Delete Prospects from Pardot – Recycling vs. Permanently Delete

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Marketing databases need regular upkeep, and deleting Prospect records is one of these admin tasks. These records may be dirty, duplicate, non-responsive, or (most pressing of all) non-consensual.

This post is topical in the approach to GDPR, which will grant data subjects new rights to their personal data, known in the legislation as Data Requests. Organisations left, right, and centre are revising internal processes in anticipation for any of these 6 types of requests. “The right to be forgotten” is one Data Request that has got everyone talking. There are implications for marketers; on one hand, there’s a reluctance to let go of data that was hard/expensive to acquire, and on the other hand, the difficulty of actually finding and deleting customer data makes admins shudder – and of course, no one wants to breach the new regulation.

[UPDATE] Upcoming Release:

The updates we’ve all been waiting for!

  • Permanent delete
  • No tracking of archived prospects (in the recycle bin)

How do you delete Prospects in Pardot?

Let’s start by saying you can’t delete Prospect records from Pardot. When anyone mentions ‘deleting’ Pardot Prospects, what they mean is placing prospect records in the recycling bin. Any Prospect records that are ‘deleted’ sit in the recycle bin (outside of the main Prospect list) and will be restored if the Prospect becomes active again.

Obviously, this is a big no no under GDPR.

!Note: you will only be able to access the recycle bin if you have an Admin user role in Pardot.

Key Tip: Salesforce-first

It’s best to delete the Prospect’s linked Lead/Contact record in Salesforce first. There’s a couple of reasons for this:

  1. When Salesforce Leads/Contacts are deleted, the corresponding Prospect record is automatically deleted.
    !Note: if your account is non-AMPSEA, this is an optional connector setting.
  2. Any activity on the Salesforce side that triggers a sync will restore the prospect record from the recycle bin. Eliminate that disparity straight away.

Pardot Deleting Options

Mass Delete

In the Prospect list view, or from any list, use the checkboxes beside the Prospect records.

Scroll down to the bottom of the list, and select ‘Delete’ from the dropdown menu (a tricky one to find if it’s your first go!).

You’ll see both in yellow boxes below.

!Note: selecting the checkbox in the header will only select the Prospects on the screen. To select all, click the hyperlinked text (another tricky one to find!).

Individual Delete

Go to the Prospect record, and click the delete button:


Ok, so how do you Erase/’Forget’ an Individual in Pardot?

Pardot Support will be on hand to empty Prospects from your recycle bin, therefore ‘hard deleting’ them for good. You will need to raise a support case to do this.

Salesforce Case Checklist

Expanded from a quick list posted by Salesforce:

  • A clear reason: state why you need to delete this record, eg. GDPR Compliance, Imported by Accident, Data Cleanup.
  • A description: optional give some details of what you were doing at the time if it’s essential for solving a broader error.
  • Customer impact: how does permanently removing these prospects affect your business? What’s a negative impact if the prospects stayed in the recycle bin?
  • CSV. attachment: containing the data that needs to be altered (by doing this you are giving approval).

Yes, it’s a lot of information, but providing this straight up will prevent back-and-forth with support agents and make everyone’s work more efficient. Consider writing up case templates to copy & paste when you need them.

!Note: Grant Pardot Support remote access to your account by hovering over the person icon, and clicking on ‘Grant Access’.

Pardot have said they cannot estimate a deletion case turnaround time currently, but all will be revealed in the next coming months.


More on the GDPR ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Organisations left, right, and centre are revising internal processes in anticipation for the 6 data requests GDPR will bring into practice. “The right to be forgotten” has got marketers talking for, as I said in the introduction – a reluctance to let go of mailable data, and on the other hand, the operational complexities involved in deletion between systems and team responsibilities.

I recommend reading Part 2 from the Salesforceben GDPR Series (How to manage GDPR Data Requests), where Ian adds more considerations everyone should be thinking about: “you need a more sophisticated strategy than just “Hit Delete”. You also need to consider what records are deleted and which are anonymized”.


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