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Pardot by Salesforce: Best Flexible Marketing Automation Software

Credit: Pardot/Salesforce

After conducting extensive research and analysis in 2017, we recommend Pardot as the best customizable marketing automation platform. We chose Pardot from a pool of the dozens of marketing automation solutions we considered. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of marketing automation software on our best picks page.

Pardot is powerful enterprise-level marketing automation software with a nimbleness and adaptability that makes it suitable for virtually any company in any industry. Pardot is well worth the price, but it requires a team capable of handling such a sprawling and immense marketing automation platform. This solution is not recommended for small companies, but it can do wonders for a business prepared to leverage its many assets. 

Ready to choose a marketing automation solution? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's Note: Trying to choose a marketing automation solution? Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Pardot excels at workflow automation, but it also offers a strong lineup of other features to guide your marketing strategy. Here are the ones we found most useful, some of which are only available with higher pricing plans. For a breakdown of Pardot's plans and features, see the pricing section below.

  • Email marketing: Pardot's email marketing tool helps users create new email content with ease (and without coding if necessary) and includes email previews and spam analysis. While the visual editor itself isn't as sophisticated as that of our other best pick, HubSpot, it does a good job of simplifying the process and making clean, aesthetically pleasing email content.
  • Lead scoring: Pardot's lead qualification tool helps marketers identify the most likely and most profitable potential customers quickly to specifically target them for conversion and move them along the pipeline. Tracking lead behaviors and other criteria, such as imported data from the organization's CRM, helps Pardot score leads and predict your exact marketing bread and butter.
  • Lead nurturing: Pardot makes lead nurturing easy with detailed reports and an adaptive system that responds to the behaviors of your audience. Pardot also streamlines engagement with leads who haven't been active or responsive to campaign materials by offering them targeted deals.
  • Landing pages: Creating landing pages is easy with Pardot and doesn't require coding, although it supports HTML in case users prefer more control over the process.
  • A/B testing: A/B testing is included for email templates and web content, allowing users to run two iterations of the same content to gauge which receives a heathier response from leads.
  • Dynamic content: Dynamic smart content presents to each lead in relation to where they are in the conversion pipeline and the specific needs of their demographics.
  • Social profiles: Social profiles of leads help track interactions and demographics, keeping you up to date with how a lead is engaging with your organization across multiple channels and helping you understand their needs and desires in the marketing process.

No other platform we reviewed is so complete, user-friendly and adaptable as Pardot. The level of customization is so significant that the software suits almost any organization's marketing strategy. Beyond simple "yes/no" automation workflows, Pardot allows users to set up branching sequences that encompass virtually any number of potentialities.

One of the most straightforward tools we've used, Pardot's Engagement Studio takes marketing automation to the next level. You can set up any number of criteria, actions and reactions in your marketing strategies, positioning them to better respond to the variety of real-world behaviors exhibited by potential leads.

Marketing automation campaigns are built through simple drop-down menus, and the Engagement Studio offers a pre-test to ensure your automation campaign truly works – no dead ends here!

Pardot is a top-shelf product, and its pricing reflects that. Still, its powerful and comprehensive features – not to mention its adaptability – mean your organization gets total control over the marketing automation process. Pardot can be tailored to precisely suit your strategy. All plans include up to 10,000 contacts free and bill annually.

  • Standard: Includes email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, ROI reporting, landing pages, and a CRM integration. $1,000 per month.
  • Pro: Includes all standard features, plus email analytics, email preview and spam analysis, email and landing page A/B testing, dynamic content, Google AdWords integrations, API access, multiple scoring categories, an integrated marketing calendar, and social profiles. $2,000 per month.
  • Ultimate: Includes all pro features, plus custom user roles and object integration, expanded API access, a dedicated IP address, and 24/7 phone support. $3,000 per month.
  • Add-ons: For an additional fee, you can augment any of Pardot's core plans with add-ons, including B2B marketing analytics ($300 per five users per month) and Salesforce Engage ($50 per user per month).

Our customer service experience with Pardot was satisfactory. The sales representative was a bit pushy at times, but they never hesitated to answer our questions in depth and patiently repeat things when asked for clarification. Despite our expressed unwillingness to commit to any purchases at the time of our call, the rep was helpful and friendly, walking us through Pardot's many features and explaining several use cases.

In addition to the many resources hosted on Pardot's website, the company offers in-app chat and email tech support, virtual office hours and strategy sessions, live training, and an online community hub for chat, questions and advice.

Pardot's biggest drawback is the price tag; it is the most expensive platform we reviewed. However, its powerful features and vast customizability set it apart from most other marketing automation programs, and the benefits it offers to enterprise-level companies mean Pardot pays for itself.

Another limitation is the sheer complexity of the solution. The number of functions it offers could be enough to scare off simpler organizations. Companies looking to Pardot should be prepared to run truly comprehensive and sophisticated campaigns; luckily, the user interface is clean and intuitive.

Finally, Pardot does not offer a mobile application. Real-time on-the-go access is not possible with this solution without integrating the Salesforce Engage solution as well.

Editor's Note: Trying to choose a marketing automation solution? Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Adam C. Uzialko

Adam received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University. He worked for a local newspaper and freelanced for several publications after graduating college. He can be reached by email, or follow him on Twitter.