Early digital marketing company. Recognizing the potential of targeted email marketing, first-time software entrepreneurs Scott Dorsey, brother-in-law Chris Baggott, and Peter McCormick founded ExactTarget in December 2000 to “revolutionize how businesses connect with their consumers using data-driven digital marketing.” Dorsey, from Chicago, had just graduated from Northwestern University with an MBA, where he studied entrepreneurship and internet business models. Baggott, from Pittsburgh, had an idea around database marketing principles applied to the internet.

Scott Dorsey stands in front of a screen that reads Exact Target.
Former ExactTarget CEO Scott Dorsey, ca. 2010s Credit: IndyStar View Source

The two met after marrying into an Indianapolis-based family. After pitching their idea to venture capitalists but failing to generate interest, the men asked family and friends to invest $5,000 each in the email marketing idea. After raising $200,000 and finding angel investor Bob Compton, they launched their company by developing software for email marketing to help businesses reach their customers. It would later focus on a full digital marketing approach that included email, websites, social media, and mobile.

As a startup business, ExactTarget first made its name working with small local businesses. Acting as a technological ambassador for Indianapolis, it quickly became one of the city’s largest and most successful technology companies serving local, national, and international businesses of all sizes.

In 2001, ExactTarget hired its first outside employee, and by 2005, the company employed 124 people, enough to require more space. The company moved from 47 South Meridian Street to the Guaranty Building on Monument Circle (20 North Meridian Street).

The move was possible after the Indianapolis Economic Development Inc. assisted ExactTarget in securing $1.1 million in state and local incentives. By the next year, 275 people were employed by ExactTarget and the company boasted a revenue of $31.2 million. ExactTarget continued its rapid growth over the next several years. With an ever-increasing customer base, the company made plans in 2008 to increase its number of employees from about 400 to 700 by 2012.

Between 2009 and 2012, ExactTarget acquired several companies. In 2009, the acquisition of Keymail Marketing in London marked the company’s expansion into the international market. Through the acquisition of the Australian company, mPath Global, Melbourne and Sidney were added to its international reach. Closer to home, the purchase of CoTweet, a San Francisco-based social media platform company, expanded ExactTarget’s national presence. By 2012, three more technology businesses were added to the now extensive list of acquisitions: the Brazil-based Frontier Digital, which provides reliable digital telephone technology (added in 2011); the Georgia-based Pardot LLC, a marketing automation platform; and the Carmel-based iGoDigital, a web-based commerce tool.

ExactTarget’s success in targeted email marketing garnered the attention of Salesforce, a San Franciso-based leader in using cloud-based products to bring together businesses and their customers. Salesforce lacked the marketing automation platforms that ExactTarget’s products could successfully fill. In July 2013, ExactTarget was acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion.

Revised June 2021

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