Should Pardot Create Leads or Contacts in Salesforce?

If you find yourself asking this question, you’re not alone!

First, let’s remember that in nonprofit land (Nonprofit Success Pack or “NPSP”), Contacts in Salesforce are called  Individuals. Prospects in Pardot are people who have been identified by an email address.

The default behavior in Pardot is to add new Prospects whose email doesn’t match with an existing Salesforce Lead or Contact email as a Lead in Salesforce.

If an organization prefers that Pardot create Contacts in Salesforce for all new Prospects that come into Pardot without a matching email to a Lead or Contact in Salesforce, a Salesforce case needs to be opened requesting this feature change directly from Pardot. It’s very important to consider this at the onset of a Pardot project, if possible.

The difference between Leads and Contacts in Salesforce

  • Leads are designed to keep “unqualified’ records of individuals separate from the Contacts who are the lifeblood of your organization.
  • Contacts are most often constituents, either representing the individual person or an organization for which they are employed in the for-profit environment. In the nonprofit domain, Contacts are also clients and/or donors, or funders who typically work for foundations or grantors.
  • An “unqualified” person in the for-profit world is ordinarily someone who has not yet been determined to be a viable future customer of the organization.
  • So, what does “unqualified” mean in the nonprofit world? Think of it as someone who:
    • is not able to provide any value to the organization’s mission, whether it be as a donor/funder or in a capacity germane to providing services to the nonprofit, and/or
    • doesn’t meet the criteria for services.

Leads need to be nurtured, which, in Salesforce, at a minimum, means, opening the Lead record and then actively and manually converting that Lead record to a Contact record.

This is because Salesforce is rooted in the for-profit model, segregating actual clients and true prospects, from people who may offer absolutely no value (from a sales perspective) to the organization using Salesforce. The use of Leads allows salespeople to find out first whether an individual has a need, is in the market, and is viable, before placing that person in their working database of Contacts.

Should nonprofits use Leads or Contacts?

Does this model work for nonprofits? The answer depends on each nonprofit’s mission, expected use of, and goals for, managing prospects in Pardot.

For example, if every new prospect that is added to Pardot could be a potential donor and/or constituent, then there is no need to have them added to Salesforce as a Lead record since the extra steps required to convert a Lead to a Contact translates to time wasted. If, however, Pardot prospects who are not already in Salesforce need to be vetted internally, then using Leads would make sense for your organization.

How should I determine what’s right for my organization?

Review all use cases for adding individuals to Salesforce who have interacted with a Pardot asset for the first time. That will inform your decision about whether to create these prospects as Leads or as Contacts in Salesforce. If the result for your organization is Contacts, submit a case in Salesforce with this request.

Keep in mind that this option can be changed to reflect an organization’s changing use of Pardot over time, but that change won’t be retroactive so it’s smart to take the time to select Leads or Contacts at the onset of a project.