Smaller businesses might get sticker shock at Salesforce Pardot’s $1,250 per month subscription costs, but frankly, for what’s included under the hood, professional digital marketers will consider that money well spent. As an all-up marketing automation solution, Pardot has few peers due mainly to it’s very deep feature well that includes list-building features, lead-scoring packages, contact tags, campaign rules, and a host of other automation capabilities. But even with all that potential complexity, Salesforce has managed to design Pardot so it’s easy to use, even the analytics and integration modules. Yes, it’s costlier than most of the other packages we’ve reviewed, but because it strikes such a nice balance between broad capabilities and ease of use, we’re awarding it our Editors’ Choice designation in the marketing automation category, along with fellow competitors Campaigner and HubSpot. If you can afford it, this platform has it all, including a Quick Start Onboarding Package that’ll assign you a Pardot Implementation Manager who can greatly accelerate getting your team trained up and running on the platform.
Email Marketing and Integration
Many customers use Pardot as an email marketing solution, and we’ve tested it that way, too. Here, Pardot continues to lead the pack, again based on that intuitive interface coupled with a good feature selection that includes all the hits, like A/B testing, segmentation, and dynamic content generation. However, our Editors’ Choices in that category, Campaigner and Mailchimp were still easier to use, though Pardot is very close behind and still very capable in this space.
Pardot comes with excellent out-of-the-box integrations with other Salesforce platforms, notably Einstein Analytics, which can add a valuable and actionable business intelligence (BI) layer quickly and easily. And while it’s not part of our customer relationship management (CRM) product roundup, the tool does have CRM modules available. However, most customers will probably opt for integrating Pardot with the company’s flagship CRM, Salesforce Sales Cloud.
That will likely be a trend no matter which vendor platform you select as there’s a consolidation trend going on in email marketing right now, where we’re seeing products offer deeper integration with proprietary or third-party partner CRM suites in an effort to broaden their capabilities and attract new customers. Solutions like SendInBlue and Zoho Campaigns have recently expanded their feature set or latched on to other solutions by the same vendor through integrations. Sales automation, similarly, is an increasingly popular hook that can offer a more dynamic range of marketing solutions. Salesforce Pardot is different in that it was created to fit within the larger Salesforce solutions ecosystem.
The advantage for businesses already tied into Salesforce is a more seamless and organic expansion of functionality. Fortunately for Salesforce, Pardot’s B2B marketing automation is easily extended without resorting to third-party integration since Salesforce has not only a large and fully compatible software portfolio of its own but also a huge partner ecosystem of approved software add-ons and integrations. This lets Pardot users build highly individual and customized automation solutions without the headache of full-on custom development. To be fair, though, most companies will need to have Salesforce specialists on-staff to handle both the integration work and the automation setup as those layers aren’t built around point-and-click operations.
New Developments and Features
For 2020, Salesforce Pardot has added customizable email resubscribe messages, Handlebars Merge Language and Snippets support for forms and landing pages, and a new export API. Pardot users also get Einstein-powered behavior scores on prospect records and as criteria for automation rules.
It is now possible for Pardot admins to determine the default message that appears across forms, and marketing users can customize their messages on a per form basis. This functionality is available for Pardot accounts with the Handlebars Merge Language (HML) option enabled.
Marketing users can now personalize content with merge fields. Plus, they no longer have to switch between the legacy merge language and HML as they work on different assets in Pardot. For more nuanced analytics, Einstein Behavior Scoring makes it an option to use behavior scores as criteria in automation tools. Einstein Behavior Scoring tells you which customers show the strongest buying signals, and now you can use these scores to further target your marketing segments. Customization and personalization are high on Pardot’s feature list, which makes it ideal for businesses with very specific marketing needs.
The standard Growth Pardot plan costs $1,250 per month for up to 10,000 contacts when billed annually. This plan includes email marketing, prospect tracking, lead scoring, 50 forms, 50 landing pages, chat support, as well as standard Salesforce CRM integration. The Plus plan costs $2,500 per month for up to 10,000 contacts when billed annually. In this middle tier plan, Pardot offers A/B and multivariate testing, email analytics, Google AdWords integration, application programming interface (API) access, and an integrated marketing calendar. The Advanced plan, which we tested, costs $4,000 per month for up to 10,000 contacts when billed annually. It includes access to Einstein AI technology. This plan offers custom user roles and permissions, custom object integration, a dedicated IP address, predictive lead score, and behavior scoring. All plans give you a capacity for 10,000 contacts which should cover the needs of most small to midsize businesses (SMBs).
Salesforce Engage, which is $50 per month per user add-on option, gives you access to real-time alerts when contacts open a marketing email and read it. For example, if you send out a note about a Cyber Monday sale in your store. Engage will send you an alert in Pardot when your customer opens the email. The proactive alerts are useful and a feature that you’ll also find in products such as Infusionsoft by Keap.
Clicking on a contact’s record in Engage also provides email templates you can use to send off a note. The advantage of Salesforce Engage is it could reveal trends may help close deals faster. Interactive dashboards are highly informative and assist reps monitoring and controlling their campaign’s success. Salesforce Engage also makes it possible to access a live and customizable feed of prospect activity on your phone, tablet, or desktop, so there’s no excuse not to jump on prospective deals.
Pardot has the highest starting price of any of the marketing automation tools we reviewed. In its class, you’ll find tools such as the aforementioned HubSpot, our marketing automation Editors’ Choice tool for SMBs. However Pardot offers a cheaper price starting at $1,250 for 10,000 contacts compared with Hubspot’s price of $3,200 for 10,000 contacts. With Pardot you can’t choose a package with less than 10,000 contacts which might be an issue for smaller companies wanting to get started with email marketing but whose smaller contact base cannot justify the expense.
Businesses with more modest requirements will be better served by products like Infusionsoft by Keap . That package costs $200 per month for 10,000 contacts, 50,000 emails per month, and access for up to five users. The package also includes Infusionsoft’s four core feature sets (CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, and sales automation). Infusionsoft by Keap is a superb example of a modern and flexible solution priced just right for SMBs.
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. The credits are applied based on a number of emails you can send. These Zoho Campaigns plans begin at $12 for 500 credits, meaning 500 emails. Or you can send 5,000 emails for $80, 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 $750 per month for up to 120,000 subscribers. Smaller firms getting their email marketing feet wet will appreciate the flexibility of starting small and ramping up when necessary.
A Slick Interface
As you’ll find with most Salesforce-associated products, Pardot’s dashboard is very clean, with easy to read tabs and icons. Most users find it easy to navigate the tool regardless of how deep into the weeds they might get. Pardot uses a left-hand navigation setup that we found 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.
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’ve 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, or HubSpot’s, which is also feature rich and super intuitive.
Once the email or template is created, you can pop into the Testing tab to see how the email will look on various clients. You can see how the email will look on every browser, email client, and 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 the spam engines used by Google Gmail, GMX, Mail.com, and Microsoft 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, trigger, or 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 Campaigns.
Within Engagement Studio, you can pretest 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 multichannel 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.
Working with Email Marketing
Along with email automation, Pardot has very capable email marketing features. We gave Pardot a test run by creating an email campaign to advertise floor lamp deals. We added some contacts (prospects) into the system, and then assigned them to ourselves so they would show up as eligible to receive the email blast. There are two ways to create prospects (or contacts). You create a list, go to each person’s record, and add them to that campaign. Another method is to use dynamic list, in which you search for the criteria of a prospect and add the prospects if they match the criteria. You could add certain prospects based on their score and from which campaigns the emails originated. When you import a file of prospects, it has to be in CSV format. XLS doesn’t work. Just like with Campaigner, when importing a CSV or Microsoft Excel file, we had to separate the first name and the last name into separate fields, so the software would also recognize as separate fields, like first name and last name.
Then we went ahead and created an email campaign. When we entered the editor to draft an email, a template appeared, but it wasn’t intuitive on how to edit it. First we chose to add new email list campaign, but then we backtracked to add new email template.
Once we sent it out we could access reports that show data like click-through rates, and which emails originated from a certain campaign. If click-through rates aren’t high, you can edit the emails to improve them and then send to the next batch with the edits. You can get a behavior score using Salesforce’s machine learning (ML) capabilities in the Advanced package. Einstein can learn which prospects are doing the best so you can target those customers with emails. We were unable to access Einstein in our test account because it wasn’t linked to a main Salesforce account that includes the Einstein features.
The process of finding a list in which to import the prospects was a bit clumsy. We had to assign a campaign to various prospects, but when we tried to tag campaigns, Pardot said those campaigns were “empty.” We had to select a step called “Un-delete matching prospects found in the recycle bin during this import” to select a list item. After we restored prospects from the recycle bin, we were able to assign prospects to the “Customers” and “Monthly Newsletter” lists. We were also able to complete our importing of contacts from a CSV file.
After we created a campaign, we attempted to run an A/B test to compare the effectiveness of multiple emails. However, in our test account, we had a message that these automation-based emails will be blocked. Autoresponders and system emails would not be blocked, however. Salesforce says these email capabilities were blocked in our test account due to “trust and security reasons” which usually have something to do with email reputation. That’s an important concern, since your account can get flagged as spam if you’re not careful. Every day users should contact their email compliance officer when they see a message like this. In our instance, we simply canceled the test. You can select the percentage of the audience you want to test and what criteria will determine the winner (Opens vs. Clicks).
We found that Pardot has impressive trigger actions called Completion Actions, in which you can automatically add a contact to your prospect list when they complete a form. It also offers common email marketing features like notifying the sender when a prospect opens an email.
ABM and Support
Pardot contains a host of interesting features designed to expand and improve on what is an already top-notch system. It offers integration with Salesforce Account-Based Marketing (ABM), a tool that automates the work done between sales and marketing teams to identify target accounts, marry data between sales and marketing databases, and execute campaigns to each account’s primary decision maker. The tool is backed by Salesforce’s Einstein AI engine. To access ABM you need to use Sales Cloud along with Pardot. To access ABM, you’ll need the 360-degree view of customers with CRM, which is Sales Cloud, as well as the marketing automation features of Pardot.
Support is one area where Pardot has many competitors beat. Salesforce Pardot’s phone support is available 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday (ending Friday at 8pm EST). The company has a voluminous and growing knowledge base for self-serve support. I found the chat support to be quite intuitive and responsive to my queries and the knowledge base was replete with information about every aspect of Pardot’s operation. Like most Salesforce products, Pardot’s support is consultative and it’s easy to get a real human on the phone or on email to quickly help solve issues or make suggestions on how to improve your campaign outcome.
More importantly for new users and SMBs, Salesforce has a Quick Start Onboarding Package, which is a white glove service assigning a dedicated Pardot implementation manager to each account. This benefit offers up to 60 days to configure the Pardot system to a businesses’ specifications, help with campaign launches, and campaign results evaluation.
Smaller businesses or mom-and-pop operations will certainly find Pardot daunting, both because it’s expensive and has such a dizzying array of features. For small shops and those just starting out with digital marketing, there are much better tools available, like Editors’ Choice pick HubSpot, which is both fairly easy to use and has a generous feature set that combines marketing automation with email marketing, sales, and CRM. Salesforce Pardot is an enterprise-class marketing automation behemoth, it is better suited to agencies or sales teams who can make full use of its automation features and deep integrations with the greater Salesforce ecosystem and it earns its place as an Editor’s Choice pick for email marketing.
Salesforce Pardot Specs
|Limited Free Trial||No|
|Social Media Integration||Yes|
|24/7 Phone Support||No|