Chatbots collect data from prospect and customer interactions, integrated within a number of communication channels, typically websites, email, SMS, and other messaging apps (eg. Whatsapp). This is a very broad definition of what a chatbot does. The chatbot market has expanded in recent years, giving way to platforms that are specialized for certain use cases – some geared towards lead generation, some for customer service, while a handful of ‘cross-over’ players can cater to both.
This guide will focus on lead generation chatbots, which enable Conversational Marketing – a new, modern way of selling. It gives high-intent buyers and sales teams a better, easier way to connect by opening the door for real-time conversations via chatbots and live meetings, right on your website.
Conversational Marketing is not offered as standard with Pardot – it’s no surprise that looking at a third-party tool is how you can elevate your website user experience.
This guide showcases which chatbot platforms work best with Pardot. If you’re looking into the best way to integrate a chatbot with your website and Pardot – look no further.
Chatbots and Pardot: Questions to Ask
Guiding you towards outlining your requirements is one of my goals here. As Pardot marketers working with Salesforce, you approach a chatbot vendor with requirements that you may not realise are Salesforce-specific. In other words, a marketer using both Pardot and Salesforce should expect to tap into more than the average marketer. Here is some detail:
- Which marketing channels do you want to use the chatbot on? (eg. website, social media, SMS, other messaging apps). Multi-channel availability can sway your decision straight away when evaluating chatbots, helping you narrow down the options.
- Do you store prospects as Pardot prospect records? While this is not best practice, some organizations take this traditional approach to Pardot to pre-qualify prospects before they are created as lead records in Salesforce. So, do you want to store information in Pardot prospect fields only?
- Will you capture prospect information through bot conversations? Do you want the option for human intervention on the first exchange?
- Do you want any submissions via the chatbot to associate a Pardot cookie to the visitor? And furthermore, have the chatbot recognize the prospect on subsequent visits?
- Is ‘speed-to-lead important? Opening up the dialogue window for sales reps to chat with visitors directly cuts this time.
- Calendar integration, so visitors can book meetings when reps are offline.
- Reporting and analytics: while it’s down to you to use Connected Campaigns and Campaign Influence, some vendors make the Salesforce Campaign association more straight forward than others. Campaign Influence enables you to show marketing influence on opportunities, proving ROI as a result.
Pardot Integrated Chatbot Types
As mentioned in the opening, chatbot platforms are geared to a particular use case either lead generation, customer service, while a handful of ‘cross-over’ players can cater to both.
When it comes to integrating a chatbot with Pardot, you are faced with deciding how. The options for integration can be categorized into the following:
- Direct integration to Pardot records (provided by the vendor),
- Direct integration to Salesforce objects, data sync to Pardot records (provided by the vendor),
- Building a form handler integration,
- Building a custom integration,
- Using a third-party point-to-point integration service (eg. Zapier).
How you will integrate your chatbot with Pardot will depend not only on the options available for the vendor you choose, but also:
- Skill sets: do you have technical marketers on your team/internally to call on if a custom integration breaks?
- Budget: do you want to pay the ongoing cost of an additional third-party point-to-point integration platform?
- Resources: do you have the resources internally to support the constant build and optimization of the tool, or are you looking for a vendor that will provide support as an extension of your team?
And what about the Pardot vs. Salesforce direct integration options? If you integrate directly with Salesforce, the chatbot will create and update lead and contact records, whereas a Pardot integration will mean prospects can be pre-qualified in Pardot before being assigned and synced to Salesforce.
The platforms covered in this guide are:
- Einstein Bots
Qualified is a Conversational Marketing and Sales platform that’s built for Salesforce. They burst onto the scene in 2019 with a unique product offering.
Built natively on the Salesforce platform, they have been able to make their Salesforce/Pardot integration both tight and powerful. As all data is being collected, processed, and stored on the Salesforce platform, there’s a big security advantage here for compliance-conscious organizations.
Qualified’s tagline is: “meet instantly with qualified prospects the moment they land on your website” – how can they do that? Qualified leverages the Pardot cookie* that’s associated with prospects when they become known to you (they have a Prospect record in your Pardot account), and Qualified’s own proprietary visitor cookie. That cookie is the golden link between Pardot data points (such as Pardot Score and Pardot Grade), Salesforce, and other integrated applications. Once a website visitor is identified with the Pardot cookie, Qualified can segment qualified visitors, route them to their dedicated sales rep (and alert that rep to quickly jump into a live chat conversation, right on the website).
*Note: Qualified also integrates with Marketo, HubSpot, and other marketing automation platforms.
Qualified offers out-of-the box reporting so you can dive deep into conversation engagement, and sales rep performance. Plus, their team provides guidance for creating Salesforce reports and dashboards to show your entire organization on how your enhanced website experience is influencing the opportunity pipeline.
More Qualified strengths:
- The Qualified for Pardot integration reads Pardot dynamic content. Use your Pardot landing pages to deliver targeted experiences to a segment..
- Anonymous visitor matching: can match unknown visitors from target accounts using the visitor’s IP address. The Qualified Experience Engine inspects your entire tech stack to serve up a perfectly tailored experience that’s unique to every visitor.
- Qualified LiveView shows every click, every scroll, and every movement of “digital body language” for any prospect on your site.
- Qualified Voice, integrated voice calls right on your website
- Qualified Pounce, proactive sales conversations,
- Rated #1 on the Salesforce AppExchange.
Drift is a well-known player when we zoom out and look at the Conversational Marketing space as a whole, beyond just the Salesforce landscape.
The Pardot community praise Drift for its Pardot integration (revamped mid-2019) that offers:
- Pardot list targeting: a powerful feature where a Pardot prospect on a specific list can be assigned to a Playbooks: “automated message workflows and campaigns that proactively reach out to site visitors”.
- Chat to Pardot prospect conversion.
- Admins more options for Drift to Pardot data sync and field mapping, such as Drift attributes in Playbooks mapping to Pardot custom fields (which in turn, can power Pardot automations, Engagement Studio programs etc.)
- A fast data sync (2 mins or less).
Drift assigns each visitor a Conversation Qualified Lead (CQL) score, their own score which is both rules-based and can be manually adjusted. Just like Pardot Score and Grade, the CQL will guide sales reps interacting with Drift which visitors to prioritize.
More Drift strengths:
- Can embed on your social media pages,
- Voice assistants,
- Starts at $0/month (free trial),
Drift vs. Qualified
Drift and Qualified are two of the most talked about chatbot vendors in the Pardot community. Each offers similar features, which can make it challenging to weigh up the differences – especially as it can all depend on which Pardot consultant you speak to. We’ve heard from ‘camp Qualified’ and ‘camp Drift’, so it’s time to look objectively.
Where to start? I went in search of crowdsourced review data. G2 is one of the largest SaaS review sites, their Drift vs. Qualified page summarises 500+ reviews against both high-level criteria (eg. ease of use), through to feature-to-feature comparisons.
Drift takes an overwhelming majority in the number of reviews (almost 90%); however, Qualified scored strong on many factors:
Weighing up these two favorites is a challenge. This guide aimed to highlight the main differences between the two, there will be nuances that I haven’t included. I am a believer that seeing a demo will make the decision ‘click’ for you.
Schedule a Qualified demo.
Schedule a Drift demo.
Olark offers a native connector to Pardot that comes out of the box with your Pardot license. Once you have the correct licence for Olark and the connector installed, visitors to pages with your Pardot tracking code and an Olark chat window, are tracked in Pardot.
‘Native connector’ does sound impressive, but what does it really mean? The main benefit is around scoring and prospect activities.
- Scoring: the Pardot scoring model includes “Olark Chat” as a scored activity. When a prospect uses chat, by default Pardot will add +10 points to their score, which can be amended. The benefit? This is baked in automation, you don’t need additional Automation Rules etc.
- Prospect activities: these activities are visible in Pardot. The “Prospect Activities” view for Salesforce Leads/Contacts was superseded by the Engagement History related list, which does not include all activity types (to my knowledge, it won’t show Olark chat activities).
Aside from scoring, there aren’t any apparent benefits from using Olark versus other options. Read more about the Pardot-Olark functionality and considerations.
My two cents on Olark: while a consultant working with many Pardot orgs, I never worked with Olark. If you consider Olark, make yourself fully aware of any of the connector’s potential limitations.
As a very strong contender in the Conversational Support market, customers who purchase Intercom often want to roll it out for other channels, including Conversational Engagement (for example, a business asking for feedback on new feature releases in their app) – and naturally, Conversational Marketing, too.
The interface displays qualification criteria in a checklist style, so it’s quick for users on your side to see how far they have built out the visitor’s profile.
This ‘Qualification’ section can also be used to trigger automation, such as sending the visitor to Salesforce. Intercom offers a plug-in-and-play integration to Salesforce that interacts with the Lead object. After watching the demo video, it feels familiar to Zapier’s interface. You can see how you would define criteria for automatic Lead creation based on criteria, or users can leverage the ‘one-click’ lead creation as an option. ‘Automatically create Salesforce activities’ can be enabled, that will log a task on the Lead and update the transcript every time a conversation is closed.
There are also third-party integration vendors that offer more options for Intercom to Pardot sync; however, as we will soon see in the next section, this comes at an additional cost.
Word on the street is that Intercom’s price rises over the past year have meant losing SMB customers, not only due to the expense but also smaller organizations don’t need the full breadth of their features (which have increasingly become geared to enterprise organizations).
If you started your research with a Google search on chatbots for Salesforce, no doubt you would have come across Einstein Bots. Before you gravitate towards Salesforce’s own product, however, Einstein Bots were not developed with lead generation front of mind; as an Einstein for Service feature, their sweet spot is customer service. Don’t choose this option for Conversational Marketing.
Chatbot Integrations for Pardot
Now we get to the third-party chatbot tools for Pardot that don’t have a ‘plug in and play’ connector but can still be useful for the Pardot marketer.
Before you embark on this path, remember to ask yourself:
a. How important is a fast, two-way data sync to your visitor experience? This includes personalizing a returning visitor’s experience based on their data or behavior. A simple, popular example is to display their company name on the chat window when they return.
b. Do you have developers to call upon if you need to troubleshoot, or amend the integration as systems on either side adapt?
c. If not, are you willing to pay an ongoing subscription to an any-to-any integration platform (eg. Zapier)?
One-way Integration Using Form Handlers
If you only need data to feed in one way to Pardot (data going from your website to Pardot as a destination, and not going back again) then you can explore the Pardot form handler option.
Using form handlers (which are included in all Pardot editions), you can submit data from any third-party source to the prospect record, including chat windows. If it is a new prospect submitting a chat, Pardot can create a new prospect record; if it’s a returning prospect, Pardot will match to the existing record using email address as the unique identifier.
Things to consider:
- Matching chat records to Prospect records in Pardot will respect AMPSEA.
- Form handlers simply push data from your webform (hosted by your website) into Pardot fields, one-way. As we know, once a Prospect record is added to Pardot, field data is added to build up the prospect’s profile – from user input, automated profiling like Pardot Grading, or data enrichment tools. As there is no “two-way street”, any other data that has been added to Pardot after the initial form handler submission cannot be resurfaced by the chatbot platform to personalize the experience for when visitors return to your site.
- Form handlers, by their nature, can either be simple to set up, or are error prone and time consuming to fix.
Integration Using the Pardot API
If you have a developer you can call on, they will be key to connecting third-party tools with Pardot. The Pardot API opens your choices to a number of third-party platforms.
Integration Using a 3rd Party Service
This is the third option — the “Plan C” — for integrating Pardot with a platform that doesn’t have a ‘plug in and play’ connector, if you don’t have developer resources on hand, and you want to avoid the headaches of form handler troubleshooting.
Using a third-party point-to-point integration service, such as Zapier, opens your choices up to a huge range of chatbot options.
Things to consider:
- Ongoing subscription cost: you need to factor in the integration service’s recurring fee in addition to the chatbot platform itself. What may seem like a great bargain at first coil end up burdening your budget.
- Using these services often requires a level of technical proficiency (not to mention a headache to troubleshoot)!
Example vendor: Leadoo
Leadoo certainly offers value for lead generation teams. By relying on integration services, such as Zapier, it can push data into Pardot (one-way).
As Conversational Marketing is not offered as a feature with Pardot – it’s no surprise that many marketers immediately look to third-party tools to plug that gap, and elevate their website user experience. Trouble is, research can be a huge undertaking as there are a multitude of vendors that, at first glance, appear to do the same thing.
This guide aimed to walk you through key questions to ask when narrowing down chat platform options, highlighting those considerations specific to Pardot. What we’ve uncovered is that chatbot platforms can be best suited for different use cases (where lead generation is not their ‘bread-and-butter’), some use Pardot data for personalization, whereas some demand technical expertise on-hand to troubleshoot integrations, or even come with an additional, hidden cost.
Hopefully you are ready to explore these options. Any questions? We would love to hear them in the comments below.