The Best Marketing Automation Software: Comparing Pardot, ActiveCampaign, and HubSpot 

Exec Summary@4x

Executive Summary

Marketing software tools are incredibly powerful when leveraged correctly. However, knowing which would work best for your business and growth objectives is increasingly confusing as new digital marketing tools are released daily.

Welcome to the wonderful world of marketing automation software tools! Among the most commonly used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are Active Campaign and Hubspot. These tools are distinct, yet have similar functions as a CRM, such as lead tracking and email marketing, and both offers features beyond the traditional CRM. However, each serves a different purpose for different companies depending on their business needs, marketing objectives, and the maturity of their processes. We have also included Pardot, which is described as a marketing automation tool on the Salesforce CRM. While not technically a CRM, it does provide many of the same resources and automations to qualify leads that a marketing or sales team would find useful.  

Today, we’ll provide an overview of these popular marketing project management tools and explore the marketing automation benefits of each. Hopefully, you’ll know which tool is right for your business by the end of our review. 

[RELATED: Need a primer on marketing tools? Check out el LinKe’s Marketing and Sales Tools blog for more information!] 

Pardot: A Sophisticated B2B Marketing Automation Tool  

What is Pardot? 

Pardot overview and logo

Pardot is a marketing automation tool that helps marketing and sales teams qualify sales leads, nurture warm leads, shorten sales cycles, close more deals, and track marketing ROI. Backed by Salesforce CRM, it is primarily used by B2B businesses.  

How Does Pardot Work? 

Most marketers and sales teams know that 80% of all leads aren’t ready to convert. Instead of forgetting about those customers and focusing just on the hot leads, Pardot can help nurture those cold and warm leads into future sales.  

It begins with marketing developing and running a campaign for a specific product or service. Then, as potential customers click on an ad or email, Pardot captures the customer information and tracks the level of engagement. If a lead is hot, the customer information goes directly to sales for follow-up. Everyone else gets scored and graded and then nurtured in a personalized way through approved automated marketing content.  If a lead starts to show interest and moves towards becoming a hot lead, sales get a real-time alert to reach out quickly and close the deal. 

View a demo of Pardot on YouTube: 

Top Features of Pardot: 

  • Single Activity Dashboard  
  • Customized Lead Capture Forms 
  • Beautiful Email and Website Landing Templates 
  • Detailed Prospect Information Data 
  • Prospect Engagement History 
  • Real-Time Alerts 
  • Data Import and Exporting Features 
  • Detailed Reporting, Statistics, and Analytics 
  • Integration with Multiple CRM Solutions 

Key Benefits of Pardot: 

Track and Quantify Leads: Ability to track who visits your site, what products and pages they view, and then quantify the lead based on parameters you set. These analytics can then determine the best way to approach a lead. 

Automatically Manage Leads: Automated audience segmentation, lead qualification, lead nurturing, and real-time sales alerts frees up time for sales and marketing staff. Lead scoring and grading features also allow sales teams to follow up on the most relevant leads for them.  

Build and Manage Email Marketing Campaigns: Pardot offers A/B testing on emails to track which marketing content works best. Triggers can also be set to send an automated email at the right time. 

Align Sales & Marketing Teams: Pardot helps sales and marketing teams to work together to identify what an ideal lead looks like, and create a process for sourcing, passing, and guiding leads through the sales funnel. Additional report features help sales teams know if marketing efforts are improving their bottom line. 

Enhanced Reporting to Determine ROI: Pardot offers in-depth reporting tools to help track the ROI of marketing efforts. Closed-loop reporting connects each closed deal with its original source.  Additionally, Google Analytics Connecter helps see the relationship between a site visitor and the prospect data from your CRM.  

Is Pardot Right for Your Business? 

Pardot is a workhorse. It is massively robust and an efficient marketing automation software tool. But, is Pardot a good fit for your business?  

eLinKe recommends Pardot for these companies: 

  • Larger sized B2B companies 
  • Companies that already use Salesforce.  
  • Businesses that need leads to go through a comprehensive, lead qualification process before being forwarded to sales. 
  • Organizations that can allocate a tech-savvy ‘owner’ within the business who can dedicate the time to understand both Salesforce and Pardot in depth. 
  • Businesses that will use all the features and are prepared to increase monthly costs for add-ons like automatic scoring systems.  

Enovate Medical Succeeds with Pardot 

Enovate success case for Pardot marketing tool

“By using el LinKe’s full-service marketing solution, Enovate Medical was able to pivot quickly in a challenging pandemic environment. Gaps in the digital marketing strategy and business development cycles were identified, leading to stronger brand awareness. Automated solutions generated qualified prospects and improved the lead generation process. Data tools analyzed results and highlighted where adjustments were needed to ensure the best return on investment. Using Pardot’s B2B automated marketing solutions, Enovate Medical and el LiKe  worked together and drove sales up in 2020.” 


ActiveCampaign: A Personalized Customer Experience Automation Platform 

What is ActiveCampaign? 

Active campaign logo and overview

ActiveCampaign’s automation platform (CXA) is built around providing a personalized customer experience. Its project marketing management tools offer over 500 pre-built automations that combine email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM. With powerful segmentation, ActiveCampaign can personalize customer messaging across social, email, chat and text. With an extensive list of integrations including Shopify, ActiveCampaign is a favorite among small and midsize businesses including eCommerce, B2C, and B2B businesses. The el LinKe team is also a big fan of this marketing automation software tool.

How Does Active Campaign Work? 

ActiveCampaign helps businesses automate and personalize their marketing messaging with a few simple clicks. 

Automated messaging works like this: A contact visits your website and an hour later a personalized automated email is sent asking if they are still interested in a product or service or want more information. Contacts that engage with emails and automated messages are given points. When a contact reaches a specific score, the lead is tagged as highly engaged, and the sales team is notified. 

ActiveCampaign integrates with hundreds of apps. For example, suppose you are an eCommerce business using Shopify. In that case, a customer can be sent a personalized automated email if they place an item in their cart and then abandon it. Additional email reminders can be sent over subsequent days to encourage the final purchase. 

If there is no engagement over a set period, the automation ends. 

View a demo of Active Campaign on YouTube: 

Top Features of ActiveCampaign: 

  • Personalized Email Marketing 
  • Advanced Reporting 
  • Integrated Forms 
  • Site Tracking 
  • Training and Support 
  • Migration Services 
  • Gmail Extension
  • Email Segmentation 
  • Automation Goals 
  • CRM App 
  • Account Overview Dashboard 
  • Drag and Drop Workflow Builder 
  • Email Campaign Templates 
  • Centralized Customer Data
  • Sales Pipeline View 
  • Conversion Attribution Report 
  • Extensive Integrations: Shopify, Facebook, WordPress & Salesforce 

Key Benefits of ActiveCampaign: 

Automated, Personalized Customer Messaging: Buyer preferences and behaviors are tracked and captured.  This allows you to get to know your customer and then show them exactly what they are interested in at the best time via automated, personalized customer messaging.  

Time-saving Email Templates: ActiveCampaign has a library of over 125+ customizable email templates. It is easy to send beautiful messages in just a few clicks. Simply choose a design template, add your information and send. All the code, design, and QA are built-in with these responsive email templates, saving time. 

Multi-Channel Marketing Capability: ActiveCampaign allows you to coordinate messaging across multiple channels.  This allows you to send personalized emails, SMS messages and Facebook ads to all your database contacts.  

Seamless CRM Integration: ActiveCampaign’s inbuilt CRM links up intelligently to all of your email marketing data.  With additional features like lead scoring, sales teams can quickly follow up with hot leads.  

Is ActiveCampaign Right For Your Business? 

ActiveCampaign, without a doubt, offers extremely powerful marketing automation, but is it right for your business? 

eLinKe recommends ActiveCampaign for these companies: 

  • Businesses that need a tool that performs multi-channel marketing solutions. 
  • Companies that need an integrated sales and marketing platform. 
  • Organizations that already have some marketing solutions in place. 
  • Companies that want a fairly intuitive and easy to use marketing sales tool. 
  • Anyone who loves freebies, as ActiveCampaign offers a range of useful free tools. 

Safford Boosts Sales with ActiveCampaign 

92 increase in sales with el linke

Hubspot: An All-in-One Inbound Marketing Platform 

What Is Hubspot Marketing Hub? 

hubspot marketing tool logo

HubSpot Marketing Hub is a scalable, all-in-one marketing automation software platform that enables a business to do all of its inbound marketing the right way, all in one place. The software can carry out, track, and measure all online marketing activities such as social media marketing, blogging, and email marketing. HubSpot Marketing can also provide SEO tips as you type, create landing pages, and personalize websites to each visitor.  Hubspot Marketing Hub is primarily used by companies of any size that require deep marketing integration. 

How Does Hubspot Work? 

Hubspot’s all-in-one inbound marketing platform is vast. Its wide range of services include five main products or Hubs: 

  • Marketing Hub 
  • Sales Hub 
  • Service Hub 
  • CMS (Content Management System) Hub 
  • Operations Hub 

These five hubs have unique tools and processes to help with SEO, blogging, social media, marketing automation, customer personalization, and customer segmentation. Depending on your business needs, you can use one or all of the hubs.   

The Marketing Hub is great for lead generation and marketing automation. The Sales CRM software uses advanced CRM to gain deeper insights into prospects and automate tasks you hate. The Service Hub helps you connect better with customers. The Content Management Hub provides SEO recommendations and website themes to help give customers a personalized and secure experience. The Operations Hub syncs all of your apps, automates processes, and cleans and curates customer data. 

View a demo of HubSpot on YouTube: 

Top Features of Hubspot: 

  • Blog and Content Creation Tools 
  • Social Media Integration 
  • Mobile Optimization for Everything 
  • As-You-Type SEO Advice 
  • Social Media Monitoring Tools 
  • Performance Monitor Dashboard 
  • In-Depth Tracking of CTR and KPIs 
  • Email templates, tracking and scheduling  

Key Benefits of Hubspot 

An All in One Inbound Marketing Solution: With Hubspot’s integrated platform, you eliminate the need to manage multiple marketing project management tools.  That means you don’t need to have six different passwords, dashboards, and account managers. Instead, your entire marketing suite is in one place. 

Seamlessly Build and Publish Social Media Campaigns: HubSpot’s social media management software allows you to connect all of your social media accounts: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to your blog.  That way, newly posted content is shared as it’s published. It also provides suggestions for the best times to post so you can schedule content for when it will reach your audience. 

Manage Leads in One Place: HubSpot can integrate all of your lead touchpoints across marketing, sales, customer service, and operations in one place. One chronological timeline of every touchpoint between a lead and your company means your team has an entire history to make an informed follow-up.  

Measure the ROI of Every Ad Campaign: HubSpot software reports on actual leads and ROI generated by every Facebook, LinkedIn and Google ad. With this attribution reporting, you can better understand how your ads are performing at different stages and adjust marketing campaigns as needed. 

Is HubSpot Right for Your Business? 

HubSpot also offers a mountain of features, but is HubSpot right for your business?  

eLinKe offers its recommendation: 

  • Best for small to midsize businesses wanting to focus on inbound marketing. 
  • Great for companies that want to manage their marketing all in one place. 
  • Especially good for business with high-value conversions and long sales cycles. 
  • Free version is suitable for startups and small businesses that do not need advanced tools. 
  • Paid version is suited for larger enterprises that want to build social media presence and nurture leads. 
  • Better for companies that need a marketing platform with CRM capabilities.  

Momentive Aligns Marketing Processes with Hubspot 

Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey) had struggled with its marketing processes and systems for some time. Then the situation got worse after acquiring two start-up companies. Faced with over 200 website forms, more than 20 automated lead qualifying processes, and multiple structures, The Senior Manager of Marketing Operation reached out to Hubspot for help. By implementing Hubspot Marketing Hub, Momentive reduced the number of website forms and lead qualifying processes. The result: increased speed-to-lead time. 


The Final Word: Adoptability Is Key 

Pardot, Active Campaign and Hubspot are all powerful marketing software tools. While they each have slightly different functions and uses, there is one thing that they have in common: if the sales team and the marketing team aren’t willing to learn how to use the tools and make the most of the functions, they won’t be beneficial. Ultimately, the best marketing software tool for your business is the one employees will adopt and use. In the end, if employees don’t leverage the functions, the tools won’t succeed. 

If you are a smaller business, and you like one of the tools above, the best recommendation is to consider hiring an outside marketing partner like eLinKe that has experience working in Pardot, ActiveCampaign, or HubSpot. It might be a little more expensive to engage with a marketing partner, but learning from someone that has experience implementing different tools and process can help you understand how to fully leverage the tool to realize its full potential.  Otherwise, you risk buying a tool that just sits there or is underutilized.  

Still not sure what tool makes the most sense? Check out our other marketing tools blog for more information. In that blog, we cover the important questions you need to ask before selecting a tool. 

The Best Digital Marketing Tools: A Comparison Chart 

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