Pardot vs. Marketing Cloud: Key Differences

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When researching marketing automation on the Salesforce platform, you will be faced with two options: Pardot or Marketing Cloud. But what are the key differences when it comes to Pardot vs Marketing Cloud?

Both tools appear to have some similarities, on the surface. To add to the confusion, Pardot was renamed “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement” in 2022. Dig deeper, and you’ll find that Marketing Cloud and Pardot (Account Engagement) are distinct from one another.

Confused? you’re not alone. I worked as a Salesforce marketing automation consultant and was frequently asked questions like:

  • Do Marketing Cloud and Pardot do the same thing?
  • Is Pardot part of Marketing Cloud?
  • Is one the ‘dummies’ version of the other? In other words, is one the low budget/small business/no technical skill option?

The answer to all the above questions is no.

So, how is Pardot different from Marketing Cloud? I’m going to compare ‘Pardot vs Marketing Cloud’, debunk some myths, and provide you with some questions to ask yourself (so you can come to your own conclusions).

Note: this is not a feature-by-feature comparison. You’ll find a functionality breakdown at the end of this article. 

The Differences Between Pardot and Marketing Cloud

Ask the question, and the “quick” response will be along the lines of “Marketing Cloud is for B2C marketing, and Pardot (Account Engagement) is for B2B marketing”. I guarantee you that specialists out there will be 🤦‍♀️ 🤦 right now. 

Pardot (Account Engagement) is used for ‘considered purchases’ where there are long sales cycles and multiple decision-makers – which is typical of B2B, but not exclusively. Marketing Cloud is best suited to transactional purchases across multiple marketing channels – which is typical of B2C, but not exclusively. As time goes on, you’ll find more examples of organizations marketing to consumers that will be making a considered purchase, and on the flip side, more accounts (B2B) making transactional purchases, in high-volume, such as self-service commerce.  

With that established, let’s see the Marketing Cloud vs Pardot breakdown.

 Pardot (Account Engagement)Marketing Cloud
One-line pitch:“Powers your marketing and sales success by improving alignment between teams, driving and nurturing new leads”“Grow relationships and revenue with seamless experiences from ad to account, email to e-commerce, social to service, and more”
Main differentiator:Used for ‘considered purchases’ where there are long sales cycles and multiple decision-makers. That’s why Pardot is often referred to a B2B marketing tool. Best suited to transactional purchases across multiple marketing channels. That’s why Marketing Cloud is often referred to as a B2C marketing tool.
Marketing channels: Email, social media*Email, social**, SMS, display advertising
Typical use cases/keywords:Lead generation, lead scoring, lead assignment, email nurture campaigns, content marketing, webinar marketing, account-based marketing.Real-time messaging, cross-channel marketing, mobile marketing, social media engagement**, display advertising, e-commerce.
Ideal industries:Professional services (note: Pardot is not industry-specific providing the organization meets the ‘main differentiator’ criteria) Retail, FMCG, health & beauty, travel & leisure, nonprofit etc.
Technical knowledge and skills required:Designed as WYSIWG***. Can be managed by a certified Pardot Specialist (in a standard setup).Has a range of ‘Builders’ and ‘Studios’, some of which require specialization. Data management in Marketing Cloud is more complex than in Pardot.
Licensing/add-on products:Pardot is comprehensive, however, some advanced features (analytics, AI-enabled features) are likely to be add-ons. Marketing Cloud is sold in modules. Check which marketing channels, capabilities, and reporting will be included in your account before you purchase.
Integration with the Salesforce platform:Aligned with Sales Cloud. This means that Pardot ‘talks’ to many of the standard Salesforce objects (Leads, Contacts, Opportunities). Pardot took it a step further to now use the same Campaigns as you do in the Pardot app. Other marketing objects are now built on the core platform (eg. emails, landing pages). Some of your Pardot database still exists off-platform. Salesforce Marketing Cloud is not built on the core Salesforce platform; instead, connectors are used to sync data bidirectionally between the two. Once you realize how much power SMFC wields, you can understand why it’s deserving of its own platform.
Price:$$$$

*As Pardot is closely integrated with the Salesforce platform, customers can take advantage of Salesforce functionality or trusted third-party providers, for SMS, advertising, and more. 

**Social Studio, Marketing Cloud’s social media listening product, is scheduled for retirement

***WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get.

READ MORE: What is Pardot Used For?

Frequently Asked Questions (and Debunking Myths)

‘Is Pardot a part of Marketing Cloud?’ and ‘Is Pardot Included in Marketing Cloud?’

It depends on how you interpret ‘part of’, which could mean two things:

  • Built on the same product architecture.
  • Marketed under the same brand umbrella.

Built on the same product architecture = no, Pardot is partly on its own platform, and partly on the core Salesforce platform. Marketing Cloud still exists on its own, not on the core Salesforce platform. Despite being renamed “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement”, the two do not function together, nor are sold together. Marketing Cloud still exists on its own, not on the core Salesforce platform. 

READ MORE: Is Pardot (MCAE) on the Salesforce Platform or Not?

Marketed under the same brand umbrella = yes, Pardot (Account Engagement) is under the Marketing Cloud brand. 

Pardot (Account Engagement) has been through multiple transitions – first independent, then aligned with Sales Cloud (as the two became increasingly integrated), and now under the ‘Marketing Cloud’ brand with the tagline “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement powered by Pardot.”

‘Pardot is an email marketing tool’:

Sure, the primary channel Pardot (Account Engagement) handles is email; however, you would be a fool to conclude that Pardot only handles email marketing. 

Pardot (Account Engagement) is designed to automatically segment your database in line with prospect behavior, prospect firmographic data, and what’s happening in your CRM. You can combine these data points and only send emails when relevant – that’s where you will get value out of Pardot and justify its price tag.

However, Pardot (Account Engagement) does handle other channels:  

  • Considered purchases require a link to Salesforce Opportunities and a tactful, human ‘high-touch’ approach from a sales rep.
  • The tools available in Pardot for social posting, SMS, etc. are not as fully-fledged/at your fingertips as they are in Marketing Cloud. Marketing Cloud has dedicated ‘Studios’ and ‘Builders’ for each marketing channel. 
READ MORE: What is Salesforce Marketing Cloud? Builders and Studios Overview

“Pardot is for organizations with smaller budgets”:

While it’s true that Pardot has a lower license price point, it’s not as simple as that!

Organizations of all sizes and budgets use Pardot. Unfortunately, some organizations are tempted by the lower price point and opt for Pardot for this reason alone – rather than Marketing Cloud, even if it is a better-suited option.

These organizations may find that they spend more time and money on customizations and integrations in the long run – the saying ‘don’t cut corners’ is very true in this instance.

‘Pardot is for non-technical teams, without technical resource in-house’:

As I highlighted under ‘technical knowledge and skills required’ in the comparison table, Pardot (Account Engagement) has been designed to be WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). This keeps users from delving ‘under the hood’, which makes Pardot harder to ‘break’. To truly maximize Pardot, however, you do need specialists on hand with both technical skills and marketing acumen – otherwise, you will be restricted to ‘cookie-cutter’ use cases.

In a standard setup without too many complex, non-standard processes, Pardot can be managed by a certified Pardot Specialist, with ‘clicks not code’.

Examples of how Pardot may need to be stretched are below: 

READ MORE: Manage Repeat Customers with Salesforce
READ MORE: Treat Existing Customers as New Leads

Marketing Cloud has a range of ‘Builders’ and ‘Studios’, some of which require specialization. Data management in Marketing Cloud is more complex than in Pardot, often requiring development knowledge. 

Having said that, once a Marketing Cloud is set up in line with the datasets/segmentation/ETL activities a marketing team needs, it can be used by a non-developer quite comfortably. Plus, the Salesforce partner network (ISVs) are bridging gaps to make this even easier, such as drag-and-drop segmentation.

READ MORE: 4 Free Apps for Salesforce Marketing Cloud
READ MORE: Salesforce Mass Actions Made Easy

To summarize, the time required to learn Pardot (Account Engagement) is far less than Marketing Cloud. 

Can You Use Both Marketing Cloud and Pardot?

Yes! You can use Marketing Cloud and Pardot together if you have the budget to spend! It’s usually a case of:

  • Organizations don’t have the budget for both, and so ‘shoehorn’ the processes they would have implemented in the other platform into the one platform.
  • Organizations do have the budget for both, but aren’t aware they need both.

So, perhaps it’s not a case of ‘Pardot vs Marketing Cloud’ after all. Here’s an inside view of how Hermann Miller uses Pardot and Marketing Cloud together:

Using Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot Together – a Story of Two Cars

If you identify the use cases, then it’s worth considering using both solutions. BUT try not to get carried away with the shiny toys. There are ways to adapt Pardot for B2C marketing (one project I worked on – I don’t recommend it), and ways to adapt Marketing Cloud for B2B marketing.

As I said before, don’t simply choose Pardot for its cheaper price tag if you know, deep down, you have a B2C use case.

Which Is Right for You?

Hopefully, the information so far has helped ‘lift the fog’ and point you in the right direction. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Does your organization have ‘considered purchases’ where there are long sales cycles and multiple decision-makers? = Use Pardot
  • Is your sales process managed with Leads and Salesforce Opportunities? = Use Pardot
  • Does your organization have ‘transactional purchases’ across multiple marketing channels? (and e-commerce) = Use Marketing Cloud
READ MORE: What is Pardot Used For?
READ MORE: What is Salesforce Marketing Cloud? Builders and Studios Overview

Summary

There are key differences between Pardot and Marketing Cloud – factors such as how long your sales cycle lasts, how many decision-makers influence it, and which marketing channels you use heavily, will clearly guide you towards which tool you should use.

Still unsure? There are plenty of Salesforce consultancies that will be able to advise you further. Finally, try not to make quick, rash buying decisions; go into the evaluation stages of your Pardot/Marketing Cloud with your mind clearer on the factors you should be considering. Is it a case of Pardot vs Marketing Cloud, or Pardot and Marketing Cloud?

Appendix: Functionality Breakdown

Although this matrix shows which ‘boxes’ each platform ticks, remember that what this can tell you is limited. What may appear as lacking in one tool is likely because it is far stronger in other areas; for example, Pardot appears to have gaps with some marketing channels, however, this is because its focus is on the Salesforce object connection and data sync.

Plus. it’s best to explore which Marketing Cloud add-on products are compatible with Pardot. For example, your use case may suit Pardot better but you also want to use Advertising Studio (yes, that’s a possible combination!)

 PardotMarketing Cloud
Email Marketing
Transactional Messaging-
Landing Pages & Forms
Dynamic Content
Progressive Profiling-
Files-
Personalization
Predictive Purchasing Recommendations-
AI-driven Engagement Scoring
Digital Advertising-
Mobile: SMS, Push Notifications-
Social Publishing
Social Listening & Engagement-✔*
Lead Nurturing -
Engagement History Tracking-
Lead Scoring (+ Grading)-
Sales Engagement-
Salesforce Campaign Integration-
Salesforce Campaign Reporting-**
Web Analytics-
Mobile Analytics-
Salesforce Integration
API
Salesforce Shield Integration
Tokenized Sending-
Server-side Scripting-

*Social Studio, Marketing Cloud’s social media listening product, is scheduled for retirement

**You can do campaign reporting in Marketing Cloud, however, when it comes to Salesforce Campaigns, Pardot’s capabilities are much further advanced, aiding you to do Campaign Influence reporting.

10 thoughts on “Pardot vs. Marketing Cloud: Key Differences

    1. In my day job as a Pardot Consultant, I go on contracts that last a few months/quarters at a time to ‘stretch’ Pardot to cater to large companies. I would say, yes it can be, but with solid knowledge of both Pardot and Salesforce (Salesforce will support Pardot a lot in this instance). Not to mention with Business Units for Pardot being released – Pardot consider themselves a serious Enterprise contender and have the Enterprise level customer base to back them up!

  1. I am trying to build a lead scoring structure w/i Marketing Cloud — but am positing that maybe this can’t be done without Pardot connected to Sf. I’m curious if you have any thoughts or resources on Marketing Cloud for B2B lead scoring…thanks!

    1. Hi Jared, yep you’re right – Marketing Cloud doesn’t offer that lead scoring capability! But there are 3rd party partners that exist to fill this gap, such as Saleswings. The founder wrote a great post a couple of years back on the topic: How to Implement Lead Scoring and Lead Activity Tracking in Salesforce and Salesforce Marketing Cloud for the B2B Industry https://www.salesforceben.com/how-to-implement-lead-scoring-and-lead-activity-tracking-in-salesforce-and-salesforce-marketing-cloud-for-the-b2b-industry/

  2. I love the way you have written the blog. It’s so easy to understand with all the visual elements, and catchy formatting of the post. Hope to see more such blogs from your end. Keep up the great work.

  3. Hey Lucy,
    thank you for this great summary!
    You’ve mentioned that you already worked with customers who used Pardot for B2B2C.
    Can you explain how the data structure was set up in these cases?
    Are different business units a possible solution to differentiate between B2B and B2C? Respectively what would you recommend to build up a B2B2C structure?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Katja, thanks for your feedback, glad you enjoyed the article. It depends on your business processes inside of Salesforce, so I cannot advise you. Business units are suitable for partitioning Pardot or partitioning Marketing Cloud, so it may not be necessary if you only have one b2b business unit and one B2C business unit. For things like this, I recommend you speak to a consultant who will be able to run through all the relevant considerations with you. Best, Lucy

  4. Great post Lucy!

    Do you think Pardot will ever get a tool similar to journey builder. We are B2B and pardot offers great visibility for prospecting and general customer campaigns although we offer multiple peripheral products that we want to showcase better on our onboarding journey at scale although you can’t acheive the complexity of this with engagement studio. Salesforce flow is the best way to at the moment although we dont get the engagement metrics we do with pardot which we miss as we do use salesforce engage alot.

    Do you have an B2B onboarding customer journey builders youd recommend perhaps?

  5. If I had millions of leads that needed to be scored (and re-scored) every day based on the actions they took, both online and offline, would you suggest Pardot as a solution ?

    In other words, the lead capture has already happened and consolidated outside Pardot. The lead re-scoring remains before being called sales-qualified lead. We are wondering if Pardot may help with the de-duping lead enrichment, and lead qualification (scoring and grading) using events that may OR may not be akin to OPENED AN EMAIL, DOWNLOADED a WHITE-PAPER, COMPLETED a CTA… these could be events happening in offline channels.

    Can Pardot handle this sort of processing/ heavy lifting ?

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