Comparison: Marketing automation

Infusionsoft vs. Ontraport

InfusionSoft and Ontraport are two heavyweights in marketing automation. While both tools are easy to use and packed with features, I recommend InfusionSoft because of its better support, features and continuous development.

Powerful, feature-rich and enterprise-grade marketing automation for enterprises.

Features:

9/10

User Experience:

8/10

Billing & Support:

7/10

Best for: Enterprises and startups.

Price starts at $199/month plus $999 onboarding fee.

Small-business friendly software for automating every stage of the buyer's journey.

Features:

8/10

User Experience:

7/10

Billing & Support:

9/10

Best for: Startups and small businesses

Price starts at $79/month

Features

Can it help you do what you want to do? Does it have all the bells and whistles necessary for marketing automation? Is there feature bloat? Are there key features missing? You usually buy software for its features, and this is exactly what we'll help you evaluate in this section.

InfusionSoft Features

One of the most feature-rich marketing automation tools on the planet, InfusionSoft is loaded with practically everything you need to make your marketing faster, easier and more efficient.

Highlights

  • Powerful suite of automation capabilities
  • Highly useful tagging feature to segment audiences based on their actions.
  • User-friendly CRM for streamlining sales processes.
  • No split testing capabilities is a big negative

What I like

  • Enterprise grade marketing automation at startup prices
  • Extremely useful segmenting tools for laser-sharp marketing messages
  • InfusionSoft marketplace is great for finding integrations and connected apps

What I don't like

  • Suffering from a bit of feature bloat
  • No split testing capabilities
  • Lack of real-time sales alerts or
  • No social CRM feature

Enterprise-Grade Automation Features

Infusionsoft's biggest strength is its extremely robust suite of marketing automation features.

You would have to pay IBM seven figures annually to see something as feature rich and effective as what InfusionSoft offers out of the box.

You'll spend a lot of time in the campaign builder, mapping out your funnels and setting up your automation workflow. It takes a while to get the hang of, but once you set up all the necessary integrations and fine tune your processes, you'll have a powerful marketing machine to make you money on autopilot.

If features alone is the deciding criteria, you can't go wrong with InfusionSoft.

Infusionsoft's extremely intuitive visual campaign builder makes automation a breeze.

Sales Automation To Help You Close Deals

Marketing automation helps you send marketing messages on autopilot.

But what if you want to do more than just nurture leads or send customers to a sales page?

InfusionSoft has a robust (and constantly improving) featureset for automating sales processes as well.

You can use these sales automation features to

  • Automatically score leads
  • Create custom quotes for all your prospects
  • Manage your pipeline

While you can get much, much better features from top standalone CRMs like Salesforce, what makes Infusion's sales automation particularly useful is its close integration with the rest of your marketing.

Creating an opportunity in Infusionsoft's CRM for sales automation.

Extensive Integrations and Robust Order Processing

InfusionSoft offers marketing automation for every stage in the buyer's journey. This goes from capturing and nurturing leads to closing deals and accepting payments.

For this to be effective, you need two things - integrations with your existing tools, and a robust payment processing system.

InfusionSoft has both. It integrates with most popular accounting tools, including Quickbooks and Xero. It works exceptionally well with Magento and WordPress. And you can even use the API to create custom integrations.

Integrations is a big win for InfusionSoft when compared to Ontraport. If you work with different software, factor this into your final decision.

On the order processing side of things, InfusionSoft has a useful, if somewhat lacking online storefront. You also get a shopping cart and order forms along with a way to accept payments. Again, you can find better standalone tools to do this, but the close integration with InfusionSoft makes this highly useful.

The InfusionSoft shopping cart with different payment methods

Spotty Email Deliverability (in Some Industries)

You can't use your own servers to send your emails. You will have to use InfusionSoft's

While this might sound like a plus (setup is much, much easier), it can actually cost you if you operate in some industries.

If a lot of people are using InfusionSoft's mail servers to send spammy emails or even overly promotional emails, some mailboxes might automatically tag your emails as "promotional" as well. This means that your emails land in the spam box, not the inbox.

While not catastrophic, it can impact email deliverability. You can use your own mail servers with Ontraport; not so with InfusionSoft.

Pictured: InfusionSoft's email campaign builder. Deliverability remains a concern, however.

Ontraport Features

Ontraport's features might not be as extensive as InfusionSoft's, but whatever it has fits perfectly into the digital entrepreneur/small business requirements. The Ontraport mantra seems to be less is more, especially when it comes to overwhelmed small businesses. You might miss some of Infusionsoft's features, but you definitely won't miss its complexity.

Highlights

  • CRM, shopping cart, affiliate management, landing pages, autoresponders, etc. bundled in.
  • Ability to automate sequences across multiple channels.
  • Strong segmenting capabilities and email delivery rates.

What I like

  • No need to buy additional add-ons to run most marketing tasks; truly all-in-one automation suite.
  • Email delivery rates are among best in class.
  • Shopping cart is highly flexible with tons of features (upsells, automated payments, etc.)

What I don't like

  • Interface can take time getting used to; not inspiring UI design.
  • Marketing sequence creation not very intuitive.
  • Lack of comprehensive integrations or marketplace.

Truly All-in-One Automation Suite

Ontraport comes bundled with one of the most comprehensive lists of marketing tools you'll find in any software suites.

Here's just a short list of what you get:

  • CRM
  • Shopping cart
  • Autoresponders
  • WordPress membership site
  • Affiliate management
  • Landing page creator

Granted, there are tools that peform each of these tasks better individually (say, Unbounce for landing page creation or MemberMouse for WordPress membership), Ontraport packs them all into one robust, well-integrated toolset.

If you're running a small business, this is truly the last software suite you'll need to buy - at least until your business has grown enough to demand more powerful standalone single-function tools

Ontraport's automation revolves around the "Sequence" builder.

Surprisingly Solid Shopping Cart Experience

The shopping cart is one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing automation.

After all, if you are automating your marketing, 8 times of out 10, it is to sell something online.

Ontraport packs in a surprisingly powerful shopping cart. By default, the shopping cart supports:

  • Automated credit card payments (perfect for membership/subscription sites)
  • Upsells, which are critical for maximizing revenue per visitor.
  • Automated sequences to recover abandoned shopping carts

Understand that shopping carts are technically complex; several providers charge tens and hundreds of dollars for a standalone cart with the above features.

Ontraport, on the other hand, gives it all away with its basic package - a big plus if you're selling anything online.

Ontraport's form builder is very comprehensive.

Multi-Channel Marketing Automation Support

Want to reach your customers via SMS? Or perhaps send them a postcard after they perform X action?

Ontraport supports marketing automation for multiple channels. Email is only the tip of the iceberg; you can setup complex automation rules for text messages and postcards as well.

This is a particularly useful feature for local businesses which often run promotions through text messages instead of email.

An example SMS marketing funnel built through Ontraport.

Test Everything

Ontraport's A/B testing features are pretty phenomenal for a marketing automation tool. There is practically nothing that you can't split test - your email subject lines, landing page titles, copy, etc.

The best part is that Ontraport's split testing works out of the box. You don't need an add-on or integration to make it work.

Granted, the A/B testing is not as robust or data-rich as something from a native A/B testing tool such as Unbounce, but it still gives you a lot of control over your conversions. If you've been following some of our blog posts or my guest posts, you already know how much I emphasize CRO.

Ontraport gives you the tools to do basic testing without investing in a dedicated split testing tool. Big win.

You can test nearly every element and track their conversion rates.


Features Head-to-Head: InfusionSoft vs. Ontraport

Feature InfusionSoft Ontraport
Built-in Membership Site  No  Yes
Shopping Cart  Yes  Yes
Visual Campaign Builder  Yes  No
Affiliate Center Hosted Self-Hosted
Email Deliverability Poor Good
Third Party Integrations Excellent Poor
Built-in Video Hosting  No  Yes
Built-in Text Messaging  No  Yes

User-Experience

The user-experience - how easy, fun and intuitive the software is to use - is far more important than you realize. If you've ever used Trello, Slack or Asana, you already know how a great user-experience can make you more productive and even make you excited to work each day. For software as complicated as a marketing automation suite, a great user-experience is absolutely essential.

InfusionSoft User-Experience

From the moment you land on InfusionSoft's site, you can feel that you'll get a polished, modern user-experience. This impression holds true once you actually start using the software. Its user-experience remains one of InfusionsSoft's strongest selling points.

Highlights

  • Intuitive visual campaign builder
  • Fast and intutitive search
  • Easy navigation and setup

What I like

  • Data cleanup (removing duplicates, deleting old records) is fast
  • Modern, clean design is easy on the eyes
  • Drag and drop campaign builder is a massive time saver

What I don't like

  • No way to sign-up directly; you have to go through sales (-1 for user-experience)
  • Email builder isn't very intuitive, especially for HTML emails
  • Poor reporting capabilities affect overall UX

Extremely Intuitive Visual Campaign Builder

The visual campaign builder is the single best thing about InfusionSoft.

This is exactly what it sounds like: a visual way to build complex automation campaigns by simply dragging and dropping different elements in place.

This is your sequence builder on steroids. Think of it as a whiteboard come to life. Pick up sequence elements (say, a landing page followed by a sales page) and connect them on a virtual board.

If you're used to mapping out your sequences on paper, then transferring them to a marketing automation tool through clunky sequence builders, you'll absolutely fall in love with the visual campaign builder. This is InfusionSoft's big feature (Ontraport still has the list-based sequence builder) and they do a heck of a job promoting it.

For the visual campaign builder alone InfusionSoft gets a 10/10 in terms of user-experience from me.

The visual campaign builder is one of InfusionSoft's most delightful (and useful) features.

Breezy Navigation

Have you ever clicked through a dozen menu items in Excel and torn out your hair in frustration because you just can't find the one thing that will help you do your work?

I'm exaggerating but as software becomes more complex, it becomes harder and harder to find features you want (and hide features you don't want).

This was a problem with InfusionSoft as well until a recent redesign. The navigation, which was once clunky, is now a breeze. Instead of clicking through menus and consulting the documentation, you can now almost always find what you want in a few simple clicks.

This is a big improvement and shows a very promising design direction for the company.

The InfusionSoft navigation menu places most frequently used features within easy reach

Fast Search

Good search is notoriously hard to do right (just ask the Windows 7 team) and incredibly useful when done right (just ask any Google Docs user). Fast, in-depth search can give you a big productivity boost, especially when you're dealing with a lot of data.

InfusionSoft excels at this. It doesn't matter what you're looking for - contacts, emails, messages, orders, tasks, affiliates, etc. - InfusionSoft will find it for you quickly.

I find myself turning to the search box a lot in my workflow. Once you have a lot of contacts, you'll find yourself doing the same. In my case, I run campaigns for a number of businesses (besides my own) which means that my contact database alone is in the thousands.

InfusionSoft's advanced search is very comprehensive (image courtesy SocialFuse)


Ontraport User-Experience

While not as polished as InfusionSoft, Ontraport nevertheless offers a comparatively pleasant user-experience. You'll miss the visual campaign builder, but once you get a hang of things, using Ontraport will be a breeze.

Highlights

  • "All-in-one" user-experience (read: no add-ons required) makes starting a breeze
  • A visual campaign builder is sorely missed
  • Not visually pleasing. The Linux to InfusionSoft's Apple.
  • Has a mobile app that's actually useful.

What I like

  • Complex yet intuitive UI; takes time to understand but easy to use once you do
  • If-then statement based automation is easy to grasp & very flexible
  • Don't need any add-ons to get full automation functionality.

What I don't like

  • Stale, pre-2010 era design. The dashboard is simply ugly
  • A visual campaign builder would make things 2x better
  • Pre-built templates are not up to scratch in terms of design

Aesthetically stale; good design is sorely missed

I know that looks don't matter. This is a serious marketing automation software after all, not a consumer product.

Yet, in a world where I'm used to Slack's quirkiness and Asana's flying unicorns, Ontraport looks downright stale. You feel like you're using something out of 90s era Microsoft - great software that works wonderfully but just doesn't get you excited about using it.

Although the stale design doesn't impact the actual user-experience or functionality, I still count this as a -1 in my books. Remember that Ontraport's customers are mostly small business owners who have likely never used some crumby enterprise tool from Oracle or IBM (thankfully).

Such businesses have come to accept good design as a given, especially in 2017. Ontraport's overall design leaves that desire unfulfilled.

The Ontraport dashboard is a whole lot of data but little in the way of aesthetics. Confusing.

No visual campaign builder, but if-then automation works great

InfusionSoft's visual campaign builder is its single best feature. You don't realize how much you miss its simplicity until you actually start using something different.

Ontraport's campaign builder looks like a series of lists. This isn't as aesthetically pleasing or tactile as dragging-and-dropping elements in place, but it works more than adequately.

To its credit, Ontraport's automation builder works on a very sound If-Then logic basis. This is extremely intuitive to understand and gives the user a lot of flexibility. You can chain together some incredibly complex automation rules if you're so willing.

All in all, no visual campaign builder is a negative, but its replacement is good enough for 99.99% of users.

Ontraport's if-then rules give you in-depth customization capabilities.

Great user-experience = works right out of the box

Unsurprisingly, Ontraport has a pretty steep learning curve. This is expected from something as complex as a full-suite of automation tools.

However, what works in Ontraport's favor is that it just plain works out of the box. You don't need any add-ons or integrations to get up and running with it. Heck, you could even start without a website - just redirect your domain to Ontraport and use of their built-in templates.

This "just plain works" approach makes for a good user-experience. The fact that you can get up and running within minutes, not days (the sign-up process doesn't require a sales call) and that you don't have to have any add-ons to create a campaign makes this a big plus.

Just a few of the features that come rolled into Ontraport's basic plan

Mobile app is actually useful

You know how most enterprise mobile apps are - underpowered filler that just serves to check the "have mobile app" box.

I understand why this happens: enterprise tools are complex and mobile phones are small and underpowered.

This is exactly why I appreciate Ontraport's approach with its mobile apps (available for both iPhone and Android). Instead of trying to cram an entire automation suite into an app, Ontraport has limited its functionality mostly to CRM management and autoresponder subscriptions.

You can use this app to manage your contacts, add subscribers to specific sequences and track your tasks. This is exactly what I want to be doing on a mobile phone when I'm on the move - simple administrative tasks.

Ontraport's mobile app places most administrative tasks at your fingertips - a huge timesaver when you're on the move.


Pricing, Sign-up and Support

Here are all the bits that matter the most - pricing, support, sign-up process, and other relevant bits. This is what often dictates your purchase decision, even more than features and usability. I'll compare InfusionSoft against Ontraport on these counts below.

InfusionSoft

InfusionSoft is expensive and has a complex sign-up process, but you get excellent support. This is beginning to look more and more like an enterprise tool rather than a small-business friendly, startup-focused solution. If you have the money, it's great, but if you're pre-revenue or struggling to pay bills, InfusionSoft can get ridiculously expensive ridiculously fast.

  Pricing

The cheapest plan starts at $199/month, which gives you just 2,500 contacts and 12,500 emails/month (or just 5 emails/contact). You'll also have to buy a "kickstart" package that starts from $999 (one-time). Overall, you're looking at a minimum spend of $3,387/year for the plain vanilla plan.

  Sign-up Process

Although InfusionSoft is a SaaS tool, you still have to talk to a sales rep before signing up. I know this is how most small businesses usually buy software, but for those of you who are used to painless, person-less sign-up, this is a negative.

  Support

Marketing automation can be complex and great support is crucial. InfusionSoft performs wonderfully in this aspect. You get free support during business hours and you can also upgrade to 24/7 support. The support staff is friendly and knowledgable and will even help you setup campaigns.

  Integrations

InfusionSoft has its own API, which means that it also has tons of integrations. Unless you are using some really obscure tools, you should find an InfusionSoft integration. This is critical if you already have a bunch of sales/marketing apps and need them to play nice with your marketing automation tool.

  Community

InfusionSoft has one of the most vibrant communities of enthusiasts and users this side of Salesforce (well, almost). There are popular Facebook groups, local meetups, events and even an "implementation day" in their office in Arizona. This community is great for learning tricks and borrowing ideas from other succesful users.

  Marketplace

How do you source templates, find designers and hire writers? InfusionSoft has its own marketplace to help you do this. You'll find that this is a great alternative to UpWork or Freelancer.com since the people here already know and understand InfusionSoft and marketing automation. A very useful feature.

Ontraport

For the features you get, Ontraport is downright cheap. The sign-up process is fast and you don't need anything extra to get started. The support, on the other hand, is not up to par (when compared against InfusionSoft). This is still a small business and startup-friendly solution.

  Pricing

Ontraport plans start at just $79/month. This gives you 1,000 contacts and unlimited emails. There is no "kickstart" fee. At a minimum, you'll have to spend $948/month. And you get 30 day money back guarantee.

  Sign-up Process

Ontraport's sign-up process is a breeze. For the cheapest plan, you simply have to set up an account, pay the $79 fee and get access to your dashboard immediately. The "Pro" plan (at $297/month) also includes a 2-hour free setup. If you don't want to, you never have to talk to a sales rep.

  Support

Ontraport's support is good if not great. The support team knows what it's doing and they boast an impressive 2.7 hours first reply time (1.6 hours during support hours). They also have a concierge service to give you hands-on help with your funnels and landing pages.

  Integrations

Ontraport really suffers from the lack of an API (which, I'm told, is coming soon). This means that you don't get a lot of integrations. For those of you who depend on other apps to get your work done, this is a big downer. You'll have to rely on workarounds using Zapier until the API comes along.

  Community

Ontraport has its small but growing community of users. For the longest time, there was no strong official support for these communities, but with ONTRApalooza (their main event) becoming a thing, the community is starting to thrive. Ontraport also organizes bootcamps to help you understand the tool and mingle with other members.

  Marketplace

Although Ontraport has a marketplace, it is mostly limited to finding landing page and email templates. Unlike InfusionSoft, you can't find writers or experts on it. The quality of offerings are mediocre at best. You'll do better by bringing in templates from CreativeMarket or ThemeForest.

What Others are Saying

In my opinion, and based on who i’ve heard love and loathe Infusionsoft, I’d say that Infusionsoft is for businesses that are already turning over at least $150,000 per year from selling products online.

Marcus Taylor
VentureHarbour.com

...Infusionsoft is FANTASTIC for a lot of businesses, especially those with physical products or ones that deal heavily in B2B sales.

Josh Sturgeon
Trenchworthy.com

Ontraport is a great platform for larger businesses or businesses with a large or diverse marketing funnel

Dan Virgillito
Elegant Themes

...works so much better for a business that wants to not just keep in touch with their customers but truly make them feel like you care about them, love them, watch over them and are a true friend

Seth Ellsworth
SethEllsworth.com

Final Verdict

Both InfusionSoft and Ontraport are highly capable, powerful tools. However, they aren't necessarily good for all purposes.

If you are a large business, you'll get more mileage from picking InfusionSoft over Ontraport. Remember that InfusionSoft is a large business and regularly knows how to deal with customers like you.

For smaller businesses, Ontraport would be a better alternative since it doesn't require significant upfront investment. You can get started with the vanilla $79/month plan and work your way up to the more full-featured version.

Choose InfusionSoft if You:

  • Want an enterprise-ready marketing automation tool.
  • Want priority support and a robust community.
  • Want something that plays nice with your existing tools.

Choose Ontraport if You:

  • Are a coach, consultant or sell digital products.
  • Want a truly integrated, all-in-one marketing solution.
  • Want a cheaper alternative and like a DIY approach.


Need help?

Need personal help selecting marketing automation software?

Email me at [email protected]