Beyond-Dynamic-Content-Andy-Thiemer

Beyond Dynamic Content: How to Create REAL Content Personalization in Pardot

Dynamic Content is the built-in way to use Pardot to personalize marketing assets like emails. You can improve your email marketing performance, including click-through rates (CTRs), by providing the right content based on known (or unknown) prospect information. 

However, throughout the process, many Pardot users run into limitations of Pardot Dynamic Content. They wonder how they can actually achieve personalization within their Pardot emails and newsletters.

This post will walk you through solutions to overcome common challenges with Pardot Dynamic Content. You’ll also get strategies to expand your personalization options far beyond what it can achieve. 

If you’d like to dive deeper into these strategies, you can catch a session on the topic at ParDreamin’ this year.

Overcoming Limitations of Pardot Dynamic Content

Limitation #1: Only one field criteria

One of the primary limitations of Pardot Dynamic Content is that the criteria can only be based on one field. This can make users feel frustrated when they need to use more complex criteria or multiple fields to determine which piece of content an audience member sees. 

One way around this is to use an automation rule (that embodies multiple criteria) and have it change one field you can then use for dynamic content. 

For example, you might want to send different content to these three audiences:

  • East Coast people who aren’t registered for your webinar (send an invite to your East Coast presentation)
  • West Coast people who aren’t registered for your webinar (send an invite to your West Coast presentation)
  • People who are registered for you webinar (send an eBook)

Because these audiences use multiple criteria (location and registration status in this example), you aren’t able to achieve the goal with dynamic content without some finesse. 

To achieve this, you would need to create a new field. Then you could use an automation rule so that everyone who is on the East Coast and is registered has that prospect field filled with a value that reflects “East Coast + Registered” and then do the same with your other variations.

At the end, you would have one prospect field that takes into account multiple criteria to base dynamic content on. 

Limitation #2: No “is empty” criteria option exists

Another limitation Pardot users run up against with Dynamic Content is the fact that there is no “is empty” option when creating criteria. 

The standard criteria include:

  • Is
  • Is between
  • Is greater than
  • “Contains” (for dropdowns)

Luckily this one is fairly easy to solve. If you go into the Admin section for that specific Dropdown field, you can make sure the blank value is also selected. This will allow you to use “blank” as a criteria option.

Keep in mind that this only works for dropdown field types, so it does not work for all prospect fields. 

Limitation #3: 25 Variation limit 

This limitation is not the most common one for users to come up against, especially when they first start using dynamic content. However, you might see this if you are regularly creating new options for one dropdown field that you then use as a base for your dynamic content.

You can only have 25 variations per dynamic content piece. 

You can work around this a bit by combining Handlebars Merge Language (HML) with your dynamic content. We will discuss HML as another tool for personalization later in the blog post, but it is an option (even if it comes with its own challenges.) 

Other Challenges with Pardot Dynamic Content

However, despite the tricks and tips to get around some of these common limitations, many users still feel that true personalization cannot actually be realized.

Even when criteria options are sufficient, Pardot Dynamic Content has other challenges, such as:

It’s time intensive. 

It takes a while to properly strategize and then set up the custom fields and automations you need to make dynamic content a success. Even once the framework exists, you’ll still need to take the time to reformat your dynamic content modules for each email. 

Once you’ve practiced editing these modules, it probably won’t take as long as it would have to create an entirely separate email, but it is still something to be mindful of.

It’s also prone to errors. 

Dynamic content can be difficult to test, especially if you have a lot of variations. Because it is harder to test, spotting errors can be tricky. 

You also have to keep diligent track of what Pardot Dynamic Content module is the correct one because you insert it with its numeric code — not as an actual block of content. 

Overall, many of the clients I’ve worked with have found Pardot Dynamic Content limiting from the start or they have outgrown it over time. But there are other ways to achieve personalization that are less time intensive, more user-friendly, and more automated. This includes Handlebars Merge Language, Pardot Snippets, and integrations with other software. 

Handlebars Merge Language (HML)

HML was originally the Salesforce version of variable tags. But in 2019, it was brought to Pardot as well. HML allows you to use conditional logic statements in emails and email templates to change what a user sees in an email based on fields. 

HML uses

The benefits to using HML over Pardot Dynamic Content are that you can write the condition you need directly in the email itself. Then you don’t have to recall which specific module you need. It is simply based on your field information, and you can change details within a block of content instead of creating a new block of content for each category.

HML language requires you to code everything, but this does open up design and style options in addition to changing text. With HML, you aren’t limited to what you can paste into Pardot’s Dynamic Content boxes.

The limitations to using HML are:

Technical coding and setup required

Email templates that use HML conditional statements need careful coding of the IF statements. Unlike Pardot Dynamic Content, there is not a simple way to insert conditionals. Everything must be written in HTML and HML code. If you aren’t experienced with writing code in these languages, then you may need outside help. 

Prone to errors

It can be easy to accidentally break the IF conditions or underlying code if you are updating content directly in the Pardot email builder. And as is true with Pardot Dynamic Content, conditional emails are difficult to test before release.

Limited logic

HML logic is not as robust as Pardot Dynamic Content. You can only use “field = true” logic. Most use cases will require the creation of new custom fields and workflows that map preferences to custom fields which you can use in the HML email. However, that is also true of complex Pardot Dynamic Content criteria. 

Pardot Snippets 

Pardot Snippets are static and reusable blocks of text, dates, or links you can use in emails, forms, and landing pages. You will need access to Salesforce (and/or Pardot Lightning) to create them. They are especially useful for helping marketers keep track of information they would normally copy/paste across multiple Pardot assets. Pardot Snippets are most helpful when it comes to updating event information or footers across your various assets. 

There are a few limitations to Pardot Snippets, such as:

They don’t support HTML/CSS

This means you can’t use Pardot Snippets to stylize your email. You can only use them as blocks of text. While this certainly has a time and place, I haven’t seen my consulting clients use this method to achieve advanced personalization. 

Criteria is very limited

The Pardot Snippet criteria is very limited. It is only based on Business Unit or Campaign Ownership. If you need any other logic (which you likely will if you really want to personalize your prospect’s email and newsletter content), then you’ll have to use a different method. 

Emailing Personalized Content Still Takes Time in 2021

No matter which of the Pardot-native personalization methods you choose, you still have to manually copy and paste content into the Pardot builder or Dynamic Content blocks. This pain point is the biggest reason companies shy away from personalizing these days.

If you’ve made it through this post and still want to pursue personalized Pardot emails, then I highly recommend looking for a Pardot add-on that can help you automate the email creation process using RSS or a curation process. Pardot automation add-ons can reduce errors, save you time, and make personalization a more realistic possibility.

You can learn more about personalization that goes beyond Pardot Dynamic Content at ParDreamin’ 2021. We’ll present a session to teach you how to overcome the limitations of dynamic content using powerful Pardot integrations.

View ParDreamin’ session description for Beyond Dynamic Content: How to Create REAL Content Personalization in Pardot

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Andy Thiemer

Andy is the founder of FeedOtter and enjoys building tech companies, marketing strategies, and anything radio-controlled. Specialties: tech, SEO, SAAS, content marketing, influencer marketing, and marketing automation.

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