One of the topics that’s hard for Pardot newbies to wrap their heads around (especially when migrating from another system) is automation. It’s no surprise, as there are several automation options at your disposal in Pardot – yes, they really do take the automation in ‘marketing automation’ seriously!
Pardot Automation Rules and the automation capabilities in Engagement Studio may have the same outcomes, but have plenty of differences that distinguish them, especially in terms of how you would apply each to a specific use case.
The Evolution of Pardot Automation
Let’s start by outlining the product’s evolution. Pardot Automation Rules have been around since the dawn of time (in Pardot terms, that is). They have always been the go to automation in Pardot, being the most broad and versatile choice (which I will come on to later). Automation rules are the crutch many marketers have relied heavily upon for years.
Engagement Studio launched June 2016, over 6 years after the first trace of Automation Rules. Engagement Studio promised ‘B2B Marketing Automation Reimagined, and it has been wildly successful thanks to its canvas interface for visual campaign mapping and reporting. Creating rules-based automation without leaving the canvas followed the all-in-one vision the product team had for Engagement Studio.
Similarities: Rules vs. Actions + Triggers
When stripped back, both Automation Rules and Engagement Studio have the same skeleton. You define the rules, that is prospect criteria (the inputs), and when that criteria is met, Pardot makes an action/s (the output).
In Engagement Studio, there are two types of nodes (steps you can add) that help narrow down criteria – these are:
- Rules: what a Prospect is, eg. “if Prospect City = London”
- Triggers: what a Prospect does, eg. “if Prospect opens email”. Engagement Studio ‘listens’ for Prospects to take an action, during a period of time you have defined.
Rules (+ Triggers)
|Automation Rules||Engagement Studio|
|Prospect CRM Campaign||Salesforce Campaign [Rule]|
|Prospect CRM Campaign Status||Salesforce Campaign Status [Rule]|
|Prospect CRM Status||Salesforce Status [Rule]|
|Prospect Account Field||n/a**|
|Prospect Assigned Queue||Assigned Salesforce Queue [Rule]|
|Prospect Assigned User||Assigned User [Rule]|
|Prospect Assignment Status||Assignment Status [Rule]|
|Prospect Custom Field||Prospect Custom Field [Rule]|
|Prospect Custom Redirect||Custom Redirect Click [Trigger]|
|Prospect Default Field||Prospect Default Field [Rule]
Pardot Campaign [Rule]
|Prospect Email Opens||Email Open [Trigger]|
|Prospect Email Status||Prospect Email Status [Rule]|
|Prospect File||File Download [Trigger]|
|Prospect Form||Form [Trigger]|
|Prospect Form Handler||Form Handler Complete [Trigger]|
|Prospect Grade||Grade [Rule]|
|Prospect Landing Page||Landing Page [Trigger]|
|Prospect List||List [Rule]|
|Prospect Opportunity Default Field||n/a**|
|Prospect Opportunity Status||n/a**|
|Prospect Public List Opt-In Status||n/a|
|Prospect Score||Score [Rule]|
|Prospect Score For Scoring Category||n/a|
|Prospect Tag||Prospect Tag [Rule]|
|Visitor Google Analytics Parameter||n/a|
** account/opportunity fields not available
New Complex Rules in Engagement Studio
Complex Rules Steps, recently added to Engagement Studio, mean we can add multiple criteria and change the match type (match all/match any criteria). This has bridged a majority differentiator, one that sent marketers back to creating standalone Automation Rules to cater to their requirements.
|Automation Rules||Engagement Studio|
|Add Prospect To List||Add To List|
|Add To CRM Campaign||Add To Salesforce Campaign|
|Adjust Prospect Score||Adjust Score|
|Adjust Prospect Score For Scoring Category||n/a|
|Allow Deleted CRM Lead Or Contact To Recreate From Pardot||n/a|
|Apply Tags||Apply Tags|
|Assign Prospect To Queue||Assign To Salesforce Queue|
|Assign Prospect To User||Assign To User|
|Assign Prospect To User In Group||Assign To Group|
|Assign Via Salesforce Active Assignment Rule||Assign Via Salesforce Active Assignment Rule|
|Change Profile Criteria||n/a|
|Change Prospect Custom Field Value||Change Prospect Field Value|
|Change Prospect Default Field Value||Change Prospect Field Value|
|Change Prospect Profile||n/a|
|Clear Prospect Field Value||n/a|
|Create Salesforce Task||Create Salesforce Task|
|Do Not Sync With CRM||n/a|
|Increment Prospect Field Value||Change Prospect Field Value|
|Mark As Reviewed||n/a|
|Notify Assigned User||Notify User|
|Notify User||Notify User|
|Remove Tags||Remove Tags|
|Remove Prospect From List||Remove From List|
|Send Prospect Email||Send Email|
|Set Prospect’s Source Campaign||n/a**|
Note: The majority of the Actions above with ‘n/a’ tend to be administrative data ‘heavy lifting’ actions that day to day campaigns would not need to access.
Differences Between Automation Rules and Engagement Studio
Use Case & Account Level
Automation Rules are best suited for both broad, and highly segmented automations. This sounds contradictory, but bear with me!
- Broad: with the potential to access any Prospect in your Pardot account, Automation Rules can be used for data ‘heavy lifting’, that is, to mass update a field, add many Prospects to lists, send autoresponders to multiple forms, and more.
- Highly segmented: for isolated automations you need to do, with many critieria added on top of one another.
The baseline for Automation Rules is the whole Prospect database – in other words, you are starting with a blank canvas, that you narrow down using ‘Rules’ critieria. In Engagement Studio, your baseline is the members of that Engagement Studio program.
Interface for Building
When it comes to building, Automation Rules are more ’straight up’. If you have ever built an Automation Rule, you will know what I mean (or refer to the image below). In one screen, input the ‘Rules’ that form the criteria, then add the ‘Actions’ below. You can clearly see if this and this equals this, then do this.
In Engagement Studio, the relationship between Rules and Actions are not always obvious – each being different ‘nodes’, they could be distanced in the Engagement Flow. However, overall it is easier to follow a Prospect’s journey in Engagement Studio, to visually see ’this action happened to this Prospect because this rule sent them down that path’.
Take a look at the image below to see how the building blocks of Automation Rules are disguised in Engagement Studio:
Both Automation Rules and Engagement Studio are repeatable – but with a difference.
Automation Rules can be set to restrict the number of days between ending and reentering (“Days before eligible to reenter”), and/or the number of reentries to the program:
The same can also be set in Engagement Studio, a mirror image. The difference comes down to how you structure your Engagement Studio program, as when a specific Engagement Studio Action can be repeated is restricted by the repeatable settings of the whole flow.
For example, a Prospect is in a Newsletter campaign that lasts for 5 days. Prospects can reenter once they have completed the whole program (Days before eligible to repeat rule = 1; No, allow unlimited matches). If the Action appears on day 2, then this delays the Prospect reaching the Action (and repeating that Action), more so than if it had been an Action in a standalone Automation Rule.
Pardot Automation is one tough topic for new users to wrap their heads around, as both Automation Rules and Engagement Studio can do the same things, but which you choose depends on the use case.
Simply put, if you would like to run an automation based on a specific campaign, then you can build this contained within Engagement Studio – plus, monitoring and reporting are easier in the single canvas view.
On the other hand, automations that are isolated from campaigns, where you would like to potentially include any Prospect from your whole Pardot database, or to process data ‘heavy lifting’ without needing to export Prospect data to manipulate it, then Automation Rules offer these capabilities.
I hope this post has been useful in ironing out the ‘automation’ in Pardot Marketing Automation!