Salesforce vs. Marketo: which marketing tool is best in 2020?

marketo vs salesforce marketing cloud

Salesforce and Marketo are both enterprise marketing platforms, but they thrive in different use cases.

Salesforce has a huge customer base – 150,000 users and counting – and has seven years on Marketo, having launched in 1999.

However, the biggest difference between these platforms is that they were originally designed to target different types of marketers.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud is more of a business-to-consumer (B2C) platform, and Marketo is a business-to-business (B2B) platform.

Despite their differences, both Salesforce and Marketo are among the world’s most-used marketing technology platforms. But which one is best for you? It all depends.

At times, it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but when all is said and done:

  • Salesforce has a relatively complex data model. This is great for flexibility, but it requires more data management expertise.
  • Marketo, on the other hand, is still designed for large corporations but tends to be a better choice if you have smaller data sets.

Of course, there’s much more to this.

In recent years, Salesforce has grown into a complex labyrinth of clouds, apps and analytics. For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to compare Marketo with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which is just one component of the Salesforce family of apps.

You can also compare Marketo with Pardot, Salesforce's B2B marketing automation tool:


Jump to:

When to choose Salesforce Marketing Cloud

You have more complex data

Salesforce Marketing Cloud is well-suited to marketers who have large, complex data sets, like those found in B2C contexts. You'd be hard-pressed to find a marketing platform that can handle more complexity than Salesforce.

Flexibility is the real benefit here, but with this comes extra responsibility. For many tasks, you will need at least intermediate knowledge of data management principles, if not more.


You want to create multi-touch campaigns

Salesforce lets you reach customers at various touch-points in your marketing pipelines with its Journey Builder feature. The journey will be bumpy if you don’t have the required data management know-how, but this shouldn’t be a problem for most medium to large companies with in-house marketing teams and tech support.

The destination for these companies will be well worth the wait, as Journey Builder facilitates cross-channel campaigns brilliantly, allowing marketers to move prospects through their funnels without breaking a sweat.

salesforce customer journey builder


You want to manage all of the things

You can think of Marketing Cloud as the framework and other Salesforce products as the building blocks.

Here are the different Salesforce marketing tools you can add to Marketing Cloud:

Salesforce Marketing Cloud product family tools

Marketing Cloud offers plenty of variety and flexibility for your set-up, but you need an impressive budget to put behind it. With the separate modules for email management, automation, data and more, this also makes the platform's user interface more complex than Marketo.

If you're trying to choose between Marketing Cloud and Pardot, Salesforce's B2B automation tool, here's our in-depth comparison:

When to choose Marketo

You want a simpler interface

We just mentioned that the Salesforce UI can take a while to get used to, so Marketo’s your platform if you prefer a simpler approach. Everything you need to manage campaigns is accessible from the Marketing Activities screen, and there are separate menus for more detailed actions and views.

Marketo workflow builder


You’re newer to this

Not everyone can be a marketing wiz, and we get that. While Marketo is far from being an entry-level system, it’s certainly easier to navigate than Salesforce, and this will suit marketers who don’t want to overcomplicate things.


You want scope for simpler customization

There’s a misconception that Marketo adopts a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, but this certainly isn’t the case. Although there’s less customization than Salesforce, you can still personalize your email and social campaigns just the way you like. Plus, there are external APIs if you want to customize further.

Can you use Salesforce Marketing Cloud With Marketo?

You could, but you’d be over-complicating things! It’s best to choose one of these platforms and stick with it.

Interestingly, Marketo was built for Salesforce CRM, and some people find it integrates better with that than Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Sure, this is subjective, but Marketo’s strengths lie in its simplicity.

You might find PieSync useful if you’re already using Salesforce CRM. It offers a deep two-way contact data sync between apps so you can improve contact management and target the right leads - and the sync works with both Marketo and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, as well as hundreds of other apps.

Comparing Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Marketo features


To get started with Salesforce Marketing Cloud you will need to:

  • Install and configure Salesforce Marketing Cloud in Salesforce CRM
  • Grant access to your admin
  • Create users
  • Choose permission sets
  • Manage/add assignments
  • Update security

Here's the in-depth setup guide from Marketing Cloud.

Alternatively, the key steps for getting started with Marketo are to:

  • Create your account and log in
  • Create Marketo users
  • Set up authorized support contacts
  • Customize landing page URLs
  • Allow email deliverability
  • Configure protocols (probably the hardest part!)
  • Submit URLs for email pages/landing pages
  • Integrate the CRM of your choice
  • Add tracking codes to your web pages

Here's Marketo's setup documentation that talks it through in more detail.

Before choosing between Salesforce and Marketo, it's worth comparing their respective documentation and seeing how you get on. Unless you invest in 1-1 training or support, that's what you'll be spending a lot of time looking at after making your marketing software choice.


Ease of use

Marketo definitely wins this one. Salesforce isn’t rocket science, but it’s significantly more complex than its rival. This isn't always a bad thing, and it's a reason why so many customers choose it and love it. With time, you’ll likely get used to either system, but if it’s simplicity you require, we recommend Marketo.

If you have a smaller business or want much more user-friendliness, there are many more straightforward marketing platforms that will likely be a better choice. One of the best alternatives to Salesforce and Marketo for smaller businesses is HubSpot:


Marketing automation

Both Salesforce and Marketo are powerful marketing automation platforms. So what's the difference?

Journey Builder is Salesforce's B2C journey management tool for cross-channel personalized experiences at every step of the customer lifecycle.

It's one of Marketing Cloud's stand-out features, offering seemingly endless possibilities for personalization, split-testing and other powerful automation options.

Salesforce journey builder automation


Email management is a crucial component of any marketing campaign, and Salesforce does all the hard work for you with triggered "sends" that let you connect with customers pre- and post-purchase. Even if you have limited knowledge of code, you’ll find it pretty easy to create B2C email workflows with Marketing Cloud.

Salesforce email studio


Marketo's perfect user is a large enterprise that needs extensive marketing automation. You can create highly personalized workflows in the Marketing Activities dashboard, taking actions such as sending emails, adding contacts to a list, or changing their program enrollment or engagement score.

Marketo workflow builder


To streamline email management, Marketo makes it easy to manage communications with its Smart Campaigns feature. There are fewer customization options compared to Salesforce, but this platform will do nearly everything you need it to. There’s no code, either, making Marketo a go-to choice if you want to keep life simpler.

Marketo email templates builder


Remember: if you're looking for the best-fit software for B2B automation, you're better off with Salesforce Pardot or Marketo.


Reporting and analytics

Both Salesforce and Marketo have built-in analytics tools that provide you with deep insights into your customers.

As Marketo is more of a B2B platform, you can advertise your services to companies as they progress through your marketing lifecycle and gain valuable intelligence along the way.

marketo reporting and analytics


Salesforce offers customer-driven data with multiple metrics that will influence campaigns and help you generate leads, track customer behavior and discover new insights every day.

Salesforce Interaction Studio



Customization is king with Salesforce, and you can personalize marketing communications in almost any configuration that you can imagine.

You can incorporate AI into your campaigns, create personalized experiences and develop content blocks and widgets, as just a few examples.

Many options are right there on your dashboard, but you can take a deep dive and uncover a treasure trove of customization options that you’ll love.

With Marketo, customization is still possible and in many cases more user-friendly than with Salesforce. However, it tends to be more limited than the complexity offered by Salesforce.


Customer support

Both Salesforce and Marketo provide users with a wide range of support options, including phone, email, live chat, technical guides, online FAQs and more. However, much of this comes at a cost, so make sure to understand what your options are and how they fit your budget.

If you want to save your budget for the product itself, you’ll also find various tutorials on YouTube and Reddit.

Pricing comparison of Salesforce Marketing Cloud vs. Marketo

Salesforce Marketing Cloud pricing is extremely complicated, but we’ll do our best to explain. First, there’s no free trial option. This is a testament to Salesforce’s powerful position in the marketplace, which is unlikely to change any time soon.

There’s also no set pricing. You’ll need to ask for a quote, and someone will get back to you.

Some elements of Salesforce can seem fairly affordable, such as the Marketing Cloud framework, but your investment will see sharp increases as you add other features to the mix. To make the most of Salesforce, you'll likely want to add these.

Marketo pricing isn’t that much more transparent. However, there’s a free trial, so you can dip your toes in the water. If you like what you see, there are four different pricing plans:

  • Select
  • Prime
  • Ultimate
  • Enterprise

Marketo Engage pricing


We’re told that prices start from around $900 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. However, you’ll need to contact the company for a full quote.

Marketo supports up to 10 different users, with additional costs for extra users based on the plans above. Note: Marketo doesn’t offer any refunds, so bear that mind.

Neither Salesforce nor Marketo are designed with small businesses in mind. But for larger businesses, investing in software like Marketo and Salesforce could provide you with a significant return on investment.

You’ll be able to fine-tune your marketing campaigns, generate leads, increase visibility, engage customers and boost sales – for the right business, these can be priceless.

Summary: when to choose Salesforce Marketing Cloud vs. Marketo

Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Marketo are two very different marketing enterprise platforms, but one isn’t necessarily "better" than the other.

Despite dominating the market, Salesforce can be a cheaper option if you don't need extra bells and whistles (a big if), and it certainly packs a punch when it comes to customization and features.

Marketo, on the other hand, is easier to use, making the platform a great choice for marketing rookies as well as companies that want to focus on B2B.

Each one of these platforms meet the requirements of different marketers.

Here are a few examples of when it can be better to choose Salesforce or Marketo:

  • You’re a small company with around 10 employees and a healthy budget, and you want to market your products to customers. Salesforce might be a good option for you because of its B2C capabilities. Even though this software is more complicated than Marketo, it could be the better option to drive your marketing efforts.
  • You are a large company with 1,000 employees, and you want to market your services to other large companies. Marketo might be a good option for you because of its B2B capabilities. It can work out cheaper or more expensive than Salesforce depending on the features you need, so ask both providers for a quote to compare this.


Here's our summary of when to choose Salesforce Marketing Cloud vs. Marketo:
When to choose Salesforce Marketing CloudWhen to choose Marketo
You have more complex dataYou want a simpler interface
You want to create multi-touch campaignsYou’re new to this
Your business is B2CYour business is B2B
You want to manage all of the thingsYou want scope for simple customization


Looking for other advanced marketing solutions to compare with Marketo and Salesforce?

Whether you decide to use Salesforce or Marketo, it’s important you keep your software integrated with the rest of your tech stack in order to seamlessly manage your customer data.

PieSync lets you keep your contacts moving freely between apps with two-way syncs. Get started with a free trial here.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.