Pardot 101: Engagement Studio

Profile picture for user Jacqueline Fassett
By: Jacqueline Fassett | 6.12.18

In this Pardot 101 article, we will cover what makes up Engagement Studio, common use cases, and considerations for creating a program. We’ve also included an exercise we’ve found very successful with clients on how to map out your Engagement Studio program with your team.

However, once you’ve mapped out your program, we won’t be walking you through the easy part- creating it in Pardot. There are lots of resources online for that, including Pardot’s own whitepaper found here.


To start, let’s use a real-life example

We’ll start from the prospect’s point of view. As you begin to build out your own Engagement Studio programs, you’ll want to consider how your prospects will engage with your programs.

Ask yourself how many touch points do you think they need versus how many do they want. You don’t want to scare away your leads by being too aggressive at the beginning or sending emails too frequently.

Let’s dive into a scenario of how Pardot’s Engagement Studio works from the view of a prospect:

You’ve just signed up for a whitepaper. You were redirected to a thank you page and an email with a link to download a copy of the whitepaper PDF lands in your inbox. You spend the next few days reading through the whitepaper and doing more research.

A couple of days after downloading the whitepaper, you receive a follow-up email asking if you have questions about the topic of the whitepaper. Early the next week you receive a highly personalized email sending you more information and resources on the topic of the whitepaper.

Finally, after two weeks, you get a call from the company who produced the whitepaper- they’re asking you how your research is going. They've researched your company and ask relevant questions. Yout up a time to talk with one of their sales reps. Your research has prepared you to make a purchase.


This is an ideal scenario of how your prospects will view your Engagement Studio program, and ideally the outcome of the Engagement Studio program.


So, what is Engagement Studio and how does it work?

At its core Engagement Studio is a lead nurturing tool that incorporates email marketing for a highly personalized experience based on your data and your prospect’s activities with your digital assets. The usual goal is to get them to convert by leading them through a journey of engagements.

While every marketing automation solution calls their Engagement Studio equivalent something different, they all include logic (questions answered with a yes or no) and the ability to schedule actions and automate your follow up.

Engagement Studio lets you build what are known as programs for this logic. Basically, a program is a journey map of the steps you want to happen. Here’s what a simple program looks like.


An example of an Engagement Studio program with a few send email and check form completion steps

For a high-level overview of Engagement Studio check out this one-minute demo video from Pardot.


What are Engagement Studio programs?

In a simple answer, they are advanced drip campaigns.

Along with email marketing, drip campaigns are the bread and butter of marketing automation platforms. But how do they work and how do Pardot’s offerings stand out?

Depending on your Pardot license you could create up to 20 programs (Standard edition) or 50 programs (Professional edition and higher).


Steps available in Engagement Studio Programs

Your Engagement Studio programs are made of a series of steps. You can have hundreds of steps, but it’s suggested you keep it to 300 or less. And from my experience, the less the better. Keep it simple.

You can take 4 different types of steps: Triggers, Actions, Rules, and Stops.

Triggers, as known as the “listen for something” step, checks for a prospect to complete an engagement with your Pardot assets, such as filling out a form. Here’s a complete list of Triggers available in Pardot:

  • Email Open
  • Email Link Click
  • Form View or Submission
  • Landing Page View or Submission
  • Custom Redirect Click
  • File Download


Actions, or the “do something” step, are pretty straightforward. You choose to take an action with the prospect record or engage the prospect in some way. My favorite action is the “Create a Salesforce Task”, to automate tasks for Sales to follow up with a prospect. Here’s a complete list of the actions available in Engagement Studio programs:

  • Add to List
  • Add to Salesforce Campaign
  • Adjust Score
  • Apply Tags
  • Assign to Group
  • Assign to User
  • Assign to Salesforce Active Assignment Rule
  • Create Salesforce Task
  • Change Prospect Field Value
  • Notify User
  • Remove from List
  • Remove Tags
  • Send Email


Rules, also known as the “check for something” step, allow you to check a field on a prospect’s record. A common use case is to check if a prospect has a high score or grade. Here are all the things you can check via the Rule step in Pardot’s Engagement Studio:

  • Assigned Salesforce Queue
  • Assigned User
  • Assignment Status
  • Grade
  • List
  • Prospect Custom Field
  • Prospect Default Field
  • Score
  • Prospect Tag
  • Salesforce Campaign
  • Salesforce Campaign Status
  • Prospect Email Status
  • Pardot Campaign
  • Salesforce Status


Stops are exactly as they sound. It’s an end path. A good example of how you could use this: you want anyone who opens an email or registers for a webinar to stop moving through the Engagement Studio program.


What about time in Engagement Studio?

Alongside creating the steps, you can choose when to take those steps. Most steps allow you to wait a certain amount of days (for example, 4 days) or perform the step immediately.

Recently, Pardot added the availability for you to pick a specific date for the email send steps to take place. You should know that if someone gets to this step after the set date has passed they will not get the email, but they will move forward in the program. You can read more about how this works in this Pardot feature announcement.

One of the most common questions I get from Pardot users is what happens when I pause a program. It does exactly that, it pauses. Your prospects will not receive email or move forward in your program. When you hit “Start” your program will begin again. So if a prospect hit a step with a wait time for 5 days and you clicked pause on their first day, they will wait for 4 more days once you start the program back up.

Have more questions about how time works in Pardot? You can read more in this Pardot help article.


Common uses for Pardot’s Engagement Studio

There are some really creative ways to use Pardot Engagement Studio programs. But, again, it’s best to keep it simple- at least in the beginning.

Here are the most useful, and common, ways we’ve seen Engagement Studio programs used for clients when they first start with Pardot.


Resource follow up

This usually lasts up to a month. It’s mainly comprised of sending email steps to prospects offering them more information on the subject of the whitepaper, webinar, or online content. This typically ends with a task for your internal Sales or Business Development team to follow up with the prospect, if they continued to show interest that is.


Welcome series

This typically lasts no more than a month.The main purpose it to send emails to new prospects who have opted-in to introduce them to your brand. My favorite version of this is for internal onboarding of new hires. It’s a great way to get cross-departmental support for Pardot.


Re-engagement and/or a Goodbye series

Pardot has great documentation on how to get started finding out who in your Pardot instance is not engaged with your content. Using this documentation, you can create a series of emails to re-engage and/or one final email to let them know you will be opt-ing them out of your communications (unless they take an action to remain engaged).


I know removing prospects can be a tricky conversation to have with your team, but ultimately this step helps you keep your Pardot instance clean, your email deliverability high, and could even save you money by reducing the number of prospects in Pardot. (Sorry Pardot, but it’s true.)


Some considerations before you build out a program

If you’re sending emails in your program (not all do), you’ll need to create content, email templates, and maybe even fields for this to work. So many companies want a lead nurturing program but don’t have the content to fully execute this.

Take a look at your content and consider where each piece of content falls into your customer’s journey before moving forward with a lead nurturing Engagement Studio program.

You’ll also want to look at how your team uses Salesforce and Pardot to make sure you’re using tasks in Salesforce or following best practices for data quality.

Pardot has a full list of considerations. I highly suggest reviewing them before creating your first program.


Now let’s create an Engagement Studio Program together!

First, schedule a meeting with your team. Brainstorm a few simple ways you could best use Pardot’s Engagement Studio. Then pick one that would be easy and effective.

Next, using paper, a whiteboard, or a diagramming tool like Gliffy, map out your team’s thoughts using the following questions.

What’s your overall idea for the program?

We’ll use an example similar to the one at the beginning of this post.

Example: Our goal is to nurture qualified prospects who have downloaded a whitepaper through our sales funnel.

In this case, a qualified prospect meanssomeone who fits your ideal client or audience (hint hint, grading helps you identify these people).

Why is this idea relevant to your business goals?

You might have some specific business goals outlined. Try to tie your program to those goals as much as possible. This helps with executive buy-in and keeps your program on course with your organization.

Example: Driving revenue and increasing conversions of our qualified leads interested in the whitepaper’s topic.

What’s your ultimate end goal?

Like a call to action, you need an end goal. What action do you want these prospects to take at the end?

Example: I want my prospects to schedule a call with our Business Development Rep to discuss the whitepaper’s topic and their needs.


Next, break your idea down into what you’ll need from Pardot to make this work.

Outline the following Pardot items:

  • Lists. Who do we want to email? Who do we want to suppress?

  • Assets. Are there landing pages, forms, emails, or files that need to be checked, sent, or tracked in some way with this program?

  • Steps. What steps and actions need to be taken? And in what order? While I list the all the steps available above, you can also find them here.

  • Time. When will this begin and end?


This doesn’t have to be pretty or done in a fancy tool first. In a recent Portland Pardot user group meeting, we decided to test my strategy out using a small whiteboard. We guided a user through these questions and then outlined what she’d need to make this work.

Here’s what our user group member’s program looked like:

An example of an Engagement Studio program build out on a whitepaper


And there you have it. I hope this long article helps you prep for using Engagement Studio. It’s one of my favorite tools in Pardot. But it will need some thoughtful planning before you use it.


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