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ExactTarget: A Long Term Design Partnership

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The Challenge

From the executive team to individual contributors, ExactTarget has always believed in the power of good design, though when we started working together the company had only just begun to integrate in-house user experience resources into their organization. ExactTarget had built a powerful and successful product over several years, and they wanted to take a step back and examine the product as a whole. Facing the challenge of hiring outside of Silicon Valley, addressing usability issues in a product that was a critical utility for customers who had used it for years, and developing a new product vision, ExactTarget sought a design partner up to the product complexity, nuanced domain and implementation challenges.

Our Answer

In our first project with ExactTarget, we conducted an in-depth audit of their primary product’s user experience and then recommended and prioritized ways to improve that user experience.

Out of that initial review came a plan to create an entirely new product platform – the Interactive Marketing Hub – and bring all of ExactTarget’s online marketing offerings together in a single, modular, configurable service. The plan also included a framework for extending this core functionality with additional specialized applications.

Over the span of almost three years, we have continued to work with leadership on product vision and strategy, and joined the development team to execute that product vision in over a dozen large-scale web applications that are either live or under development today. Our on-going partnership has allowed our team to leverage deep knowledge of ExactTarget’s product, market, and users from effort-to-effort that maintains a consistent and quality user experience. Our partnership also supports a steady and deliberate transfer of knowledge to internal teams, putting ExactTarget in position to design and implement great user-centered design in addition to our staff.

The Outcome

Since we entered into our strategic partnership, ExactTarget has doubled in size and revenue, and in early 2012 the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol ET). ExactTarget’s product is consistently praised by experts and customers for its power and usability. As of this writing, “ExactTarget, which counts Microsoft and Groupon among its customers, is projected to more than double its revenue in the next two years, a higher rate than 93 percent of U.S.-based information technology software companies valued at more than $1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Indianapolis-based company’s stock is up 25 percent since its initial public offering.” (Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-24/oracle-s-e-mail-marketing-need-signals-exacttarget-deal.html)

Rarely have we worked with such champions of design as ExactTarget’s executives. Today, they (and we), view user experience as a key strategic advantage contributing significantly to their market leadership.

IMH Sketch
Sometimes it doesn’t need to be pretty. Sketching is an amazingly quick way to play back product requirements to confirm direction before investing more time in possibly the wrong thing.
We spent time to deeply understand the marketing world which can point to issues, opportunities and solutions.
We spent time to deeply understand the marketing world which can point to issues, opportunities and solutions.
IMH User-Flow
Pure Gold. In-person working sessions are an efficient way to extract complex product requirements and keep feedback cycles tight.
Edior Diagram
We’ve found that a picture can be worth 1000 user stories and is sometimes the best way to move a complex conversation forward.
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