‘Top of funnel’, shortened to ‘TOFU’, is the first stage in the marketing funnel. It’s in TOFU that prospects become aware of your product/solution, and what pain points you are aiming to solve for them. You will also hear many of the activities at this stage referred to as ‘brand awareness’.
In Pardot terms, TOFU is the stage before a prospect even becomes a ‘prospect’ record in Pardot. This individual exists in your Pardot account as a ‘visitor’, an anonymous website visitor that has not submitted the required data (at minimum, an email address) to become a prospect record in your Pardot account.
With (potentially) scarce data about each prospect at this stage, how should you prepare your Pardot account to handle these records?
When is a Prospect ‘Sales-ready’?
When is this prospect ‘sales-ready’? is the ultimate question you will be asking when designing, and refining, your Pardot account.
There will be a point when a prospect moves beyond TOFU. This could be signaled by field data changes (score, grade, etc.) or some change from the Salesforce side.
Transition point/s will be different for every organization – however, here are very common examples when a prospect could move beyond TOFU:
- Assigned: the prospect record is assigned to a sales user, signaling the marketing handover to the sales team. The prospect syncs to Salesforce as a lead, as a result.
- Lead conversion: the lead record (in Salesforce) is converted into a contact, account and/or opportunity.
- Opportunity: an opportunity record (in Salesforce) is created for an account (typically referred to as a ‘Sales Accepted Lead’)
As you can see, there are multiple ways an organization can define the end of TOFU. There’s a chance that your own organization won’t fit the ‘cookie-cutter’ use case, which is okay (you need to be aware of the nuts and bolts in your lead lifecycle).
Top of Funnel Checklist
Let’s see what’s on my TOFU checklist for ensuring your Pardot is optimized for your ‘top of funnel’ lead generation.
Pardot comes with a ‘Website Tracking’ tracking code you can place on your website. This is will track website visitor behaviour using something called a cookie, and ultimately, display as reports inside Pardot.
- Why Add the Pardot Tracking Code to Your Website? Overview of Pardot Visitor Reporting
- How Can I Check the Pardot Tracking Code Has Been Added to My Website?
Pardot takes an individual’s path through your website, associates it to their prospect record, and therefore makes it non-anonmyous. Google Analytics keeps all visitor activity anonymous; however, is powerful for understanding how visitors typically behave on your website.
In other words, Pardot visitor reporting will only tell you so much about website behavior, overall – which is why you need to use Google Analytics heavily alongside Pardot to determine bounce rate, click paths, and other metrics.
Data Capture: Forms vs. Form Handlers
You should figure out whether to use Pardot forms or form handlers for your use cases.
Pardot Forms: the native option for creating lead capture forms in Pardot, it means you can take advantage of advanced features such as pre-filled fields, progressive profiling and others.
- Advantages of Using Pardot Forms – vs. Pardot Form Handlers or Web-To-Lead
- 6 Advanced Pardot Form Features You Should Be Using
- Pardot Progressive Profiling Form Tutorial & Examples
- Using Pardot Pop-Up Forms on Your WordPress Website
Pardot Form handlers: allow you to integrate an existing form on your website or another platform with Pardot.
- Why Use Pardot Form Handlers? Reasons to Connect Third-Party Forms With Pardot
- Connect Pardot Form Handlers to Your Website & Troubleshooting Tips
Data Capture: Alternatives
All marketers with any website traffic are faced with a simple fact – potential customers are browsing their websites at any given time. Of course, this fact alone is no bad thing, but what marketers really need is a better view of the customer journey. Whilst websites are primed for gaining insight into prospect behavior, the majority are not optimized to do so.
Conversational marketing is one alternative you could explore:
- Chatbots with Pardot – Guide to 6+ Conversational Marketing Options
- Your Website Visitors Are Giving You Data–Leverage It
Lead Source is one Salesforce field that marketers have their eye on. A basic description is a Salesforce picklist field that records where leads came from. It will indicate which lead generation channels produced the greatest number of new leads and down the line, which generated the most revenue based on won opportunities.
This doesn’t always fulfill what marketers need. Sometimes you will want to capture traffic source using UTMs and hidden form fields. Get clued up on all the different options you have.
- Let’s Talk About Salesforce Lead Source
- Ways to Capture Lead Source in Pardot and Salesforce
- How to Capture Source Using UTMs & Hidden Form Fields
- How to Attribute UTM Parameters to Salesforce Campaigns
If you’re looking for advice on how to structure your UTM values, check out the explainer video by Stack Moxie below:
Campaign Influence (First-touch)
Source tracking, with a restricted set of values, tells you traffic source performance at a very high-level, which is great in some cases. However, you will want to get more granular with Campaign Influence.
Rather than a simple source label, eg. “Website”, Campaign Influence will record the exact conversion point, such as “2022 Clown Hire Brochure”. This “First-touch” information will carry through as the prospect becomes a sales accepted lead, and then a customer. Thanks to the link between won Opportunity revenue and the Campaign, you will be able to prove ROI.
Pardot Score and Grade
Two Pardot features work in combination to empower you to prioritize and qualify new prospects. These two lead qualification mechanisms are Pardot scoring and Pardot grading.
Pardot Score is enabled out-of-the-box and kicks in to action as soon as prospects begin interacting with your content. If left unplanned and unchecked, Score can get out of control (there is no limit to how high prospect score can reach).
Pardot Grade does not come enabled out-of-the-box, as Grade is very specific to each organization. If you wish to apply a Grade to prospects in TOFU, then you need to: a) consider which data points are required to calculate an accurate Grade, and b) when is that data captured in the prospect journey? You may have to change what data you’re capturing, or accept that you can’t use Grade in TOFU.
Plus, AI-enabled Pardot Einstein features mean that your answer to the question: “when is this lead sales ready?” can be more sophisticated. However, you need to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. You can unveil the curtain by pulling reports, but always remember that the larger your lead/opportunity database, the better AI will be able to work for your organization.
- Pardot Scoring vs Grading: Pinpoint Hot Prospects
- The Ultimate Guide to Pardot Grading
- What is Pardot Einstein Behaviour Score? vs Pardot Score
- Complete Overview of Pardot Einstein Features
Prospect records must be assigned in order to sync to Salesforce. There are multiple ways a prospect can be assigned: to a user, a group, a queue, or using the active Lead Assignment Rules set up in Salesforce.
Using the active Lead Assignment Rules in your Salesforce org is the best bet, as this keeps rules clear between marketing ops and sales ops. However, that may not always be the right choice – you may wish to send non-qualified prospects to a “cold leads” queue, for example.
Do you have a ‘contact us’ form that needs to route and assign leads to sales users and multiple groups? You’re not alone!
Data validation means you nip dirty data ‘in the bud’ before it flows deeper into your Pardot and Salesforce org. Unfortunately, Pardot forms offer very basic validation options – particularly when comparing what’s available in Salesforce.
Stricter validation in Salesforce will lead to errors when Pardot attempts to sync to Salesforce, for example, Salesforce validation rules are put in place to ensure that data meets certain criteria before the lead/contact record can be saved.
You need to be aware of Salesforce’s required data, and the correct formats, for the prospect record to sync successfully to Salesforce. Then, you should monitor your sync error queue to catch these incomplete/unrefined prospect records.
Another form of validation is for email addresses. In Pardot marketing automation terms, a prospect record is only as good as it’s mailability (whether you can email them). Email addresses become outdated (invalid) surprisingly quickly, so it’s worth running assessments regularly – particularly for prospects that have sat in TOFU for some time, where other teams aren’t making one-to-one contact yet.
Now, I’m really hungry… let me know if I’ve missed anything off this checklist by leaving a comment below.