Marketing Cloud or Pardot? We get this question a lot from our Education clients and we understand why the decision can be hard; both platforms streamline marketing and communication efforts through automation, provide leading analytics, level-up your reporting, and more. Jillian Proia, one of our lead Marketing Cloud and Pardot Implementation Consultants, says the capability of your team, complexity of your data model, and overall requirement of the platform are the primary factors she talks through with Education clients when helping them decide between the two options.

Team Capabilities

You need a solution that enhances as well as supports your team’s ability to manage the platform long term, so having the right role to manage your Marketing Cloud or Pardot environment is one of the most important factors we discuss with Education clients. If you have a dedicated group of Marketing specialists on your team, preferably paired with a developer, then Marketing Cloud can be a great option. If you’re a lean Admissions team wearing multiple hats, Pardot is probably the ideal solution.

Utilizing Marketing Cloud to its fullest (and awesome) extent mostly likely means having someone on your team or working with your team that knows SQL and AMPscript. Pardot is native to and designed to be more intuitive so we often find that our training, paired with Trailheads, gives teams a strong understanding of Pardot’s capabilities.

Complexity of Data

How and where you store your data is an important consideration. Marketing Cloud provides flexible and robust ways to sync and manage your institution’s data through data extensions. Keep in mind that building your attribute groups and properly using data extensions requires a strong understanding of your Salesforce data model, but once you get it right the possibilities are endless!

Pardot on the other hand is a little more limiting when it comes to data access for email content. It’s set up to work seamlessly with native Salesforce objects: Lead, Contact, Account. While some editions allow you to sync additional custom objects, you can only use those objects to create segments and dynamic lists. You can’t pull the data stored on custom objects or the Opportunity as merge fields into your emails. This is really important to take into consideration if you’re utilizing Education Cloud’s Application object to store a lot of the data that you’ll need to drive dynamic content.

Requirements of the Platform

Whether you’re using Pardot or Marketing Cloud, what your constituents see and use can be built to look the same. It’s the kind of touchpoints, volume of communication, and usage of incoming data that can drive the best platform for your team.

Marketing Cloud has industry leading offerings like Social Studio, Advertising Studio, and Einstein for Marketing Cloud as well as unique offerings like dynamic content and streamlined data management. Pardot, on the other hand, also has some powerful options like Lead Scoring and Pardot Engage that are so seamlessly built into the platform that updating and adding contacts to lists or forms is just a click away. If your team is focused on nurturing prospects and constitutions with personalized communication, Pardot is a strong option. If your team is looking to really embrace digital marketing through various channels to communicate frequently with a constituent to drive more activity, Marketing Cloud is definitely a contender.

Something else to consider is that for some institutions, pairing Pardot with an application, like Mogli for example, may work better for the desired outcome than diving into Marketing Cloud for a feature like its built-in SMS capabilities. Again, it comes down to what type of touchpoints are you trying to drive. It’s it personalized communication or more touchpoints and activity?

Our two cents

If the differentiating factors that we’ve listed are still leaving you on the fence and you feel your team could work with either option, start with Pardot and go from there. Most of the time the email marketing, lead capture, and automed nurture track capabilities in Pardot often meet k-12 and higher education marketing automation goals. Keep it simple to start and an upgrade to Marketing Cloud is always an option in the future!

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