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When to Use a Pardot List Email vs. Email Template (and what to do if you build the wrong one)

When to Use a Pardot List Email vs. Email Template (and what to do if you build the wrong one)

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Building and sending emails is Pardot’s bread and butter. The ability to customize the look and feel, decide exactly who to send to, and how you want to use emails is key to any marketing automation operation. 

In Pardot, there are two types of emails that can work together but have distinct purposes: List Emails and Email Templates.

Here’s a quick definition of each email type:

  • Email Template: An Email Template in Pardot can be used for automated emails such as autoresponders, one to one emails, or engagement studios. Email Templates can also be used when building List Emails or one to one emails by applying a pre-built template before building out the content. 
  • List Email: List Emails are created for one-time sends. Once a list email has been sent, it can be copied and edited, however it cannot be reused like a template.

Now, let’s dig into what that means for your marketing efforts and reasons you’d use an Email Template vs. a List Email. 

When to use an email template 

The number one question to ask yourself when you think an Email Template is the way to go is: Will this email be repeated or automated? 

If you’re building out an email design you’ll want to use again and again – set up an Email Template to then apply to List Emails.

If you’re setting up an email to be applied to some sort of Pardot automation like Engagement Studio, Automation Rule, or an autoresponder, use an Email Template. 

Select where you’ll use your email templates

Keep your templates organized by determining where each template will be available for use. If you change your mind, after the template is created, you can always update where it can be used by going into the “Basic Template Information” section and updating the checkboxes.

When to use a List Email 

Email Templates can do a lot, but List Emails are your go-to for one-off email sends. List Emails are your golden ticket any time you want to reach a specific list at a specific time for a specific purpose. Think: holiday email, product status update, or monthly newsletter. 

A unique feature of List Emails vs. Email Templates is they let you schedule and send directly from the email editor, whereas with Email Templates, you apply the finished product for use somewhere else in Pardot.  In the Sending tab of the email editor, you have the option to add recipient and suppressions lists and to select a date and time to schedule or send the email.

List Email vs. Email Template cheat sheet 

If you’re still not sure whether to use a List Email or an Email Template, here’s a cheatsheet to guide your decision. Just note how you want to use the email and which functionality you want to employ, and then review the list below to see which email type can perform that functionality. 

Email Usage or Supporting FunctionalityList EmailEmail Template
Autoresponder EmailsNoYes
Single Send EmailsYesNo*
Engagement StudioNoYes
HTML Email DesignYesYes
Text Only Email DesignYesYes
Custom From/ReplyYesYes
Dynamic Content TagsYesYes
Insert Variable TagsYesYes
Completion ActionsYesNo**
One to One EmailsNoYes
A/B TestingYesYes
Apply Recipient and Suppression Lists YesNo
*Email Templates must be applied to a List Email to be used for single send emails
**You can set actions and tasks within an engagement studio program, but you cannot set completion actions as part of the settings for an Email Template.

Reporting differences between List Emails and Email Templates 

Another important distinction between List Emails and Email Templates is the different levels of reporting they offer. 

Email Template reporting: See engagement on a macro scale 

When you go to “View Report” for an email template, the report shows data for every time that Template has been used and compiles it into one macro-level report. 

For example, if you primarily use an Email Template for a specific branded look and feel, such as a newsletter, and you have used this template to send six List Emails, then all six of those sends will be reported together in the Email Template report.  

This gives you a holistic view of how your newsletter is sending (open rate overall, etc.) and provides insight into whether you should consider updating the look and feel or layout of the template. 

Navigate to the Email Template report by clicking into the Published Email Template you want to see and selecting the “View Repot” button in the top right-hand corner.

List Email reporting: See engagement by individual email sends 

Gain a more granular look at individual email performance by viewing email reports for List Emails.  For example, if you use one Email Template applied to six List Emails, you can view reporting for all six emails under the Email Template, but should look at the reports for each individual List Email to see how each unique send performed. Here you can note differences in design, content, send time of day or day of week, recipient lists, and other unique features of each send to help identify why certain emails performed better than others. 

Navigate to the List Email report by clicking into the List Email you want to see and selecting the “View Repot” button in the top right-hand corner.

Tricks and gotchas 

Help! I’ve created a List Email and I need an Email Template

If you created a List Email and then realize it should have been an Email Template, follow the steps below to essentially move your email to an Email Template. 

  1. Open your list email and click the </> HTML tab
  1. Right click within the HTML content and click Select All
  2. Right click again and click Copy
  3. Leave your List Email open, but begin creating your Email Template by going to Marketing > Emails > Templates
  4. Click + Add Email Template
  5. Fill out the Name, Folder, Campaign and Available For options, click Save
  6. On the next screen, click the </> HTML tab
  7. Right click within the HTML content and click Select All
  8. Right click again and click Paste, this will copy over the HTML version of your List Email into the Email Template
  9. Click back to your List Email and select the Text tab
  10. Right click within the content and click Select All
  11. Right click again and click Copy
  12. Click back to your Email Template and select the Text tab
  13. Right click within the content and click Select All
  14. Right click again and click Paste, this will copy over the HTML version of your List Email into the Email Template
  15. Now that the content is copied over, you can continue testing and setting up the sending specifics on your Email Template. 

Help! I’ve created an Email Template and I need a List Email

If you accidentally created an Email Template and you really need a List Email, you can copy and paste the HTML and Text content (as outlined above) or simply publish the Email Template and apply that template to a List Email. 

  1. If you finished building your Email Template, make sure this template has been published (this won’t work if it remains a template draft)
  2. Create your List Email by going to Marketing > Emails > New List Email
  3. Fill out the Name, Folder, and Campaign, click Save
  4. On the next screen your Email Templates should automatically show up, allowing you to select the Email Template that you want to apply to the list email. 
    1. If you’re already in the List Email editor and want to apply a new Email template, click the Apply a Template button under the Subject line and select the Email Template you want to apply. 

Publish to Template vs. Save to Draft in Email Templates

You have to hit “Publish to Template,” not just “Save Draft” to push updates in an Email Template to preview mode and to make updates across automations.  For example, if you’re using an Email Template in an Engagement Studio Program and want to make a change, if you only save the draft, the updates will not be reflected when the email is sent through the Engagement Studio. When you hit Publish to Template and agree, the changes will be pushed to all automations that use that template. If you’re not ready to push your updates live, simply save the draft and come back to Publish to Template later. 

Stepping up your email marketing game 

Pardot’s email functionality is robust and can help you reach your specific marketing goals when you know when and how to use each email type. How have you used Pardot’s email functionality to help you reach your marketing goals? We’d love to hear in the comments! 

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  • Joanna started her marketing career doing content and product marketing for tech startups. She's a marketing automation and lead gen pro who loves working with teams to build creative campaigns that achieve ambitious goals. She joined Sercante in 2019 and is 3x Salesforce certified. Joanna has a master's degree in English literature and loves writing, editing, and nerding out about novels.

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