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Syncing Salesforce Custom Objects with Pardot

Taking Advantage of Custom Objects Using Pardot

I recently presented at ParDreamin’ about syncing Salesforce Custom Objects with Pardot. Custom objects are instrumental in extending Salesforce organizations, but I wanted to help Pardot users understand how they could take advantage of them in their own accounts. In the presentation, I detailed my experience working with them, and if you missed the virtual event, here’s a summary of what I presented.

Introduction to Custom Object Integration in Pardot

The first question that comes to mind… what is a custom object? First, we need to understand what a standard object is in Salesforce.

What Salesforce Standard Objects Sync with Pardot?

Salesforce standard objects are objects that are included with every Salesforce organization, which there are a lot of. For the purposes of Pardot, it natively connects with:

  • Leads and Contacts, which sync with Prospects.
  • Accounts and Opportunities, which are related to Prospects.
  • Campaigns and Campaign Members, which are synced with Connected Campaigns.
  • Tasks, which Pardot can create.
  • Users, which are synced to Pardot with User Sync.

The fact that some Salesforce standard objects don’t natively sync with Pardot is an important distinction. Most Salesforce standard objects are actually considered Pardot custom objects. A few examples are the Case, Order, Product, and Contract objects.

What Are Custom Objects?

But what about Salesforce custom objects? Those are objects that you create to store information that’s specific to your company or industry. Pardot does not natively connect with Salesforce custom objects. Keep in mind, these could be objects in other Salesforce Clouds like Health Cloud, Nonprofit Cloud, or Finance Services Cloud.

What is a Pardot Custom Object?

Pardot custom objects are any Salesforce standard object that doesn’t natively connect (referenced above) or any Salesforce custom object.

How Does the Custom Object Sync in Pardot Work?

A great question. Here is an example diagram of the sync at work:

For this example, we’re looking at the case object. In this org, there are actually two contacts on each case record. The contact who opened the case (Contact #1) and then a technical contact (Contact #2). Both of those contact records line up with prospect records in Pardot:

And because an automation matches prospects, a custom object automation rule matches prospects related to a custom object. You can run a dynamic list, automation rule, or segmentation rule against a Pardot custom object. In this example, we created a dynamic list:

Put another way, custom objects need to be related to a lead or a contact, or else they do nothing.

Creating Custom Objects in Pardot

Knowing how the custom object sync actually works is helpful to understand before actually configuring them in Pardot. Assuming you have the Salesforce Connector already configured, these are the steps to create:

  1. Navigate to Admin | Custom Objects, click + Add Custom Object.
  2. Select a CRM object.
  3. Optionally, edit the display name, plural display name, and display field.
  4. Click Create Custom Object.
  5. After creating, optionally click the gear (under actions) and click “Configure Fields” to toggle fields that display on the prospect record.

One thing worth pointing out is that the “Display Field” is what shows up on the prospect custom object table in their respective records. You can also configure those table fields if you click the gear under the action menu in the custom object table. Here’s what the prospect record looks like in the previous example:

Custom Object Constraints

Before you began connecting any custom objects to Pardot, it’s helpful to understand the constraints you’re working within:

    • Custom object fields cannot be used natively as variable tags within emails.
    • Pardot can only read custom object data, it can not write to it. Meaning, don’t expect to be able to update records for Salesforce custom objects through Pardot.
    • Up to four custom objects (you can request more) can be synced for Pardot Advanced edition customers. Pardot Plus customers can pay an additional fee.
    • Objects sync in the background every ten minutes.

On variable tags… In the case you want to use a custom object field in an email, you can create a formula field on the lead or contact object that pulls data from the custom object’s desired field. There are some limitations, of course, as formula fields don’t automatically sync with Pardot when they’re updated, so you need to make sure those fields are up to date before sending any emails.

Common Errors

There are several possibilities why custom object data wouldn’t show up in Pardot, and Salesforce explains them in their documentation.

Metadata hasn’t been refreshed

A really common error is that you can’t see Custom Object records in Pardot. Remember metadata only syncs in the background every 10 minutes.

You can do two things here. Try reverifying your Salesforce Connector:

Or you can try manually syncing a prospect to show related custom object data:

No valid lookup field

Another issue is that the Custom Object you’re trying to connect isn’t related to a Prospect record. So, if you have a Prospect tied to a Lead or Contact, but there is no lookup field on those records to sync with the Custom Object you want to connect, then Pardot won’t give you the option of connecting that object.

No “Read” permission has been granted

Every Pardot account has a Connector User, which provides the lens into Pardot. Whatever object permissions that user has, determines what Pardot can see. So, if Pardot doesn’t have at a minimum “Read” access to the Custom Object, then you won’t be able to sync with Pardot.

Ways to Use Custom Objects in Automations

Now onto the good stuff. How can you use custom objects in your Pardot account today? Since there are an unlimited number of use cases, use these as inspiration and think about how it would make sense to incorporate them into your marketing teams processes.

Product Renewal

Any prospect who purchased a yearly subscription more than 300 days ago will be added to this list:

This dynamic list could be used as the recipient list in an engagement studio program designed to encourage existing customers to renew a product. You could also use a similar dynamic list to cross-sell products to existing customers. As mentioned above, the possibilities are limitless.

Keep in mind, there are other ways to accomplish this action in Pardot. In some Pardot accounts, Contact records have product data on them, making it a more flexible way to automate. 

Attendee Nurture

Any prospect who attended ParDreamin’ with a Premier ticket will be added to this list:

This dynamic list could be used as the recipient list in an engagement studio program informing registered attendees of session details and announcements. Similarly, an automation rule could match all Volunteers for the ParDreamin’ Conference and tag them, add them to a list, add to a campaign and update status, or send them an email.

Recurring Donation Ask

Any contact who made a one-time donation of more than $999 will be added to this list:

This dynamic list could be used as the recipient list in an engagement studio program asking high-value, one time donors to set up a recurring donation. Or, you could use it as a list to send out an automated marketing thank you email.

This is a really valuable example, especially for nonprofits with limited resources. You can really help impact the amount of money your organization can raise, using automations in a really efficient way.

Unresolved Case

Any contact who has an open case will be added to this list:

Use this as a suppression list, as to not irk customers with marketing emails when they’re dealing with an unresolved case.

High-Priority Case

Any contact related to an Account that has an open, high priority case will be added to this list:

Slightly different from the previous examples, this list will match all prospects related to an account with the criteria we specify. 


Pardot custom object syncing isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing. There’s plenty of opportunity to maximize your investment with Pardot by syncing with custom objects. If you’re looking for official relevant documentation, check out these links:

It’s Time to Modernize Your Content

Bring Your Brand’s Content Up to Speed With How People Think, Learn, and Digest Information in a Digital World

We update all the time – our homes, our wardrobes, our cars…and the same motivations that compel us to buy the latest iPhone as soon as it comes out should also apply to your brand’s content strategy – in short, it’s time to modernize your content. 

In a recent Content Marketing Institute article about 2021 content planning, Marcus Collins, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business put it best:

“No one’s like, ‘Yes! White papers – love them!’ No one goes to the movies (pre-COVID) and says, ‘Man, Christopher Nolan gave us some great content,’ or ‘Drake just dropped some really dope content.’ No one says that. People say, ‘It was a great album.’ ‘It was a great movie.’” 

In that article, Collins goes on to say that marketers should think more about people-first, experiential, humanizing content – and we couldn’t agree more. The way marketers tend to talk about and produce content is often vastly different from the way real people talk about and digest content, and it’s time to change that. 

Find the Weak Areas of Your Content Strategy First

Before we get into the modernization of your content itself, we have to stress the importance of starting with your content strategy – that is, making sure it, too, has evolved along with technology and marketing practices. Take a look under the hood and see if your content strategy checks these boxes:

  • You understand your target audience and what your competitors are doing so you can be sure your content not only meets your customers’ needs, but helps you stand out and advance in your market.
  • You take advantage of technology like content management tools, chat bots, and marketing platforms, to name just a few, to help you better connect with your audience and nurture those relationships through conversion.
  • You produce new content regularly – not just a handful of blog posts each year
  • Your content is up-to-date and older, less relevant content is archived or updated – and your content supports your customers’ buyer journeys (conducting a content audit is a great way to assess how effective your content is at bringing prospects through the funnel to conversion).
  • You’re active on multiple digital platforms, giving you multiple ways to showcase your content and get found online.
  • Your content is regularly optimized for search, and your website and assets are mobile-friendly.

If you don’t have any or most of these areas already accounted for, you know where you need to start to modernize your content strategy. 

As you’re making these changes, we have some recommendations to modernize the content itself.

What’s in a Name? Modernize Your Content Categories

The easiest place to begin modernizing your content is to look at how it is categorized. Do you have a library of resources on your website in which one of the categories to search within is “white papers” and another is, perhaps, “presentations” or something similarly vague? 

As Marcus Collins said, your audience is not going to say, “Yes! White papers!” and hungrily delve into the entire collection to find the specific information they’re looking for. They are better served by clearly-defined categories that directly reflect your services or offerings, and that make it as easy as possible for users to find the information they want. 

This type of approach to your resources also allows you to keep the featured content fresh and relevant – your audience wants to see the COVID-19 story right now, not a dated marketing trend about live events.

Make Your Content Sound Like it Comes From Present Day

I know it seems like I keep knocking white papers. In actuality, they are a valuable resource – for specific audiences who want to get into greater detail about a complicated topic. White papers and in-depth research articles help companies showcase deeper knowledge about and thought leadership in their market category.  

We encourage our clients to weave white papers into their content strategy if it makes sense for their audience. I can’t stress enough that while you may love a good 5-page deep-dive, your customers might not.

A dominating byproduct of this digital world we’re living in is that the way people digest information has drastically changed.  This reality is nothing new – in most cases, we want things fast, easy-to-consume, visual, and brief. Only a narrow swath of target customers will sit down to read a lengthy report top-to-bottom.

Modernize your content by making it look and sound more applicable to where we are right now. A great example of this approach is Think with Google, a content hub of insights and ideas organized (appropriately) to fit the way we think. 

These assets are labeled “Perspective”, “Interactive Feature”, “Video” and “Case Study”, which are more representative of the digital language we speak today. And the labels are included as something of an afterthought to set expectations – the asset titles, which are prominently displayed, are what get people to click.

Really the big takeaway here is to create and present content that resonates with your target audience today. Tracking content performance is a great way to know what works – if your infographics get a lot of traffic and your eBooks get far less, shift more emphasis to infographic creation. 

And rather than ditch eBook creation entirely, think of ways to make them more visual – and modernize the name. Some eyes may glaze over at the word “eBook” while something like a “LookBook” sounds more compelling. 

If your content strategy is modernized with the right technology, promotion tactics, buyer journey focus, and SEO approach, you have the ability to focus on modernizing the content itself. Engage your audience by presenting content in a format that makes sense for how they consume information in today’s digital world. 

We KNOW – Things Are Difficult! 

Brand Messaging and Tone in a COVID-19 World

I listen to a lot of podcasts. One thing you get used to when you listen to podcasts is the ads the hosts read for different brand sponsors. Some popular ones include HelloFresh meal delivery, the Noom weight loss app, and the ZipRecruiter hiring app. Lately, many of these ads all share one outstanding characteristic – they’re all offering a sympathetic nod to “things being pretty hard right now” – or some variation of that sentiment.

Since COVID-19 drove people into their homes, then cautiously out again, and somewhat back in now that more anxiety has been cast about the winter months, brands have adopted an apologetic tone, couching their products or services as a way to help/escape/cope/reward ourselves (etc.) for the trouble 2020 has leveled upon us.

Every time I hear this type of ad-speak, I think, sarcastically, “Thanks for the reminder about how challenging 2020 has been!”

And then my marketing brain kicks on and I think, “Is this really working for brands?”

The answer is yes – and no.

In the first weeks and months after the pandemic broke out, many brands reacted by going dark, which was somewhat ill-advised because in truth, adapting to the “new normal” was most prudent for brands to keep business moving. 

What COVID-19 has done is force brands to rethink their marketing strategies. 

Since the early months of this pandemic, we’ve seen the integration of masks in TV or print ads; we’ve heard messaging around the introduction of contactless delivery or pickup; we’ve enjoyed discounts and deals to make purchase decisions easier during a time when many people lost or were furloughed from their jobs. 

These tactics are smart and allowed brands to forge connections with consumers dealing with a suddenly different way of life. But as the months have passed and we’ve witnessed reopenings of businesses and schools and the resumption of certain social activities, many brands are alluding to the collective struggle of 2020 as part of their messaging – regardless of their audience or what they’re selling.

Doing so is only problematic if the messaging fails to understand that many people are still very seriously impacted by this pandemic and that the challenges of March and April are persistent across the country today. 

There remains a “right way” and a “wrong way” for brands to incorporate messaging around the pandemic in their advertising, and even if the greatest consequence of the “wrong way” is an eye roll from your consumers, we think it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

When Does a Nod to COVID-19 Help Brands?

Alluding to the challenges of 2020 – which for some have been significant and for others less so – can work if it’s the right brand and the right offering. A successful delivery of this type of message depends on the product or service being offered and if it’s directly related to the COVID-19 struggle.

If your company is genuinely helpful, or in the business of making home life easier, it can be impactful to and appreciated by consumers. 

DoorDash, for example, is a contact-free food delivery service that works with local restaurants and national chains to bring the food you want right to your door. This brand realizes people are largely stuck at home and has created messaging that respectfully alludes to this situation:

“Between never-ending laundry cycles and incoming emails, you’ve got plenty of items on your todo list. Give yourself one less thing to worry about, and let DoorDash take care of your next meal.”

As a consumer often overwhelmed with being home and very much missing the experience of eating at a restaurant, the messaging resonates and feels helpful and relevant. I also appreciate that it is specific to certain challenges of being at home, rather than reminding me about the general dumpster fire of a year 2020 has been. 

When Does Referencing the Pandemic NOT Help a Brand?

With anything in life – but especially with marketing – people can tell when something is disingenuous or a blatant cash-grab. 

In the first weeks after the pandemic, brands that responded by simply shutting off their marketing now may be struggling with how to do any advertising if it doesn’t directly mention COVID-19 or the general unpleasantness of 2020 many consumers feel. 

This conundrum is why most brands, regardless of what they are offering, use language like, “We could all use a little fun right now,” or “Now more than ever we need a break from reality.”

For something unrelated to the challenge of the pandemic – a luxury item like a car or a leisure purchase like jewelry or a new mattress– the reference can seem thin and out-of-place.

For example, Heinz debuted a “tomato blood ketchup” leading up to Halloween, with this message from its brand manager, “Families have had to navigate a lot this year, and Halloween is no exception. With Heinz Tomato Blood Ketchup, we want to give families a fun way to go big with their spooky celebrations, even if they look a bit different in 2020.”

The reality? Heinz ketchup is not a solution to much except perhaps a lack of flavor with my french fries.  

References to the pandemic are not obligatory. Brands that aren’t offering direct help or relief to the real struggles people are facing each day would be better off not mentioning or alluding to the pandemic at all.

In place of brands going out of their way to keep reminding consumers of the challenges that confront us, brands can also win by using normal, pandemic-free messaging where appropriate. 

COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we do everything, and brands continue to search for the right tone in response to the events transpiring this year. 

One thing we can all agree on? 2020 has been difficult, for some more than others, and in different ways. The best brand messaging and tone during COVID-19 are those of compassion, understanding, helpfulness, and humility; consumers will see right through attempts to use the pandemic as a way to sell more products.

Personalized Marketing is More Complex – and More Necessary – than Ever

In Today’s Hyper-Personalized World, Marketers Must Focus Their Approach on First Engagements

These days, there can be a lot of reasons to feel a bit wistful for simpler times, especially for companies struggling to keep business moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are operating on an entirely different level when it comes to buying decisions, and the need for personalized marketing is not only more critical now than at any point in the past, but it looks different too.

Hyper-personalization is a somewhat anxiety-inducing way of describing the shift from one-to-one sales-driven marketing to marketing that is multi-channeled and layered, with many touchpoints that all play a role in influencing a buying decision. 

The Customer is on to You

Marketing has become somewhat of a transparent activity. We all know we’re being marketed to. We know when it’s happening and, most importantly, how to tune it out or avoid it. But we are also happy to play along – providing useful personal data in exchange for something we want. Our expectation also is for an even more tailored experience going forward. 

And therein lies the challenge for marketers – and also the opportunity. 

Data is the key to hyper-personalization, and there are a few ways to collect effective data in order to enhance the customer experience: 

  • Add dynamic content to your website. With dynamic content, users are strategically fed content at specific points during their interactions with your website, allowing you to collect information at appropriate points during the customer journey in exchange for providing them valuable content.
  • Follow the real digital customer journey. One of the mistakes marketers make is assuming all customers follow a linear journey from “awareness” to “decision”. Instead, digital touchpoints (many of which aren’t even controlled by your brand) have turned the journey into a complex web of actions, and you must be prepared to interact with the customer at every turn.
  • Take advantage of personalization tools like Drift chatbots. Get back to the one-to-one sales conversation with a chatbot. A chatbot can be easily set up strategically throughout your website to ask the right questions at the right time, and gather customer information to improve their interactions with your brand.

Personalized Marketing in the Age of COVID-19

While personalized marketing was already a necessity for companies to better connect with their customers, the COVID-19 pandemic brought it into even sharper focus. As people have retreated to their homes and one-to-one interactions have become limited to digital-only experiences, companies have had to rethink personalized marketing on a whole new level.

Regardless of industry, or whether your company is B2B, B2C, or D2C, major shifts to different ways of doing business will last into the future as everyone adapts to a new normal – even as the economy begins to open up again.

Personalized marketing can now include anything from offering convenient curbside pickup, to providing in-store sanitation, to offering voice-enabled communication and self-assisted online experiences; think AI-powered navigation to be more intuitive and responsive to your customers’ actions. 

A recent consumer research report conducted by Zoovu and Researchscape found some interesting insights that point to an opportunity in the age of COVID to better personalize the customer experience:

  • 84% of consumers wish search identified their needs and narrowed results down to 5-10 choices.
  • 70% of consumers are interested in using digital assistants to make online purchasing easier and more personalized for their individual needs.
  • 69% of marketers see conversational engagement as a large or complete priority, but only 25% are looking to implement this type of solution.

It’s clear beyond a doubt that personalized marketing is a must – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future. So let’s talk about how to get hyper-personalized.

There’s Data, and Then There’s Metrics

Collecting customer data is great for informing hyper-personalization strategies, but customer behavior metrics can’t be ignored. Fully understanding your customers requires dual collection of their information and information about the way they behave when interacting with your website or brand materials. 

Brand metrics help us understand when and how a conversion occurred, and are helpful for replicating brand experiences that have been shown to lead to conversions. 

The caveat is that brand metrics are often focused on what the brand wants to track; i.e. how much traffic a page gets, or how many downloads of an eBook were made. But when we focus more on brand metrics than on customer experience data, we risk alienating customers by failing to provide what they need. 

To address this problem, we recommend a mix of tracking both brand metrics and customer data to ensure you know what your customers care about – and can therefore better align all touchpoints with those preferences. 

What Makes Personalized Marketing “Hyper”?

At Fishnet, we often tell our clients that resonating with customers is all about the right message, at the right time, in the right way. We didn’t invent that mantra, but we also don’t take it at face value – and today, we can’t, because so much has changed about audience targeting from both a technology and a legal standpoint.

With tighter privacy regulations, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) notwithstanding, being in the right place at the right time with the right message is only as effective as the information driving what’s “right”. 

It is here that technology and the law converge. 

Big social media companies like Facebook that have traditionally been the gatekeepers of valuable customer data are responding to privacy concerns by putting up barriers to this information. Marketers now have had to generate their own audience information to ensure there’s no loss of personalization potential.  

As consumers ourselves, we see the personalized approach all the time, especially with brands like Netflix and Amazon whose business models are based around hyper-personalization. These companies have reinvented the personalization wheel and set the stage for all other brands. Consumers feel safe divulging information to them in exchange for hyper-personalized services that make spot-on purchase recommendations or suggest just the right type of entertainment. 

Of course, we’re talking about mega brands. You may not be competing with Netflix or Amazon, but you still want to connect with your customers in the same hyper-personalized way. 

Brands today have an opportunity to merge their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology with customer experience data to identify the best audience targeting opportunities that will drive business.

As customer interactions and the privacy landscape change, the most important piece of personalization remains audience identity data. Taking personalization to the “hyper” level is all about how you use that data – to connect with customers at every relevant touchpoint, and meeting their expectations for interaction and information. Only then can brands deliver value in the right way, at the right time, while protecting the safety and integrity of the customer – and their trust.