Where to Import Data First – Pardot or Salesforce? PART II: Salesforce


Where should I import Marketing Data – Salesforce or Pardot?

Tricky, as the answer is up for debate; you only have to ask around to soon discover there’s a difference in opinion. This what happened when we both got talking about the topic, winding up as this three-part series, which weighs up each viewpoint, to ultimately help you decide what’s best for your business.


It’s clear that Pardot is a remarkably intuitive tool that has taken the leg work out of data management for thousands of B2B marketers, especially ones that find themselves wearing many hats across the business.

On that note, Marketing is not an isolated business function, but one that has to work ‘in sync’ with the rest of your organisation. With the success of the Salesforce Connector and other fresh enhancements, Pardot is no longer isolated in its own bubble.  Pardot’s simplicity that we all love, can quickly turn into its nemesis, especially when pitted against its big brother Salesforce, that’s highly customisable and very scalable.

In Part I, Tom raised valid points on why new marketing data should be imported to Pardot first, which included:

  • Unqualified and incomplete lead records make Salesforce ‘busy’
  • Breeds a bad culture of mistrust towards marketing
  • Skewing the Pardot Lifecycle Report
  • Leverage Pardot forms

These points are perfectly true, for businesses that are lean and clean – with lean marketing processes and clean databases. Unfortunately, there is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ answer, which is why I will now raise the case for uploading data into Salesforce first.

Field-level Validation & Sync Errors

Measures can be put in place to maintain data quality – namely data validation. Field-level validation in Salesforce can be more tightly defined, meaning that data input into the CRM is validated more thoroughly than it would be when uploading into Pardot.

Salesforce Validation Rules are based on formulas, therefore, the criteria can get very specific. In comparison, Pardot’s simplistic checkbox setting ‘Validate this field on Import’ cannot rival Salesforce’s granularity; plus, this is only available for fields that use predefined values (checkboxes, radio buttons, drop downs, and multi-selects).

I suppose this would be manageable in cases where users understood that Pardot field-level validation only protects certain field types, but this is not so easy to control and monitor. There’s something more serious that lurks in the shadows of your Pardot account…

…I’m referring to the Sync Error Queue, which is part of the Salesforce Connector and contains the Prospect records that have failed to sync to their respective Salesforce Lead/Contact record. I’ve observed that the majority of Sync Errors are caused by validation rules in Salesforce; when Pardot attempts to sync, Salesforce will essentially throw back that Prospect record. Issues will arise if left untreated, as when a Prospect record fails to sync – regardless of how large or small the cause – it can disrupt your lead handover process, Salesforce campaign management, and marketing reporting.

You can find out more about the Prospect Sync Error Queue and how to reduce it here.

Control over Data Entry Points

More often than not, an organisation’s IT infrastructure has an array of data entry points. To maintain consistency across a nexus of systems (and maintain people’s sanity), many organisations have chosen a Salesforce-first approach when uploading masses of new data.
I see this being particularly important in a post-GDPR world, where stricter controls have to be in place for data processing and storage. By touching Salesforce first, those acting as Data Controllers can take advantage of Salesforce enhancements, such as the ‘Individual’ object. Eliminating Pardot (and other tools) as entry points reduces the risk of rogue data handling, such as storing non-consented personal information, or modifying records illicitly.

Salesforce Campaigns & Reporting

Reports and Campaigns are two features on the Salesforce side that marketers should be getting their hands dirty with. Yes, there’s reporting on the Pardot side, but this is WYSIWYG and not flexible to the extent of Salesforce Reports.

It’s a similar story with campaigns. If you’re familiar with Pardot, you will know that Pardot Campaigns are not the same as Salesforce Campaigns. Pardot Campaigns are simplistic, used only to mark a prospect’s first touchpoint. Salesforce Campaigns, on the other hand, have more potential for tracking the full picture of the customer lifecycle – every marketing touch.

If we choose to keep Prospects inside Pardot, unassigned, then we can only report on half the picture using Salesforce Reports, and can’t track multiple marketing touchpoints in a scalable and clear manner. There’s a risk of ‘happy ears’ when other people in the business only see the skewed picture and not the reality, and a risk at throwing budget at the wrong marketing initiatives. Marketing reporting should not be isolated, and deserves a place in the dashboard alongside all other business functions.

Complex Segmentation

Segmenting a large database into a targeted campaign audience is often not straightforward. Complex segmentation requirements are typical, but not limited to, larger corporations or regulated industries (eg. Financial Services, Manufacturing). For example, take any organisation with an extremely large product catalogue that needs to segment based on product interest and compatibility with their existing assets; setting the conditions for filtering in these cases, is far easier in the Salesforce report builder. Even when using Pardot Custom Objects, you can’t beat the flexibility and capabilities of Salesforce Reports.

Organic Enquiries & Offline Data

In Part I, Tom highlighted that not all new leads will be taken up by Pardot/Marketing users first:
“of course, there will be leads that come in off the back of offline marketing and organic inquiries”. Simply, these inbound phone or email enquiries picked up by sales are going to touch Salesforce first, manually entered as lead records then syncing to Pardot afterwards. For data acquired offline eg. at an event, I suggest uploading into Salesforce to ensure these records are associated to the correct Salesforce Campaign. I will address Salesforce Campaigns later, and why people can’t be associated to multiple campaigns on the Pardot side. Whilst you can do this action from Pardot, it’s extra data admin that might slip people’s minds.

Catching Dupes

Following on smoothly…when marketing acquires a large list of data, there’s a high chance many will already exist in your database. Salesforce duplicate rules will be indispensable for this purpose, able to pick up matches based on attributes such as email address, last name and company, across records of the same and different objects.
Catching duplicates on the Salesforce side ensures data integrity. I’ve seen scenarios where prospect syncing creates a new lead in Salesforce, where the same person already exists, only just with email address missing (therefore, discounted by Pardot).

Hiding Unqualified Data

Finally, to address what Tom described as ‘the obvious flaw’, is how to manage ”unqualified and incomplete lead records” and ensure sales can a) have a good user experience and b) not distrust marketing. As the name suggests, List Views take records and display them as a list – click on any Salesforce Tab, and you will land on a List View. They are simple, and a long-standing favourite for Salespeople.

Admins can create new List Views like ‘My Qualified Leads’, and add filters, such as Score >100, or Grade A or higher. If Salespeople refer to these List Views that show only qualified data, unqualified data stays ‘hidden’.

Also, people may be concerned about assigning prospects prematurely and notifying the Salesperson too early. Use Workflow Rules on the Salesforce side to send email notifications, as you can set the conditions for these to fire, instead of Pardot’s Prospect Assignment notifications, which are sent every time a prospect is assigned.


It’s clear that Pardot is a remarkable tool for managing marketing data, and has been praised for its usability and agility. However, as time has progressed, it is not always the best policy to upload data into Pardot first.

This post has raised a number of points for uploading data into Salesforce first – arguably a beast in comparison to Pardot, with functionality that marketers and other data controllers should be using to support their marketing operations. Having Salesforce as the hub for all customer data is preferable to organisations with complex system architectures and reporting demands. As much as we love Pardot, handling mass data is sometimes more suitable on the Salesforce side.

As I said in the introduction, there is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ answer. Look out for Part III, where I will pitch the case for Pardot directly against the case for Salesforce, and help you make a choice in the context of your business.