Pardot Sandbox (Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement Sandbox) Requirements, Limitations, and Considerations

by | Last Updated: Jul 12, 2024 | Blog, Data management, Pardot | MC Account Engagement, Salesforce

Overview

There are several considerations to consider when considering a Salesforce sandbox or Pardot sandbox.

😝 Ok, that was intentionally redundant and silly to get your attention and consideration! 😄 It also sounds like word salad coming from a central politician known for such things, (I’ll refrain from mentioning names). Now, onto our more serious topic…

Which test environment should you use: Pardot Sandbox, Pardot Demo Org, Pardot Dev Org?

Is setting up a Salesforce sandbox and/or a Pardot sandbox the best option for you?

In this article we outline some things to take into account before setting up a Pardot sandbox, and highlight some of the main differences between testing environments so that you can make the best decision on which type of testing environment or ‘playground’ will work best for your needs.

Hint: Use Salesforce Developer for no data, Salesforce Demo for pre-existing dummy data, Salesforce Sandbox for actual customer data.

We’ll focus more on the Pardot sandbox aspect (since after all we are Pardot experts strongly focused on Pardot), but nearly all of the same rules apply for a Salesforce sandbox and other test environments mentioned.

What is a Pardot Sandbox?

  • Sandboxes for Pardot are test versions of a Pardot Business Unit provisioned within a Salesforce sandbox.
    • By its very nature a Salesforce sandbox will contain a copy of your actual Salesforce configuration and your Salesforce data (full or partial, although you’ll see below that Pardot requires full), which makes it a great option for testing in a non-destructive way since it is based on a copy and not the original, which remains untouched.

What is the main purpose of a Pardot Sandbox?

  • The main purpose of a Pardot Sandbox is for testing anything potentially destructive; things related to the flow of data between Pardot and Salesforce, i.e. anything that could change records or cause data loss.
  • Since your Salesforce sandbox will contain a copy of your actual Salesforce configuration and your Salesforce data, your Pardot sandbox will also contain some of your actual Salesforce data (based on whatever sync rules and object record type permissions you set up), so using a Pardot sandbox allows you to play around with your actual data without actually changing it, and thus can also help to ensure that any Pardot changes won’t interfere with any complex automations currently running in Salesforce.

Pardot Sandbox: Requirements, Limitations, Considerations

  • A Pardot Sandbox requires that a FULL Salesforce sandbox must be provisioned in Salesforce (a partial Salesforce sandbox will NOT work).
    • Is the client or Salesforce team ready and willing to provision a full Salesforce sandbox?
    • Is the client or Salesforce team ready and willing to provision the Pardot Sandbox and set the proper permissions and configurations needed for the sandbox environment and users involved in testing?
      • If not, is the client or Salesforce team going to provide enough user permissions for a Salesforce Partner or consultant to set up the sandbox environment properly? How much back-and-forth will this require? Is the back-and-forth and Pardot Sandbox set up accounted for in allocated project time?
        • Also consider if you’ll need to set up the Lightning Experience Email Builder which may require setting up a domain to host images and other configurations and permissions needed to support the Salesforce CMS.

NOTE: If the above requirements are not possible then perhaps a Salesforce Partner can provide a Pardot Demo site that can be used (see below for more about provisioning a Demo site).

  • Refreshing a Salesforce sandbox deletes the associated Sandbox for Account Engagement (the Pardot sandbox will be de-provisioned; effectively deleted).
    • Make sure that the Salesforce team is well aware that refreshing the Salesforce sandbox deletes the Pardot sandbox since this action cannot be reversed. You don’t want the Salesforce team refreshing the Salesforce sandbox while you are working on and testing in your Pardot sandbox, since everything, the entire Pardot sandbox itself, will be deleted!
    • By its nature a Pardot sandbox is a very temporary thing. Any work done in the Pardot sandbox will inevitably and soon be destroyed/deleted.
  • Anything created in sandbox can’t be pushed to production, so anything created in the Pardot sandbox that has value would need to be recreated from scratch in production.
  • Sandboxes don’t support B2B Marketing Analytics, email sends, previews, or tests, Engagement History dashboards, the Google Ads connector, or Salesforce Engage.
  • Data clean up may be necessary. If the Pardot sandbox added any new prospects or updated any data, then the Salesforce sandbox should not be pushed back to production without first deleting any new prospects or reversing any updated data.
    • Better yet, since this is not an easy to do and probably not worth the effort, to clean things up when are you done using your Pardot sandbox it is usually best to just refresh the Salesforce sandbox to push production data back to the Salesforce sandbox with clean data, noting that this action will delete the Pardot sandbox. This action will require close coordination between the parties testing in the Pardot sandbox and Salesforce team so you don’t refresh the Salesforce sandbox and wipe out the Pardot sandbox pre-maturely.
  • An Account Engagement sandbox can’t be moved to a different Salesforce sandbox.
  • Since a Pardot sandbox is a Business Unit, a Pardot sandbox cannot have additional Business Units of its own.
  •  

Required Editions

  • Salesforce editions required: Unlimited or Performance edition (full Sandboxes are available at an additional cost with any Salesforce edition).
  • Pardot editions required: Pardot Advanced (allocated up to two sandboxes) and Pardot Premium (allocated up to five sandboxes); and available as paid add-on for Pardot Plus edition.
    • Requires Pardot Connector V2.

Instructions on how to create a sandbox for Pardot/Account Engagement are located here (official Salesforce help file):

Create a Sandbox for Pardot/Account Engagement

https://help.salesforce.com/articleView?id=pardot_sf_connector_sandbox.htm&type=5

NOTE: If the above requirements are not possible then perhaps a Salesforce Partner can provide a Pardot Demo site that can be used (see below for more about provisioning a Demo site).

Testing in production could be a good option, depending on what you are doing.

Salesforce Admins might freak out, but there are several things you can do testing-wise in a Pardot production environment that are non-destructive.

If you stay away from the ‘gray areas’ you can easily stay under the radar and be safe if you exercise a little caution and judgement. Some elements are totally non-destructive, and some may have some effect on data if you do things wrong, so tread lightly.

Items that are considered safe and non-destructive for testing in production

  • Email templates & drafts
  • Forms
  • Form handlers
  • Static lists
  • Dynamic lists
  • Custom redirects (tracking links)
  • Page actions*
  • Dynamic content
  • Email preference centers & unsubscribe page*
  • Folders, tags, files
  • Salesforce User Sync and Pardot roles

Gray areas that require discretion before testing in production*

  • Engagement Studio Programs* (safe if not enable or if not affecting data that would sync to Salesforce)
  • Scoring*
  • Grading*
  • Automation Rules* (safe if not enabled, but generally not recommended testing in production)
  • Third party integrations*

Items marked with * probably require more caution and judgement before testing in production.

Dev Org and Demo Org provisioning for Salesforce Partners

If you are a Salesforce Partner you have a couple of other options besides a Salesforce Sandbox and/or a Pardot Sandbox. As a Salesforce Partner, you have access to free Dev Org and Demo Org instances.

Keep in mind that a Salesforce Dev Org or Demo Org is different than a sandbox, you won’t be able to use any of your orgs data, and you won’t be able to push any changes back to production. These are purely experimental zones for testing and training.

Choosing the right environment: Pardot DEV Org vs Pardot DEMO Org?

To this point we’ve explored some pros/cons about sandboxes, now let’s explore the main differences between a Pardot DEV Org and a Pardot DEMO Org.

Hint: Use Salesforce Developer Edition and Pardot DEV Org for no data, Salesforce Demo and Pardot DEMO Org for pre-existing dummy data, Salesforce Sandbox and Pardot sandbox for actual customer data.

Pardot DEV Org

  • Has no Pardot data, Pardot is completely blank.
  • Great for partners/developers who want to test with a clean org.

Pardot DEMO Org

  • Includes fake demo data in Pardot and Salesforce.
  • Great for sales/demos and training/onboarding. 
  • Allows for emailing using fake data and prospects (the data itself cannot be generated from Pardot).
    • Displays email send reporting metrics.

You’ll receive an email confirmation upon successful creation of a sandbox, demo, or dev org.

How to access and create a Salesforce Dev Org or Demo Org

Instructions on how to access and create a Salesforce Dev Org or Demo Org, which you can then create a sandbox for Pardot/Account Engagement, are located here (official Salesforce help files):

Request a Marketing Cloud Growth Edition Demo Org

Marketing Cloud Growth Edition is the new kid on the block for 2024, and likely the new future of Pardot, a.k.a. Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement.
 
Marketing Cloud Growth Edition is not to be confused with the former Pardot Growth plan (but Salesforce, how can we not be confused!).
 
Marketing Cloud Growth Edition (MCGE) requires use of Salesforce Data Cloud, which apparently you can get free access to at some level (no doubt it is very limiting and will require a paid upgrade).
 
July 2024 — Salesforce announces a new Partner Org request process
Marketing Cloud Growth Edition is so new, that after testing and review, Salesforce now has a way for partners to request and provision SDO orgs (Salesforce Demo Org) with Marketing Cloud Growth Edition. This will allow partners to get access to these orgs to get hands-on experience. One thing to keep in mind with these orgs, SDO orgs expire after 30 days. 
 
1. Login to the Partner Community
2. Navigate to Partner Learning Camp
3. Click the Demo Org tab
4. Select “SDO” from the Demo Type drop-down menu
5. Agree to the MSA terms and click the Submit button
6. Follow the steps outlined in the Marketing Cloud Growth Edition Partner Org Setup Guide (http://sfdc.co/mcgpartnerorgsetupguide) found in the MC Growth Pocket Guide (http://sfdc.co/mcgrowthpocketguide
 
NOTE: Salesforce will be reviewing the Setup Guide and making updates in the coming weeks. The setup area of the application will likely appear differently than what is documented in the guide today.

Marketing Cloud Demo

To request a Demo environment for Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SMC), go to Salesforce Help to open a ticket and select ‘Salesforce Partner Program Support’ as the case type. Take the course in Partner Learning Camp to learn best practices on using Demo Orgs. Just search Demo Org in the browse catalog.
 
Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget) is NOT the same as Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (formerly and STILL commonly known as Pardot). I’ve tried to clarify that countless times with many people, but it is Salesforce who decided to make the naming of their products so very confusing 😖, (I believe so they can combine the market share in the marketing automation category and claim higher rankings as compared to say, HubSpot).

Summary

All of the mentioned test environments within this article have their place depending on the use case. Hopefully you found this article useful to the point where you may now have a better understanding of which test environment you should use for your purposes at hand.

If you need help setting up a Pardot demo for your team or for your client, or just need a little guidance, get in touch.

Certified Consultant/Owner | Jeff Kemp

Marketing Automation & CRM Consultant

hire Jeff Kemp | Marketing Automation & CRM Consultant

I help select your tech stack and optimize your processes for improved marketing & sales effectiveness, operations, and ROI.

My superpowers are Operational Efficiency, Knowledge, Experience, Business Acumen, Versatility, and Perseverance. I enjoy the intersection of working with people, processes, and technology where I can provide leadership and add value.

With over 30 years of marketing and sales experience I've been laser targeted on Marketing Automation for over 10 years, seven of those as a Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) Consultant, and also as a Certified Salesforce Administrator and HubSpot Expert. Prior to that I have over 15 years of WordPress development experience and additional high profile roles in sales and marketing management.

Since I've led over 50 client consulting engagements in various industries I've seen several of the same struggles that are common to almost all organizations (as outlined in this article). With each organization and project that I'm involved with I work hard to solve many of those typical problems, plus identifying and solving sometimes unique and complex issues which often involve cleaning up technical debt from legacy systems, and architecting processes and solutions to help organizations set up effective lead management systems and operational efficiencies using best practices and proven methodologies.

I also love dogs :0)

Optimal Business Consulting (OBC) is proud to be a Salesforce Partner since 2018 and also became a HubSpot Solution Partner in 2023. -->More about Jeff & OBC

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