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Marketing automation can’t tolerate compromise. If you delegate most of your marketing competence to the automation software, you want to be sure that this software won’t let your business down.

To be REALLY sure, you need to find the best fitting solution to your business. Smart marketers know that it’s impossible without proper research.

If you don’t study the market, you might end up with a one-shot product not suitable for your long-term marketing strategy. 58.8% of marketers are not satisfied with at least one feature in their current automation platform. You didn’t want to be among them.

As a smart marketer, you decided to delve deep into all those automation features and compare the top dogs in the niche. Finally, you cast aside candidates of the likes of MailChimp, Hubspot, Klaviyo, etc. and picked the two. Pardot and ActiveCampaign.

Both tend to work well. Both are long-time players. But you can’t pay both of them. Ready to know which one will win today for you? Let’s kick off our ActiveCampaign vs. Pardot comparison and learn 12 essential things about each platform. But before, let’s introduce our candidates.

Pardot vs. ActiveCampaign: Short Software Overview 

Image result for activecampaign transparent logo

ActiveCampaign is an all-in-one marketing automation platform with a wide range of features to benefit small businesses. Here you will find almost everything you’re looking for in such a tool: email marketing, marketing automation, CRM & sales features, messaging, and more.

It’s quite handy when you have so many features at your fingertips. Even though ActiveCampaign offers a multitude of integrations with 3rd-party services, most of them are not needed at all. For example, you will likely give up MailChimp if you use it now, as ActiveCampaign offers the same features at almost the same price. And leaving MailChimp is only for the best, we should say.

 

Pardot is a B2B Salesforce’s marketing automation platform provided as an additional SaaS solution. You can use Pardot separately or you can opt for Salesforce and sync the two for even better performance.

The platform itself is solely focused on marketing automation. With its help, you streamline lead management & generation, email marketing, data-driven campaigns building, etc. Pardot’s marketing automation features are similar to those offered by ActiveCampaign, although the latter one is a combined solution.

Benchmark #1: Email Marketing  

ActiveCampaign is renowned for competing with MailChimp, Drip, and the rest of email marketing oriented software. Its email marketing is represented as a separate category on the website, while Pardot email marketing seems to be a small part of their marketing automation solution. Let’s see how do they compare.

ActiveCampaign Email Marketing Pardot Email Marketing
Email Templates and Drag & Drop Template Editor

ActiveCampaign features a handy drag & drop editor, where you can customize 30+ existing email marketing templates. Or, create an entirely new one using simple blocks and tools on the sidebar.

And if you want something special, here is an option to assign custom design creation to ActiveCampaign design team!

At a time, Pardot doesn’t feature a drag & drop editor and all that we have is a basic editor, where you can embed images, change text, and move elements up and down using controls.

As for email marketing templates, Pardot offers only basic layouts that you can customize afterward.

Automatic Email Responses & Drip Campaigns

ActiveCampaign supports both options. You can start a simple autoresponder or basic workflows and complex drip campaigns with custom conditions. The workflow editor is quite plain and easy-to-use.

Another option is to use a pre-made ActiveCampaign “recipe” from a library. There are dozens of them for almost all occasions.

Pardot keeps up with ActiveCampaign this time. It’s also suitable for building sophisticated drip campaigns. What’s also nice is that you choose conditions right on the screen instead of browsing on a sidebar.

If ActiveCampaign’s strong suit is a multitude of automation recipes, Pardot has a nice reporting feature embedded right in the workflow builder.

Segmentation & Dynamic Content

Three segmentation methods are available — lists, tags, and custom fields. You can create multiple segments using all these methods simultaneously.

 

With a dynamic content feature, any image or text in your email template can be replaced by others, depending on your customer preferences.

Pardot has lists and tags as well. Compile both static and dynamic lists for sending conditional emails.

Pardot email campaign effectiveness may also be enhanced by using dynamic content. However, it may seem to be less convenient than in ActiveCampaign, as there it is presented in a drag-and-drop editor.

Summary: Both pieces of software cope well with email marketing automation, although ActiveCampaign seems to be more tailored specifically to the needs of email marketers. Pardot also provides essentials for building email campaigns, yet not advanced.

Benchmark #2: Marketing Automation

Actually, sometimes it’s hard to separate marketing automation from email marketing automation features, as almost all of them are used for emails as well. For example, in both Pardot and ActiveCampaign you can perform A/B testing for your email campaigns or use automated workflows for something other than just emails.

Still, we included some more generalized features into “marketing automation” category. Here they are:

ActiveCampaign Marketing Automation Pardot Marketing Automation
Split (A/B) Testing

 Split (A/B) testing can be enabled to test two emails and define which gets more click-through rates, conversions, etc.

And not only emails. You can apply split actions and test other conditions in your ActiveCampaign workflows, including wait times, number of emails, SMS, sales team follow-up, etc.

 

A/B testing is present in Pardot, too, although in much less sophisticated, non-visual form. Take a look:

There is no option called “split actions” in Pardot, but it also features dynamic lists. This means you can split lists in an automation workflow and apply different actions to each sub-list.

Sign-Up & Subscription Forms

Four types of sign-up form and a custom form editor are at your service. After you collect information, ActiveCampaign triggers actions automatically based on your lists and workflows.

Pardot offers a powerful sign-up & subscription form editor and even somehow more convenient algorithm of building forms. The platform assigns specific action after form completion as well.  

Landing Pages

Unfortunately, ActiveCampaign doesn’t feature landing page builder to date. This is considered its main drawback of this software. However, they offer some 3rd-party integrations for creating such.

 

Pardot has an in-built landing page builder. You can create a basic page in 5 steps by customizing a contact form, layout, and content of your landing page. There are also some landing page templates on the choice and drag & drop editor for custom layout creation.

A multivariate landing page testing is also here. That’s a bold upside of Pardot, as now you can prevent your landing page from epic failure.

 Summary: Two brands keep pace with each other when it comes to major marketing automation features. ActiveCampaign can boast of a bit friendlier interface, while Pardot has landing page functionality.

 

Benchmark #3: Site Tracking

If you don’t track your visitors, you can’t follow up with them at the right time. Website tracking ensures better conversion: you see prospect’s traces on your site and already know what do they want from your company. Based on this, you follow up with them and get another happy customer. But do Pardot and ActiveCampaign have enough tracking features?

ActiveCampaign Site Tracking Pardot Site Tracking

It’s possible to set up an ActiveCampaign site tracking tool just in 10 minutes:

Pardot tracking code can be installed the same way.

Both ActiveCampaign and Pardot also support advanced tracking (or event tracking in ActiveCampaign). However, you will need to customize the tracking tool and add a string of code for each event separately. This is not very convenient unless you have some programming skills.

Summary: A complete tie.

Benchmark #4: Lead Management & Sales Features

After you generated some leads, you move on to their management. There are automation features aimed at aligning marketing efforts with sales. With these tools, you can find the best time to follow up with your leads, increase their engagement, and sell more to the hottest of them.

ActiveCampaign Lead Management & Sales Features

Pardot Lead Management & Sales Features

Lead Scoring & Grading

With ActiveCampaign lead scoring, you can assign a certain number of points to every contact according to their activity. Add conditions and incorporate them into your automation workflows.

Pardot scoring works the same way. You set up scoring rules and rank them based on buying signals.

Another useful option is score grading. It allows you to figure out how close they are to your ideal buyer profile based on demographics.

CRM

ActiveCampaign features a CRM interface, where you can keep a track on your leads and move your leads down the funnel.

Detailed information on each lead is provided as well. In a lead’s profile, you see their recent activity, deal tasks, deal value, etc.

Pardot is not CRM in the ordinary sense. To unlock all CRM features, you need to integrate the software with Salesforce. Data gathered by Pardot will be displayed in a lead’s profile:

To align sales and marketing teams, Pardot implements real-time alerts to speed up follow-ups.

Both Pardot and ActiveCampaign support Gmail integration to manage sales communication more effectively.

Summary: ActiveCampaign is a one-stop software for both sales & marketing teams. Pardot may perform just as smooth only with Salesforce integration. It’s definitely nice but requires some time to set up integration + additional investment in Salesforce CRM. With ActiveCampaign, you should only pay a little more cash to upgrade your subscription plan. One up to ActiveCampaign.

Benchmark #6:  Reporting & Analytics

Reporting and analytics are must-have features of any marketing automation software, otherwise how will you be able to track down your performance? Let’s see how our candidates handle this.

ActiveCampaign Reporting & Analytics Pardot Reporting & Analytics

ActiveCampaign has a nice reporting feature, which allows you to get most of your data. You get reports on automation, campaign, goals, deals, etc.

Reports on separate actions are also provided. However, no sophisticated data visualization.  

Pardot generates detailed reports for most of your in-app activities. You can see how your marketing campaigns are doing, how good are your conversions, etc.

Specific reports with data visualization look like this:

Also, Pardot features B2B marketing analytics to help you make data-driven decisions based on conveniently organized marketing information.

Summary: Both Pardot and ActiveCampaign have advanced reporting opportunities, although Pardot’s feature is slightly more visually appealing. Moreover, Pardot offers beautiful B2B marketing analytics tool.

Benchmark #6: Integrations

Integrations define how effectively you can use your marketing automation software in connection with other tools. A wide selection of direct integrations allows you to expand your opportunities and customize your marketing automation experience.

ActiveCampaign Integrations

ActiveCampaign can be integrated with 250+ platforms and apps, including CRM, CMS, accounting, database, and event management software.

All those powerful integrations are available in the cheapest subscription plan. This gives ActiveCampaign a very competitive edge over Pardot, as Pardot alone has only limited integration possibilities.

Pardot Integrations

Pardot is a brainchild of Salesforce’s team, so this is the best marketing automation tool for Salesforce users. However, full integration with Salesforce cost an additional $50 per month.

Other integrations are available only in a PLUS plan and include only EventBrite, Google AdWords & Analytics, bit.ly, Olark, social media, etc. See the full list of Pardot connectors.

It seems that it’s not possible to connect Pardot to some widely used applications directly. You can do it only through Zapier or Salesforce.

Summary: ActiveCampaign definitely wins in terms of integrations. Pardot offers only a limited number of connectors, being sort of handicapped solution without Salesforce integration.

Benchmark #7:  Mobile Platform

A mobile app is not a must-have for marketing automation software but is a pleasant bonus for those who like making new contacts on the move. Also, it’s a great way to stay in touch with your data even without PC access.

ActiveCampaign Mobile App Pardot Mobile App

ActiveCampaign released a free mobile app for iOS, positioning it as a mobile CRM. With its help, you can manage your deals and update sales task. Very convenient, if you are a salesperson on-the-go.

Pardot alone doesn’t have a mobile app neither in Apple AppStore nor in Google Play Store. All you can do is to integrate Pardot with Salesforce and use Salesforce mobile apps, what’s quite pricey.

Summary: One more point for ActiveCampaign.

Benchmark #8: eCommerce Compatibility

If you run an online store, you probably use one of the popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, etc. But could they be combined with marketing automation tools like Pardot or ActiveCampaign? Let’s figure this out.

 

ActiveCampaign eCommerce Compatibility

As we said before, ActiveCampaign supports 250+ integrations. Some eCommerce (although not all of them) are among those. The four mastodons of the industry from the paragraph above are included.

ActiveCampaign is a choice #1 for Shopify users who want to improve their email marketing performance since MailChimp is no longer a great option.

Why? Shopify and MailChimp announced their break-up scheduled on May 12. The direct integration of the two will be ceased, so it’s better to look for a better alternative with full compatibility with Shopify. ActiveCampaign is exactly that kind of software.

Pardot eCommerce Compatibility

Pardot is far less sophisticated when it comes to eCommerce integrations. There are no eCommerce platforms in the “connectors” list, so you can’t directly transmit data from your store to Pardot. It’s still possible to do through Zapier and similar software, but who wants all that hassle with 3rd-party services?

Summary: ActiveCampaign wins one more battle unless you are a Salesforce user.

Benchmark #9: Email Deliverability

Some users worry about their email deliverability rate to drop with marketing automation software. And that can really happen in the first month after moving to another email provider. ActiveCampaign even warns its clients in their help center about this.

However, this drop happens not due to the use of specific software, but due to changes in your way to send emails as a whole. Open rates may also be lower, and it might take around 30 days to level them out. Aside from this, ActiveCampaign’s deliverability rate is quite fine and comprises 92.9% on average.

With Pardot, the same thing may happen. You shouldn’t be scared off if you experience this, and just follow some tips to take your email deliverability to the next level. That’s just a temporary setback.

Summary: Even though there may be some deliverability issues shortly after you set up an automation platform. Pardot and ActiveCampaign ensure fairly good rates on average.

Benchmark #10: Support & Training

Software without support is like a plane on autopilot. You may do well intuitively for the time being and then suddenly fail the whole campaign. ActiveCampaign and Pardot both have an abundance of various features, tools, and nuances. It may take months to master them on your own.

That is why each piece of software comes along with detailed help guides and training programs.

ActiveCampaign Support & Training

  • Help articles. Fans of reading my enjoy detailed feature overviews, how-tos, and tutorials in ActiveCampaign help center.
  • Educational videos. Those who prefer watching may choose video walkthroughs instead of text content.
  • One-on-one training. Personalized ActiveCampaign consulting session for improving your business performance with their software.
  • Forum. There is an official community, where you can ask any question regarding ActiveCampaign.
  • Support. If something wrong on the tech side, you can always contact support via chat, email, or phone.

Pardot Support & Training

  • Quick start onboarding package. For an additional fee, you can get a personal assistant who will help you to set up campaigns, develop a strategy, and implement best marketing automation practices.
  • Knowledge base. Similarly to ActiveCampaign’s articles, you can learn more about Pardot features in a knowledge base.
  • Support. Pardot has a dedicated support team to help you around a clock.

Summary: Both platforms have extensive knowledge bases and quality support & training additional services. However, ActiveCampaign’s help center looks a bit more visually appealing and have a blog structure. Pardot’s base is connected to Salesforce’s one and looks more of a documentation, which makes it slightly less user-friendly.

Benchmark #11: Typical Customers

Are you belong to the target audience of each brand? This is an important question to answer before you start. Some marketing automation platforms are very functional but absolutely not applicable to individuals and start-ups. Others, on the contrary, are entirely focused on small businesses. What about Pardot vs. ActiveCampaign?

ActiveCampaign Typical Customers

According to G2 comparison review, 89% of ActiveCampaign’s clients are small businesses with less than 50 employees. This is explained by its simplicity, versatility, and quite an affordable pricing, especially for a basic plan. 8.8% are mid-size companies, while only 2.4% are large enterprises.

What’s quite interesting, 26.3% of companies come from the marketing & advertising niche. This is a competitive industry in terms of marketing competition, which indirectly hints on high effectiveness of ActiveCampaign under any circumstances.

Pardot Typical Customers

Pardot’s customer profile is drastically different. 54.9% of their customers are mid-market players with 50-1000 employees. Small businesses hold a second position with a share of 34%. Only 11% are large firms, but this is fivefold more than 2% of ActiveCampaign’s top dog clients. 22.2% of them come from the computer software niche.

This is happening due to tight relations between Pardot and Salesforce. ActiveCampaign is a lightweight CRM with all necessary features, but no excessive details. Salesforce is a much more complex CRM often preferred by large enterprises with extensive customer databases. They want to expand their marketing automation possibilities and therefore choose Pardot as a most viable solution.

Summary: ActiveCampaign is a choice of small businesses. Pardot is favored by mid- and large-size enterprises.

Benchmark #12: Pricing

You have just learned what are you paying for. And now it’s time to learn how much they ask you to pay.

ActiveCampaign pricing is one of the most affordable on the market especially considering tons of features offered with each plan. It starts from as little as $9.

Pardot’s pricing is far not only from affordable but also from somehow competitive. $1,250 for the basic plan is way too much even for such a credible company like Salesforce. And we even don’t count pricey Salesforce integration and B2B marketing analytics!

Now let’s compare the two and see what’s included in each plan.

Conclusion

Pardot vs. ActiveCampaign rating varies from resource to resource, but there is a clear tendency of ActiveCampaign winning the whole war, not only the battle. Pardot’s very-very-very big drawback is its painful price. And that’s the major reason why 99% of small businesses stick to ActiveCampaign instead.

So, what is your final decision? If you are a new aspiring startup or an established small enterprise, you will likely go with ActiveCampaign, right?

But unlike Pardot, it doesn’t offer you a quick start onboarding package with 2-month support of dedicated specialists. No worries! We can become those heroes who will take your hand and walk through an amazing world of ActiveCampaign features!

Need a starter ActiveCampaign consultation? 1 month of continuous support? A strategy lesson or simply a fast setup? Schedule a session with our experts and automate your marketing at a flash!