Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pardot Stays Focused on Small and Mid-Size Clients

I caught up last week with Pardot  co-founder and Chief Operating Office Adam Blitzer.   It had been over a year since I’d had a serious briefing from Pardot, although we do keep in touch and I have current information on them in my VEST report on industry vendors.  Pardot is funny that way: with nearly 700 clients, they’re arguably the third-largest B2B marketing automation vendor and have a broad industry presence, but their formal marketing is relatively quiet.  For example, their Web site lists eight press releases during 2011, compared with 46 for Eloqua and 30 for Marketo.

The company’s product strategy takes a similarly modest approach, favoring incremental improvements over bold new directions.  The biggest news in its latest release, announced August 31, was using Qwerly to copy public social media profiles into the marketing database.  Nice, but not unique: Eloqua, Net-Results and SalesFusion have similar connectors and there are probably others.  The new release also included sending pre-scheduled social media messages from within the system and tracking social content consumption and resharing at the individual level.  Again, good stuff but not revolutionary.

The previous release, announced last May, also featured a number of small steps, including better tagging of marketing content, more precise control over data synchronization, and a plugin to capture Gmail messages within the Pardot database. 

Pardot can limit itself to small refinements because it already provides all the basic marketing automation features.  This approach also reflects the company’s disciplined focus on small and mid-size businesses, which don’t want the complexity added by advanced features.  Less positively, the modest enhancements may also reflect Pardot’s constrained resources – the company has no outside funding and sells at relatively low prices of $1,000 to $3,000 per month.

This doesn’t mean that Pardot lacks some interesting features.  One is an ability to capture the search terms used by individuals, both when they find the company Web site through search engines like Google and when they search within the company site itself.  In-site search is a powerful indicator of intent and not one I recall seeing in other marketing automation systems.  Pardot also has connectors for SugarCRM, NetSuite, and Microsoft CRM as well as Salesforce.com – not unique, but a broader range than most.  The company is adding Webinar integration, starting with Webex and soon to be followed by ReadyTalk.

But features are just part of the equation for marketing automation buyers, especially at small and mid-size businesses.  Ease of use, pricing, and support weigh at least as heavily, and Pardot scores well on all three counts.  Pardot still uses only inside sales people to keep down its selling expenses, which is one way keep down its prices.  Blitzer argues that still lower pricing would require cuts in customer service and support, which he sees as essential to long-term customer success.  Of course, other vendors disagree.  Maybe there’s no single answer because different approaches will suit different clients.  All we can say right now is that Pardot’s approach seems to be working for them.

1 comment:

PeterJ said...

Top line vendors do unique, visionary research. That's expensive.

Others simply copy. That's cheap.

But it isn't the way to stand out as a client. It simply tells everyone you are a me-too company where price is more important than value.