Choosing the Right Marketing Automation Tool for your SMB

You’re ready to take the plunge and bring marketing automation into your business. (What’s “marketing automation?” See previous post here) Now what? Just figuring out which marketing automation tools to research can seem like a daunting task.

Let’s narrow the field a bit. If you’re operating in the B2B space, and use Salesforce as your CRM, there are three major players to consider: Pardot (owned by Salesforce), Eloqua (owned by Oracle), and Marketo. There are other vendors in this space, but these three are the heavy hitters that appear on most companies’ wish lists.

Before contacting a vendor or diving into the many great tools available online to compare features of each product, it is critical to start with an assessment of your marketing team’s current pain points and strategy. Pardot, Eloqua, and Marketo are all robust and technically complex tools, and it’s easy to get caught up in the “wow” factor of what each product can do, losing sight of why you started the search process in the first place.


Together with the marketing team, create a specific list of must-have and nice-to-have features so you can start your vendor research armed and well informed. Typically, if automation is relatively new to your marketing department, any of the three tools mentioned will have more than enough functionality to address your needs.

Marketing for B2B

The next key consideration here is CRM integration. While all three tools “talk” to Salesforce, not all integrations are created equal. Pardot was recently acquired by Salesforce, so it’s not hard to guess which product is getting the most investment and attention to ensure very tight integration. The technical aspects of each vendor’s Salesforce integration are often glossed over during sales presentations, but can quickly become a major problem if not operating as expected. Reach out to some current system administrators using each tool to get an honest assessment of the challenges (or lack thereof) they’ve faced in this area.

Once you know what the vendor needs to bring to the table, it’s time for a frank assessment of what resources the marketing department will be able to dedicate to this project – both during initial implementation, and for ongoing use. We can break this down into two general categories – budget and bandwidth.

Let’s look at budget first. Pardot, Eloqua, and Marketo are not inexpensive tools. Any one of them should be considered a significant, long term investment in demand generation and revenue growth. That said, Pardot is by far the least expensive of the three, with Eloqua’s and Marketo’s pricing roughly similar. The reason Eloqua and Marketo are so costly is because they come with an incredibly deep set of features – far too deep for most SMB marketing teams to utilize enough to justify the expense.

This leads us to the bandwidth issue. Even in an ideal world where money is no object, overbuying can still be a real concern. Ramp up time for users and system administrators, general user friendliness, and the training/support resources provided by each vendor make an enormous difference in adoption, and ultimately ROI. Eloqua and Marketo’s rich feature set requires multiple marketing resources with significant technical expertise to operate proficiently, and this expertise takes much longer than a typical system implementation timeline to acquire. Pardot, being a simpler (and more cost effective) tool, can be operated effectively by a smaller team, and takes much less time for the average marketing user to learn and start creating revenue-generating email campaigns.

This is not to disparage Eloqua or Marketo; both are very effective tools with many devoted customers worldwide. However, for most SMBs using Salesforce, Pardot will provide a much better technical fit, while being easier on the budget, too. There are many helpful feature comparisons available online, and we recommend speaking with users of each system to get their first-hand impressions. If you’d like additional assistance as you research marketing automation tools or implementation, our consulting team is here to help.