Pardot vs Act-On: A User Comparison

Pardot vs Act-On

Pardot & Act-On are both excellent marketing automation platforms geared towards the small to medium sized business. Both tout their ease of implementation and simple-to-use, intuitive interface. This article offers an in-depth overview of the similarities and differences between these two platforms.

Pricing

Both products are geared towards the small to medium sized business. These are companies who are want to take advantage of the sophistication of segmentation and lead nurturing programs that are not available in your standard email marketing platform, but don’t have the budget for all the bells and whistles of platforms like Marketo or Eloqua. Both platforms are priced at the lower end of the spectrum, but both have very different pri

cing models.

Act-On starts at $500 month, with month-to-month contracts. Pricing is based on the number of

active contacts you plan to market to (send e-mails to) in any given month. You may send as many emails as you want to the same people in a given month, but only up to your maximum number of active contacts. This means if you only plan on e-mailing a finite amount of people per month, then you can get marketing automation for as little as $500 a month. Act-On does not price on a per feature basis, all features are included in your monthly price.

Pardot recently changed their pricing model from a number of emails sent pricing model to a database size pricing model.  Pricing starts at $1,000 a month for a contact database of 30,000 contacts. “Blocks” of 30,000 contacts are then added for an extra $300/month up to 500,000 and then $200/month extra for blocks of 30,000 over 500,000. Pardot has three pricing levels: Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. The larger packages have the ability to add more custom fields, add more nurturing programs and landing pages as well as greater API access.

Features & Benefits

The feature sets of Act-On and Pardot vary quite a bit, with Pardot having the leading edge over Act-On with more integration options, more sophisticated website visitor tracking/alerts, and more in-product reporting than Act-On.

First, I’ll go over some of the features that Act-On has that Pardot does not. One really nice feature is that with Act-On you can segment your prospects by the number of emails they’ve opened, clicked-on, been sent, etc. Another nice feature is the ability to select which fields get pushed into your CRM on a list by list basis. You can choose to store certain data only in Act-On and not have it overwrite your CRM data. Whereas, with Pardot the mapping to Salesforce is on the field level and is either pushed in or not pushed in based on the field, not on the list.

However, Pardot far and away has a much wider feature set as well as a bit more sophistication in regards to website visitor alerts, landing page testing, easier WYSIWIG editor and ability to customize HTML within the tool. One of the most frustrating parts of Act-On is trying to build your own landing page templates. Act-On uses what they call “stationery”. To build a customized template in Pardot you can simply load HTML from an existing page on your website and modify it in the system to create a layout template. With Act-On you must build the HTML outside of the system and put it into a .zip file along with any necessary images and upload it to Act-On. If you need to make a change, you must delete the file in Act-On and re-upload it, there is not currently an easy way to edit templates within the tool itself.

Another feature where Pardot takes the lead is web visitor tracking. With Pardot you can get pretty granular with your visitor notifications. You can customize it so that if an existing prospect visits a certain page or downloads a certain resource, that the CRM owner of that record gets notified the moment it happens. With Act-On the visitor alerts are fairly simple. Alerts are sent based on criteria you choose (if someone from X company visits the website, then send alert to X person) and only sent if that person visits any page on your site, you cannot define particular pages or define that it gets sent to the CRM owner of that record.

Landing page testing is another feature that does not yet exist in Act-On, but is built-in to Pardot. With Pardot you can create two or more landing pages and split your traffic to those pages with one URL. This is a great feature for savvy marketers who continually test different forms, different calls-to-action, and different headlines to extract greater value from their marketing campaigns by figuring out what generates more leads.

The final set of features that differentiates these two products is the different integrations offered. The online marketer’s toolchest includes many different types of tools from webinar software, Google Analytics, Google Adwords, online chat software, event registration software, etc. Both products integrate fairly well with the top CRM systems: Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar CRM as well as webinar software: WebEx, GoToWebinar, etc. However Pardot has many more tools that it integrates with natively: Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Olark, Eventbrite, WebEx, GoToWebinar, Twilio, and coming soon, Wistia. The integrations are really important as it gives the online marketer a holistic view of their marketing campaigns all within one tool.

Summary

In summary, if you are researching marketing automation tools and looking at either Pardot or Act-On it will depend on the budget and needs of your marketing department. If you have a small database and just want a little more sophistication than e-mail marketing, go with Act-On. If you have a bit more money in your pocket and would like to bring all your marketing activities under one roof, go with Pardot.

About the Author:

Alison Rouse is the Marketing Automation Manager at a tech startup in Portland, Oregon. With over 10 years experience in marketing, Alison blogs about her passion for database marketing and CRM best practices at www.awkwardalison.com.

Comments

  1. says

    Alison, I always find comparisons interesting, especially from the position of the marketer/user. As the Product Marketing Manager here at Act-On, I’d like to respond to your thoughtful review, and clarify a few points that might otherwise be misleading or confusing.

    Pricing
    You have it just right. Act-On’s pricing starts at $500/month, and all features are included. You noted the flexibility Act-On provides with mapping custom fields in Salesforce; thank you for pointing out that there is no charge for that, nor for adding more nurturing/drip programs or more landing pages. I want to underscore that we offer month-to-month pricing, which means less risk for our customers; it’s easy for them to disengage with us. Despite that, we have very little turnover.

    Features:
    Thank you for pointing out Act-On’s segmentation capabilities. These support targeting, personalization, and lead scoring and nurturing, all very important to building relevancy into campaigns. However, here are a few areas where you are inaccurate:

    1) Your description of Act-On’s landing page creation capabilities is not accurate. Once you upload your custom content (HTML) into Act-On (please note it is not necessary to use a zip file; you can if you choose to, but you could just simply copy and paste) you can either make edits directly to the HTML code with our HTML editor [see image| http://www.act-on.com/edit-html.png%5D or use our rich text editor [see image| http://www.act-on.com/edit-rich.png ] to edit and generate HTML. You do not have to delete the file and re-upload another file. You can also create a landing page from an email with one click. (Many people say this saves them a lot of time.) You can also build a landing page from scratch, using our WYSIWYG rich text editor. Whatever way you choose may be saved as a template and re-used or changed/edited within the system as needed.

    2) Act-On’s website visitor tracking is far more extensive than you describe. Your observation that in Act-On “you cannot define particular pages or define that it gets sent to the CRM owner of that record” is incorrect. Act-On alerts a sales rep or CRM owner (via email or SMS) based on a “specific activity” (pricing page visit, webinar attendee, downloaded a whitepaper, etc.). This is set up by opening a simple drop down menu and checking the appropriate action/activity. One of the things I want to emphasize is how little time it takes to set up these alerts – in Act-On you do it all from a single view. Here again, this supports segmentation, lead scoring and lead nurturing, and gives the sales rep the opportunity to respond immediately when a critical action is taken.­­­­­­

    3) You did not mention Act-On Insight. A few months ago Act-On debuted a new capability you did not mention: Act-On Insight™ which lets you benchmark your web traffic, blogs, keywords, Facebook and LinkedIn traffic, tweets, and YouTube views against your competition from a single integrated dashboard view. This unique feature can be set up in minutes. It reports how your social media is delivering against your competitors and shows you key online conversations, giving you solid data for optimization and improvement. (http://www.act-on.com/products/social-media/insight.html). This capability is part of the platform for no additional charge.
    Alison, thank you for spending the time to make this detailed analysis. We appreciate feedback from reviewers like you because it helps us prioritize future development and better showcase the capabilities we already have. I invite you to contact me for a demo of the features I’ve mentioned that you hadn’t yet discovered in Act-On. Our goal is to enable the marketer to execute better and faster, with visibility for both sales and marketing.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Linton

    • says

      Alison, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Regarding the Act-On Insights functionality that Jeff mentioned, we use this feature regularly, as in daily. We have many tools at our disposal, but find the built-in benchmarking to be very useful in looking under the hood of competitors who claim to be “experts” in SEO/SEM and social media.

      While I’m not familiar with the competing product, I think Act-On provides the best “bang-for-the-buck” and peerless customer service. This trumps little used features in my book.

  2. Alison says

    Hi Jeff,

    I appreciate your comments as well. I certainly didn’t mean to downplay many of the benefits to using Act On and I would like to make a few corrections to the post.

    Regarding the landing page creation, what I referring to was just the stationery templates themselves. I neglected to mention that yes you could modify these within the landing page builder tool within Act On, but to replace the stationery as far as I understand you must re-upload.

    Regarding the website visitor tracking, you are absolutely correct and this is something I just discovered due to your comment! I noticed on the “Website Visitors” section that there is a “More” dropdown with all the options you just described. Perhaps making these options more prevalent on the page would help? What I was referring to in my post was simply the “Alerts” section on the “Website Visitors” page, what I missed was the “Visitor Report Content Settings” …etc.

    I wasn’t able to comment on Act-On Insight just yet because I haven’t yet been able to get into that area yet so I couldn’t comment intelligently. One other thing that I did not have room to comment on is how great your support team has been as well.

    • says

      Morning Alison,

      Thank you for the positive comments and for your clarifications. I’ll be sure to let Scott, your Client Success Manager know he is doing a great job.

      Again do not hesitate to reach out, we love to share best practices to ensure our clients are successful using Act-On to grow their business.

      Have a great day.
      Jeff

  3. Mike V says

    Thanks for the comparison, very helpful. As a Pardot user, I’m pretty sure you can set master/slave data relationship between the CRM/Pardot to what you would like, I think it’s a newer addition, early 2012.

    I have to agree, the one thing with Pardot is getting in to the fine grain segmentation/supression of lists. It is totally possible with a little tweaking of one’s own lists/segmentation, but they could do a better job making it easier and built in.

    Maybe one of the other Pardot people will chime in…

    • says

      Mike,

      We’ve supported setting master/slave relationships with the CRM data for custom fields for a while now, but you’re right that we recently upgraded our default/built-in fields to support this as well:

      http://www.pardot.com/new-features/feature-map-pardot-default-fields-crm-field

      I’d love to learn more about your segmentation / suppression use cases and how we can make those more straightforward, UI and UX wise. As you said, there’s a lot of power under the hood, but we want to make sure we’re striking the important balance of make the easy stuff easy while keeping the more advanced stuff possible.

      Please feel free to reply here, or email me at first dot last @pardot.com

      Best,
      Zach Bailey
      VP Products
      Pardot

  4. Brandon says

    Alison, I think one other area of critical note is the campaign building capabilities of both systems. Act-On allows for significantly more flexibility and capability in designing and implementing the flow of communication and the non-linear paths/segments that are the foundation for effective marketing automation practice. If one is limited to only linear drip campaigns, no marketing automation tool is likely worth the cost. One can simply use a cheap ESP plus free or near free analytics packages. However, it’s behavioral tracking and then behavioral based communication flow and branching that give MA tools their value. There is a big gap between the tools in this area with Act-On giving a far better tool set for setting up those campaigns.

  5. Rebecca says

    I am currently evaluating marketing automation from an SMB perspective and would love any updated thoughts, as I know both of these platforms have made upgrades since this was written. Would love to talk online or offline with anyone with experience in this area. Thanks!

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