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When to Migrate from Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) to Marketo


So you’re currently using Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) and you’re starting to reach your subscription limitations for Automation Rules and Engagement Studio assets. Your company has also grown to have more than 1 million records in your database and you’ve started to notice some serious delays in the time it takes Dynamic Lists to load and Automation Rules to run. These issues are beginning to affect your audience targeting and lead processing. Whether you or your team have used Marketo Engage in the past, you’re starting to consider making the move to migrate.

The purpose of this post is to help marketing operations professionals (MOPs) understand feature limitations when considering a migration to Marketo Engage. It will cover why companies should make the switch, when companies should prioritize migration and some steps to help you plan for that migration. Throughout this post, “Pardot” will be used when referring to Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement. Similarly, I will be referring to Marketo Engage as “Marketo” to reduce my keystrokes (efficiency is critical in MOPs, right?).

What desired capabilities or feature limitations should trigger a migration?

I can very confidently say that there are some major differences between Pardot and Marketo. While the sticker price of Marketo can sometimes be startling for companies (well at least compared to Pardot), there are some major features Marketo offers that make Pardot in comparison feel noticeably less enterprise ready. Let’s start with the basics.

Automation Rule Limitations

One of the most common issues that teams run into while using Pardot is the Automation Rule limitations that are enforced based on your subscription.

These limitations pulled from Marketing Cloud Account Engagement’s Pricing Sheet are:

  • 50 Automation Rules for MCAE Growth
  • 100 Automation Rules for MCAE Plus
  • 150 Automation Rules for MCAE Advanced
  • 150 Automation Rules for MCAE Premium

While the volume may seem reasonable for active automation rules, I can assure you that you will quickly begin to reach this limit and have to work on simplifying your processes. When you compare these limitations to Marketo, which does not limit the number of Smart Campaigns (what Marketo calls automation rules) you can build in the system, you start to wonder why there is a need to reduce the number of rules available.

Additionally, Pardot Automation Rules only enable you to configure 10 completion actions per automation rule (think of this as only 10 things that can be accomplished per rule). With that limitation coupled with the inability to use “choice logic”, we lack the ability to conditionally apply or exclude certain records from unique completion actions in the automation rule. All of these limitations mean you’ll likely end up needing more than 1 automation rule to accomplish what could normally be completed with a single Marketo Smart Campaign. Marketo Smart Campaigns on the other hand do enable choice logic and have no limit when it comes to the number of actions you can take in the flow.

Long story short, the gap in automation rule functionality and instance enforced limits result in Automation Rules being one of the first signals of a necessary migration.

List Management

Moving onto one of my personal favorite differentiators between Pardot and Marketo, let’s talk about how each system uniquely handles list management. To start off, both Pardot and Marketo enable 2 types of Lists:

Static Lists

Defined as lists that you have to manually add and remove people from (via import or system action). While there isn’t much of a difference between how these can be referenced and used in the systems, one of the major differences between the tools is Marketo’s Static Lists gives 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 on the other hand allows you to display any field you want in the default list view in addition to enabling users to establish custom views, which make looking at data for specific use cases much more accessible. Without enabling users to display desired fields, Pardot users are stuck clicking into individual records to view a field or even sadder, forced to export the ENTIRE LIST and every column to see the data in a table format.

Criteria Based Lists

Defined as lists that allow you to establish membership using filter based criteria (think about a report or query). The major difference between Pardot Dynamic Lists and Marketo Smart Lists is the processing time to view results as well as how the lists are managed relative to a record. For starters, while Pardot users are used to defining a Dynamic list and having to wait 15 minutes for the list to finish qualifying candidates (and notifying you via email because it takes so long), Marketo users are able to define criteria and see results immediately or at the most within 30 seconds of saving the criteria. This results in a massive increase in productivity for Marketo users as they are able to edit and refine results when incorrect and immediately see the impact. Pardot users are forced to make a change and wait another 15 minutes to get their email notifying them that the list is updated.

Another major difference between the systems is how they associate records to these “dynamic” and “smart” lists. When a Pardot Dynamic list is saved, every record in the system is evaluated to determine if they meet the criteria and if they do, they are physically added to the list (which can be seen in the activity log of the record). This means that while Pardot’s Dynamic lists are meant to appear as dynamic, they really are just static lists with segmentation rules that the system runs behind the scenes to add and remove members. Marketo on the other hand never actually associates a person to a Smart List when they meet the criteria. Instead, the system chooses to evaluate records individually against the criteria whenever the record is running through a process that references the smart list. This means that Marketo is truly using the criteria of the lists at the time of processing where Pardot is using membership of the static list at the time of processing. Pardot’s method for managing Dynamic lists will impact operational processing of your instance as the time that records are associated to lists when created in the instance will always vary. This means that a record could qualify for a process because it was added to List A and begin processing even though you are excluding members of List B from the process (because the system has not yet added the person to List B even though they meet the criteria).

In summary, Pardot’s Dynamic Lists will ultimately slow you down or cause operational processing issues that should make any marketer eager to consider migrating to another MAP.


While both Pardot and Marketo offer similar reporting functionality, Marketo’s reporting (even without Revenue Cycle Explorer) is far superior to Pardot. Marketo’s out of box reports enable users to view their data in a myriad of different ways. From enabling you to group records by an attribute in a People Performance report to enabling custom columns and drill downs, Marketo’s reports are easy to use, intuitive and make reviewing and exporting needed data far easier to accomplish.

Build Times

The final item that dramatically differentiates the need for migrating to Marketo from Pardot is build times. Pardot makes asset creation very manual where Marketo enables you to build Program Templates that you can easily clone and include several preconfigured assets for a needed campaign. This allows users to quickly create the assets needed for a given initiative and follow the company’s current best practice for how to build the components. It also enables the campaign creator to establish one single set of program tokens that all landing pages, emails and operational processes can leverage. This can dramatically improve a campaign operations team’s ability to scale their work and reduce troubleshooting issues with inconsistent campaign builds.

Why should companies make the switch?

Companies should make the switch to Marketo to take advantage of the multitude of features Marketo enables that limit most Pardot users, some of which are called out above. From more enabled integrations to better data management and the ability to scale work quickly with program templates. With easier reporting and more flexibility in defining processes, any company that is using Pardot and cannot execute the needs and complexity of their business should consider migrating to Marketo.

When should companies prioritize a migration?

Companies should make the switch to Marketo from Pardot when they start to experience the symptoms of outgrowing their Pardot instance. While one or two of these issues may not be enough of a catalyst to make the move, at some point 2 or more of these symptoms will be your reality and before you know it, all of them will be an issue. If you’re experiencing a few of these issues already, you should begin exploring a migration to remedy these pain-points. Ultimately, it will be the complex needs of the business and Pardot’s inability to accomplish them that will prompt most companies to look into their next renewal and acquire Marketo before they have to renew.

How should companies prepare for a migration?

Preparing for any migration takes a serious amount of effort and time. That being said, once the decision to migrate has been made, there are actions that any marketing operations user can take to scope and prepare for a migration:

1. Audit your instance

The first step for any migration is to begin auditing your assets. When I say assets, I am referring to any items that exist in your current Pardot instance that will need to be migrated or recreated in your new Marketo instance. This can include: Forms, Landing Pages, Images/Files, Nurtures, Lists, Automation Rules, Segmentation Rules, Page Actions, Page Redirects, etc). Having a worksheet that shows you the number of items you have in your instance will allow you to begin thinking through how you will build all the corresponding components in the new instance once you have access and ensure you’re done building by the instance go-live date.

2. Establish a new instance acquisition date

Knowing when you will have access to your new instance is the next most essential item to establish. Based on the audit you completed in step 1 and knowing the size of your team and resources available, you will now be able to make a recommendation on how much time you will need to build out the new instance and migrate existing records into it before your go-live date.

3. Establish a new instance go-live date

Companies should plan to audit their instance and select an acquisition date before they can expect to go-live. There are so many moving parts to migrations. From working with IT to enabling SPF/DKIM and CNAMES, to working with your business systems team to integrate Marketo Engage with your CRM and migrate your database, having ample time to plan and execute on a migration will result in a less abrasive cutover.

4. Get to work migrating!

With our go-live date selected, it’s now time to make best friends with a really good PM to document your project timeline and critical milestones to ensure you stay on track. With them keeping you accountable, you can now divide out the project work and get to work building out your new instance to prepare for the migration.


While Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) is a marketing automation tool that works for many businesses, at some point, businesses with certain needs that are running into product limitations will ultimately decide they should migrate to Marketo Engage. Once these companies gain buy-in for why they need to migrate to Marketo, they can determine when it is best for them to migrate based on effort to build the new system and timelines based on their current instances expiration date and their new instances start date. With those dates in mind they can begin working to migrate from Pardot to Marketo confidently knowing they made a great platform selection and looking forward to enjoying all of the features that come with it.

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