What’s the Difference Between Pardot and Marketing Cloud?

Even for diligent Googlers, figuring out the core differences between Pardot and Marketing Cloud can be a challenge. They’re both

8 min. read

Even for diligent Googlers, figuring out the core differences between Pardot and Marketing Cloud can be a challenge. They’re both digital marketing platforms from Salesforce that give you greater insight into prospects’ activities and preferences. They both allow you to create personalized customer experiences at scale. They both enable you to design complex email campaigns.

So…how are they different?

In this post, we’ll cover what makes each product unique. Because — despite the common confusion — these are distinct tools designed to serve different audiences. Our goal? To help you come to a conclusion about which option might be right for your business.

Key Features

The best way to paint a clear picture of how Pardot and Marketing Cloud are different is to take a closer look at some of their key features. The two platforms may sound similar when described in the abstract, but understanding how each one is used will help you differentiate them. First, let’s take a look at Pardot:

Lead scoring/grading: For many companies, lead scoring and grading are the main reasons why they use Pardot. Lead scoring helps marketers quickly determine which leads are qualified, while lead grading helps sales reps know which leads they should actually pursue.

Here’s how it works: When somebody interacts with your company — by visiting your website, opening an email, downloading a whitepaper, attending an event, etc. — they receive a set amount of points for key activities and touchpoints. The sum of these points determines the person’s score. This probably goes without saying, but: The higher the score, the better the lead. It’s up to your team to determine how many points each activity/touchpoint is worth, but the goal is always the same: To turn a qualitative analysis into a quantitative one. Instead of assessing individuals one by one, marketers can simply look for leads with a high enough score.

Lead grading typically happens once those leads have been passed to the sales team. Unlike lead scores, lead grades measure each lead against your imagined ideal customer. Let’s say your company’s perfect buyer is a mid-sized technology company in the Mid-Atlantic region that does $10M in sales every year. If a given lead fits that description exactly, they’ll automatically receive an “A.” If they only meet a handful of criteria, on the other hand, they might get a “C.” These grades make it clear to sales reps which prospects they should prioritize and pursue.

Together, lead scoring and grading are meant to make it much easier for your marketing and sales teams to move the best leads through the funnel.

Creating emails, landing pages, forms and more: In the section above, we mentioned that lead scoring is based on how potential customers interact with your company. Aside from events, most of these interactions will be digital. However, before a digital interaction can take place, you have to make some digital assets that people can actually interact with.

This leads us to another key Pardot feature: The platform allows users without any graphic design or development skills to create branded email templates, landing pages, forms and more. You can simply use point-and-click tools to build what you need. This gives teams of all sizes the ability to make the basic components of a solid inbound marketing strategy.

Engagement Studio: Engagement Studio is the name of Pardot’s lead nurturing tool. In essence, it gives you the power to build custom journeys that branch based on the specific actions a person takes. For example: Say you send an email promoting an upcoming webinar. Recipient A opens the message, clicks through to the landing page and fills out a form to sign up. As a result, they immediately receive another email thanking them for their registration. Person B, meanwhile, doesn’t open the initial email. This inaction triggers another email to be sent the following day (this one featuring more urgency in the subject line). The goal is to drive Person B to the same outcome as Person A, even if it takes them more steps (or “nurturing”) to get there.

This idea brings us back to lead scoring. As a marketer, you’re trying to drive the behaviors that will increase a person’s score and ultimately qualify them as a lead that can be passed off to the sales team. In this way, Pardot is a full-circle marketing automation tool.


Marketing Cloud, on the other hand, isn’t quite as broad in its offerings, but goes much deeper in a single area. It doesn’t come standard with lead scoring/grading, and it doesn’t give you the ability to easily build landing pages and forms. Its focus? Giving you everything you need to build personalized customer journeys (including cross-channel ones).

Unlike other Salesforce products, however, Marketing Cloud is a platform built from a series of discrete tools designed to work individually or together. Some come standard, but for the most part you’ll need to mix and match based on your company’s specific needs. Here’s a little bit about each:

Email Studio: Email Studio empowers your team to master email marketing at scale, whether you’ve got hundreds of customers or millions. Using simple templates and drag-and-drop tools, anyone on your team can create the perfect email for any campaign. Based on the data you have in your CRM, you can segment your database, target specific personas and automate scheduling. After the fact, you can track send and open rates — data that will help you send an even more effective email next time. You can think of Email Studio as a more robust version of Pardot’s email capabilities.

Mobile Studio: Mobile Studio is essentially the equivalent of Email Studio for mobile messages. Using this tool, you can create custom SMS, MMS and push messages that are triggered by customers’ unique behaviors and locations. You might use these messages to serve specific discounts or deals, or with the goal of driving more traffic to your company’s app.

Advertising Studio: Advertising Studio allows you to design and deliver targeted ads based on the customer data you have stored in your CRM. These ads can be spread across multiple social channels — including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram — and you can even run test variants based on factors like content, timing and frequency. Then, once a campaign is complete, you can visualize the analytics you’ve gathered, making it easier to draw conclusions from the hard numbers.

Social Studio: In some key ways, Social Studio is similar to the tools mentioned above: You can use it to schedule and publish posts to reach different segments of your audience. However, it also gives your company the power to listen for mentions of its name across social channels, allowing your team to respond appropriately. For instance, if a customer complains about one of your products on Twitter, a customer service team member can step in to make things right. Or if somebody expresses an interest in your product or service on LinkedIn, a member of your sales team can pursue the lead. In this way, Social Studio is a marketing tool that directly and actively benefits your entire organization.

Journey Builder: Journey Builder is the tool that ties all the previous tools together, allowing you to create automated journeys that engage customers across channels, including email, mobile and social. Depending on a customer’s particular behavior — email opens, clicks, purchases — you can decide what content they’ll receive and how. For instance, you might create a journey where a customer who buys a specific product receives a discount coupon for their next purchase via email. Or maybe a customer that doesn’t open three emails in a row will start to receive targeted ads on Facebook in order to prompt their reengagement.

Again, less breadth, more depth. If you’re using Marketing Cloud, you’re going to need to go another route when it comes to lead scoring/grading and creating landing pages and forms, but you’ll be able to create much more complex journeys than with Pardot.

Intended Audiences

The common misconception is that Pardot is for B2B companies, while Marketing Cloud is for B2C organizations. While there is some truth to this — Pardot is marketed as a B2B solution — any company could use either. In our experience, choosing one platform over the other should be based on the size and needs of your company’s marketing department.

Because it offers everything you need to get up and running with a complete email marketing strategy, Pardot is perfect for smaller teams with limited resources — it lets you do more with less. It’s also great for highly agile teams. Need to launch a new campaign on short notice? As covered above, Pardot lets you create emails, landing pages, etc. on the fly.

Marketing Cloud, meanwhile, is perhaps better suited to larger organizations whose marketing teams need the ability to reach lots of customers in numerous ways. Campaigns, for instance, can be much more involved, but they take more work to set up and manage. The platform also features a more flexible data model than Pardot — instead of relying on objects (which you can think of like tables in a spreadsheet), you can relate data to customers in different ways. This gives you more options, but — again — can make things more difficult to manage.

Important to note is the fact that neither Marketing Cloud nor Pardot comes standard with traditional CRM functionality (contacts, accounts, etc). That means that whichever platform you choose, you should plan to use it in concert with a product like Sales Cloud or Service Cloud. Given its naming convention, Marketing Cloud especially might seem like a full CRM, but for the most part, it’s a separate technology.

Obviously, there are many other small differences between Pardot and Marketing Cloud. If you’d like to dive in, or have questions in general, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d be happy to put you in touch with one of our Pardot or Marketing Cloud experts.