Guide to Pardot Custom Objects – What You Can and Can’t Do

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Being able to extend the Salesforce data model with custom objects is one of the biggest selling points of Salesforce. Pardot custom objects are the way you sync data from Salesforce custom objects to use in Pardot for segmentation and automation. When planned for correctly, Pardot custom objects can really supercharge your marketing automation and open up a variety of cool use cases. Pardot Custom Objects are available for Pardot Advanced customers, and as an add-on for Pardot Plus organizations.

This guide is designed to give you an unbiased point of view on Pardot custom objects. It’s easy to mistake custom object to be as powerful and flexible as Salesforce Custom Objects. While upgrading/adding on Custom Objects for Pardot has been worthwhile for many organisations (having worked with some myself), I would say this: don’t be dazzled, and do your research before you buy. This post will help you do exactly that.

“Spanning”

Why Use Pardot Custom Objects?

  • Custom Objects are key to your business, eg. the delivery team use a ‘Project’ custom object in Salesforce, which the marketing team want to leverage for onboarding campaigns.
  • Salesforce Industry products: you use one of the industry managed packages developed by Salesforce eg. Financial Services Cloud.
  • Managed packages: your organization uses a managed package on top of Salesforce core products (like a skin that covers the org) – these are the use cases I have worked with.
  • Want to run Pardot in a more ‘B2C’ like way, eg. introducing ‘products*’ or ‘assets’ into Pardot to cater to more transactional buying cycles.
    (NB: products are not related to account records, which will require some customisation of the standard data model…proceed with caution).
  • You want to use the Vidyard to Pardot integration.

Even though Pardot Custom Objects have valid use cases and happy customers, accounts that use them are fairly rare. The next section of this guide may shed some light on why that may be.

What Pardot Custom Objects Can and Can’t Do

This capability comparison table is perhaps the most important section of this guide! This will demystify custom object functionality before you or your technical team waste time pursuing technically impossible requirements.

CAN CAN’T
Create 4 custom objects in Pardot (if you need more, your object schema and sync volume will need to be looked at by a Pardot Product Engineer)Edit custom object record in Pardot (they are read-only). ! Perhaps the biggest misconception of all, you won’t be able to use Pardot automation or Prospect activity (eg. Form submissions) to update custom object records.
Sync Salesforce custom objects that have a relationship to Contacts, Accounts or Leads in the CRM data model (you need at least 1 lookup field).Pardot custom objects can’t be ‘Pardot-only’; the custom object must exist in Salesforce.
Use all custom object fields in Pardot automation rules/segmentation. The fields will sync to Pardot automatically when they are created in Salesforce.Custom objects can’t be used in Engagement Studio directly, but I discuss a simple workaround later in the post.
Sync frequently: updates are synced automatically from Salesforce to Pardot (every 10 minutes).Fields cannot be used as merge fields for personalisation using HML.
Use Pardot reports for custom objects - BUT look to B2B Marketing Analytics (knowledge required).
Salesforce custom object records created before the object was created don’t sync to Pardot automatically. You will need to manually sync these as part of the setup process (see 'Checklist for Setting Up Pardot custom objects’ later in this guide).


Pardot Segmentation Using Custom Objects

Let’s look at how you can use custom object in Pardot, starting with segmentation.

You can use custom object criteria in:

  • Dynamic Lists
  • Segmentation Rules
  • Automation Rules

You always start with the criteria for narrowing down which prospects you want. Use the criteria “Prospect custom object”, which gives 3 options: related, not related, related with properties.

‘Related’ simply asks, does the lead/contact have any X records related to it?

‘Related with properties’ allows you to introduce more criteria to get very specific with who you want to target. You could think of it as creating a new rule group – it works the same way:

Pardot Automation Using Custom Objects

As I mentioned in the previous section, you can use the “Prospect custom object” criteria in Automation Rules. This means that the actions you can take based on a custom object are:

(note: I have removed the actions not applicable, as segmenting by custom objects automatically assumes that the Prospect exists in Salesforce, has been assigned already).

  • Add/Remove Prospect To List
  • Add To CRM Campaign
  • Adjust Prospect Score
  • Adjust Prospect Score For Scoring Category
  • Allow Deleted CRM Lead Or Contact To Recreate From Pardot
  • Apply/Remove tags
  • Change Profile Criteria
  • Change Prospect Custom Field Value
  • Change Prospect Default Field Value
  • Change Prospect Profile
  • Clear Prospect Field Value
  • Create Salesforce Task
  • Increment Prospect Field Value
  • Notify Assigned User/Notify User
  • Send Prospect Email

It’s worth noting that custom objects can’t be used in Engagement Studio directly; a workaround is to use dynamic list (or automation rule + static list) as a rule step. I have compared how Automation Rules and Engagement Studio work differently in this post.

Also, using many Automation Rules will mean you will accelerate towards your account limit very quickly.

Administering Pardot Custom Objects

Find Pardot Custom Object settings under ‘Pardot Settings’ in the Pardot Lightning App. This is what the scaled down interface looks like:

(As they are read-only objects, there is not much customization you need to do here!)

Checklist for Setting Up Pardot Custom Objects

Here are some steps you should go through to create a Pardot Custom Object – there is more to the process than you may initially think!

(Note: if the custom object exists in Salesforce already, skip to point 3.)

1. Design your object schema/data model: will records of the Salesforce custom object be related to either Contact, Lead or Account records? You need at least 1 lookup field to the custom object. You can open up the Salesforce object schema to guide you for the context of your own org.

2. Create the custom object in Salesforce. Remember you need at least 1 lookup field to Contacts, Leads or Accounts. The custom object must be visible to the Pardot connector user (read-only at the minimum) and the lookup field’s field-level security also has to be read-only at the minimum.

3. Pull a report of all custom object records, including record ID, related lead/contact ID, and date/time created.

4. Create the custom object in Pardot. Make a note of the date/time. (If you don’t see your Salesforce custom object in the dropdown selection, re-read steps 1-2).

5. Manually sync custom object records from Salesforce to Pardot that were created before the date/time you created the Pardot object.

6. Choose which fields you would like to ‘Display in table’. These will appear on the Custom Object tab on the Pardot Prospect record.

7. By going into the custom object’s settings, you will see a ON/OFF switch like interface.

8. Using Pardot custom user roles? You will need to grant access to Pardot custom object/s (if you are using standard user roles – Administrator, Marketing, Sales Manager, Sales – then access is added automatically).

9. Set up any segmentation/automation required.

Do bear in mind that these steps are guidelines. If you are unsure, I suggest you seek the help of a Pardot Consultant before you begin the process.

Summary

Being able to extend the Salesforce data model with custom objects is one of the biggest selling points of Salesforce – and Pardot custom objects enable you mirror that extensibility for your marketing automation. This guide is designed to give you an unbiased point of view on Pardot custom objects, so that you are clued up on why you would use custom objects, how they can be used in segmentation and automation, and most importantly, their limitations!

When planned for correctly, Pardot custom objects can really supercharge your marketing automation and open up a variety of cool use cases – just do your research before you upgrade or purchase the add-on!

4 thoughts on “Guide to Pardot Custom Objects – What You Can and Can’t Do

  1. Thanks for another great blog post – so helpful! In the checklist at the end of the post, how do I carry out item 5, to sync custom object records from Salesforce to Pardot?

    1. Hi Emma, thanks for reading and glad you found it helpful! I (think) you should be able to make some edit on the custom object record in Salesforce that should trickle down to the contact and trigger the sync with Pardot. Usually, people set up a dummy checkbox to do this. I would test and observe to see if that works – fingers crossed!

    1. Hi! Thanks a lot. Unfortunately not right now, but I hope that Pardot/Salesforce are laying the foundation for this to happen by rolling out HML. Fingers crossed!
      If you have a burning/important requirement, for now you can get the data from the custom object field and put it into a field on the lead/contact in order to use it with HML etc. There will be a post coming out not this coming Tuesday but next that shows you how to do this.

      If you want to use custom objects on forms and running the field data via prospect/lead/contact would be too tricky (ie. you have a one-to-many relationship with the custom object) and there’s risk for things going amiss, then I would recommend looking to a 3rd party solution like FormAssembly who can handle these complex, multi/custom object data collection scenarios. I suppose you’ve got to weigh up how important that would be to your organisation vs. cost etc. Hope that helps!

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