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Pardot External Activities Explained

The Account Engagement aka Pardot ‘External Activities’ feature has been available for years but it’s often overlooked by marketing teams because it requires a small amount of API integration work and frankly, without a full-time developer on-hand this can intimidate users!

Coloured background with text Pardot External Activities Explained

In reality, setting up External Activities isn’t too difficult and is well worth the effort. 

Before we delve into the steps, let’s start with the basics…

What are ‘External Activities’ in Pardot?

It’s rare that a business isn’t using third-party marketing platforms alongside Pardot. Whether it’s for event registration, webinar hosting, or even payment processing, there are a number of reasons other tools are required. 

When setting up Engagement Studios and automations, it makes sense that you’d want to use prospect activities in these third-party platforms for triggering or informing marketing communications.

Now, in the case of popular platforms such as GoToWebinar, there is an out-of-the-box integration via a default Pardot connector that allows you to do this with ease, so you can send personalised and automated messages based on whether a prospect attended, left early, and so on. 

External Activities makes this same functionality possible for platforms that don’t have connectors, or for use cases where the connector is not enough.

In short, it pulls the prospect data you specify into Pardot and allows you to use this data in your marketing. 

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

Once you have External Activities up and running, you’ll see this data within its own section on your Pardot prospect record:

Screenshot of External Activities on a profile

Source: Salesforce Trailhead

Important note: External Activities is not the same as External Actions. External Activities allows you to receive prospect data from third-party systems, while External Actions does the opposite; allowing you to send prospect data to third-party platforms. More on External Actions in this blog!

External Activities examples 

For inspiration and to better demonstrate how useful External Activities truly are, here are a few examples of how we’ve used External Activities for our clients.

  1. To see webinar registrations and whether a prospect has attended/no-showed.

  2. To understand a prospect’s behaviour on social media, such as link clicks, likes, and shares.

  3. For tracking a customer’s activity across core connected apps, such as a payment acceptance platform or learning management system.

Now the cogs are whirring and you can see clearly how External Activities might benefit you, let’s go through how to get started.

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 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 include an API name.

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

  6. Hit ‘Save’.

With the extension created, it’s time to specify the activity you want to pull in from your external platform. 

7. Click ‘Related’ to see the Activity Types tab. This is the prospect behaviour you want to see and use within Pardot i.e. did not attend an event.

8. Select ‘New’ to create as many Activity Types as you require for that extension - maybe start with one to begin with and once this is up and running successfully you can add more!

9. Name your Activity Type and select ‘Active in Automations’.

10. Click ‘Save’.

Heads up, you will need to create a unique Activity Type for each extension you create. It’s not possible to have multiple extensions share the same.

Below ‘Activity Types’ you’ll notice another section for ‘Business Unit Assignments’. You need to configure this even if you only have the one Business Unit. 

11. Select ‘New’ and 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 of Activity Type Salesforce

Step 2: Complete the integration via the Pardot API 

With your extensions and Activity Types created and assigned to at least one Business Unit, you’re ready to complete the integration using the Pardot API. 

12. View the ‘Details’ tab for your extension. This is where you’ll find the API Endpoint; a piece of code that will be used for the integration.

13. You have two options here:

  • Integrate using the native Salesforce solution: Salesforce Flow/Process Builder.

  • Use Zapier, which is the easiest method but working natively in Salesforce means eliminating the use of yet another platform.

In both cases, there are a number of steps to follow but honestly, it’s easiest if you handball this particular step to a developer to take care of, even if you’re using Zapier. This is because Zapier doesn’t actually support the type of API request needed, so you’ll need to use Zapier Webhooks to create the integration. A Salesforce-certified consultant can help here.

Step 3: Start using Pardot External Activities

Once the setup is complete, you can use External Activities in these features:

  • Dynamic lists

  • Segmentation rules

  • Engagement Studio

  • Automation rules

A few things to note:

  • External Activities have their own API limits and therefore will not affect Salesforce call API limits.

  • External Activities values won’t be pre-populated in Engagement Studio so users will need to know the exact values to input.

  • External Activities won’t update a prospect’s last activity timestamp and can’t be relied on as an indicator of last activity, meaning they also won’t trigger a sync between Salesforce and Pardot.

  • Deactivating an extension in Salesforce will not stop it from being active in Pardot. If you need to remove an extension for any reason, be sure to check any Engagement Studios, automation rules etc. that use it.

  • If you’re having issues with External Activities appearing in Pardot, double-check you have selected ‘Active in Automations’ for both the extension and Activity Types.

  • If a prospect activity occurs before a prospect enters an Engagement Studio program, the trigger won’t execute.

  • External activity data isn’t tracked for prospects in the recycle bin.

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

Carl Mortimer

Carl Mortimer

Carl spent eight years in sales before moving to consulting in the martech space with Pardot, Marketing Cloud and Sales Cloud. With his first-hand experience, he's able to produce solutions with the full lead-to-revenue cycle in mind. He loves seeing his clients thrive as a result of working together, and this buzz drives him in every project he delivers. Focused on delivering a 5-star experience for clients, Carl is a Salesforce Marketing Champion who actively engages with the Salesforce community both directly and via blog posts.

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