Scott McCorkle of MetaCX: “Assert”

Assert. One has to assert, with confidence, new ideas onto a marketplace that does not understand an idea and likely has a vested interest in it not being successful. Courage and innovation go hand in hand. As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the […]

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Assert. One has to assert, with confidence, new ideas onto a marketplace that does not understand an idea and likely has a vested interest in it not being successful. Courage and innovation go hand in hand.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott McCorkle.

Scott McCorkle has spent most of his professional career thinking about business to business software and how to improve it for a company’s customers. The former chief executive of Salesforce Marketing Cloud has made billions of dollars building products to help support customer service, and now he’s back at it again with his latest venture, MetaCX, a first-of-its-kind outcomes-based approach for managing the entire customer lifecycle.

Prior to Salesforce, McCorkle was president of technology and strategy at ExactTarget. He succeeded Scott Dorsey as CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud in June 2014 following Salesforce’s 2.5B dollars acquisition of ExactTarget in May 2013.

McCorkle also served at High Alpha, the startup incubator founded in Indianapolis, as an entrepreneur-in-residence and in leadership roles at Mezzia, IBM, and Software Artistry. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Ball State University and an MBA from Indiana University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Going back to 1983, I was a junior in high school and my parents surprised me with an Apple IIe computer. We were of modest means, so this was indeed a big surprise. I loved learning how to program that computer, and that set me on a path for a computer science degree. Almost three decades of enterprise software experience later, I am as fascinated as ever with the abstractions of computer science, design, and solving problems with computers.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

For too long, suppliers and buyers have been misaligned from the very start. Suppliers focus on what they have to sell and have been known to more than occasionally make promises that are quickly forgotten (by the supplier; the buyer tends to remember these things) and/or are difficult to prove. This creates a fundamental distrust in what should really be a transparent exchange of value between two partners in a relationship. MetaCX is changing this by creating a platform that allows suppliers of software and digital services to align with enterprise buyers to: a) co-create a mutual success plan that clearly articulates what the buyer is hoping to achieve, b) provide a way to coordinate the post-sale hand-off to implementation and success teams, ensuring there’s a living record of the outcomes the customer is hoping to achieve, and c) illuminate these outcomes with live data to show proof of performance. We think this sort of transparency and proof is becoming essential in building a lasting and profitable relationship between suppliers and buyers, particularly as economic conditions force enterprises to spend less and scrutinize more. The result of this transparency is an evolution of today’s subscription economy to one that looks more like a performance economy, where proof of value dictates how investments are made.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Using “I was sure surprised but shouldn’t have been” as an alias for “funny,” we originally thought our scope would start at the customer phase, not the selling stage of the customer lifecycle. Our early customers and prospects at MetaCX were great in helping us realize that a co-created success plan between a supplier and buyer must start with sales at the selling stage of the customer lifecycle. As we reflect on why we didn’t see this in the beginning, we’re struck by how enterprise software vendors focus on single stages of the customer lifecycle. So, it’s common to see sales collaboration tools, customer success products, and so on. But as soon as one includes the buyer in a co-creation process, how can one not manage the entire lifecycle of that customer in one seamless environment and experience?

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Scott Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of ExactTarget, has made a huge impact on my career and continues to do so. The combination of caring for people and sheer raw business brilliance has shaped how I try to treat people and how I try to stretch thinking into the unknowns. By definition, each day of an innovation-driven company is full of firsts for everyone. That is uncomfortable for everyone, and only through transparent, supportive cultures can one expect a team to pull through. Innovative companies also are asserting new ideas to the marketplace at large, and there is often push back from the status quo. One has to have confidence in their ideas and assert them with confidence, while remaining incredibly open-minded to being wrong and to learning.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has “withstood the test of time”? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive and when disrupting an industry is “not so positive”? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

One can certainly have an idea before its time. And one also can press some disruption that requires too much change — or at least change that appears to be too much because the value of the disruption is not fully understood. But there’s no holding back a river. Disruption is an inevitable part of the evolution of any dynamic ecosystem, including competitive markets. There are always winners and losers in disruptions, where the losers are often those with a vested stake in the status quo. I think Clayton Christensen was the most articulate on this topic with his concept of creative destruction, which posited that disruption is inevitable, and since companies want to be the disruptors not the disrupted, they need to learn to disrupt themselves.

Can you share three of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Assert. One has to assert, with confidence, new ideas onto a marketplace that does not understand an idea and likely has a vested interest in it not being successful. Courage and innovation go hand in hand.

Listen. One might not be right, so listening to feedback and forever learning what could work better is a continuous process. But one needs to keep confident and sort out the true learning from market resistance that comes from not understanding or wanting a new idea.

Encourage. It’s the rare entrepreneur who so firmly grasps an innovation that she or he can single-handedly will a company to success. For the rest of us, we need to hire great people and have that team work together to innovate and win together. The best advice I’ve ever received is to imagine some crisis is happening, and you are five minutes late to a meeting or a zoom diving in to solve that crisis. How does the team feel when you get there? Are they happy you are there to help solve the problem? Or are they afraid and fearful of your reaction? Creating a path to the future by encouraging people to do their best work and to work well together is so much better than pushing people through fear or intimidation.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

What we’re doing is quite new and different, so we have the added challenge of educating the market on the need for MetaCX. That means a fairly heavy focus on content and thought leadership. When you produce content of a very high quality and of great relevance to an audience, as we believe we have, they tend to engage with it. We’ve also leaned into digital events, including a weeklong series called The Customer Room that we’ve recently produced with 10 sessions, 25 speakers and five musical guests. Our thinking was to treat this almost like a Netflix series. Watch whatever you want, when you want it, live or on-demand later. I think this is the new model for conferences from today forward.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Oh, we’re just getting started! Of course, while we’re thrilled with the initial interest in what we’re doing, there’s plenty more to do to achieve the first phase of our mission, which is about helping suppliers and buyers to better align around value promised and value realized — and to ultimately win together. As we gain momentum, we see the potential for a business network to form where suppliers and buyers can organically discover each other, connect and collaborate as part of a dynamic ecosystem that we enable.

Do you have a book, podcast or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I have started several companies over my career, and I’m always struck by how freaking hard it is. As I started MetaCX, I took great comfort in Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” It’s supposed to be hard. Sure, I have more experience this time around, but that really doesn’t make it any less hard. It’s hard.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Starting a company is hard, but there has to be fun and joy in it. And it is just one part of life. One’s life can have challenges, too, and we’re facing our share of challenges as a society. But it’s ok to approach all of that with a positive, hopeful attitude. So, based on that, I’m going to pick Springsteen’s “Badlands”:

“For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside

That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive …”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We all need to do more for equality and social justice. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m starting a company, and besides being busy with that, we hire diverse people and that helps the world. It’s not enough. I will focus more energy to create educational opportunities. My wife and I have begun a program focused on high school seniors who, with some encouragement and exposure, could be successful in college, but without some help, and not just financial, they would not see college for themselves. We’ve done this in partnership with my alma mater, Ball State University.

How can our readers follow you online?

On Twitter @smccorkle, on LinkedIn, or on the web at

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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