The Boston-based WGBH Education Foundation relies on donations. It's a public media entity.

So it also relies on technology to manage donations. Salesforce CRM. Marketing automation tools.

Cate Twohill, senior director and managing partner of CRM services at the WGBH Education Foundation, has her hands on the pulse of the organization's digital network and management of its donors. It's a job that comes with challenges. It recently uncovered and corrected more than 80,000 duplicate donor profiles and must manage donor relationships in a way that powers engagement.

Marketing Automation Choices

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One lesson learned by Twohill? Know exactly what you're getting when you invest in marketing automation tools that must communicate with Salesforce CRM.

"There are a lot of marketing automation tools that integrate with Salesforce," Twohill told CMSWire after her presentation at the Gilbane Conference at the Boston Renaissance Marriott Hotel Tuesday. "But there's an expectation that it's Salesforce uncustomized. So when you customize Salesforce, you've changed that hierarchy and those tools coming in have a little harder time."

Twohill said WGBH considered going with Salesforce itself's marketing automation capabilities during a recent software-upgrade project. Salesforce acquired ExactTarget, so WGBH explored.

Learning Opportunities

However, WGBH needs a direct-mail component from its marketing automation tool, something at the time ExactTarget could not offer.

"And Salesforce only can hit up to three objects at the same time in order to do your selections," said Twohill, whose organization ended up choosing RedPoint Global's marketing automation solution. "We hit lots of objects and did not want to be limited by that."

Take These Cues

Another tool WGBH used prior to settling with RedPoint was like "trying to fit a square peg into a round hole," according to Twohill.  It got them files they needed but "it didn't do it in a way that really was marketing automation. It was really data extraction."

Making marketing automation work within Salesforce requires knowing what can be viewed and what can't.

"If you're in a Salesforce environment and want to find a marketing automation tool," Twohill said, "ensure all off that data that's managed in the marketing automation tool can be viewed from within Salesforce or else your licenses can go through the roof because your users have to look in both systems. That would be my biggest concern -- that the data's not writing back and maybe can't be incorporated to see the holistic picture in Salesforce."