9 Pardot Engagement Studio Best Practice Tips

By Triana Jarman

Pardot Engagement Studio is designed for running automated email campaigns for a number of use cases. Many marketers wonder how they can build better engagement programs that stick to Pardot Engagement Studio best practices.

When I showed an example Engagement Studio program that supports the sales team working long sales cycles, I added Engagement Studio tips that came up while working with some of my clients in the past few months. The more complex your programs, the more important this best practice advice becomes.

This talk was originally broadcast at the London Marketers (Pardot) Group. You will find the recording below. The first part covers my use case to keep front of mind with prospects who say ‘call me in 6 months’. We switch over to the Engagement Studio tips @ 13:45.

1. A suppression list can also be a target list

When you have a program and you’re thinking about which prospects you don’t want in it, that group of people could actually be the recipient list of another program you have running.

You don’t necessarily have to create a list specifically to be a suppression list – after all a list is a list!

It helps to remember this, otherwise, you could be making the same lists over and over again (maybe just called slightly different names).

2. Should you use dynamic lists as recipient lists?

I’ve had a couple of clients where they’ve set up the programs themselves and wonder why the start of the program has 50 people, but by the end of it, there are only 20.

With a dynamic list, prospects are moving in and out based on criteria defined on that list, which means if the prospect no longer matches the list criteria, they will leave the list, and the program also.

In one instance, the client’s dynamic list criteria were actually changing due to the action steps in the program, and so, it was pulling prospects out before they could finish some of the other steps.

3. Think before adding score increases

You don’t always need to add actions to increase a prospect’s score.

Any examples where you may have seen activities adding to their score in my demo, it was because that content was not a Pardot marketing asset/trackable on the website.

If prospects are submitting forms or if they’re clicking on your website pages (which have page actions associated with that page), all of these activities will already apply points to the total score.

You don’t have to reapply points in Engagement Studio, otherwise, you’re going to begin inflating numbers, which you don’t want to do!

4. Capturing engagement with lists vs. tags

Think about using lists or tags to capture engagement. Setting actions in Engagement Studio to ‘add to list’ or ‘add tags’ is a useful way to see engagement, and when the prospects reach the end of the program, whether you want to take further action by identifying who your most and least engaged prospects were (based on their list membership or tags) and segment them into cold, warm or hot leads.

5. Add comments while editing

If you need to pause and edit your program, go for it – but remember to add comments.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of people don’t realize that you can comment about what you’ve changed before you restart the program.

As a consultant, I find this really helpful because if one of my clients comes to me saying ‘it’s broken!’, I can go look at the program comments to see, ‘okay, well I can see that you’ve done this and this, and that’s why this problem has occurred’. Whereas if they don’t keep track of changes they’ve made, it becomes a guessing game, and sometimes you really have to dig deep to find out why something was working and then it wasn’t working.

6. Use Complex Rules

Take segmentation further by adding more criteria to rule steps. This narrows down Prospects, creating even more targeted sends and actions. Plus, reduce the number of rule steps you need in Engagement programs (previously, you had to add separate rule steps, which made for some crazy-looking Engagement programs!)

Read more: 9 Cool Use Cases for Complex Rule Logic in Engagement Studio

7. Add “pause” steps

It’s a common request to ‘pause’ prospects at a certain stage of your automated flow. Any wait step in Engagement Studio causes Prospects to wait. By reimagining the ‘wait’ functionality, it’s so simple to implement a ‘pause tag’!

Read more: Add Pause Steps in Pardot Engagement Studio

8. Add a prospect to Engagement Studio based on Lead Status

You may have realised that Pardot doesn’t come with the ‘Lead Status’ field out of the box, so you will need to create a custom dropdown field in Pardot and map it to the Salesforce lead field. There are other considerations you should make, such as asking yourself: if a lead status changes to a different value, do you want the lead to stay in the Engagement program, or leave the campaign?

Read more: Add a Prospect to Engagement Studio Based on Lead Status


9. Run A/B tests in Engagement Studio

Pardot Email A/B Testing is one of the most appealing features which marketers tap into for measuring email version performance in terms of opens and clicks. You can A/B Test in Pardot Engagement Studio with a trick; a number field assigns each Prospect a number from 0-9 which is used to route them down different paths, each with different email versions.

Read more: A/B Test Emails in Pardot Engagement Studio


The Author

Triana Jarman

Triana is the Marketing Automation Consultant at Modern, a b2b digital marketing agency. Primarily working in Pardot, she loves helping clients unlock its full potential.


    Kirsty Wunder
    October 29, 2020 7:24 pm
    Helpful article and recording, thanks! Hoping you can help with an issue/question I have regarding making edits to Engagement Studios. My company has several email nurture programs built in Engagement Studio with emails that need to be edited/replaced on a quarterly cadence. Per direction I received from Pardot Support about this, to avoid reporting hiccups and getting prospects stuck in the respective email steps, we’ve been rebuilding each iteration of our nurture programs from scratch (i.e. creating a new Engagement Studio/email templates/custom redirects, SFDC campaigns, etc.). This is obviously a massive level of effort each time we need to simply edit a nurture program. Is there a better way to manage deleting, replacing and/or adding more emails in Engagement Studio? In working with Eloqua in the past, you could use a “Wait” step to avoid the issue of getting prospects stuck in a step, but I haven't figured out how to properly edit Engagement Studios without impacting prospects who are already flowing through it. Would love to hear how others are managing this.
    Triana Jarman
    November 05, 2020 1:39 pm
    Hi Kirsty - glad you found the article and video helpful. To your question, you can add a "wait" step in Engagement Studio, but not in a very obvious way. Add in a Rule and setting it to evaluate something like "List", and you could set this to evaluate the list that is being used for your ES program, then set the "wait time" to 100 days. This will ensure your prospects remain in the program, but have not reach the "End" step. Then as you approach the next quarter, you can add your next series of emails after this step. A few things to keep in mind are that ES does have limits to how many steps it will allow (believe it is 200), so you could not continually add on to the same program for ever and ever. Also remember that you can "copy" existing Engagement Studio programs and then easily swap out the emails that way if maintaining separate programs is needed, and further to that you can also "copy" steps within a program so if you have a very repetitive nurture sequence you can simply copy and paste those steps, helpful to reduce set up time. Hope that helps!
    fireboy and watergirl
    August 26, 2022 8:05 am
    Appreciate the informative piece and audio file, please. I was wondering if you could answer a question I have about modifying Engagement Studios.

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