Ivo Campos - Marketing Automation

Hubspot vs Pardot (Part 2): Email marketing – Editing and Sending Emails

This is the second in a series of articles where we’ll be comparing two Marketing Automation tools: Hubspot and Pardot. If you haven’t read the first article yet, here’s the link for you:

Hubspot Vs Pardot: Lead Grading and Scoring

Today we’ll be talking about emailing – one of the most used functions in marketing automation tools.

Although we’ll mention it at some point in the article, automation is not the primary focus here; we’ll just be considering the process of editing and sending emails, and ways of measuring their success.

So, without further ado, let’s start…

Email templates

In both tools, the first step when building your email marketing campaign is to find or create the right template. You can use the templates offered by both Pardot and Hubspot, or customize them by integrating your own template, although you’ll probably need the help of a developer in order to do this. To make it simple, we’re going to compare the default templates available in Pardot and Hubspot.

In Pardot, if you start off with a specific template, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to add a content block with a different layout to the initial template. Duplicating, deleting, and even moving parts of the layout, is easy to carry out. However, by way of an example, if the template you choose doesn’t have a two-column section, then you won’t be able to add them later.

Pardot email template
An example of one of Pardot’s email templates

Hubspot offers you the chance to add new content blocks to your email, and this means you’ll be able to personalize your campaign quite a bit. Another important difference, from my point of view, especially when you don’t have a design or development team to help you in your emailing campaigns, is that Hubspot allows you to access fairly elaborate templates that you can then customize with your brand’s colours and logo.

Email Template in Hubspot
In Hubspot, as well as using their default templates, you can add new content blocks

WinnerBest email templates: Hubspot

Email previewing

Pardot lets you preview your email and view it as a specific contact. This is a very useful feature, especially if you’re going to personalize your communications and want to avoid any mistakes.

Hubspot also allows you to see the preview, but, in addition to that, it lets you get an idea of how it’ll look on different devices in real-time. Another interesting feature is that you can send out a link of the email to users who don’t have access to Hubspot – before you even launch the emailing campaign.

Preview email Hubspot
An email preview in Hubspot with all its options

WinnerBest email previews: Hubspot

Hubspot will save you time, when compared to Pardot, with its different email preview options when you’re creating your emailing campaigns.

Dynamic content in emails

We’re now going to look at dynamic content: This feature is an extremely useful one because it allows you to personalize part of the email content for each segment, without having to create multiple emails.

In Pardot you have to create the dynamic content outside of the email, as this is a feature you can use on other platforms too, such as your website. This dynamic content can vary depending on the scoring, grading, or the information contained in the user fields. Once you create it, you’ll be able to insert it into the email, and you’ll simply see a variable where the content will be placed. However, there’s a potential problem here. The styles that you define in the dynamic content may not match those of your email, and this will be quite obvious to the user.

On the other hand, in Hubspot you can create the dynamic content from within the email itself, calling this feature “smart rules”. You’ll need to create the lists that you’ll use to customize the content beforehand. Then, in the content block, you’ll be able to specify what the users are going to see by default, followed by what the users in each list will see.

smart rules hubspot emailing
Creating personalized email content with Hubspot

WinnerBest dynamic content in emails: Hubspot

Although both tools are able to use dynamic content, Hubspot makes the whole process easier by carrying out the customization from within the email editor itself. This will help to avoid errors and ensure that the email styles will be correct.

Customizing by email fields

In addition to dynamic content, both platforms provide you with the option of using dynamic variables within the email which means you’ll be able to customize parts of your message.

Pardot recently released the HML language (which Salesforce already used on their platform) and this lets you customize your content. The main advantage of this change is that you can carry out much more complex customization than before. By way of an example, by using regular variables, you would see something like this on your screen regarding the first_name field.

  • When there’s information in the first_name field of the lead: “Hi Ivo,”
  • When there’s no information in the first_name field of the lead: “Hi ,”

However, by using HML, you can now create conditions that let you customize the whole sentence. Here’s what we mean:

  • When there’s information in the last_demorequest_date field of the lead: “As per your request of April 20th, 2020”
  • And, if there’s no information in the last_demorequest_date field of the lead: “Make your request here”
hml pardot emails
Using HML language in emails with Pardot

With Hubspot, you can customize fields by using their editor. If there isn’t any user information in those fields, then you can use the general default information for that field, or, alternatively, you can create information for use in that specific email.

WinnerBest in customizing variables: Pardot

By using the HML language, you’ll have many different options to customize your content. However, you’ll need to get to know how to use it, and here’s a guide to help you.

A/B testing in emails

Both Pardot and Hubspot let you perform A/B testing in your emailing campaigns.

Pardot lets you use both the editor and the mailing information (Sender, Reply-to, etc.) to create two totally different versions – versions A and B. In Pardot’s A/B test you can define many factors, such as how long the test will last before sending the winning version, the percentage of users to take part in the test, and whether you measure it by clicks or opens.

Hubspot’s A/B testing is similar to Pardot’s in the sense that you can edit all the content differently for each version. You can also choose the percentage of users to take part in the test, and specify the duration of the test. However, there’s one feature that I found really useful on Hubspot and that Pardot doesn’t have – the click-through rate metric. This allows you to test two different subject lines (by changing texts, using emojis, customizing, etc), as well as the text in the text email preview.

AB Test in Hubspot email
Defining the metric, the duration, and the segment for email A/B testing in Hubspot

WinnerBest A/B testing in emailing: Hubspot

Both tools use this feature in a similar way. However, the fact that Hubspot has an additional metric in its testing means that it wins this particular battle.

Automatic emails versus list emails

I’d like to spend a little time mentioning the differences between the creation of one-shot email campaigns and automatic campaigns.

When using an email in an automatic program, called Engagement Studio in Pardot, you need to employ an email template. This means that those who are Pardot users on your account will have to organize things effectively, and ensure that when they create the email template, they only select the “Engagement Program Emails” option. In this way, these templates will only appear when creating an automatic program and not in all type of emails. 

Automatic emails Pardot

In Hubspot, you create automatic emails in the email creation process. In the “Recipients” section you can choose whether it’s an email for a list (Add recipients) or, alternatively, you can click on “Save for automation” and in this way it can be used in automated programs.

emails automaticos hubspot

WinnerBest in creating automated emails: Hubspot

Sending emails according to time zones

If you have an international business and usually send emails to several different countries, then it may be beneficial to ensure that your users receive the emails at the best possible time of the day, according to their individual time zones.

Pardot doesn’t offer this feature, and what you’ll need to do there is divide your lists and schedule the different emails at different times of the day to ensure the best results.

On the other hand, Hubspot does have several interesting options in this regard. Firstly, when you’re in the “Send or Schedule” section you’ll be able to see the percentage of users who are in a different time zone within your pre-defined segment. And so, in addition to scheduling the email at a specific time, you can also schedule it according to your users’ time zones. This is a great feature, and is a highly recommended option if you have users in different countries and you’re only sending one email. This feature also means that the emails will be sent gradually, thus reducing potential deliverability problems.

Timezone emailing hubspot

WinnerBest in sending emails according to time zone: Hubspot

Excluding inactive or unengaged users from your emails

A quality database is paramount when organizing your email campaigns, and this will help to avoid problems regarding the reputation of your domain and your messages ending up in your users’ spam folders. In addition to creating a double opt-in email system, it’s also important to stop sending emails to users who don’t open your messages, or at least to use segmentation to divide them into smaller groups and send them messages with a different focus.

Pardot doesn’t offer you a native solution to exclude inactive users from your emails. The only thing you can do is to create your own list of users who haven’t opened emails for a certain number of days. However, I’m not a big fan of this system as you can’t combine it with the number of emails you’ve sent to the user. By creating a list of users who haven’t opened any emails, you may unintentionally group some of them together with others who you haven’t sent any emails to for a long time.

pardot unengaged users emails
Creating a list in Pardot of users who haven’t opened your emails in the last 180 days

Hubspot does have an option to exclude your inactive users, by selecting “Don’t send to unengaged contacts”. While I’m fine with this option, I always think it’s important for us to be able to define exactly who we consider to be unengaged users. Depending on the volume of emails you send, you can create your own list of inactive users. Hubspot enables you to create dynamic lists by combining the number of sent emails with user inactivity.

WinnerBest in excluding inactive users when emailing: Hubspot


Managing unmailable users in your email lists

When you send an email in Pardot, and you define the segment, then by default you’ll be left with the total number of “mailable” users – those who haven’t unsubscribed or caused a hard bounce in the past. This will then give you a more realistic idea of how many people will receive your email.

With Hubspot, when you define the list of users you want to send the email to, then you’ll see the total number of contacts in that list, and it won’t remove the “unmailable” ones. The problem here is that you’ll have unrealistic expectations of your email recipients, and you’ll be faced with reports similar to this one:

unmailables hubspot

WinnerBest in managing unmailable users: Pardot

I think it’s important that we know how many users we’re really trying to reach when launching an email marketing campaign.

Automatic actions post-email

When using Pardot, you can select “Completion actions” when creating the email. You can base these actions on the response of the user to your email: opening, clicking – either on specific links or any links-, or opt-out. When the user carries out the action that we’ve previously defined, then we can automatically program several automatic actions, such as adding them to a Salesforce campaign, assigning the lead, putting them on a list, changing the values of a field, and so on. The only slightly negative point that I could mention here is that if you don’t create these automatic steps when you set up the email, then it will be more difficult (but not impossible) to do it later on.

completion actions email pardot

In order to perform these automatic actions in Hubspot, you have to create a workflow outside of the email with all the rules that you consider necessary. This process is less fluid because you have to create a separate process to the email; however, it does offer you a greater variety of triggers.

For example, in addition to the ones that I already mentioned in Pardot, Hubspot also allows you to carry out automatic actions if the user performs actions such as opening the email but not clicking, marking the email as spam, receiving the email (regardless whether it was opened or not), etc. And, as they’re part of the workflows, this means the chances of these post-email actions occurring are much higher than they would be if you used Pardot.

WinnerBest in automatic actions in emails: Hubspot.

Although the process is much more fluid in Pardot, I have to admit that Hubspot is much more flexible in the options it offers you.

Email campaign reporting

Both platforms have fairly comprehensive email reporting, and I have to say that I can’t really fault them on this. The only thing I could highlight here are a few metrics that appear in one tool and are missing in the other.

I can only find one metric in Pardot that’s missing in Hubspot, and that’s the number of “forwards” in the email.

On the other hand, Hubspot has three interesting metrics that Pardot doesn’t have:

  • The time a user spends reading the email: this helps us to know whether we should be creating longer or shorter emails
  • Engagement over a specific period of time: this can be displayed by your time zone or your recipient’s
  • Timezone sending performance: very useful if you have an international audience

Other points to compare on emailing between Pardot & Hubspot

Pardot

  • There are no suggestions to improve your email
  • You can’t add buttons (CTAs) to your emails

Hubspot

  • It gives you a list of suggestions to improve your email
  • You can add buttons (CTAs) from the editor
email optimization hubspot
Hubspot giving a list of points to optimize in your email

In conclusion: The best tool for Automated Email Marketing Automation is…

Although both tools are quite similar when it comes to creating and sending emails, we can clearly see that Hubspot offers many more options and more flexibility than Pardot. So, if emailing is an important part of your marketing strategy, then I suggest you choose Hubspot.

However, we’ll be comparing many more features in Automated Marketing tools in future articles, and so, even though Hubspot has won this battle, it hasn’t yet won the war!