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How Marketo & Pardot (Account Engagement) Compare in Pricing & Features


Are you new to the MAP (Marketing Automation Platform) selection process and have narrowed your shortlist? Or, maybe you’re running into systematic issues with your current MAP and want to make a change…. We’ve seen all the scenarios. Thankfully, Etumos has spent considerable time in both platforms and can help you narrow down what best fits your marketing automation needs. This blog will help you compare Marketo Engage & Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (fka Pardot), and will help you understand the landscape a bit better if you’re having a hard time narrowing down the pros and cons as you make your decision.

For brevity’s sake, we will refer to these two MAPs as “Marketo” and “Pardot” instead of Marketo Engage and Marketing Cloud Account Engagement.

First…. Our POV

Both of these platforms have their pros and cons. It is important to consider what components are “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” to your organization and how the features of each MAP can fulfill your overall business needs. As a whole, Marketo is a platform that can cater to all businesses of all sizes but is noticeably more enterprise-friendly than Pardot. It’s highly customizable and has an extensive list of features that automatically become available to customers, with a noticeable number of add-on features that can be implemented if you so choose. Also, Adobe continues to make sizable investments and updates to the Marketo product, which is pleasing to see for customers who have used Marketo for many years.

On the other hand, Pardot (an inherited product of Salesforce) is a strong contender in the sense that it does provide a lot of features that Marketo also provides, and can fold seamlessly into the SFDC ecosystem. SFDC customers will be pleased to see how much they can get out of their investment in Pardot if they have a robust marketing and sales data processing ecosystem in place through their Salesforce CRM. However, Pardot has a more limited list of features that are offered out of the box in its platform, and minimal investments are made year after year.

Price will obviously play an important factor here as well. We will admit, Marketo pricing can offer sticker shock to some prospective customers when they’re going through the platform selection process. You pay based on your entire database size, there are 4 different tiers you can choose from, and you are billed annually. Pardot is often less of a price investment due to its place in the SFDC ecosystem, you only pay based on mailable prospects within your database and you are billed monthly.

What features set these MAPs apart?

There are three key areas that are clear differentiators between these two platforms that we think companies should consider when going through the platform selection process.

Data Optimization and Automated Processing

Marketo and Pardot both possess the capability to sync data back and forth between each MAP and their respective CRMs, and both platforms can perform workflows of criteria-based actions. What differs between these two platforms is:

How often these actions can occur

Marketo has no limits when it comes to the number of times per day an automation (i.e Smart Campaign) can run, and can be performed in both a trigger or batch action. Pardot however can only run an Automation Rule once a day, and will not be able to run automatically once a person qualifies for that rule.

How many of these actions can occur

Pardot unfortunately has a limit to the number of Automation Rules that can be active in your instance, and you pay for those limits based on the tier (50 for MCAE Growth all the way to 150 for MCAE Premium). There are also limits to how many actions (i.e. Completion Actions) can be run in each Automation Rule; you can only run 10 Completion Actions per Automation Rule. You can have an infinite number of Automation Rules created, but you can only have a limited number of them turned on.

Marketo has an unlimited number of Smart Campaigns that can be active or inactive, and has an unlimited number of actions that can be completed within the flow step of each Smart Campaign. Marketo also has always allowed their workflows to operate with choice logic as well.

Companies who are looking for robust data optimization and enhanced, timely processing between their MAP and CRM should consider these differences if they are relying on their marketing and sales activities to be influenced based on the actions taking place in the background.

Lead Nurturing & Campaign Production

Marketo is more program based, meaning you can have multiple types of programs that can be created with multiple different types of assets (emails, lists, Smart Campaigns) housed under them. Pardot will operate only within assets and folders, so it is important to have a strictly organized folder structure (and a strong naming convention foundation that you can follow, too!) when creating your assets such as automation rules, lists, and emails.

While their names may be very similar, Marketo’s Engagement Programs and Pardot’s Engagement Studios are the two lead nurturing offerings that can be used to automate specific rule-based actions for a specific audience list. However, they differ slightly in what they are meant for. Marketo’s Engagement Programs are really intended for stream-based email sends at specific time-based cadences, have a limit to the number of programs that can be live in the instance, and have the ability to pause and transition stream recipients in their cadences at any time. Pardot’s Engagement Studios are not solely centered around email, and can be based on actions taken based on a specific campaign. They have many similarities to standalone Automation Rules, but can be produced based on a combination of “rules” and “triggers.”

Companies should care about these features because the resourcing, bandwidth and headcount of their marketing and sales teams can easily play a factor in the success of these platforms. Pardot is slightly more manual in the way you build assets and campaigns, and may take the individual more time to produce a campaign based on the way you cannot clone a template or an automated list of workflows. Marketo allows for a more enhanced, and optimized build experience since you can clone program templates, and will help you reduce campaign errors in the long run.

Audience Targeting

You may be noticing a theme in this blog by now. Both platforms have a lot of the same features and offerings. The big question is “Who can do it better, and faster?” This applies to how they structure audience lists.

Static Lists

Marketo’s Static Lists (a list you can add or remove people to depending on a flow action or API import) give you the ability to display any field you want when viewing list membership. Pardot Static Lists don’t allow you to view any fields other than the default list fields when working in the user interface (those fields being: Name, Company, Score, Grade and Last Activity). Marketo will allow you to see a list view in addition to establishing custom views, which will allow for more enhanced audience targeting and optimization before the campaign launch. Without enabling users to display desired fields in a custom view, Pardot users are stuck clicking into individual records to view a field, taking longer to discern if this list has the right group of people they are looking to target with a campaign.

Criteria-Based or “Smart Lists”

Marketo and Pardot possess the ability to create a “dynamic” list based on a certain list of rule-based criteria at the time of that list creation and refresh. But “dynamic” has a slightly different definition when it comes to the two platforms. Pardot’s Dynamic Lists work similarly to Marketo’s Smart Lists in the sense that they are constantly refreshing in the background to see if a recipient meets or fails to meet that list of criteria. However, Pardot still “associates” that recipient to that dynamic list via an activity log update in the background, making it work almost like a static list. Marketo will never allow you to see a person associated with a smart list in their activity log or CRM record, making it a truly dynamic list pulled at the time of the query. You can also create custom list views with Marketo Smart Lists as well!

The processing time of these dynamic lists is a bit more disappointing to produce in Pardot vs. Marketo. In Pardot, it is not automatic and may take you up to 15 minutes to process a Dynamic List, whereas in Marketo (depending on the number of rules and nested lists you are referencing) you will get instantaneous results. Pardot customers should be wary of structuring their automated processing around list membership and could experience significant delays in using these functionalities.


We’ve focused this blog on the key areas to consider when selecting Pardot or Marketo as your Marketing Automation Platform. In summary, we think smaller or medium-sized businesses that have a robust Salesforce foundation will have success in both using platforms, but may opt for Pardot. Marketo has historically done well for larger, enterprise-sized companies that are more focused on producing robust marketing campaigns in addition to enhanced data processing automation. Pricing will vary depending on what you add on with different features and the database size for both platforms as well, so it’s incredibly important to consider these components when making your final decision. Good luck!

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