Pardot vs. Marketo

Which marketing automation tool is right for you?

Since 2011 Scott Brinker has tracked the marketing technology landscape. Each year he publishes the now-famous Marketing Technology Landscape Infographic. In 10 years this visual representation of marketing tools has grown from a few hundred to more than 8000 marketing technology providers.

Marketo and Pardot have the rare distinction of being featured in the original infographic as two of 10 marketing automation software solutions. Although the number of marketing automation tools has exploded since then, Pardot and Marketo remain two of the most recommended marketing automation providers on the market. It’s probably why Salesforce and Adobe, respectively, have each acquired one of these platforms in recent years.

While the feature sets are similar, there are a number of key differences between these tools. This article will primarily highlight their differences. Understanding how they’re different should help you know which platform is right for your customers, coworkers, and company. 

Round 1: General marketing

Marketers love to think in terms of campaigns. But today’s omnichannel marketing campaigns can include hundreds of assets delivered across a dozen or so channels. So when it comes to creating an impactful marketing campaign it’s important that it’s quick to create, easy to scale, and repeatable when the time comes.

Both Marketo and Pardot have “Engagement” products that allow for custom-built workflows involving multiple touchpoints. One benefit of Marketo’s Engagement Engine is the ability to organize touchpoints intro streams as well as define touchpoints across multiple channels. A shortcoming of Pardot is that only emails can be defined as touchpoints. Marketo also makes it easier to create ad-hoc touchpoints outside of the stream even after it’s been defined.

Many marketers today consider speed to be a competitive advantage. If your marketing automation tools become a bottleneck or limit the flexibility of marketing campaigns it may be a deal-breaker.

Round 2: Landing pages, forms, and automated marketing programs

They say you’re only as good as your tools. So for marketing ops folks, finding the very best automation platform is essential. A core piece of any automation platform is the ability to capture leads and automate follow-up communication either through email or another channel. Of course, Marketo and Pardot both offer the basic features, however, neither platform has a clear and consistent advantage when it comes to landing pages, forms, and automated marketing programs.

Landing pages and forms

Pardot’s forms and form handlers stand out as a clear winner over Marketo’s forms. Pardot makes it much easier to work with existing website forms rather than forcing all of your prospects onto hosted landing pages like Marketo. Even Pardot’s landing page creation is much smoother than Marketo. However, when you ask around, most marketers on Pardot and Marketo are using custom-built forms. It’s rare that an out-of-the-box form is going to work with brand guidelines, email validation, a/b testing, etc. without some form of customization.

Automated marketing programs

Forms and landing pages are nice, but by themselves, they’re just one touchpoint in a complex marketing program. If complex marketing programs are your thing, then you’re going to want Marketo. Of course, both tools can combine forms and landing pages into larger marketing programs with dozens of emails and sophisticated lead scoring, but nobody does this better than Marketo. 

Marketo makes it easy for beginners and experts to build and scale marketing programs without any IT or technical support. The use of a simple WYSIWIG editor, dynamic tokens, and progressive profiling all allow for maximum customization with limited sophistication. The biggest shortcoming of Marketo is that it won’t sync as seamlessly with Salesforce given that Pardot is owned by Salesforce.

Pardot on the other hand syncs instantly with Salesforce. Pardot uses Workflows to tie multi-step marketing programs into a single campaign, however, it’s difficult to clone campaigns for future us. This is a glaring issue for enterprise marketing automation teams to have to duplicate every touchpoint of a complex program.


Round 3: Reporting and analytics

Both tools offer the out-of-the-box reporting that marketers have come to expect of ESPs. For example in both tools allow you to track the efficacy of campaigns at various stages in the funnel. If you’re familiar with Salesforce dashboards, then you’ll feel right at home building reports in Pardot.

Marketo excels at building more custom reporting and identifying ROI from specific channels. If you’re reporting to executives, Marketo will make it easier to visualize revenue cycles and attribute marketing programs directly to close-won revenue. Marketo also has a dedicated mobile app, allowing you to track the progress of campaigns on-the-go.

Now that Pardot is part of the SFDC ecosystem, it’s much easier attribute marketing activities to revenue and view campaigns through the Salesforce mobile app, however, most of this functionality comes directly from Salesforce rather than being a built-in feature of Pardot. Out-of-the-box Pardot reporting is basic compared to what you get with Marketo.


Round 4: Integrations

Pardot and Marketo have been around a long time and their parent companies, Salesforce and Adobe, have been around even longer. Any major CRM, social, webinar, or event platform is going to connect seamlessly with either tool. Pardot has a slight upper hand here only because of the extensibility of Salesforce, but Adobe isn’t exactly a secret either. Here’s a list of some of the major integrations that are supported by both products.


Round 5: Training, support, and pricing

Both Pardot and Marketo have active online communities filled with helpful experts that can find answers to any question you could possibly have. However, neither platform is going to provide ad-hoc, 1 on 1 support on a basic plan. In order to access premium support, you’ll have to pay for a premium tier of either tool. Speaking of premium tiers, here’s a look at how the pricing breaks down for each product.


Pardot pricing tiers


Marketo pricing tiers


As you can see from the above images, there isn’t total transparency in terms of the level of support at different tiers. Or even the price at different tiers, in the case of Marketo. Luckily, there’s enough customer-reported pricing info out there to give us an accurate comparison.

Via Capterra


And the winner is...

It’s impossible to say which platform is going to a better fit for your individual team and business. Generally, Marketo performs best for more complex marketing teams, distributed globally and in larger enterprise companies. Pardot has fewer bells and whistles, but it’s also easier to implement than Marketo. Either platform will help take your marketing automation to the next level if you’re just getting started.


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