The best marketing automation tools let marketers turn email messages into easy-to-build campaigns that nurture recipients from prospects to return customers. Whether the marketing automation tools use drag-and-drop graphs or drop-down menus, the software lets users plan sequences that drive email recipients from communications to actions and back again. Pardot (which begins at $1,000 per month) is perhaps the most capable tool on the market, complete with search marketing, social media, and customer relationship management (CRM) functionality—all backed by Pardot’s parent company, Salesforce.
Within each marketing automation tool, you’ll find lead-scoring packages, list-building features, contact tags, campaign rules, and everything else that helps the software automatically push the right communications to the right recipient without continuous manual support. Pardot does it all plus a lot more. Because of its wide breadth of functionality, intuitive user interface (UI), and its connection to the Salesforce application ecosystem, Pardot is one of our Editors’ Choice tools for enterprise-level marketing automation. However, be prepared to spend big for all of this functionality as it’s also the most expensive tool we’ve reviewed in its class.
Pricing and Packages
The Standard Pardot plan costs $1,000 per month for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce CRM integration. The Pro plan includes email analytics, spam analysis, landing page A/B testing, Google AdWords integration, application programming interface (API) access, an integrated marketing calendar and chat support, among other features. The Ultimate plan costs $3,000 per month for custom user roles, custom object integration, a dedicated IP address, and phone support. All plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts. You can also add Wave Analytics for $300 per month for five users, which gives your team added insights into how your campaigns are performing on a macro level. Another add-on option is Salesforce Engage, which is $50 per month per user, and gives you access to real-time alerts regarding prospect interactions with marketing content. This is a nifty feature that you’ll also find in products such as Infusionsoft.
Pardot is the highest-priced marketing automation tool we reviewed. In its class, you’ll find tools such asHubspot, our Editors’ Choice tool for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), which you can purchase at the 10,000-contact level for $1,200 per month for the Basic plan; $1,250 per month for the Pro plan, and $2,400 for the Enterprise plan.
On the lower end, you’ll find products such as Infusionsoft, which costs $379 per month for the Complete package, which gives you access to up to five users; 10,000 contacts, and 50,000 emails per month. The Complete package also includes Infusionsoft’s four core feature sets (CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, and sales automation). If you need a product that can scale as you grow, then Zoho Campaigns offers a pay-as-you-go plan in which you buy and use email credits. These plans begin at $6 for 250 credits, $80 for 5,000 credits, and up to $750 for 100,000 credits. Monthly subscriptions, which include unlimited emails, begin at $5 for up to 500 subscribers, all the way to $350 per month for up to 100,000 subscribers.
User Interface and Campaign Creation
As you’ll find with most Salesforce-associated products, Pardot’s dashboard is incredibly clean, with well-labeled tabs and icons. You’ll have no problem navigating the tool regardless of how deep into the weeds you go. Like SendinBlue, Pardot uses a left-hand navigation setup that I found incredibly useful for quick data consumption. However, Pardot has taken an added step of letting you collapse the navigation rail depending on how much room you need to view your reports or to expand your automation sequence branches. Most of the charts and graphs are designed to be simple and bland, which I prefer, particularly for quick information consumption.
Pardot’s prospect profiles give you easy access to interaction history that you can use to plan or revise campaigns that target this specific user. You’ll have information on how prospects entered your database, how they been contacted, which emails they opened, and which emails they deleted. You can even add notes to the profile and assign a prospect to a specific marketer who might be able to better bring the prospect along the marketing pipeline.
Like Zoho Campaigns, which features a very basic What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) email builder, Pardot’s not going to win any awards for building one-off email templates. It’s a very simple builder that lets you add text and images. If you need a fancier email, then you can drop in HTML code to create your own emails and templates. Pardot does offer 39 pre-set email templates, which should be more than enough for you to accomplish most standard email-creation tasks. If you’re going to spend the bulk of your time in the email builder, then check out SendinBlue’s builder, which is one of the more complex and creativity-inspiring builders we reviewed.
Once the email or template is created, you can pop into the Testing tab to show how the email will look on various clients. You can see how the email will look on every browser, every email client, and every device. This is a genius feature that you’ll only find in Pardot among the solutions we’ve tested. You can also analyze the potential for spam to see if you pass tests, including those run by Gmail, GMX, Mail.com, and Outlook.
The Engagement Studio is where your automation campaigns are created. This is one of the best automation branching sequence builders we’ve tested, rivaled only by Infusionsoft. To create a sequence, you’ll be asked to name the campaign and select a folder in which the campaign will live. You’ll also be asked to name a recipient list, suppression lists, and the time you’d like the emails to be sent. Once you’ve added these details, you’ll be directed to a map that features a start, end, and a “plus” sign. Click the plus sign to add an action, a trigger, or a rule. Within each of these options, you’ll find a drop-down list of activities that will define the next step of your sequence. The only thing missing from the Engagement Studio is the ability to drag and drop new actions or triggers into your sequence. Otherwise, it’s one of the easiest sequence builders you’ll find. It’s an infinite pallet that places no restrictions on the number of east, west, north, or south branching options you provide. This means you’ll be able to create a custom automation campaign that can feature endless options, actions, and reactions. You won’t find that on tools such as Zoho Campaign.
Within Engagement Studio, you can pre-test the process of an automated program to see how it reacts. This is essentially a fire drill automation campaign to ensure your complex branching doesn’t lead to a dead end or a duplicate email. Pardot offers in-depth reporting that lets you see a step-by-step examination of your sequence to determine where recipients are leaving or converting within the sequence. This lets you switch out a specific part of an automation build rather than having to start from scratch if your marketers aren’t seeing the results they’d like to see.
Depending on which plan you’re on, you’ll gain access to a host of superb multi-channel tools that you won’t find on most strict marketing automation tools. For example, unlike Infusionsoft, Pardot lets you create social media campaigns. The tool lets you schedule and send posts in real time to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter simultaneously. You can create an unlimited number of social accounts, and schedule and send as many posts as possible. You can also use the tool to view social stats (e.g., how many times a prospect clicked on one of your posts, if he or she shares the post, or if he or she left a comment).
Pardot also offers a search marketing tool plugged into Bing, Google, and Yahoo. You can check search engine rankings, monthly volumes, ranking difficulties, run competitor analysis, and monitor your paid search campaigns. No other tool we reviewed offered search marketing functionality.
If you opt for Salesforce Engage access, then you’ll be able to use Android and iOS apps to connect to Pardot in order to view all of your leads and actions. You’ll get mobile alerts whenever users download whitepapers or enter information on landing pages. Unfortunately, there are no standalone Pardot mobile apps.
The Bottom Line
If you run a mom-and-pop business and you’re trying to drive a bit of traffic to your website or storefront, then Pardot isn’t the right tool for you. You’ll want to head over to HubSpot to find the perfect tier of the tool for your current marketing needs. Pardot is an enterprise-class marketing automation behemoth that does everything you’ll need it to do (and probably a whole lot more).
Salesforce users, large businesses, companies with deep email lists, and organizations with extremely diverse customer groups will benefit the most from Pardot’s breadth of functionality. However, to gain access to these riches, you’ll have to be, well, rich. But, if you can afford the software, it will ultimately provide enough return-on-investment (ROI) to warrant the expense, which is why we consider it one of the best tools in its class.