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Independent Pardot Marketing Software Review

 

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Pardot Review—Email Marketing

Pardot strikes a fine balance between simplicity and sophistication with email marketing.

Email lists are dynamic (members are reselected each time the list is used) and are easily created using queries with Boolean logic and flexible parameters. List generation automatically dedupes and can suppress email contacts included as members of other lists.

Emails can be created individually or from templates using a WYSIWYG editor that resembles a word processor. When an email template is updated, those updates cascade to nurture emails still in play which originated from the template. Emails also offer text-only or multipart text/HTML versions which can be helpful for certain personas and devices (i.e. IT security people and Blackberry users). For early and steady relationship building purposes, emails include custom 'From' addresses, and integration with CRM sales reps, so that emails appear to originate from the customer domain and from the designated sales person.

There is an integrated email testing service which views and tests emails in different clients, with or without images, rendering in mobile devices and various other criteria. Of course this testing also performs spam detection assessments for each of the major ISPs, and provides recommendations when potential problems are detected. Unlike some marketing automation software vendors which place limits on their email testing services, and then charge overages, Pardot's email testing offers unlimited use.

Email deliverability can have profound implications on email marketing success, and deliverability problems are often attributed to sender reputation. In fact, a Return Path study found that 83% of delivery problems are caused by reputation scores. To enhance deliverability rates, Pardot leverages the Port25 solution called Power MTA (Mail Transport Agent), a third party messaging system and email gateway software (SMTP server) that makes it easy for senders to adopt the latest authentication specifications (SenderID, SPF, Domain Keys and DKIM) and comply with policies for accountable outbound email delivery. Port25 is a useful solution used by other vendors such as Salesforce.com and Responsys, but unfortunately, not a lot of marketing software solutions.

Pardot email marketing permits multiple types of email distributions, including broadcast email blasts (on-demand or pursuant to a schedule), 1 to 1 drip marketing emails as part of nurture campaigns, and individual emails from Outlook or other email clients, or even within the Pardot application.

Customers can limit email distributions to be sent during business hours—a helpful option to increase B2B deliverability rates. Pardot displays email deliverability rates in its email statistics reports, and at the time of this marketing software review was achieving Return Path Sender Score reputation rankings above 90 for the IP's reviewed.

Email links appear to come from customers and all links are under 80 characters with client URL proxys. This offers an advantage in terms of deliverability, and avoiding spam filters, as compared to marketing systems which use dreadfully long links and include the word 'track' in the link (which clearly tells spam filters the email is a relay and not coming from purported source).

Pardot mandates an unsubscribe asset in all emails in order to be CAN-SPAM compliant. For those email recipients who choose to unsubscribe, Pardot can take them to an email preference center page which offers the reader an option to unsubscribe for a limited period of time, or for only those types or categories of emails they elect. This is a helpful best practice in lowering the unsubscribe rate.

On the downside, some of the more advanced email marketing features are limited or absent. For example, there is no rule based dynamic content placement for emails, the system doesn't track RSS syndication and high volume email distributions cannot be sent from third party providers.

Lead sourcing is also limited to identifying only a single source, normally the originating source. This lack of attribution classification makes it difficult to attribute campaigns that generated lead response, and contributed to lead conversion, but are not counted in campaign ROI measurement because they were not the first campaign to source the lead. In fairness, this is a problem in most marketing software systems. As a partial workaround, marketers may be able to turn to their CRM systems for campaign ROI reporting—depending upon which CRM software system they use. For example, Salesforce.com can attribute the first lead source, the last source or an even allocation of all lead sources back to campaigns for ROI measurement. Unfortunately, other CRM systems may or may not offer this capability. In reality, marketers know that some campaigns are far more influential than others, and the most accurate scenario would be to attribute the sales revenue generated back to the campaigns based on a more sophisticated attribution distribution. Only then will campaign ROI be the most insightful—and in turn allow marketers to redistribute limited marketing funds to the most successful campaigns.

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