Guide to Grading (Part 4): Automating Grading

By Lucy Mazalon

Prospect Grading is a Pardot feature that represents how closely a prospect fits your ideal customer profile. Each prospect is assigned a letter (A-F) that is calculated by matching their data with your defined criteria. Essential for smarter lead qualification, grading can have a big impact across the organisation when setup and leveraged properly. This four-part series will walk you through how to set up Pardot grading gradually, so you can navigate the different moving parts involved in grading.

In Part 1 and Part 2, we learnt about what grading is (and how it’s different to scoring) and successfully mapped out our grading framework ready to implement into Pardot. With the prepping complete, in Part 3, we laid the foundation with grading profiles, which I refer to as the ‘glue’ that hold your grading criteria together. The grading profiles are not much use without instructions – which is where automation rules come in.

Adding Automation Rules

Multiple automation rules are required to power a grading profile, so organisation goes a long way in keeping your grading machine running smoothly, and your sanity when you need to make changes.

I highly recommend a rule naming convention, structured like:

GRADING-[name of profile]-[name of criteria]-[match level]
Which would look like this: GRADING-Corporate-Industry-Strong Match

First, we tell Pardot which prospects should be included in the automation – in short, this is whichever prospects are assigned to the grading profile, and that fit the criteria values. Let’s put that into play.
In the ‘Rules’ section:

  • Set the match type to: Match all
  • Add a new rule: “Prospect profile” — is — [name of your profile]
  • Add a new rule: [name of criteria] — is — [list of your criteria values]

I’m going to show this in a working example, so have your own grading criteria matrix ready!

The table above could look similar to the grading criteria matrix you built in Part 2. In my example above, I have chosen 2 criteria: industry and whether the prospect is part of a target account.

My first automation rule, called “GRADING-Corporate-Industry-Strong Match” would have 2 rules – one to search for prospects in that profile, and a second to only include prospects in high-value industry (technology), which would look like this:

Next, we tell Pardot what action to take with the prospect’s grade – which criteria to increase, and how much by. Luckily, this is already set up on the grading profile itself (Part 3), however, we need to close the loop here.

In the actions section:

  • Select “Change profile criteria” — [name of your profile] — [name of criteria] — Matches

Now to ensure that we are appropriately resetting the grade in a situation where a field value is changed. 

Picture this: one day a Prospect has an Industry value of ‘Manufacturing’, which you have defined as a strong match. Tomorrow, their industry is updated to ‘Recruitment’ which you have defined as a good match. To prevent grade increases from stacking up on top of each other, you need to tell Pardot that all the other matches should be set to ‘not known’. This means that you end up with multiple actions on your automation rule – the table below outlines all the combinations: 

When the value is… ↓ Strong Profile CriteriaGood Profile CriteriaWeak Profile Criteria
A strong match‘matches’‘Not known’‘Not known’
A good match‘Not known’‘matches’‘Not known’
A weak match‘Not known’‘Not known’‘matches’
Has no value‘Not known’‘Not known’‘Not known’

Add these to the Actions section of your automation rule, like below: 

Don’t forget to add one that will reset everything if the Industry field value is cleared! 

Click “Create automation rules”.

As you may already know, automation rules are saved in a paused mode, so you have the opportunity to preview. Don’t activate your rules just yet! We will do that later in the ‘Final Checks’ section.

Repeat this rule creation for every criteria and level of match you have. You will end up with a list of rules similar to this:

“Does not match” Automation Rules

A quick note on “Does not match”, another option you see when constructing automation actions. “Does not match” will decrease the grade, thereby making a big statement about disqualification. If it’s easier to describe a disqualified lead than what a qualified lead looks like, this is an interesting strategy for you to take.

Final Checks

When copying multiple rules, it’s easy to make mistakes. Check each one of your rules with a ‘fine tooth comb’, or risk some bizarre results! Refer back to the ‘sense checking’ exercise in Part 2 once more for additional peace of mind, where we checked the weightings of each value made sense, that is, seeing if what Pardot would consider an A Grade prospect lines up with your perception. Never run an automation rule without previewing it first. Finally, once you are satisfied, ‘resume’ each of your automation rules, and watch your grades populate magically.


Now you have grading up and running, this marks the end of the ‘Guide to Grading’ series. Thank you for reading, I hope you have been able to set up a grading framework that will have a significant impact across the organisation, especially in lead qualification and prioritisation. If you need a refresher, you will find the links to the other parts below:

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.


    December 23, 2019 9:03 pm
    Hello! Thank you for this four part series, it has been very helpful. Hoping to get an answer to this question that Google has not been able to answer for me yet. Is it possible for prospects to belong to multiple profiles? Will all the profiles they match show up on their prospect page's Profile tab?
    Lucy Mazalon
    December 31, 2019 12:29 pm
    Hi Cory, you're welcome, glad you enjoyed it. Quick answer is no, one profile per prospect :)
    Paul D
    February 11, 2020 2:29 am
    I've been searching all over for a guide on how to get the action to take place for the automation and after searching through all SFDC/Pardots guides and trailheads, and all over third party sites (including youtube) this is the first guide I've found that has it. Thanks so much for this. Part 4 is a pure goldmine and really helped me feel confident as I changed up Pardot's default grading for the first time.
    Lucy Mazalon
    February 12, 2020 2:34 pm
    Hi Paul, thank you, appreciate your comment and glad you found it useful!
    API User
    February 26, 2020 3:52 pm
    why do we have to create two separate automation rules? can't we create one rule where we can define the rule like below prospect default filed Industry IS Orange INC ACTIONS : Change Prospect Profile >> Corporate Change Profile Criteria Corporate >> Industry-Strong>>Matches
    Lucy Mazalon
    March 10, 2020 12:18 pm
    Hi, did you set this up and test this? From experience, the actions in automation rules need to be treated with caution, and ensure that they fire sequentially (unlike process builder in Salesforce, we can't define a strict sequence for each action to fire). Would be interested to see how you got on!
    Carl Mortimer
    August 06, 2020 11:10 am
    Hi Lucy, thank you for this guide! My question would be in the table of criteria combinations, would that be effectively 3x automation rules to set strong, good or not? Also, does it make sense to have prospects match these rules unlimited so it can reevaluate prospects already matched?
    Lucy Mazalon
    August 09, 2020 5:49 pm
    Hi Carl, I saw you were asking about a tricky grading clean-up on the Trailblazer Pardot Group the other day. Good luck with that one! :) Yes, in the table of criteria combinations, that would that be 3x automation rules to set strong, good or not. With the match and rematch, you should have the rules run once and not repeatable. By setting all possible adjustments (both increment and resetting) on the automation rules, you will catch new values without the risk of continuous looping. That's what I would suggest.
    Adam Langley
    November 22, 2020 9:27 am
    I have actually been able to get this to work (applying both profile and profile criteria in the same automation rule). In the Grading model I'm setting up now, we're just using one Profile. So I wanted to create 1 AutoRule to that matches everyone that can apply both the new Grading Profile as well as change a "neutral" criteria I added on the profile in order to get the default (D) grade to populate on all Prospects. (I've found it problematic in the past to have Prospects with blank Grades when you're wanting to build automation/dynamic lists with Grade-based criteria.) In order to get this combo action to work consistently, I added extra completion actions between the "Change Profile" and "Change Profile Criteria" Actions to produce a slight delay between those actions: 1. Change prospect profile || Grading v1.0 2. Apply tags || '#test' 3. Remove Tags || '#test' 4. Apply tags || '#test' 5. Remove Tags || '#test' 6. Change profile criteria || Profile: 'Grading v1.0' Criteria: 'GRADING v1 | NEUTRAL set to 'Not known' In my experience, it seems the actions DO fire in order. However, the order you FIRST create the actions when creating/editing the rule is NOT always how it ends up actually being saved as. For example, the first time I tried to create the AutoRule with the actions above, even though I created the actions in the order above, once I saved it, all the "apply/remove tag" steps were moved above the Profile steps for some reason. But when I Edited the rule, and deleted/re-created the actions in order, then it saved in the proper order. I've run several tests now, and all Prospects have been applied that neutral grade, and the apply/remove tag steps seem to have fired in order as none of the Prospects ended up with the tag saved on their record. Just wanted to share this, since you were interested hearing about it. Very helpful blog series about Grading! Way better than any resources Pardot has produced lol.

Leave a Reply