Why Marketing Automation Adoption Falls Short – How to Use Pardot

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Salesforce user adoption is a topic that comes up in conversation often. Implementing software is one thing, but having users actually use it is another matter.

Just like any other SaaS, Salesforce is at risk of being booted out of an organisation when the subscription period ends – its add-on products for marketers (Pardot and Marketing Cloud) are no exceptions. With some consideration, poor user adoption can be avoided.

User adoption is linked to productivity (completing tasks faster) and data quality (updating data to reflect a changing reality).

Do you see that it works the other way around, too? A user feeling more productive in their work, a user trusting the data and analytics Salesforce supplies to them – both productivity and data quality reinforce adoption.

As a Salesforce marketing consultant, I began thinking about the relationship marketers have with Salesforce. Where does adoption fall short? What should marketers be paying closer attention to, and where can admins help bridge the common gaps in understanding?

First, let’s set the scene.

Why is Marketing Adoption Important in 2020?

Marketers should be familiar with their marketing databases – how data is structured (data relationships) and how it behaves (syncing, formatting, etc.). Every database is different; even if two marketers have identical tech stacks, there will be limitless differences between the two. You have no ‘blueprint’ or reference guide for this!

That should be the case anyway. What about 2020 and the shakeup that’s been happening? There’s a newfound urgency for marketers to get familiar with their data and use the tools at their disposal.

Still not convinced? Here are three more reasons:

  • Speed to roll out initiatives: you may have come under pressure to go live with marketing campaigns that were never planned pre-COVID. Marketers keeping in touch with their data means that campaigns will come together faster, with fewer errors (and honestly, just less risk overall to marketing operations)
  • Data quality: if your prospects’ context has changed, the data will paint that reality. Data needs to be refreshed and enriched appropriately, and marketing campaigns are one way to do so.
  • New features being released: especially true with Pardot! Pardot and Salesforce product managers have user productivity front of mind. New features both enhance the user experience (campaign building on the platform gets more efficient) and can deliver better analytics.

1. Understanding Data Structure

The first way that marketing user adoption falls short is by not understanding how data is structured.

Knowing which fields you target is a good starting point. For example, you may know that the ‘product interest’ field is key to assigning inbound prospects to the correct salesperson, and that you use the 3 fields number of employees, industry, and annual revenue, to ‘grade’ the prospect and see if they are a good fit for your offering*.

*note: I will use Pardot terminology throughout. Although prospect grading is a Pardot feature, organisations without Pardot still can do a similar exercise in Salesforce.

As I said, a good starting point. The Salesforce data model has a few quirks, which do make sense from the CRM point-of-view, but not obvious from a marketer approaching Salesforce when planning the whole lead acquisition-nurture lifecycle.

I have added some examples below as a taster:

  • Leads are not related to accounts,
  • Leads and contacts are added to campaigns and become campaign members,
  • Contacts are not directly related to opportunities (unless contact roles are involved),
  • Products are related to accounts and opportunities.

The point that I am making is this: marketing typically works at the contact level. Pulling data from certain objects (opportunities, products) to use at the contact level is not always straightforward.

Above: the Sales Cloud data model. I am not suggesting you learn this off by heart, but be aware that it’s a fairly complex web of relationships! (source)

Having an understanding of which objects leads and contacts have access to can save you headaches down the line, without having to backtrack if your plans aren’t feasible with the data model. You will plan effective campaigns that collect, update, or utilise data according to the prospect’s stage in the lifecycle – leading to productivity gains and improving data quality.

2. Understanding Attribution

Attribution is how you ‘connect the dots’ between marketing activities and revenue. Capturing a single ‘lead source’ value is still relevant, however, multi-touch attribution is the holy grail. The majority of marketers using Salesforce and Pardot have matured in their attribution, however, others haven’t reached the end goal – and it’s not always down to a lack of understanding.

Campaign Influence is the Salesforce feature used for marketing attribution. Campaign Influence relies on Leads and Contacts being added to the correct Salesforce campaign whenever they make a marketing activity. This is done through various automations in Pardot – most popular (and neatest) are completion actions, plus automation rules and Engagement Studio actions also able to achieve campaign attribution.

You can read up on Campaign Influence here.

Previously, when Pardot and Salesforce campaigns were separate, there was confusion over how to map Pardot prospect activity to Salesforce campaigns. Thanks to connected campaigns, the standalone Pardot campaigns have been retired, and it is much clearer with campaigns syncing from one source of truth (Salesforce).

So, where do common gaps in understanding exist still?

  • You must add prospects to a Salesforce campaign (‘Add to CRM Campaign’) with each marketing activity they make – regardless of whether the marketing asset (eg. landing page) is related to the Salesforce campaign.
  • Be careful which campaign you are adding to your completion actions and other automations. You may have one campaign to record whether a prospect engaged with the email campaign, yet another to record if they downloaded the whitepaper. There are some tips in this post on how to design your campaign structure effectively when using forms with multiple channels feeding prospects into it.

I’m just scraping the surface here. I’ve not mentioned the fact that a contact must be a Contact Role on the opportunity in order for Campaign Influence to work, or that there’s a timeframe between the date a Lead/Contact was added to a campaign and the date they were added to an opportunity – fall outside of that timeframe and they fall outside of what’s accepted as ‘influenced’.

3. Segmentation

Segmentation is essential for marketers to become proficient in Pardot and not rely on others. The gaps in adoption here are:

  • There are multiple ways to segment data. Knowing which way for what scenario is not obvious.
  • There is a lack of understanding about the purpose of some fields in your org. Fields with vague names and no documentation will fall prey to misinterpretation.
  • Field types! Different field types are referenced differently when using filters to segment (especially in Salesforce reports)

As I said, there are multiple ways to segment data: Salesforce reports, Pardot dynamic lists, automation rules, Engagement Studio rules.

With different options, there’s the risk that key filters aren’t added, and prospects that should be excluded end up being included. There are many situations where this wouldn’t be an issue (eg. not excluding prospects in a certain industry) but becomes a big deal when you breach a prospect’s email preferences, for example. I had worries each time Pardot was rolled out to a large team that users could end up doing rogue segmentation!

How to make everyone’s lives easier?

  • Document key fields for segmentation, especially email preferences fields or other compliance indicators.
  • Create templated reports or dynamic lists for different segments, regions, etc. which the wider team can copy and add additional filters on top of the mandatory filters.
  • Lock filters on Salesforce reports so that users cannot modify them.
  • If you have concerns, lockdown user permissions to create Pardot lists (using custom user roles, if you have Pardot Advanced)

4. Campaign Building

Setting up a campaign in Pardot can cause frustration for a new user. There’s a need to understand how the parts of a campaign come together, for example, how a prospect must be added to a list to start the Engagement Studio program.
Think back to attribution we covered in point #2 also.

When building campaigns end-to-end in Pardot, it’s a case of ‘once you know, you know’. I have trained users coming from different marketing automation platforms that find the Pardot interface unintuitive and the marketing assets are disconnected from each other. Having used alternatives myself, I would argue that Pardot makes it clearer.

What I find helps is knowing which sequence to set assets and automation up in Pardot, for example, I upload the whitepaper as a file before I create the autoresponder email, which would be before the ‘download whitepaper’ form itself. A setup sequence will keep things logical and avoid you going back and forth across different parts of your Pardot org.

5. User Interface

A well-designed user interface influences how naturally people take to using the tool.

Pardot has always been a WYSIWYG* product, condensed down to what marketers need. The bright and bold interface makes it obvious where to click, the navigation is grouped logically, and the table filter options are kept simple.

Contrast this with the Salesforce user interface, where admins have more ways to customise the interface. Features like Dynamic Forms signal the direction Salesforce is heading in: increasing flexibility.

Salesforce can be overwhelming when there is too much information on one page. A switched-on Salesforce Admin will change the page layout according to the audience, for example, keeping campaign history information on the layout for marketers but removing information only useful to the sales team.

Then there’s the topic of bridging the gap between Salesforce and Pardot, for example, by adding Engagement History components (read the full list of how you can bring ‘Pardot into Salesforce’ here).

Migrating from Pardot classic to the Pardot Lightning App has its own challenges given the navigation changes. After using Pardot classic for many years, I had to focus, and retrain my mind, to use Pardot Lightning with the same efficiency!

*what you see is what you get

6. Terminology

Salesforce is full of its own terminology that’s enough to confuse any newcomers. Avoid getting bogged down in the jargon by building a glossary of the most common ‘gotcha’ terms in Pardot and Salesforce marketing.

I can pick on one example: ‘do not email’ and ‘opted-out’. These two terms that describe a prospect’s mailability may sound similar but when it comes to sending emails, there are very different implications.

I am sure there are examples that you have picked up as you have got to know both Pardot and Salesforce!


Salesforce user adoption is a topic that comes up in conversation often. Implementing software is one thing, but having users actually use it is another matter.

This post has shared the ways I have seen user adoption of Pardot and Salesforce for marketers to fall short. My aim was to highlight what marketers should be paying closer attention to, and also where admins can help bridge these common gaps in understanding.

The final thought: The word ‘engagement’ gets thrown around a lot; in this context, it boils down to marketers knowing what data they have, where it came from, its quality, where the gaps are, and how they can reasonably experiment with it. My main takeaway is this: in order to achieve user adoption, productivity, and data quality, marketers need to take responsibility for their databases.

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