Marketo v. Pardot Cage Match: Round 2, Sending Emails

Edited to include a note on Marketo’s Email Editor v2.0

First of all, disclaimer: Marketing Automation is not just for email automation. It does a lot more than that. However, for a small team that is just starting out with Marketing Automation, this is likely where you’re going to start, so that’s where we are now.

It also is something that should be considered as part of any and all marketing initiatives. It’s easy to think that “email marketing” and “sending emails via Marketing Automation” are the same thing, but they are not.

Email marketing is a channel of marketing.

Sending emails is the ability to send an email to a prospect – be that via email marketing, specifically, transactional emails, drip campaigns, or even internal messaging.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s how I’m breaking down this round of the cage match:

  1. Planning: this involves the process of planning what and when to send
  2. Designing: this involves the ease of creating the email – can you clone something you’ve built, how do templates work, etc.
  3. Sending: this is pretty straightforward. How easy is it to send the thing you’ve planned and created?
  4. What I am NOT covering: Dynamic content in emails – I will be handling things like this in another post.

These are exceptionally broad-stroke sections, I realize. A lot goes into planning. But since every team does planning just a little bit differently, I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty here. I’ll give examples, though, don’t worry about that.

Planning

How easy is it to plan ahead in this system? Is there a calendar function? Can you create a shell without all of the pieces, or is it necessary to have all the parts in an assembly line fashion?

Marketo

Planning a month, or a quarter, or even a year’s worth of marketing is easy in Marketo. Email is no exception.

All the magic happens in the Marketing Activities “tab” of the interface, where users can create folders, sub-folders, empty Programs with dormant Campaigns, and really anything else that they need to use as a stand-in. Before I left my last job, I spent a week or so creating these “shell” Programs that could be easily cloned and updated for use later. Those included shell emails that could be cloned and edited to suit the user’s needs.

But nothing is perfect. This epic pre-planning comes with a cautionary tale.

marketocalendar

In order to have a Campaign appear on the Marketing Calendar, it needs to be planned and scheduled. So if you want to see your entire quarter planned out, you need to have everything turned on, so to speak.

In theory, that’s not an issue.

In reality…sometimes things slip through the cracks. An email isn’t populated correctly, or it’s edited last minute and never approved, and since an email must be approved before it’s sent, this can cause some serious metrics issues down the road.

How?

Well, Marketo Campaigns are fantastic in that they allow you to add all of the steps that you want taken immediately in the Flow of the Campaign. Send Email -> Change Program Status to “Email Sent” -> If Email is Opened, Change Program Status to “Email Opened”, etc.

Email “sends” (except it doesn’t because someone didn’t approve the email). Everyone’s status is changed to “Email Sent.” But email was never sent. Therefore no one opens the email. Now we have a 0% open rate.

There are ways around this, of course. Namely, have everything ready ahead of time. And frankly, that should be the case anyway.

Pardot

First of all, I’ll start with the fact that you can put anything at all on the Pardot calendar. You can put everything on the calendar, whether or not you will 100% be running it. This may seem useless or unimportant, but it is so very important. The ability to create “draft” calendar entries is immensely important. It allows users to see, at a high level, what that block of time would look like and require; it allows them to rework without having to do any heavy lifting.

pardotcalendar.jpg

Also, that is necessary in Pardot because when it comes down to creating the email, it cannot be done without a Campaign. Not even an Email Template.

This is where learning Pardot after learning another system is a little strange.

When I think of Template, I think of a global constant – a shell that can be used and reused across any and all channels. That’s not so much the case in Pardot. I mean, it is and it isn’t. You can reuse the email templates, you just have to add it to a Campaign when you create it. I can’t create a free-floating template or just hoard all of my emails in a separate place.

Technically, yes, I could just make a shell Campaign to hold my email templates, but…why can’t I just make a template? Also, that won’t necessarily help me if I want to attribute emails to different Campaigns.

Overall, though, this isn’t a deal breaker. It’s just different, and you know how people respond to different.

Designing

Designing emails is one of my least favorite things to do. And it is kind of a big deal in marketing automation.

Marketo

Sigh. Marketo. You and I always start to get close, open up to each other a little, and then I have to edit an email template, and we’re back to square one.

One of the first major projects I took on with Marketo was a massive email program improvement plan. We had non-responsive emails, really strange and redundant smart lists, and no real strategy.

I was responsible for finding and/or creating the responsive email templates.

frustration

It was unpleasant. There’s not a great way (at the time I was doing it!) to review what an email would look like in different clients. I would get it right for mobile, but then it would look off in Outlook (granted, that’s largely Outlook’s fault). In order to test changes, I had to send a test email out. I couldn’t preview it in the application.

And I don’t mean the quasi-preview available for Landing Pages, either, where you could see “this is what it will look like on a computer, and this is what it will look like on a mobile screen.” In case you are unaware, email clients render emails differently – Outlook renders emails via MS Word (don’t quote me for 365, but for those desktop clients of yesteryear…). Word does not make CSS look pretty. It doesn’t understand CSS. So previewing across clients is important.

marketotemplate

Once the template was ready, it could be finicky. If users tried to drop in an image of a different size or the text ran a little long, it would screw up the whole design.

But overall, the email creation was simple. Once the template was ready, the email was just drag-and-drop editing – easy enough.

Update:

Marketo recently started providing Email Editor v2.0, which, like Pardot, allows you to select from a list of pre-packaged templates. More info here.

Note that while it provides a “preview” function, the issues I mention above are still valid.

Pardot

So, first of all, when creating an email template in Pardot, they give you a boat load of layouts to choose from. That is just…I cannot describe what a time saver that is.

pardotlayouts And did you notice that there are responsive two column layouts? I have spent HOURS perfecting that on the backend.

So, choose the layout, put in the stuff you want, and then…

renderpardot

Rendering tests by Litmus. If you’re unfamiliar, Litmus is an email designer’s dream. Even for only kind-of-part-time-de-facto email designers like me.

AKA – mic drop.

Sending

We’ve planned out marketing for the quarter, created some emails, and now we have to send them. How easy is it?

Marketo

Can you click and drag? Can you use predictive text?

Then congratulations, you can send an email in Marketo*.

*Just make sure the email has been Approved. Otherwise, no.

Seriously, though, sending an email in Marketo is just a matter of adding it to the Flow of the Campaign. Now, how well that sends is up to a few other factors – how good is your Smart List? Do you have any filters? Also make sure to note that you can send it now or later; you can put in a Wait step; you can set it to only send once or more than once, if it’s a “they haven’t opened, so resend” kind of thing.

Of course, you can also use the Email Program to do this. You get more in the way of metrics, but you get less in the way of flexibility. Which one to use is entirely up to you, but general consensus in the community is…don’t use the Email Program. You lose too much. But if you just want to send an email and see how it performs, it’s even easier than the steps above.

Sending emails is super easy in Marketo, no matter what kind. And it should be.

Pardot

Ok, so to send an email in Pardot, you need to hover over Marketing, Emails, and then…um…wait. What kind of email is this?

To send an email in the traditional sense, you want to go to Email -> Drafts.

Click on Send New List Email, and follow the prompts. You’ll need a name, a folder, and a Campaign that you want it to live in. Select HTML and Text, or just Text, and now you can enable A/B Testing immediately from the screen.

Then you build your email, preview, test, what-have-you, and then choose your existing list to send the email.

In other words, in order to send this kind of email, you need to have your folder, your Campaign, and your list created. And it’s just going to create an email right here. Oh, yeah…can’t use the template that I created, I guess.

Those templates can be used to send after a Form fill out, though. As long as you marked it appropriately, you can add that email template as an autoresponder after the form fill out in the Completion Actions section.

Easy.

But less powerful.

Summary

Planning, an extremely important part of Marketing, is not supremely handled in either system – I’d love to see a combo of the two options – but they each have their own ways to support it.

Email creation needs to be considered and planned differently, too. I like that Marketo gives you the Design Studio, where you can hold all of your templates as shells to be re-used in any way you can think.

But Pardot lets you render emails through Litmus, which just makes it the clear winner there. That’s even without the auto-responsive layouts. I will honestly take that over a universal-constant type email template any day.

Sending an email for a single email push is easier for a casual user in Pardot, but Marketo gives you more options across the board. It’s simply more flexible.

This round is a draw for me, but each Marketing department has its own needs.

Will end users need to be able to quickly create emails for one-off sends? Pardot.

Is your team planning and creating emails and tactical-level initiatives at the beginning of a quarter or year? Marketo.

It is up to you and your team to decide which is most important.