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Quick-Start Guide to Pardot External Actions

The more seamlessly we can automate our entire marketing workflow across multiple platforms, the better our marketing can become - and the more time we have on our hands! Account Engagement (Pardot) ‘External Actions’ brings users one step closer to this dream.

Coloured background with text Quick Start Guide to Pardot External Actions

Before we jump into exactly how to use External Actions, let’s cover the basics…

What are ‘External Actions’ in Pardot?

The External Actions feature bridges the gap between Engagement Studio automation and third-party platforms, allowing us to send prospect data elsewhere so it can be used in those tools too. Before ‘External Actions’ we were reliant only on Pardot connectors and out-of-the-box integrations but with this feature, we have much more flexibility and power.

Important note: External Actions is not the same as External Activities. External Actions allows you to send prospect data to third-party platforms, whereas External Activities allows you to receive prospect data. More on External Activities in this blog!

Many marketers are using platforms outside of their Salesforce instances, whether these are dedicated to event management, SMS marketing, webinar registration, or customer payment gateways.

External Actions makes it possible to take action within those third-party tools using Engagement Studio, for example, registering prospects for an event or webinar, sending an SMS, and many other use cases.

It’s not just relevant to third-party platforms either. Using Engagement Studio and External Actions you can run activities on the Salesforce side, like create a new Opportunity or object.

You must be using Plus, Advanced, or Premium edition and be using the Pardot Lightning App to gain access to the External Actions feature.

Examples of External Actions

We’ve been using External Actions in client accounts to do some really cool things. Here are a few examples to help inspire you!

  1. Send timely prospect insights (such as completed forms or key page views) to sales enablement platforms so sales teams can tailor their conversations.

  2. Record webinar registrations through a Pardot form and send them to a third-party webinar platform.

  3. Listen for a qualifying trigger and then add prospects to a given audience in a paid social media campaign (such as LinkedIn Ads).

Excited to implement this level of automated actions between Pardot and your other platforms? Let’s go through the steps.

How to use External Activities

Step 1: Marketing App Extension

The first thing you need to do is set up a Marketing App Extension in Salesforce. A word of caution, once an extension is created it cannot be deleted, so be sure to properly plan and configure your extensions mindfully.

  1. Go to ‘Marketing Setup’ in your Salesforce instance.

  2. Select Marketing App Extensions.

  3. Click ‘New’ and add an extension for each third-party application you want to connect to.

  4. Name your extension and add an API name.

  5. Select ‘Active in Automations’ or else you won’t see the extension within Pardot.

  6. Hit ‘Save’.

With your extension created, it’s time to assign it to at least one Business Unit. Do this by:

  1. Selecting the ‘Related’ tab for your extension.

  2. Under the ‘Business Units Assignment’ section, click ‘New’.

  3. Choose the relevant Business Unit. You can assign to many Business Units if you need to, just repeat the process and select one by one.

Screenshot Marketing App Extensions settings
Marketing App Extensions settings

The last part of this step is to create our desired external actions.

10. On the same ‘Related tab’ go to ‘Actions’ and select ‘New’.

11. Name your Action and bear in mind that this is the name that will show within Engagement Studio.

12. Add an API name.

13. Include a description for what the action will do (don’t skip this part, it can save you time later down the track if you have lots of actions in the mix and get confused about what each is doing).

14. In the ‘Invocable Action for Action’ field, search for the external action you need. An invocable action is a call that adds functionality to an application and Salesforce comes with a bunch of standard supported actions. However, you can create custom actions too and this would require working with a developer.

15. This will automatically generate the Action Schema field with JSON. Review and edit based on the schema you want to use, or give access to your developer to do so.

16. Select the ‘Active in Automations’ field to see this action appear in Pardot.

17. Hit ‘Save’.

Screenshot of Action Schema

Step 2: Complete the integration

If you are using a Connected App that is already authenticated with Salesforce and comes with pre-made actions as part of their Salesforce package, you are set and ready to go. 

Otherwise, you need to configure the API integration using one of the following Salesforce features:

  • Autolaunched Flow

  • External Service

  • APEX InvocableMethod (using additional code within Marketing App Extensions)

Screenshot of APEX classes

These can be a little complex so we won’t delve into the details here. Instead, reach out to our team of certified Salesforce developers for support.

Step 3: Start using External Actions

With the setup now complete, you should be able to see your External Action as an Action in your Engagement Studio program. When you select your Action you have the option to add a value and you can use HML merge tags to easily pull this from a prospect’s profile. Note that you need to have included the parameters for this value in your Action schema. For example, if you want to include a value for a campaign name, this needs to exist in the Action schema JSON too.

Screenshot of Completion Actions

Your program will now work successfully to ‘call’ Salesforce via the API to run external actions!

A few things to keep in mind:

  • The API call will happen for each prospect, not in bulk, so you may need to check the call limits of both your Salesforce and third-party accounts.

  • You can check your External Actions Usage under Account Settings > Usage and Limits.

  • Keep an eye on your External Actions with the External Action Errors table under Account Engagement Settings.

  • External actions can be subject to other third-party limits. For example, an action that posts a message in an external system can be truncated based on that system’s character limits.

  • Each Business Unit can execute up to 100,000 external actions per day. The limit resets at midnight based on the default time zone for your Business Unit.

  • If you’re having issues with External Actions appearing in Engagement Studio, double-check you have selected ‘Active in Automations’ for both the extension and Action.

To get really snazzy with your external actions, pair them with External Activities! This way, you can reflect any activities a prospect has within your third-party systems in their prospect profile. For example, using External Actions to register them for an event and then External Activities to monitor whether they attended.

If you’d like a hand getting External Actions up and running, get in touch. We have certified Salesforce and Marketing Cloud developers ready and waiting to help.

Anton Minnion headshot

Anton Minnion

A data scientist and engineer, Anton has extensive experience in successfully delivering martech and salestech solutions for a variety of clients, both big and small, and across 25 countries. With a scary amount of knowledge in the development space, his focus at MarCloud is on innovating technical solutions for clients but also creating brand new apps and products for Salesforce platforms, to solve common business challenges.

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