Ask any marketer what their best friend is, and they’ll give you one of two answers: their favorite person, or their marketing automation software. Although we could certainly go into detail on the merits of friendship, this is a software blog. And today, we’re continuing our series of software comparisons with three of our most highly rated marketing automation platforms.
HubSpot Workflows, Salesforce’s Pardot and Act-On Software each come packed with robust features that ease the burden for the marketers who use them. On top of that, all three of these all-in-one solutions are among the most popular vendors on the market. But if you pit them against each other, how do they compare? Are there features that one platform has that the others don’t? We looked at some of the biggest considerations buyers make when searching for marketing automation tools.
Lead Management and Lead Generation
As we mentioned, HubSpot, Pardot and Act-On each provide their users with an all-in-one solution. The main features of such a solution are related to the inbound tactics of lead management and lead nurturing. These features include lead scoring, email campaigns management, social media integration and landing page creation. The differences, then, lie in the more advanced capabilities.
HubSpot, a famous content creator in its own right, specializes in content creation tools. They provide a ton of tools for creating and optimizing blogs, landing pages, web content, CTAs and SEO. Where HubSpot falters a little, however, is that the automation of any of these features, including email and goal-based nurturing, isn’t available in its Basic package. HubSpot’s middle and top packages (Pro and Enterprise) do, however, offer a plethora of dynamic features, the most noteworthy of these being A/B testing for CTAs and emails, dynamic content and predictive lead scoring.
Pardot has features like lead scoring, lead nurturing and email/landing page creation available in all three of its packages, but lacks CTA, blog or SEO tools. Similarly to HubSpot, Pardot’s middle package includes A/B testing, dynamic content and social media. One feature that’s unique to Pardot is AdWords integration. Neither HubSpot nor Act-On includes any kind of PPC integration, so businesses with a PPC-heavy marketing strategy tend to lean towards Pardot.
Act-On offers the most features in its cheapest package (Professional). Providing lead nurturing, lead scoring, segmentation, social media and more, Act-On’s cheaper package fulfills most company’s marketing needs. Unlike HubSpot and Pardot, the Act-On platform includes A/B testing in both packages, not just the more expensive one. In addition, webinar management is a feature available exclusively to Act-On users.
Both Pardot and Act-On also offer ABM (account-based marketing) with their marketing automation tools. ABM has become quite the popular strategy in the last couple of years, so B2B businesses especially should keep this feature in mind when evaluating vendors.
Reporting and Analytics
When it comes to reporting and analytics, there’s a lot more variance between the three platforms. HubSpot trails behind Pardot and Act-On, as it only provides reporting features in its top (Enterprise) package.
That said, HubSpot redeems itself with the variety of reporting available, including revenue, contacts and company. Additionally, the tool provides analytics dashboards for every package. Although these dashboards can’t create reports, they’re useful for getting a glimpse of your marketing campaigns’ success.
Similarly to HubSpot, Act-On provides dashboards for both of its packages. However, these dashboards also come equipped with reporting capabilities, for both at-a-glance and detailed analysis. It also includes advanced reporting features in its Enterprise package, in addition to providing the only solution with built-in BI integration (available in Enterprise).
Pardot offers reporting with all three of its packages. The reporting capabilities Pardot includes are unique, giving it an advantage over the others. ROI reporting is available in the Standard package, while advanced email analytics and spam analysis are available with Pro. For marketers that value deep insight into their campaigns, Pardot provides the most robust reporting and analytics of the three.
Most companies want to align their sales and marketing departments as much as possible, which is why CRM integration is one of the most common integrations in business. It helps provide a 360 degree view of both your customers and the buyer journey, so you can adjust your marketing campaigns to optimize for this journey. Although you can build custom integrations for most any two pieces of software, it’s easier when CRM integration is built in.
HubSpot has their own CRM in addition to their marketing automation tool. As you can imagine, this integration is easy to setup and seamless in use. The HubSpot marketing tool also has built-in Salesforce CRM integration, however it’s not available with the Basic package.
Pardot, a Salesforce product, includes seamless Salesforce CRM integration (surprise!). Many users of one of the two systems choose to use the other simply because of how easy the integration is. Pardot previously offered integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NetSuite and SugarCRM, but as of Summer 2017, these are no longer supported.
Act-On offers the widest variety of built-in CRM integrations. Although it’s only available through the Enterprise package (unless you pay an add-on fee with Professional), it doesn’t limit itself to one or two CRM vendors. Act-On provides integration with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Infor, SugarCRM and other top CRM software.
Now we get to the fun part: what each of these platforms will cost you. Although each of the pricing packages list the monthly prices, HubSpot, Pardot and Act-On all bill annually, meaning you pay for a year’s worth of use up front.
HubSpot has four available packages: Free, Basic, Pro and Enterprise, but there are add-ons, such as extra features and access to extra contacts, available on top of these packages.
- Free: Yes, HubSpot offers a free version of their marketing automation software. Although it’s a fairly watered-down version of the paid options, it’s still a great place to start for new businesses, small businesses and those who want to try before you buy.
- Basic: Basic is available for $200/month, which includes 100 contacts, limited lead management features (without automation) and a $600 one-time onboarding fee
- Pro: Pro goes for $800/month, providing access to 1,000 contacts and basic lead management. There’s also a one-time onboarding fee of $3,000.
- Enterprise: Enterprise costs $2,400/month. This package gives you access to 10,000 contacts and advanced lead management and reporting capabilities. The onboarding fee for Enterprise is $5,000.
Pardot has three pricing packages: Standard, Pro and Ultimate, each offering access to 10,000 contacts with additional add-ons available.
- Standard: Standard is available for $1,000/month, and includes basic lead management and ROI reporting.
- Pro: Pro costs $2,000/month for more advanced lead management and analytics capabilities.
- Ultimate: The Ultimate package goes for $3,000/month, and offers extra features such as custom user roles, custom object integration and a dedicated IP address.
Act-On has the simplest package options, with two: Professional and Enterprise. If you only want the Professional package but need a feature available in Enterprise, you can add it on for an additional fee.
- Professional: Professional costs $900/month, allowing access for up to 3 marketing users and 50 sales users, with an onboarding fee starting at $500.
- Enterprise: Available for $2,000/month, Enterprise provides access for up to 6 marketing users and 100 sales users. The onboarding fee for Enterprise also starts at $500.
Aside from the available features and the cost, there are other considerations that can help sway your decision. For example, what types of businesses each solution caters to.
Pardot bills itself as a B2B platform, so it’s naturally most popular with B2B businesses. That said, there are some B2C businesses that have found success with it. Act-On is most effective for mid-sized businesses, although it could also be used by a smaller business that has some extra cash to throw into its marketing budget. Used by the widest group of businesses, businesses using HubSpot range from small to mid-sized to large. However, it’s most commonly used by businesses of up to 1,000 employees.
There are also some unique aspects of the platforms that are worth consideration. HubSpot, as we mentioned earlier, has a plethora of content optimization tools. Because of this, businesses that produce a lot of content (e.g. blogs, emails, landing pages, etc.) may find that HubSpot provides the most value.
Businesses that employ an ABM strategy, on the other hand, may prefer Pardot. Salesforce’s in-house AI, Einstein, is integrated with Pardot’s ABM capabilities, creating a powerful AI and ABM one-two punch.
For marketers that always want access to the latest features, Act-On may be the most appealing. They add new features every quarter, whether big or small. In addition, Act-On’s cheapest package offers the highest amount of features when compared to the cheapest packages of HubSpot and Pardot.
Ultimately, none of these marketing automation solutions are going to be the best choice for every company. The right choice for each company depends on the size of the business, the number of users and what features those users need. If you create a lot of content, choose HubSpot. If you focus heavily on testing, reporting and analysis, choose Pardot. And if you value easy integrations, choose Act-On. But whichever marketing automation tool you use, make sure you take the time to evaluate which one will serve your marketers’ needs the best. Whether it’s HubSpot, Pardot, Act-On or even another vendor entirely, finding your best-fit marketing automation software should be your most important priority.