective clients have grumbled that ExactTarget, and Pardot in particular, aren’t well-integrated into Salesforce.com’s marketing cloud product. For that matter, the other components of the marketing cloud, including Buddy Media and Radian6, also reportedly suffer from integration issues.

Sources claim that Salesforce.com has not invested as heavily into ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, despite hopes it would do so after the acquisition. Consider how, last September, Salesforce.com cut 200 jobs from ExactTarget, claiming overlap.

Why is this significant? Because pretty much every marketing cloud available was assembled through acquisition and, consequently, integration is a key point of differentiation among the suite providers. All one need do is look at the messaging around how Salesforce.com competitors Oracle and Adobe sell their respective stacks.

Jay MacDonald, CEO and managing partner of Digital Capital Investors, pointed out that integrations never are as seamless as one hopes.

"[Salesforce.com] competitors say that the integration hasn’t gone well," he said, "but some clients are willing to deal with the integration pains." He pointed out Dorsey's exit could simply be a matter of him having completed his job bringing ExactTarget into Salesforce.com and that now it's time for him to move on.

Nevertheless, if Salesforce.com intends to push marketing cloud integration to the next level, it makes sense that it should want a technology and strategy executive leading the charge.

As Wang said: “McCorkle is key to the transition as the integration needs to be smoother and the marketing cloud has to evolve into the next phase which will be data-driven.”

Added MacDonald: "What I do know is that McCorkle really drives the tech team. And the real question is if the integration is complete or is the ingestion of ExactTarget still happening—that’s their biggest acquisition to date."

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