Although you’re excited about your new marketing automation toy, getting the ball rolling for a Pardot implementation project can be a daunting prospect.
Once you’ve decided that bringing in a partner is a worthwhile investment, now begins the search for the correct implementation consultant. But with so many on the market, how do you begin the evaluation and vendor selection process? Add in the extra hurdle, as many of which now offer bundled service packages that appear to be the same on paper – but are they really?
So, let’s start with what you should expect and not skip when it comes to a Pardot implementation. Which implementation phases should you be looking for consultants to really add value?
To start with, most Pardot implementation will cover 4 main areas in some capacity*:
- Discovery Phase
- Technical Setup
- Training & Handoff
(*sometimes termed differently or overlap one another)
I’ve overviewed many variations of the core implementation, also known as ‘quickstart’, package, and combined with my own experience to give you what I consider the 10 most important components.
1. Requirements Workshop
Also known as the ‘Discovery’ phase, these sessions are about finding out how you, your team, your organisation, define success. This initial consultation will involve sharing your overall business objectives, marketing KPIs, what you have existing – and from that, what needs to be done in the project can be discussed.
At this stage, you may not have signed on the dotted line. Depending on the consultancy, some use this session as the key part of scoping a project (ie. cost and effort estimation), whilst others prefer to have you commit as a customer first.
2. Website Integration
Linking your website with your Pardot account is typically the first action. This includes setting up a website tracking campaign and adding the tracking code into the website’s HTML code. After this, you’ll be able to track both Visitors (yet to convert) and Prospect (converted) as they move around your site, as well as using features like Page Actions.
Another form of website integration is linking your existing website forms with Pardot via form handlers. This will come later in the implementation but is worth mentioning here. It means that whatever information people fill in on your form (eg. a contact us form), Prospect fields will auto update with the new information.
A couple of other technical pieces are CNAME creation and email authentication, sneaky steps that can delay a project. I go into more depth on these in this post.
3. Emails & Landing Pages
Part of the project should involve creating a specified number (or ‘a few’) emails and landing pages, so you can get started straight away. This includes legally required pages: the unsubscribe and mailing preference pages (email subscription centre).
On a side note, you will have to provide the content (text and images), and if you want to move away from standard layouts, then the HTML code too.
4. Users & Permissions
Setting up users is a fairly simple step in the implementation, done via import but sometimes manually. Defining who should have what permission is something that a consultant will work with you on – particularly if you need custom user roles that go beyond the 4 standard ones provided out-of-the-box.
5. Prospect Database Import
Getting your existing database of contacts into Pardot may not be as simple as you think. There are a number of other aspects, for example, mapping the fields, dealing with import errors, creating custom fields. As a start, you will have to provide ‘clean’ data in .csv, but a consultant will advise on what you should be bringing over to Pardot. They should also ensure that opt-outs recorded in your old system are honoured in Pardot too.
6. IP Warming
In this context, an IP acts as the identifier for the sender. When you’ll be sending emails out, the email client on the recipient end will decide whether to let your email pass to the inbox, or reject it. The way they do that is based on your sending reputation, represented by your IP. Make sense? Good.
There are two options: either you take the ‘Shared IP’ or a ‘Dedicated IP’. If you decide that you want complete control over your sending reputation and opt for a Dedicated IP, you’ll have to go through IP warming.
With a new IP, you’re essentially the new kid on the block. IP warming is a method that aims to protect your sending reputation and deliverability by gradually building up a good reputation with email clients and prove you’re a) not a spammer and b) people like your content. A consultant will monitor the IP with you via an open source website that rates your IP reputation in real-time.
7. Salesforce Connector Setup
If you are using Salesforce as your CRM, the connector setup is one area you will want your consultant of choice to do, to save you the headache and potential sync errors down the line. There are around 6 stages to this, including assigning Salesforce permission sets, defining field sync behaviour and implementing SSO (single sign-on)
Consultants come with a mental bank of automations that they’ve encountered during their time in the field. Areas of automation include (of course) Automation Rules and Completion Actions. Also, it may make sense to adjust the default scoring model that comes with your account and implement a grading structure, too. Automating lead hand-over to sales and CRM assignment (see point 7) is the next logical step.
Plus, consider your own segmentation use cases; a consultant will advise on how these could be automated (via dynamic lists & segmentation rules).
9. Engagement Studio
Following on nicely from the subject of automation, many consultants will throw an Engagement Studio flow in to sweeten the deal.
Typically we build one example flow, choosing the campaign the client talks about passionately (ideally one that’s reoccurring), then we can bolster it with automation from there to show off the full power of this visual campaign mapping feature.
10. Knowledge Transfer & Training
Finally, one thing you should expect (albeit hard to measure) is obtaining knowledge on best practices for using the platform. Also, don’t forget that documentation should be handed over too.
I wrote an article earlier this year on why end-user training is ‘mission critical’, yet is often overlooked. Although the post was aimed at Salesforce implementations, the points I raised are transferable to Pardot projects, which included adoption, data quality empowering users in their respective roles. It’s important to ensure you learn about reporting here: where to find it, how to interpret the results and what actions to take from results.
Once you’ve made the decision to bring in an implementation partner, you need to ensure that they are ticking off the essentials – and to your expectations too.
I’ve highlighted through this post the points in the implementation where consultants can prove their value to you by advising, automating and assisting.
Although having a strict plan can close us off from being innovative, there are some ground rules and expectations that can turn a shoddy implementation into an excellent one.