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Which Pardot edition do I choose?

When I bought my first car, I hemmed and hawed over which Toyota Celica I wanted, the basic GT or the GT-S. Not to mention all the choices for upgrades like a sun roof and rear spoiler. Will the upgrades give me back more than I pay, or will I be paying for useless features I don’t need?

Clients ask me these same questions about which Pardot edition should they commit to, and my initial answer is to consider where you are in your marketing journey.

Your marketing strategy might be limited to a single newsletter, or your Marketing “team” is someone’s part-time role while they wear other hats in the organization. You might have a marketing vision of what you dream to do with your outreach and cultivating constituents, but really need the tool to get you there. Or you have a complex marketing strategy today with success metrics and continual optimization.

This post is really intended for those at the front end or in the middle of that spectrum. Because there, you really need to be evaluating what you’re getting for that increased cost. Here are some of the main differences I point out to clients that are significant game changers when you upgrade to the new Plus or Advanced editions.


Many people say, “We don’t have time for A/B testing.” But with Pardot’s A/B testing, this really is only a matter of minutes to gain some insight on what motivates your subscribers to open and click your email. Simply changing the Sender or the Subject Line might mean a significantly greater portion of your list gets your message, and ultimately, take action to advance your mission. Changing the color or text of a button, might reap big rewards for one to go beyond the email into another medium, like your website, video, or better yet – a donation. You’ll carry those learnings forward as your email templates evolve, and the returns compound.


Also along the lines of email performance, email rendering can show you how the email will look in various browsers and devices. Pardot offers user-friendly and fully responsive templates, but if you start to manipulate code in various ways, it’s not hard to take an email designed for fat thumbs on a phone to teeny weeny font size that spoils the user experience.


Dynamic content is so often an under-utilized feature. If you’ve ever said, we want more personalization in our outreach, then you can only get so far with variable tags (e.g. Dear %%FirstName%%) and segmenting your lists into sub-lists to send different emails. If you have an end of year appeal where the message to members needs to be different than to donors or to non-donors, then do you really want to create three lists and three emails? With dynamic content, you can change or add whatever content is relevant to members and not the others. This is not only a benefit to your constituents, but will also make your Marketing team do more in less time.


This is a more advanced feature that requires some thought put into it before you deploy. But where I’ve seen scoring categories work best for clients is when they want to track engagement in various ways. If your organization has three pillars of an outreach strategy – advocacy, volunteer recruitment, and fundraising – then each email could be into a similarly named Pardot folder. Then as people engage with not only emails, but also links, forms, and landing pages, their overall score and those category scores increase. So in no time, you start to understand (and thus segment and personalize by) what content is of most interest to whom.


Recently, Pardot announced that B2B Marketing Analytics would now be part of the Plus and Advanced packages. So in addition to some powerful manipulations and beautiful visualizations of your data, you also gain multi-touch attribution models when you upgrade to Plus. These features might skew more to the advanced type of Marketer, but if your spending any kind of investment, both time or money, on building your database of subscribers, potential donors, and the like, then this will be of tremendous value. Using past performance to judge if you spend $500 on Facebook advertising or $500 to have a booth at an event, you’ll increase more subscribers and drive more action for your organization.

Making Your Decision

Now, what would drive the leap to Advanced?

  • Custom Objects: If you consistently lean on data for segmentation that is on a Salesforce object related to the Contact object, then I’d consider this read-only access to that data for Pardot segmentation and automation.
  • Custom user roles and permissions: Pardot offers standard roles, but if you have lot of cooks in the kitchen, then you might need to grow that permissions model on who can do what and what assets they have access to.

What might not be the greatest return?

  • Quantities: You can always upgrade later when you’re starting to hit your limits. And 50 forms and 50 landing pages are still a lot and likely will take you time to get there.
  • Integrated Marketing Calendar: This is a nice feature to see all scheduled emails, so everyone on the team is on the same page and avoid over burdening constituents with too many emails. However, it does require an email to be scheduled, and some Marketing teams don’t operate in this way – or there’s only one person.
  • Social Profiles & Lookups: Although cool in theory, this is more a social selling feature. Much like a sales person might look at one’s Twitter feed before an important call to learn the prospect likes the Chicago Cubs or just had a grandchild, and then be able to have good chit chat material, a major gifts officer could leverage that same information. But the downsides to this feature are that prospects 1) need to be on Twitter and 2) need to have a social login that matches the email you have in Pardot. And the Facebook profile lookup only shows you what’s publicly available, which might not be much.


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