Pardot Operational Emails: 7 FAQs on How & When to Use Them

Are you trying to send something to opted out prospects in Pardot, and wondering if operational emails could be a fit? This article breaks down everything you need to know.

1. What are Pardot Operational Emails?

Operational emails allow you to send critical information to a prospect even if they have previously unsubscribed.

This feature is great if you send legal notices, invoices, shipping confirmations, or internal company emails out of Pardot, but can greatly impact your sending reputation if it used for Marketing emails.

2. What is Considered Operational?

Operational emails fall into two categories:

Transactional, meaning the prospect has initiated the transaction.

A few examples would be things like:

  • Shipping notices
  • Event registration confirmations
  • Order confirmations
  • Invoices

Relational, meaning the email contains critical information on how you do business with the prospect.

Examples of relational emails include:

  • Critical system changes that require prospect action
  • Terms of Service notices
  • Legally required notices
  • System outage notifications

3. All of Our Information is Mission Critical, Can We Send Everything as Operational?

With great power comes great responsibility. Use operational emails in Pardot wisely.

Remember, sending Marketing emails to unsubscribed prospects violates most SPAM laws and goes against Pardot’s Permission Based Marketing Policy.

If you’re going to send something out as an operational email, it should contain no — as in ZERO — marketing content.

4. What is NOT Allowed in Operational Emails?

Any email containing promotional, non-critical, or non-transactional information is considered “Marketing” and should not be included in an operational email.

Examples of marketing content include:

  • Product announcements
  • Event and webinar invites
  • Permission Passes
  • Surveys
  • Company newsletters and announcements

5. Got it. How Do I Enable Operational Emails?

This feature has to be enabled by a Pardot Admin. Once it is, it will be available for use in list emails. To enable this feature:

Step 1: Select the Action wheel in the top right-hand corner of your screen, then select Settings.

Step 2: Select Enable Operational Emails.

Step 3: Review the Operational email restrictions notice and click Enable. It will look something like this:

6. Who Can Send Operational Emails?

Only Pardot Admins and custom user roles can send Operational emails.

If you have access to send Operational emails, you will see this option under Basic Info when setting up a List Email.

7. What If I’m Not Sending as a List Email — Can it Still Be Operational?

There are a few quirks to keep in mind about how this can be used in other areas of Pardot:

  • Autoresponders sent from a Form or Form Handler will send to unsubscribed prospects.
  • Autoresponders sent from an Automation Rule will not send to unsubscribed prospects.
  • Emails from Engagement Programs cannot be sent as Operational… but you can vote for this feature to be added in the Trailblazer Community.

How Are You Using Operational Emails?

What other questions do you have about operational emails in Pardot? Are you trying to evaluate whether a specific use case is operational?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

Published by

Erin Duncan

CRM and Marketing Automation Strategist. Erin Duncan is 3x Salesforce certified and has 9+ years of experience as a Salesforce and Pardot Admin. Erin is the leader of the Atlanta B2B Marketers User Group, a Salesforce Marketing Champion, and a former Dreamforce, SE Dreamin, and NE Dreamin speaker.

9 thoughts on “Pardot Operational Emails: 7 FAQs on How & When to Use Them”

  1. My company routinely gives out grants, and we were wondering if surveys on what the recipients did with their grants would be operational. We aren’t trying to convince anyone to apply for anything or making any suggestions, we are just curious about what they did with our $$. It says above that surveys are marketing content but what do you think about these specifically?

    1. The US CAN-SPAM law does apply to non-profits and asking for donations is probably going to be considered a commercial/marketing email.

  2. Thanks so much for these tips! My understanding is operational emails do not need to have an unsubscribe button, does this conflict with emails being sent to spam? I know a lot of spam filters look for an unsubscribe button.

  3. How about notifications about a product upgrade to an existing user licence? This would let the current customer know that they are eligible for an upgrade to the latest software, but won’t be promoting any other existing products or services.

    1. That’s a situation I think is worth running by Salesforce and/or your legal counsel. I can see a grey area there, since there’s no obligation on you to send the message (it may not a legally required notification)… but it also might not be mandate on the prospect to act (they could potentially continue service without it). In their help documentation, Salesforce puts “Product update and improvement announcements” emails in the “Marketing” category.

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