How to choose from Pardot Forms and Form Handlers

Whether you have recently purchased Pardot (recently renamed to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement or MCAE for short) and are in the midst of configuring it, or it’s been installed for a while, deciding what forms you want to use on your website to capture the data is very important. But what should you use, Pardot Forms or Form Handlers? 

This can depend on various factors, such as your organisation’s business model, web developer resources, and website language requirements, it can either be a relatively easy or more challenging decision.

In this post, we’ll explain some of the key differences between Forms and Form Handlers, and provide considerations that will help you select the best option for your Pardot (Marketing Cloud Account Engagement) set-up and business.

Forms vs Form Handlers – What’s the difference?

In a nutshell, a Form is built and styled within Pardot and then embedded via iFrame onto your website. Whereas a Form Handler is like a shadow that sits behind your native website forms, and data is transferred upon submission to Pardot via a postscript. With Form Handlers, the building of the form and styling are managed outside of Pardot. The form handler is only receiving a copy of the data.

When consulting with clients on this topic the most common factors affecting their decisions are, implementation, progressive profiling and multiple languages. Let’s dive into each.


Whether you choose to use Forms or Form Handlers, you will need a website admin to support implementation. With Forms, these are added to your website via an iFrame, which technically speaking is not difficult to do, but can present challenges when you want to add customisations to your form process. 

For example, passing the page URL or UTM parameter values to hidden Form fields requires the use of Javascript, and sometimes passing data into an iFrame can be tricky. Due to this, you may also require a developer who can support your JavaScript requirements.

With Form Handlers, implementation is a little more straightforward as there is a script provided for each Form Handler which needs to be added to the appropriate form by your web admin. Some things to look out for is ensuring the field API names match between your native form and the Form Handler (which sounds easy but trust me, every now and then it can throw you a curveball). 

For achieving these things, like passing the Page URL or UTM parameter values into hidden form fields, your web admin will need to configure your native website forms to do this. And because no website is the same, and platforms vary, it can take some trial and testing to get it just right.

Do you need help choosing which forms to use? Book a free 30 minute consultation with us today.

Progressive profiling

This feature is only available on Forms and is what allows you to configure forms so that certain fields will only appear if other data already exists against the Prospect’s record. 

For example, you want the end-user to only supply a name and email address at the initial point of conversion, and then the next time they come across a form, it will now ask for things like “Company name” or “Number of employees”. You build up the Prospect profile, rather than trying to seek all the information out of a person the first time they interact with your brand.

On a similar note, pre-populating fields are also only possible with Forms. Another handy tool in any marketer’s belt to make the user experience a little smoother.

Depending on your business and marketing strategy, this may be the key deciding factor on whether Forms is the winner. 

Multilingual forms

At Modern we work with global clients whose marketing teams operate across numerous countries and therefore, need multiple languages for their forms. 

If you are using Forms, the responsibility of creating these typically lies with the marketing team. And because Forms can only support 1 language (per form), it means creating a unique form for every language. You’ll need to consider whether your team has the capacity to create, update and maintain the forms for all required languages. 

Form Handlers on the other hand is a much simpler process to set up, as the webform itself is created elsewhere and likely to sit with your web team. From a multilingual perspective, you may still need to create one Form Handler per language, per form type, depending on how your web forms are configured. Mostly this has to do with the field API names. 

For example, if your website supports 5 languages and each one has a “Contact us” form with the exact same fields, it’s possible that while on the front-end a user would see the fields labelled in their local language, but on the back-end, the fields all maintain the same API name. The API name is what you match the Form Handler fields to, so if your website API names are all in English, then you could have just one Form Handler for all five of those “Contact us” forms. 

Each option comes with its pros and cons. With Forms, there is more responsibility on the marketing team, but also more autonomy to create forms when needed, and only relies on the web team to add them to the website. With Form Handlers, it’s the opposite. So it’s important to determine resources within both teams before making the decision.

Making the right choice

We’ve covered a lot of information on Forms and Form Handlers, and your head may be spinning a little right now. There are also many other differences between Forms and Form Handlers that we didn’t cover but are outlined in this Salesforce help article, and in the table below:

The key thing for you to establish is, what is a ‘’must-have’’ vs a ‘’nice to have’’ for your forms. Work through the capabilities and resource requirements for the two options and see which one will meet your needs.

Need help?

At Modern, our Marketing Automation team supports clients with making strategic decisions about their Pardot (Marketing Cloud Account Engagement) configuration and usage, from data capture and lead management through to nurture programmes and campaign reporting. We also help with technical implementation and configuration. If you need help, get in touch with us for an initial consultation.

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