What I’ve learned from forcing myself to use the new Pardot (MCAE) email builder

What I’ve learned from forcing myself to use the new Pardot (MCAE) email builder

Keywords: Pardot, MCAE, Email Builder, Lightning Email Templates

This article mentions Pardot, which is now referred to as Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (MCAE).

I want to start off by saying I commend Salesforce for incorporating more Pardot/MCAE into its core functionality. Marketing is a very important and interrelated part of business, sales especially. Continuous encompassing of the awesome Pardot features and functionality makes me inherently happy. I love thinking of marketing less of the annoying sibling to sales and more like the helpful counterpart enabling mass communication, brand awareness, and customer retention. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to view an email as a little sneak peak into the creative side of an organization. 


The new drag-and-drop email builder has been met with mixed reactions from both users and consultants alike. There’s been a definite need for an updated email building tool in Pardot, but long-time users will find this new feature a bit lacking. I’m hopeful that updates are down the road – especially ones that enhance the user experience. 


Setup is… interesting to say the least. It took me several implementations to actually feel like I understood the infrastructure. The most useful tools for installing and configuring everything are the Content section of Marketing Setup, implementation guides, and my fellow Pardashians or Pardot Ninjas. Plus blogs and YouTube walkthroughs saved me on multiple occasions. 

The new permission set, new DNS setup, email authentication in Salesforce, new vanity URL, HML, and CMS connectivity overall could each individually be a blog topic. My quick recommendation with the technical setup is to definitely create a new domain in Salesforce for use with email content even though the DNS validation process is much less user friendly than the Pardot counterpart  (which still confounds almost everyone initially). I also recommend authorizing Salesforce as a sender similar to the email authentication process in Pardot using DNS records. This will be the basis of your CMS domain, channel, and workspace. It makes sense, in theory, to utilize Salesforce’s CMS as the backbone of email image storage. It does not make sense if you are super used to Pardot’s content, including file management, folder usage, access to the vanity URL, scoring categories, enjoy having all of your things in one place, or are conscious of storage limits in either system. To reiterate, think of this as a completely separate tool that just happens to have access to Pardot lists and automation. Go ahead and add these items to your Pardot navigation (see example navigation image to the right). 

Pardot navigation with email content and CMS
Begin Building Emails

I want to take a minute to talk about email templates and email content as a part of the new setup. Once you have the permission set in place and can get to these items, and have the edit in builder button, and your CMS domain is validated, THEN it is time to start building emails. You can build an email template and use it as the starting point for email content, or you can jump right into building in email content. Email templates are standard in Salesforce and can be used everywhere, marketing emails or otherwise. Alternatively, email content is Pardot exclusive. For an email template to be useable with email content, it must be edited in the new builder (even one little element added), must not include any Salesforce files, and must be in an accessible folder. 


If all of these conditions are met, you should be able to go to an email template’s related lists tab and an email content section will appear, where you can start an email. There is a screenshot below. It took me a fair amount of time, caffeine, experimenting, and even a support ticket to figure out this magical email content tab’s behavior. Conversely you can start in email content, hit new, and select an email template with these conditions. It is up to you how you want to build and templatize your emails and email content. You can always build email content then clone it to bring over elements too. Whatever your process, please only build heavily-designed footers once, trust me.

Building and Formatting Using the Email Builder

Now as for the builder, well it is quite lovely. As simple and straightforward as the title implies. You grab a content block, drag it over, add an element, style it, and voila! Your email is being built in seconds! The overall template itself has a bit of styling before adding a single element, like background color, aka those gray lines on both sides of the email. When you drag in a content block, it has a few styling options prior to any element being added like background color and spacing.


There are currently 4 choices for each content block. An image, rich text, HTML, and what’s this, a native button builder?! Wonders never cease to amaze. I’ve heard a few clients still prefer to build bulletproof buttons externally then bring in the code, to make sure Outlook doesn’t jank it up.

Email builder with customized sections in text blocks

You will find the most flexibility with the rich text editor and HTML elements. The HTML element is a wide open copy/paste situation that requires a fair amount of testing to make sure it looks good in all the email clients and devices but obviously the possibilities are very open-ended. The rich text element will definitely be your friend. It allows for text styling but also looks extremely familiar to the Pardot editor allowing for image insertion, hyperlink usage, and merge field additions. HML merge fields, to clarify. You also have access to that little gem we all love and hate, the source code button. Here is a great blog about hacking the rich text block HTML to add column background color. The image to the left is an example of what hacking the rich text element could look like.  

Now I know what you are thinking, I thought I was done with HTML editing! I mean, are we ever really done with HTML editing in this day and age? That is one feature mysteriously absent and potentially gone forever, full on access to the email’s HTML. It is probably the biggest differentiator between the two builders if you had to make a choice right now. New email builder = drag and drop. Old email builder = access to the HTML.


Footers in the new email builder, let’s talk about that. This will probably be your most time consuming portion of an email build if you are hoping to include social icons, branded colors, and standard footer jargon like a mandatory unsubscribe link (or email preference center link) and recommended physical address. If you have a really great footer and want to attempt to bring in the HTML, that is one option. The other option, which will be more common, is to build out the footer in a template, then replicate. It might be your instinct to have several columns with one icon per image element, or at least it was mine. This will look normal in the desktop builder, but if you switch to mobile you’ll see the problem, they all stack. To keep the social icons all in a row in all versions of the email, you will need to build it in a single column and use the rich text element. If you are having trouble with image sizing, check out the code and change the “100%” to a specific pixel size, like 35px or something that looks balanced.

Testing and Sending

Is your email beautiful yet? Great! Now is the time to test and send. You’ll have to sync over the text and add a subject line, as well as have a way to opt out in order to send the email. The testing is sending the email to a Pardot test list or specific email addresses. No render testing yet, boo. When you’ve sent the test email to all possible colleagues so you can get a sense of what it looks like in different email clients, then it is time to actually send. Like a real life email send to real people. Yay! The email sending options (screenshot below) will look very familiar to the classic Pardot sending options. It will make sense at this point why email content is Pardot-only. The recipient lists and suppression lists are your Pardot lists. You’ll also need to attach a campaign, customize sending options, and add optional completion actions. 

To Summarize

So you are probably thinking at this point, yeah but what are the big takeaways? I got you, boo.  

  • The initial setup and access can be a little tricky, but don’t give up!
  • Create a new Salesforce domain to use with CMS and the email builder
  • Email Templates = all of Salesforce; Email Content = Pardot-only
  • Within the email builder, the rich text component will be very useful
  • You can do it!

If you’ve made it this far, kudos. I wish you well in the new builder and please reach out if you have any questions or want someone to listen to you vent. 


Ashley Sodaro

Ashley is a Salesforce consultant who co-leads Agency73’s Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) Practice and specializes in implementations, training, automation, and marketing reporting.

Contact Ashley to start having some fun with Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot), or check her out on LinkedIn.