Syncing Salesforce Custom Objects with Pardot

Skill Level


Learning Track

AdministrationFeatures & Functions

In this session, you’ll learn:

  • Custom object constraints
  • How to create a custom object in Pardot
  • Common errors
  • Ways to use custom object data in automations

Overview of Speaker – Dan Umbro – and Presentation

My name’s Dan Umbro and you can find me on Twitter @DanUmbro as well. I work at Fishnet Media, a full service digital marketing agency in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There, I’m the Marketing Automation Solution Architect. I do a number of different responsibilities for our clients, primarily Pardot but I also do search engine optimization, social media strategy, email development and various other digital marketing tasks. 


I have three Salesforce certifications. The Pardot Specialist, Pardot Consultant and Salesforce Administrator. I also co-lead the New Hampshire Pardot user group with marketing champion, Brian Roff. Also, in my free time, I like to golf, hike, and play with my two cats.


Today, I’m gonna share my experiences working with Pardot custom objects. It’s probably an underutilized feature that many companies could probably actually benefit from but don’t necessarily know they have the capability to utilize. 


Basically, we’ll share what objects are considered Pardot custom objects. Then we’ll talk about configuring custom objects in your account and how you can actually do that. We’re gonna cover some limitations that you’ll need to work within and possibly a few errors that you may come across while setting up. Finally, I’m gonna share some use cases that I’ve come across and hopefully get the creative juices flowing with how you can implement it in your own Pardot account.

What is a Salesforce Standard Object

First, you need to know what a standard object is. Salesforce standard objects are objects that are included with every Salesforce organization, and there’s a bunch of them. So with Pardot though, only a few of those standard objects actually natively connect. 


So leads and contacts sync with prospects and they’re related to accounts and opportunities with connected campaigns. Pardot is synchronized with campaigns and campaign member objects in Salesforce. And Pardot can create tasks. And finally, users are synced with the Pardot user sync.

Difference Between Salesforce Custom Objects and Pardot Custom Objects

Salesforce custom objects are objects that you create to store information that’s specific to your company or industry. So keep in mind, those could be objects in other Salesforce clouds like Health Cloud, Nonprofit Cloud or Financial Services Cloud. As detailed here, Pardot does not natively connect with those custom objects. 


So you might be asking yourself, “What about other standard objects “that Pardot doesn’t natively connect to, like cases or products?” Even though they’re technically considered Salesforce standard objects, they count as part custom objects. 


Pardot custom objects are any Salesforce standard object that doesn’t natively connect, like we saw on the previous slide, or any Salesforce custom object. A few of the examples are pictured to the right. So a case is a Salesforce standard object but Pardot would consider that a Pardot custom object. Put another way, custom objects need to be related to a lead or a contact or else you can’t do anything with them.

Creating a Pardot Custom Object

So basically this GIF is showing how to actually create the custom object in Pardot. So you jump to the admin menu, navigate to the custom objects menu item and then you’re gonna add your custom object. We can make some additional configurations after creating the custom object, and I’ll show that in the slide here. So you can see in the top right of the screen here, the “create the custom object” screen. You can choose your custom object. In this case, we’ve selected “Case.” And then you can identify how you want Pardot to display that custom object record; the display name, the plural name and then the display field. One thing I wanted to point out, if you look at the display field, it’s actually what shows up. When you add custom objects to your Pardot account, you get a new tab in the prospect record, called “related objects” and you can see a related objects table and the display field is what this is based off of. To edit what that display field shows you can select the action or the gear under the action menu after creating the custom object and click “configure fields”.


Considerations of Pardot Custom Objects

Before you begin connecting any custom objects to Pardot, there are a few constraints that you’re gonna be working within that are important to recognize. So big restriction, albeit with a suitable workaround, you can’t use variable tags in emails from custom objects. And more on that in the next side because I think it’s important to call out. 


Another consideration is that Pardot can only read Salesforce custom object data, so don’t expect to be able to write or update Salesforce custom object records through Pardot. Anyone with the Pardot Advanced Edition gets up to four custom objects. You can request more. And then, if you have a Pardot Plus account, you can pay an additional fee to get this feature. Custom objects also sync in the background every 10 minutes. Again, this is another important thing to remember because custom object data isn’t synced in real time.

Variable Tag Workaround

So as I mentioned, there’s a workaround for using variable tags with custom objects. One of the really valuable use cases for custom objects in Pardot is being able to send emails via Pardot. 


As an example, if you created a job posting custom object in Salesforce, you could potentially use Pardot to send emails to applicants or hiring managers based on that activity. And that’s where you wanna use a variable tag in those emails. So you can’t natively do that. In order to do that, you have to create a custom field on the leader contact that pulls in data from the custom object. The main reason why it’s not possible to do this natively is because a custom object can be a master-detail relationship, with the related leader contact. So that means you could have many job posting records linked to just one contact. Pardot would be unable to determine which job posting record you’re trying to reference in the variable tag. This is similar to opportunities and the way they relate to accounts. Last thing I’ll say on this is keep in mind that formula fields don’t trigger a sync so you want to make sure your data is up to date if you were going to use this method to send out an email.


Pardot Object Sync Errors

A really common error that people see in their accounts is that the metadata hasn’t been refreshed. This keeps you from being able to see the custom object data in Pardot. 


The first thing I would do to resolve this is navigate to your connector table in the admin menu and click the gear next to the Salesforce connector. From there you should and re-verify your Salesforce connector. If that doesn’t work, you might want to try bringing the data in by manually seeking data on individual prospect records. So you can click the “sync with CRM” button on each individual prospect and the data could show up that way. 


Another issue, and this is something I referenced earlier in the presentation, the custom object you’re trying to connect with isn’t related to a prospect record. So in Pardot, you have a prospect which is tied to a lead or a contact, but if there’s no lookup fields on those records to sync with the custom object, then Pardot won’t give you the option of even creating that custom object. 


Another error I see all the time is the “Read” permission hasn’t been granted to the connector user in Pardot. So, as you may or may not know, Pardot has a connector user which provides the lens into what Pardot can see in Salesforce. If the Pardot connector user doesn’t have that minimum read access with that custom object, it won’t be able to see it and you won’t be able to sync it with Pardot. 


Finally, if you just set up a custom object, make sure you’ve given at least four hours for Pardot to update custom object data as the metadata needs to be refreshed.


Using Custom Objects in Pardot Automations

You are also able to use custom objects in your Pardot Automations. In these automations, you can match prospects by three options: whether the prospect’s related to the custom object, not related to the custom object, or related with specific properties. Next, you can select which specific contacts you wanna match. Remember, in our example, each case had multiple contacts so we need to tell Pardot which contact we’re attempting to match. Finally, if you “choose related with properties,” you get the option to filter by specific fields on the custom objects. Again, this is really where you can customize your list segmentations and automations.


In this example, any prospects who purchased the yearly subscription over 300 days ago will be added to this list. So if you look at this in a little bit more detail, we’re looking at the product custom object by matching the main contact. The criteria we’re using is a field called “last sale date” and we want to make sure that date is at least 300 days ago. And then we want to make sure the product that they have is the yearly subscription because we’re going to try and get them to renew it. So this dynamic list could be used as a recipient list in an engagement studio program, designed to encourage existing customers to renew a product. A very powerful way to automate that process. You could also use a similar dynamic list to cross-sell products to existing customers. The possibilities are limitless, really.


One thing worth mentioning and to keep in mind, there are obviously other ways to accomplish this particular segmentation. In some Pardot accounts, contact records have product data on them. So in my opinion, that may be a more flexible way to use a field on the prospect record. However, I’m sharing a presentation on syncing custom objects and this is just another option you have to do that. All orgs are set up differently and this may be the only offer you have.


Check out the video recording to learn more and see other examples.

About the Author

3x Salesforce Certified and Co-leader of NP Pardot User Group
Fishnet Media

Dan Umbro currently works at Fishnet Media as the Marketing Automation Solution Architect. Dan is 3x Salesforce Certified (Pardot Specialist, Pardot Consultant and Salesforce Admin). Dan is also the co-leader of the NH Pardot User Group. In his free time, Dan likes to hike in the White Mountains, golf, and play with his cats.

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