Advantages of Using Pardot Forms – vs. Pardot Form Handlers or Web-To-Lead

By Tom Ryan

Pardot Forms are the native option for creating lead capture forms in Pardot. Using a Pardot Form means you can take advantage of pre-filled fields, progressive profiling and other advanced features – however, despite the multiple benefits up for grabs, they are not always the default choice.

When Pardot was brought into your organisation it was agreed, either explicitly or implicitly, that Pardot would be used as the core marketing tool that generates, nurtures and converts prospects. Capturing prospect data through form submissions most likely appeared in the agreement.

Other options for data collection offer Pardot customers the option to integrate their existing form infrastructure with Pardot, namely Pardot Form Handlers or Salesforce Web-to-Lead. While these options are accommodating, when favoured instead of Pardot Forms, marketers miss out on the benefits before they’ve even had a chance to test drive Pardot Forms! So, this leads us to ask: why do organisations overlook Pardot forms?

Salesforce Web-to-Lead Forms vs. Pardot Forms

Organisations may overlook Pardot forms for a number of reasons, but often it’s in favour of Salesforce Web-to-Lead forms.

Web-to-Lead forms are integrated with Salesforce Sales Cloud, so a form submission generates a lead record immediately in Salesforce.

Unfortunately, people approach the subject of switching to Pardot Forms with the view: ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. This mentality goes against why organisations switch to Pardot (in that, Pardot would be used as the core marketing tool).

Salesforce Web-to-Lead Forms are not the best option when you have Pardot. Here’s why.

  1. Data Validation: web-to-lead forms create lead records indiscriminately, ie. they are at risk of pumping in rubbish data. Any data validation needs to be configured/coded on the front-end (the website CMS).
  2. De-duplication: in the same way, a web-to-lead form cannot match a submission with an existing lead. A duplicate record will be created, which will show as a warning to the user (if you have deduplication rules enabled).
  3. Pre-qualification process: by skipping Pardot, you’re removing the vetting process and assuming that every Tom, Dick or Harry is a lead that needs to be in Salesforce, rather than basing an MQL on measures such as Score or Grade.

Salesforce becomes full of leads over time, that may or may not be possible for sales to convert and, unintentionally, it can subtly change the sales team’s way of working the data. Instead of a sales team that’s excited to see new leads and confident they’re workable, there will be scepticism. A bad culture of distrust builds, leading Sales prioritise their own leads, as in their eyes, it’s what will win them their commission, not marketing-generated leads directly from a form completion.

Pardot Form Handlers vs. Pardot Forms

Use a Pardot Form Handler when you need to integrate an existing form on your website with Pardot. A Form Handler works in a similar way to a web-to-lead form: you generate a snippet of code that gets pasted into the external form’s code. In Pardot, the Form Handler acts as a bucket that will record successful prospect submissions.

Pardot Form Handlers are not the best option when you have Pardot. Here’s why.

  1. Reporting on form views: Pardot Form Handlers allow you to report on total/unique submissions and conversions. Pardot Forms also track views, meaning you can glean the submission rate – plus form errors and clicks on your form thank you page, as a bonus.
  2. Pre-fill fields: the form on your website has a one-way relationship with Pardot (ie. it sends data to Pardot). This means that Pardot never shares information with the form, including the data you already know about that prospect. Pre-filled fields can remove friction for the returning prospect, and you can reduce the number of fields visible on the Pardot form too if you have the data already.
  3. Progressive profiling: this feature is designed to gather more prospect data over time, as opposed to asking for tons of information upfront on the first form. It’s smart by asking for certain data that you don’t have about that prospect, and choosing the next question/s in the sequence if you do.
  4. Bot protection: Pardot Forms have this option, whereas you would need to sort this with another provider for website forms.

Note: If you require a form that asks a user to create a password, upload a file or give sensitive information, then a Pardot form shouldn’t be used. Form handlers should be used instead, but a form integrated with Pardot nevertheless!

Pardot Forms to the Rescue

By using Pardot forms, you gain control. Lead records are generated when they should truly be leads and are sent to the right salespeople at the right time. Ultimately, your Salesforce database remains clean and full of leads so the sales team can feel confident in their marketing team.

Pardot Forms – Summary of Advantages

Further to the control you gain with Pardot forms, they’ve actually got a whole range of high quality features that are well worth utilising. After all, you’re paying for a top of the range tool so you would be foolish not to consider taking advantage of the features. Pardot forms have the following features:

    • Prevents data duplication in Salesforce: Until you go through the painful process of cleaning your Salesforce account, you won’t appreciate how useful this actually is.
    • Validated email addresses – If you don’t want @gmail, @msn or @hotmail etc. email addresses and only want real, business emails, then this setting can be a huge help.
    • Progressive profiling: As mentioned above, this is an amazing feature to use and ties in with your grading strategy to work out which prospects to prioritise and how to target them. This will help build out a clear picture of your prospects over time.
    • Bot protection: As spammers and less scrupulous people get smarter, so do Pardot forms.
  • Provides reporting on views/completions: This enables you to build automation around actual prospect activity. If a prospect has been looking at your contact form regularly, should someone be notified? Once a form is completed, what automation should be triggered in Pardot
  • Form settings: Send autoresponder emails, redirect to thank you pages, display dynamic thank you messages, Kiosk mode (for events), add custom script and more.


We set out to answer the question: why do organisations overlook Pardot forms? Often this is down to strained time, team capacity, a complex or large form infrastructure that was in place pre-Pardot – but worst of all, a mentality of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. These views go against why organisations switch to Pardot (in that, Pardot would be used as the core marketing tool).

I appreciate that there may be exceptions to the rule here. Some organisations have valid reasons why they need to stick with their existing data collection choice; however, for the most part, your organisation will be able to migrate to Pardot forms entirely, partially at the very least to reap the best benefits.

The Author

Tom Ryan

Tom is a certified Pardot Consultant and the Founder of MarCloud Consulting


    Joy O
    June 20, 2023 3:00 am
    Hi, As mentioned above, Progressive profiling can't be done using form handlers however with Marketing Cloud, it can be done using interactive emails using forms sent directly to the Lead or Prospect (and not necessarily hosted on a site). This would achieve the same outcome right? Just a different route?
    Joy O
    June 20, 2023 8:08 pm
    Hi, Regarding the disadvantages of not using Pardot forms, specifically 'Bot Protection' mentioned above, this other SF Ben article linked below indicates that its possible to set up bot protection using a form handler as well. I believe having it on the form is preferred but its not completely lost on a form handler right? Can you pls clarify?. Thanks so much!

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