Ontraport Review

By: Puranjay Singh   Last updated: 02 May 2017

Ontraport offers small business-friendly marketing automation solutions with an all-in-one marketing platform. Send automated emails, postcards and texts from a single tool that combines a CRM, automation and e-commerce capabilities. However, the tool is underpowered compared to some competitors and not recommended for larger customers.

Features

User-Experience

Pricing & Support

Overall

Best for: Small businesses, solopreneurs, digital infopreneurs

Plans from: $79/month

Ontraport Overview

Ontraport isn't as big a brand name as many of its competitors (Infusionsoft or Hubspot), but people who use it swear by its affordable price and robust list of features.

Unlike many other tools in our marketing automation software list, Ontraport maintains a firm focus on the small business segment. There is no muddled thinking with enterprise grade features to lure in larger customers, or downgrading some features to bring in small bloggers and solopreneurs. The target market for Ontraport is clearly small businesses and established digital entrepreneurs who want to scale and automate their business.

This clarity of purpose makes Ontraport one of the best "all-in-one" marketing tools around - at least for small businesses. The software maintains the right balance between being feature-rich yet easy to use. There is no feature bloat, yet, it doesn't feel "broken" with missing features. It operates in the "Goldilocks-zone" of being "just right" for small businesses.

Like Infusionsoft, Ontraport aims to handle every facet of your business. While marketing automation is still the software's key selling point, you also get features like:

  • Customer Relationship Management
  • E-commerce tools
  • Automated texts and postcards
  • Membership sites

Essentially, Ontraport wants to handle every facet of your buyer's journey, right from the initial Awareness stage to the eventual Decision and Retention stages.

Ontraport's small business focus is amply visible in its feature and design choices. You get membership sites built-in, for instance. This is a feature few enterprise customers need, but is a huge timesaver for small business owners, especially digital entrepreneurs.

About Ontraport

Ontraport is a lot like the companies it aims to serve: profitable, well-established and without much in the way of outside funding.

Ontraport was established in 2006, which is a century in internet startup terms. They have about 75+ employees, putting them firmly in the "small business" category. They are profitable though they haven't taken huge rounds of funding.

This is a sharp contrast against Salesforce (market cap: $61B), HubSpot (market cap: $2.47B) or Infusionsoft ($127M in funding). Ontraport can likely grow faster, but from what I've seen and experienced, rapid growth isn't the company's ethos; it's more about growing slowly, strategically.

You might or might not appreciate this, depends on what kind of business you run. If you run a rapidly growing startup on the initial run of a hockey stick growth curve, you might find this limiting. But if you are running a sustainable, long-term business that's growing slowly but steadily, you'll find Ontraport's stability a great match.

In either case, Ontraport isn't a new startup making wild promises. It is a mature business with a track record of stability and delivery.

Review Methodology

Anytime I review software, I focus on three things:

  • Marketing automation capabilities and features
  • User-experience, pricing and support
  • Insight from industry professionals

My target audience in these reviews is small businesses, startups, and infopreneuers. Large businesses and enterprise customers have very different requirements and some of the recommendations here might not apply to them.

As a marketer myself, I also approach the software from a marketer's point of view. I have used several of the tools reviewed in these pages and the insights come from extensive personal use and testing.

Ontraport Features

The features are, obviously, the most important part of any software solution. This is what you buy the software for - to take care of an unfulfilled need and increase your productivity. User-experience and pricing are nice to have, but features are your must-haves

How does Ontraport stack up on this count? Does it have the features you'll need in a marketing automation tool?

In this section, I'll look at some of the most important features in Ontraport. I'll also examine some deficiencies and missing features and how they can impact your business.

What I like

  • Text-based if-then automation offers a lot of flexibility
  • Well-integrated; marketing automation, CRM, e-commerce all work seamlessly together
  • Membership sites and automated postcards are a BIG positive

What I don't like

  • Underwhelming reporting and dashboard
  • No built-in payment processing
  • "Custom Objects" in CRM are complicated to use

1. Flexible, but Difficult to Use Automation Builder

Ontraport, unfortunately, doesn't have a drag-and-drop visual automation builder (like Infusionsoft or Salesforce).

Instead, you get text-based automation builder where you can set up complex if-then rules. This gives you a lot of flexibility at the expense of ease of use.

In fact, once you get used to it, the if-then automation builder actually feels more intuitive than a visual builder. It also gives you more control over possible automation scenarios.

Ontraport Campaign builder

Ontraport's campaign builder isn't very intuitive, but gives you considerable control over your automation flow

2. Useful, and Improving Built-in CRM

The Ontraport CRM, when it was originally launched, was very basic. It could keep track of prospects/leads/opportunities, but that was it.

Recently, Ontraport launched "custom objects". This allows you to track your relationships with prospects over time. You can map each custom object to different databases in the CRM, giving you a more cohesive view of each relationship.

However, custom objects aren't very intuitive to use and you will struggle with them initially. Without this key feature, Ontraport's CRM is very basic. It gets the job done, but it can't compete against a full-fledged solution.

Ontraport's CRM is rather vanilla, though new features like 'custom objects' have made it much more useful.

Ontraport's CRM is rather vanilla, though new features like "custom objects" have made it much more useful.

3. WordPress Integration is a Big Plus

If you are a blogger, infopreneur or small business, there is a big chance that you use WordPress as your CMS.

If that's the case, you'll love Ontraport's WordPress integration (called PilotPress). This plugin helps you create landing pages, order forms and membership sites right from your WordPress dashboard.

For WordPress-based businesses (mostly bloggers and infopreneurs), this is a BIG timesaver.

Ontraport's PilotPress WordPress plugin makes WordPress integration painless.

Ontraport's PilotPress WordPress plugin makes WordPress integration painless.

4. Useful E-Commerce Pages

If you need to actually sell something, you'll find Ontraport's e-commerce capabilities quite handy.

You can build custom order forms, track orders, and create coupons/offers. You can even create upsell forms to increase average order value. Ontraport will even temporarily store the customer's credit card data to improve checkout rates.

While it lacks a built-in payment processor, Ontraport fulfills most businesses' e-commerce needs. The highlight for me is the ability to send leads to automated sequences that encourage them to update their payment/address information for higher conversions.

Ontraport lets you build order forms and even create upsell/downsell sequences to maximize order value

Ontraport lets you build order forms and even create upsell/downsell sequences to maximize order value.

5. Direct Mail and Postcards Are a Standout Feature

One Ontraport feature I love is the ability to send automated postcards and even handwritten direct mail.

Ontraport offers built-in capabilities to design and send physical postcards through automated sequences. If you integrate it with a letter writing service (there are a few in Ontraport's marketplace), you can even use this feature to send your customers hand-written direct mail.

This feature makes for some great customer interactions - clearly one of my favorite things about Ontraport.

Ontraport's postcard designer

Ontraport lets you design and send postcards automatically from within the software itself.

6. Membership Sites and Referral Management is Built-in

Not every business needs membership sites and affiliate management. But if your business does, you'll love Ontraport's built-in support for membership sites and referral management.

You don't need any third-party tools to manage your affiliates or start a membership site with recurring billing. Ontraport offers these features built-in and they work well enough for 95% of users. In fact, you can start a membership site right from your WordPress dashboard.

This is the reason why I recommend Ontraport to most infopreneurs.

Screenshot of RestaurantBoss.com, a membership site that runs on Ontraport

RestaurantBoss.com, a popular membership site for restaurant owners, runs on Ontarport

7. Better Control Over Email Delivery

Sometimes, when an email marketing software uses shared email servers (i.e. you share them with other customers), a spammy customer can "taint" an IP and impact your email delivery rates.

With Ontraport, you can send emails through your own servers. This essentially means that your emails can be delivered through a "clean" IP. This reduces the chances of your emails being flagged.

So while you can use Ontraport's servers as well, you can increase your control by using your own, assuring better email delivery rates.

Ontraport's email builder

Ontraport's email delivery is top notch since you can use your own servers to send emails. This screenshot shows the new email builder

8. Speed and Duplicate Records Remain an Issue

Despite improvements, two issues persist with Ontraport: duplicate records and poor speed.

Ontraport's Javascript is laggy. This can impact loading speed of any landing pages, forms, etc. you create and host via Ontraport.

At the same time, Ontraport doesn't offer an easy way to clean up duplicate records. Meaning you have to do it manually. If you have a lot of emails, this can be a huge timesink.

Ontraport record management

Record management in Ontraport's CRM is still rather poor.

9. No Hidden Costs

One thing I really like about Ontraport (and which contributes to its small business focus) is that there are no hidden costs. If you buy the "Pro" plan, you won't be expected to pay for any additional feature (besides adding more users or contacts).

Several tools in the marketing automation category have a ton of hidden charges (such as pay-to-access features). This can easily add hundreds of dollars to your monthly bill.

Ontraport's billing practices are far more transparent - you get what you pay for.

Ontraport pricing screenshot

Ontraport's pricing is very transparent

10. Split Testing is a Core Functionality

One of my favorite Ontraport features is the ability to split test virtually anything. You don't need third-party tools or plugins to run complex A/B tests. Ontraport gives you the option to test everything from headlines to email body copy.

This is a very powerful feature that can save you hours in testing (and improve conversion rates).

Split testing is a core feature in Ontraport

You can create split tests with a single click for every outgoing message

Ontraport Features List

Ontraport offers three plans starting from $79/month. This is the "Basic" plan that gets only core features. To get all the features Ontraport has to offer, you'll want at least the "Pro" plan.

I've examined Ontraport's features below:

Availability Feature Description

Visual Automation Builder

Ontraport doesn't have a visual automation builder. You have a text-focused, if-then rule based builder instead.

In-Depth Segmentation

You can zero down on your exact target audience in Ontraport's spare but useful CRM.

Mobile Optimized Templates

Ontraport offers built-in templates for landing pages and emails optimized for mobile users

Content Management

Ontraport doesn't offer a way to manage all your content from a single dashboard. It does, however, integrate neatly into WordPress.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a core feature in Ontraport - you can split test virtually anything.

Built-in CRM

Ontraport has a basic CRM for handling most common business needs such as tracking prospects/leads.

Content Predictions/Recommendations

Ontraport's personalization and content prediction capabilities are very limited.

E-Commerce Capabilities

Ontraport lets you build checkout forms, create offers and track orders.

Text Messages and Postcards

Ontraport can send text messages, postcards and even direct mail based on automated sequences.

1:1 Customer Journeys

Ontraport's automation is focused on segments, not individual customers. Customer journeys are segment-dependant.

Very High

Email Deliverability

Ontraport allows you to use your own email servers, giving you complete control over email delivery rates.

100+

Integrations

Ontraport has an API and a growing library of integrations, though it can't match up to Infusionsoft or Salesforce.

Payment Processing

There is no built-in payment processor, though Ontraport integrates easily with most popular solutions.

Affiliate Program Management

Ontraport has a built-in tool for recruiting and managing affiliates.

Summary

Ontraport's small business focus means that most of its features operate in the "good enough" zone. There is no tool within its software suite that will make you go "wow" with its power and capabilities. At the same time, nothing will underwhelm you either - if you fall within its target market, that is.

The CRM is basic, but takes care of most small business needs. The automation builder is text-based, but gives you a lot of flexibility. The email editor is easy to use, and the membership sites, e-commerce and WordPress integration are a great bonus.

To sum it up: Ontraport is an "all-in-one" marketing software designed for small businesses. It has all the features a small business would need to start its marketing from scratch. None of its features shine, but none of them disappoint either. It does exactly what it says on the box - run marketing automation campaigns.

Ontraport User Experience

I've seen far too many businesses purchase complicated software, then neglect using it because of its complex UI/UX.

UI/UX is more important that you realize. Software that is easy and fun to use will make you (and your team) actually want to use it. If you want successful deployment, you can't ignore UI/UX at all - at least not in the age of Slack and Trello.

This is particularly true for complex software like marketing automation. With so many features and moving parts, a poor UI/UX can absolutely overwhelm most users.

This is why user-experience is a big part of my review process. I consider what the software feels like, whether it is well-designed, easy to buy and easy to get help with.

What I like

  • The software is intuitive and easy to figure out
  • Features are well-integrated and feel seamless
  • Sign-up is easy; doesn't require talking to sales

What I don't like

  • No visual automation builder
  • Reporting/analytics dashboard is clunky and poorly designed
  • Looks and feels like an older software

1. Lack of Visual Automation Builder

A glaring flaw is the lack of a visual way to build automation campaigns. You can't map out each automation as you would on a whiteboard.

Instead, you have to use a text-heavy automation builder based on if-then rules.

Granted, this solution is actually more flexible and powerful once you get used to it, but it does have a steeper learning curve.

Ontraport's campaign builder can be hard to use if you are new to marketing automation

Ontraport's campaign builder can be hard to use if you are new to marketing automation.

2. UI Looks Stale

There is no way around it: Ontraport simply doesn't look like a premium, polished product. The design is functional enough and the UX doesn't suffer for it, but the overall UI feels like an older product.

This isn't a dealbreaker, but if you care about design as much as I do, you might find the older look and feel a bit grating.

Screenshot showing some of Ontraport's landing page designs

Despite major updates, the Ontraport UI is still not as polished as some of its competitors.

3. Clunky Metrics Dashboard

Ontraport's metrics dashboard shows a whole lot of data without much care for presentation. You get a great overview of your business and marketing health, but the lack of charts, graphs and visual relief makes the experience very monotonous.

Given that you will spend a lot of time analyzing your data here, the experience feels a bit underwhelming.

Screnshot of Ontraport metrics dashboard

The metrics dashboard is a bunch of numbers that can be hard to read at a glance.

4. Intuitive and Easy to Use

All the above complaints notwithstanding, Ontraport is still one of the easiest to use marketing automation solutions. The entire user-experience is feels intuitive. You won't ever get lost or struggle to understand a feature. Tool labels and workflows are self-explanatory. You'll rarely have to turn to the documentation for help.

The design choices might not look great, but they make for an easy to use product.

TScreenshot showing Ontraport's business automation intuitive

Smarter labeling and workflows mean that even complex features - like trigger-based automation - are easy to understand.

5. Easy Sign-Up

A great thing about Ontraport is that you don't have to talk to a sales rep or sit through a pitch to sign-up for the product. You can use it like most other SaaS tools - sign-up, pay the subscription price, and start using. The "Pro" plan even gives you a free 2-hour phone call to setup the software.

I know that some small businesses might count this as a negative, but for me, "no-pitch" sign-up is a big positive.

Screenshot showing Ontraport sign-up process

Ontraport's sign-up process doesn't require speaking to a sales person.

Summary

Ontraport suffers from a few user-experience flaws. The automation builder isn't visual and the design can feel dated. However, the software as a whole is user-friendly and intuitive. The workflow is well-designed and you'll never feel lost or overwhelmed. This is a big commendation for a complex piece of software.

To sum it up: Ontraport is easy to use, but feels dated. The automation builder has a steep learning curve but has impressive flexibility. Overall, the UX is friendly but the UI can do with an upgrade.

Ontraport Pricing, Support, and Community

Pricing is obviously a major point of consideration. Full-fledged marketing automation software is generally expensive. Expect to pay at least $150+ per month for such a tool. Tools cheaper than this usually only do email marketing automation and don't include any e-commerce, sales or CRM solutions.

Support is another major consideration when buying marketing automation software. This software category tends to be complex; you'll want knowledgeable support within easy reach at all times. Some tools offer only email support. Some offer limited phone support with an option to upgrade to more comprehensive support.

Comunity is an important but often overlooked factor. A vibrant community means that you get access to insight, learning and networking opportunities. It also means that it's easier to find freelancers and consultants to work with the software.

Let's see how Ontraport fares on these counts below.

Pricing

Ontraport is cheap if you're looking for the most basic features ($79/month). To get all Ontraport features, however, you'll want to spend at least $279/month for the Pro plan.

The good part is that there is no onboarding fee or annual contract. You are billed on a monthly basis and you can cancel anytime you want. This brings down your initial costs significantly.

Plan Pricing Billing Period No. of Users Onboarding Fee Min. Total

Basic

$79/month

1 month

1

None

$79

Pro Best Value

$297/month

1 month

5

None

$279

Team

$597/month

1 month

10

None

$597

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Each plan is billed month-to-month. There is no contract.
  • There is no mandatory onboarding. However, the Pro and Team plans come with free 2 hour account setup.
  • You get a 90-day money back guarantee.
  • If you decide to continue after the 90-day window, you can get a discounted rate with an annual subscription.

Ontraport is incredibly cheap to try - the starting plan is just $79/month and gives you access to most core features, including marketing automation.

However, if you want to get the most from Ontraport, you'll want to buy the $297/month "Pro" plan. On an annual basis, this plan will cost you $3,564. While still cheaper than competitors (Infusionsoft's full-featured plan costs $5,547/year), it is definitely not cheap.

Competitor Pricing

How does Ontraport stack up against its chief competitors? Below, I've compared the cheapest plans across key competitors:

Software Cheapest Plan Min. Billing Period Onboarding Fee Min. Total

Ontraport

$79/month

1 month

None

$79

ActiveCampaign Cheapest

$17/month

None

None

$17

ConvertKit

$29/month

1 month

None

$29

Eloqua Most Expensive

$2,000/month

12 months

None

$24,000

HubSpot

$200/month

12 Months

$600

$3,000

Infusionsoft Best Value

$199/month

12 months

$999

$3,387

Marketo

$895/month

12 Months

None

$10,740

Salesforce

$400/month

12 months

None

$4,800

SharpSpring

$400/month

1 month

$1,800

$2,200

I chose InfusionSoft as the "best value" because it has the most comprehensive list of features for marketing automation at the lowest possible price tag (for the features you get).

Of course, there are cheaper alternatives - ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign - but they don't have nearly the same features as Ontraport.

Bottomline: if you want an all-in-one tool but don't want to make a big initial investment, Ontraport is perfect for yuour needs. The month-to-month billing, cheap starting plan, money back guarantee and zero onboarding costs make it a very attractive proposition for small businesses.

Support

Ontraport's support is average at best. Although you get free phone support, Ontraport actively discourages you from using it. In fact, even finding the phone number on the support page is pretty hard.

Given the lack of phone support, you'll have to resort to live chat and support tickets. Live chat is useful but doesn't have the kind of immediacy you'll want in case of an emergency. There is also extensive documentation and helpful articles, but that has become nearly standard for most marketing automation solutions by now.

Besides the above, Ontraport offers support through a few more methods:

  • Ontraport Bootcamps - 20 hour live training sessions conducted throughout the year in major cities.
  • Paid Onboarding - In-house onboarding for new users, available for a small fee.
  • Ontraport Projects - An in-app training program that guides users as they use Ontraport.
  • Online Workshops - Live webinars and workshops conducted throughout the year to help users get more out of Ontraport

To sum it up:

  • Documentation and self-support is good.
  • Phone support is free, but hard to access
  • Live chat and support tickets are the best way to get help

Community

Community was something Ontraport severely lacked as compared to its competitors. There wasn't even an official Facebook community page until sometime back.

Thankfully, Ontraport has worked hard to improve the community in the last few years. There is a thriving (official) Facebook community and a growing conference - Ontrapalooza. Ontraport has also embraced live events wholeheartedly. There are online and real-world events throughout the year across major urban centers.

Besides these, Ontraport users and enthusiasts also host meetups in most major cities - sometimes with Ontraport's blessings.

Overall, I'd give it a 3/5. It's improving but it isn't nearly as good as some of the larger, more established businesses.

Summary

Ontraport has a low upfront price thanks to the lack of mandatory onboarding and annual contract. However, to get the most out of the software, you'll need to spend upwards of $3,000 every year.

In short:

  • Pricing: Cheap to try, moderately expensive to get all features Good
  • Support: Poor phone support Average
  • Community: Small but growing community Below Average

Alternatives to Ontraport

Infusionsoft

Small busienss friendly marketing automation with enterprise-grade features and flexibility. Perfect for growing businesses.

Rating:

HubSpot

Inbound marketing-focused marketing automation. Perfect for small businesses starting inbound/content marketing campaigns.

Rating:

Active Campaign

Cheap, easy to use marketing automation with a focus on email marketing. Great for bloggers and new businesses.

Rating:

Final Verdict

Ontraport is the perfect solution if you are a small business, blogger or infopreneur. It offers so much more than marketing automation. In its own words, Ontraport is a "business automation" tool.

Ontraport's core feature - marketing automation - is quite powerful, even moreso than higher-priced competitors. But the ancilary features - CRM, e-commerce pages, etc. - are average to above-average at best. Nonetheless, they all come together in an easy to use, well-integrated concoction.

For businesses built on WordPress, Ontraport's close integration with the CMS is a big positive. Easy membership sites, affiliate management and order processing make it ideal for infopreneurs as well.

The low initial price is the icing on the cake. You can start using Ontraport without shelling out thousands in onboarding fees or getting locked into an annual contract.

The bottomline: if you are a small business owner, infopreneur, author or blogger, you'll love Ontraport's ease of use and robust, but not overwhelming features. The marketing automation works splendidly well. Although the software can feel dated, it still offers a solid user-experience.

Choose Ontraport if you:

  • Want an eassy to use, "all-in-one" business automation solution
  • Run your business on WordPress or are an infopreneur/author
  • Want to start using marketing automation without a steep upfront investment



Not sure if Ontraport is for you? Check out some Ontraport Alternatives such as Hubspot and Infusionsoft