ONTRAPORT Review: Is This High-End Email Platform Worth It?

Although the ONTRAPORT name may not ring an instant bell, the company has been around for over a decade and placed tenth on Inc’s “Top 100 Software Companies” ranking.

ONTRAPORT is a full-featured email marketing platform that comes with extensive marketing automation capabilities and a built-in CRM for managing your contacts.

ONTRAPORT Review

Last updated: July 20, 2018
Initially published on: March 16, 2018

tl;dr Summary
ONTRAPORT is a really powerful email marketing platform that’s packed with futures However, it has one glaring flaw that makes it less accessible to many businesses.Visit the website

The service offers a few different pricing tiers.  The Basic package is targeted toward a 1 or 2 person business who might be using services like MailChimp or ActiveCampaign.

At the upper end, is the Pro package which is more along the lines of an Infusionsoft or Hubspot type platform.

In this ONTRAPORT review, we are mainly going to focus on the capabilities of the Basic plan and see how the service compares with the lower end email marketing software market.

What is ONTRAPORT?

ONTRAPORT describes itself as a “visual marketing automation and reporting platform.” Although it has email marketing as the central component, it’s a full-lifecycle customer relationship management (CRM) system that works around visual campaign maps that can track every detail of your interactions with customers.

What this means in practice is that ONTRAPORT provides extensive functionality for building signup forms, landing pages, and multiple forms of marketing communications (including email, SMS and even sending Postcards).

It then allows you to track customers as they move along your funnel, tweaking details as you go to maximize your conversions and giving you the tools to see what is and isn’t working.

ONTRAPORT’s has far-reaching capabilities that inevitably make it a solution with a relatively steep learning curve. This is not a product you’re going to learn overnight, and at times the range of options can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there is a range of support resources available to help.

Part 1: What are the best parts of ONTRAPORT?

Cool Feature #1: A Flexible Block-Based Editor

ONTRAPORT sensibly uses the same block-based editor for building sign-up forms, landing pages, and emails, which means once you’ve learned it for one purpose you’re good to go for the others too. It’s a very flexible and full-featured editor for something the runs on your web browser.

ONTRAPORT form building

There are a wide range of pre-designed blocks, including design elements such as headers, dividers and slideshows, and functional elements such as coupon offers, countdown timers, and social media features.

I was impressed by the designs and they will make it easier to create good-looking forms, emails or landing pages.

Cool Feature #2: A Versatile Campaign Builder

ONTRAPORT’s Campaign Builder is the solution’s core feature, and the place you’ll probably spend the most time in the system once you’ve designed your forms and landing pages. As well as laying out in a visual and intuitive way how customers will flow through funnels, it also shows you live statistics on where your subscribers are at in each stage of your flows.

I found the pre-made campaigns to be very helpful with getting started and each come with a checklist to ensure everything is properly set up before going live.

ONTRAPORT also encourages collaboration on campaigns by allowing you to share workflows with other users. If you build something particularly useful, you even have the option of putting a price tag on it and selling it to other ONTRAPORT users – if you’re not generous enough to give it away for free!

ONTRAPORT campaign manager

Cool Feature #3: A 90-Day Money-Back Guarantee

ONTRAPORT’s 90-day money-back guarantee is both generous and unusual in this industry.  The most I’ve seen on other email platforms is 30 days.

90 days is plenty of time to test the solution out using your own real-life scenarios, and the wording of the guarantee states that simply deciding that the solution “isn’t for you” is adequate justification for a refund.

This is especially useful if you want to check out Pro plan features, but are hesitant because of the higher price tag.

Cool Feature #4: Great Customer Support

It’s fairly rare to find a company where the support is widely raved about, but that’s the case with ONTRAPORT – and the reputation is justified. My support responses whilst researching this review were fast and thorough, and contacting live chat support is actively encouraged across the user interface.

It’s genuinely useful to be able to ask a chat question while you’re using the software and receive an almost instant response.

Live chat support is just one of a seriously long list of options. Phone support is also available seven days a week on a generous schedule, and there are a host of self-service help resources including knowledge base articles and an active Facebook user group.

Cool Feature #5: Awesome Contextual help

ONTRAPORT is a really powerful email platform, so you can easily get lost inside of it, especially when you’re starting out. Fortunately, ONTRAPORT has a really great contextual help system which is really nice.

On any page, click on the little info icon on the bottom right of the screen, and a help window will pop up explaining what the current page you are on is all about.

ONTRAPORT contextual help

It also provides you with links to related articles and videos so you can get more info on each topic if you choose. This is super useful and not something I often see in other web applications.

Part 2: What are the bad parts of ONTRAPORT?

Bad Part #1: Basic Plan is not very scalable

Feature-wise, the service has everything it needs to compete with lower-end email marketing competitors like ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Drip.

Yes, the $79/month starting price is a little high.  But it has one of the best form, email, landing page editors I’ve seen and its automation capabilities are first class.

But the thing that kills ONTRAPORT for bloggers and small business owners is the lack of scaling of its pricing.

At the lowest end, the Basic plan only supports up to 1,000 contacts for $79 a month. If you go past that, then the next level up is the Plus plan which is double the price for 2,500 contacts.

If you blow past that limit, then you’ll have to jump to the Pro plan that supports 25,000 contacts but costs a whopping $297 a month.

There’s very little middle ground at all, compared to ONTRAPORT’s competitors in the Basic plan price range, and that’s really a shame.

If you are a company on a large budget then this might not be a big deal, but for many smaller businesses this will be a deal-breaker.

Bad Part #2: Minimalist Reporting

With such an effective visual campaign builder, it feels like an opportunity has been missed to provide something equally inspiring when it comes to reporting.

For example, when you’re looking at the overall performance of an email in the “Messages” view, information such as the number of opens, clicks, opt-outs, and complaints is there, but in a rather plain, text-based table that you have to scroll horizontally to access.

What I do like though is that you can customize what columns you see in all the tables.  So there’s a lot of data there but presented in a sort of bland way.

Part 3: ONTRAPORT Pricing

ONTRAPORT recently changed its pricing structure.

There are now 4 different plans, Basic, Plus, Pro, and Enterprise.

ONTRAPORT Pricing table

ONTRAPORT’s Basic plan costs $79 per month for up to 1,000 contacts, unlimited emails, and one system user.

You also don’t get access to some of the more advanced features of ONTRAPORT like being able to accept online payments, membership sites, affiliate management and lead scoring.

You get all these by upgrading to the higher level Plus ($149 a month for 2,500 contacts) and Pro ($297 a month for 10,000 contacts) plans.

You do get an 18% discount on all plans if you decide to pay annually.

Here’s how ONTRAPORT’s pricing compares with some of its main competitors.

Subscribers5001,0002,5005,00010,00015,000
Active Campaign (Lite) $15$29$49$89$139$225
Active Campaign (Plus)$70$70$125$169$249$399
ConvertKit $29$29$49$79$119$149
Drip$49$49$49$99$149$184
Infusionsoft$199$199$199$299$379$599
MailChimp$10$15$50$50$75$150
ONTRAPORT$79$79$147$147$297$297
Market Hero$19$19$49$99$129$299

Unfortunately, there’s no ONTAPORT free trial, but this is somewhat mitigated by its generous 90-day money back guarantee.

Part 4: How does ONTRAPORT work?

Layout

In keeping with ONTRAPORT’s CRM-based approach, when you first log in, you will get a view of contacts, with tabs for campaigns and pages. It’s possible to customize these views by selecting which columns are visible, but the view remains largely table based.

ONTRAPORT Main view

Contacts and Sending Emails

ONTRAPORT works a little differently than its competitors in terms of sending out emails.  First, off there’s no concept of Lists like say Aweber has.

Instead, you just have a single database of contacts in your account.  This is nice because you don’t run into the common issue of having duplicate contacts in your account who are on multiple lists.

Instead, ONTRAPORT uses the concept of Groups to segment your contacts.  What makes groups unique is that they are dynamic.  You set the conditions for membership in a group and a contact is automatically added or removed from the group based on the group.

There are many ways to set up groups, but the way I’ve personally been using groups is to create them based on a tag.  That way I can easily segment by contacts by signup form or have a specific buyer’s list of contacts.

Sending emails is also a bit different in ONTRAPORT.  There’s no specific page for sending out broadcast emails for example.  Instead, you send them directly from the Contacts page by selecting the specific contacts you want to mail to.

This is why creating groups is important, as it makes it much easier to send emails to the specific segment you want.

Not only can you send emails, but ONTRAPORT also allows you to send SMS messages and even physical postcards to your contacts in the exact same way.

There’s also no dedicated page for sending autoresponder or drip based emails.  Instead, you’ll need to do that directly from a Campaign.

Designing Landing Pages, Sign-up Forms, and Emails

ONTRAPORT uses the same block-based editor to create landing pages, sign-up forms, and emails. In each case, you have a range of pre-built templates, or a “start from scratch” option that allows you to choose from a variety of building blocks to design your own.

ONTRAPORT forms

The pre-built templates are fairly nice and there are a good number of them to pick from. They’ll be fine if you want to get something up and running quickly, but starting from scratch is usually my preferred way, and the builder works well enough that doing so isn’t unnecessarily time-consuming.

Each of the blocks comes with different preset options to control its behavior. For example, the countdown timer allows you to set the date you are counting down to, and specify a place to redirect to when the offer is over.

The Facebook comments block allows you to select the number of comments to display, choose a color theme, and input your Facebook app ID.

In some cases, you wonder whether there could be some other options (perhaps a timezone for the countdown timer, or some text justification options for fields in sign-up forms). However, it’s fair to say this frustration is outweighed by how many useful blocks there are just sitting waiting for instant use.

ONTRAPORT form options

If you can’t find what you’re looking for amongst the pre-built blocks (and for most purposes, you probably will), you’ll need to improvise. For example, I asked support about forms with round buttons, and they suggested using linked images for these.

This isn’t perfect, but it’s easy enough to work around. It helps that the image editor has lots of options and that everything works well. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I found it far easier to make forms and emails look as I wanted them to with ONTRAPORT than I could do than say Aweber, which often seems to turn something as simple as getting line spacing right into a giant headache.

And for anyone who needs more than the block-based editor can deliver, you can design something by hand using the Custom HTML editor.

Campaign Builder

The Campaign Builder is “where the magic happens” in ONTRAPORT, and where you go to set up the funnels through which your customers will flow.

You start with simple workflows, for example where a new subscriber joins a list and is sent an onboarding series of emails, or create more complicated workflows, where the way a subscriber interacts with your emails sends them down different branches of your campaign.

ONTRAPORT campaigns

As is the case elsewhere in ONTRAPORT, you can set up a campaign from scratch or use of a range of pre-built templates. There’s also the ability for sharing campaign maps with other ONTRAPORT users which is really helpful.

As an example of a simple campaign, ONTRAPORT includes a flow for “newsletter signup, confirmation, and delivery” which covers initial newsletter signups, manual list additions, and an ongoing workflow for sending out each newsletter.

This template incorporates configurable goal tracking, which moves customers along the pipeline when they perform any one of a comprehensive list of actions, such as clicking a link in an email, visiting a landing page, or sending you an SMS message.

The potential flexibility shown by this campaign alone demonstrates how much ONTRAPORT stands apart from something like MailChimp, which has much more limited automation capabilities.

The wealth of options ONTRAPORT provides for goals and conditions helps you quickly start to see how you can build the kind of laser-focused campaigns, the best marketing companies use so effectively.

ONTRAPORT Split Testing

One unique feature of ONTRAPORT is their campaign split (A/B) testing features (as shown above), and it’s nice to see this included in the Basic plan.

Thanks to the way it has been implemented, it’s possible to split test creatively, and to whatever depth you prefer.

For example, you can send two versions of an email before moving customers back onto the same funnel, or cause the funnel to branch off in two completely different directions.

As the campaign view shows how many customers have arrived at each point in the flow once it’s live, you can quickly see which option is working better for you.

Overall ONTRAPORT’s campaign builder is quite nice.  If you’ve used any automation editors before, then you will be quite comfortable with what ONTRAPORT provides.

Everything else you need to know about Ontraport

What types of split testing does ONTRAPORT have?

As mentioned above, ONTRAPORT does have some nice split testing features for its campaigns. However, there doesn’t seem to be support for split testing manual broadcast campaigns.

How well does ONTRAPORT support live events like webinars?

ONTRAPORT is really great for live events.

If you want to conduct webinars, you need to be able to send emails at a specific date and time.

ONTRAPORT’s wait action is extremely flexible. Not only can wait for a relative amount of time (ie. 2 days later), but it also allows you to wait until a specific date and time.

Does ONTRAPORT have an active community?

Yes, they have a Facebook group called the ONTRAPORT user community with over 5000 members.  It’s quite active and you can learn a lot of useful tips from other customers.  It’s definitely worth joining if you sign up for the service.

ONTRAPORT is also one of the few email marketing software services that has its own regular podcast. It’s called the Modern ONTRAPRENEUR and where the host Landon Ray interviews various entrepreneurs about marketing. New episodes are published every week.

What integrations do they offer?

ONTRAPORT has a ton of 3rd party integrations, including with most of my favorite marketing tools like ClickFunnels, LeadPages, Thrive Leads and more. It can also integrate with Shopping Carts like PayKickStart, SamCart, and Shopify. The only surprising omission I see from their list of integrations is Instapage.

Is there an ONTRAPORT affiliate program?

Yup, it does. You can earn 25% recurring commissions for every ONTRAPORT customer that signs up using your links. You don’t even need to have to be a customer to sign up.

What makes the ONTRAPORT affiliate program extra lucrative is the higher price point for most accounts. Since most customers you refer (and stick around) will likely be at the $297 and higher price point, you’ll be making at least $74.25 a month recurring for every sale. That’s awesome!

ONTRAPORT vs Infusionsoft

There is quite a bit of overlap in features between ONTRAPORT and Infusionsoft, and they both sit at comparable price points.

However, ONTRAPORT does have quite a few advantages over Infusionsoft.

First, ONTRAPORT doesn’t make it ridiculously hard to signup with like Infusionsoft and there’s no mandatory $297 kick off fee or contracts to sign. ONTRAPORT does have its own onboarding as well, but it’s free.

ONTRAPORT’s editor for creating forms, emails and landing pages is much superior to Infusionsoft’s offering which is much more limited in how you can customize things.

I would also say that I like ONTRAPORT’s visual campaign builder much better than Infusionsoft’s as well. It’s easier to get a handle of, and almost as powerful.

Where Infusionsoft has an advantage over ONTRAPORT is its larger ecosystem of 3rd party apps and services. Infusionsoft seems to have more brand awareness than ONTRAPORT and thus has attracted a larger community.

You can find a full feature by feature comparison of Infusionsoft vs ONTRAPORT over here.

ONTRAPORT vs MailChimp

Comparing MailChimp to ONTRAPORT is kind of hard. Even though they are both email services, they each cater to different audiences.

ONTRAPORT is for bigger teams, that need things like a CRM or sales pipeline. If you want to do any sort of marketing automation then ONTRAPORT has to be your pick. MailChimp’s automations are so lackluster that it can’t even compare with what ONTRAPORT can do.

MailChimp, on the other hand, caters to businesses with much more limited email marketing needs. So if you just want to send out a regular email newsletter, then MailChimp is perfectly fine for that. Or if you are on a budget, then MailChimp is probably better suited for you.

Final Thoughts

There’s really a lot to like about ONTRAPORT. It’s quite powerful and you can pretty much handle any email marketing task you can throw at it.

But whether you should jump on board and check out the service depends on where your business is at the moment.

For a blogger or small business with a small sized list, I wouldn’t recommend ONTRAPORT. There are several alternative services like ActiveCampaign or Seva that I feel would offer much better value for your money.

They will also scale better for you as your email marketing needs grow.

However, if you are a larger business with a team or a huge list and $297 a month doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, then ONTRAPORT is definitely worth a try.

Especially if you are looking for a viable alternative to solutions like InfusionSoft or HubSpot.

It’s much easier to get started with ONTRAPORT and their 90-day money back guarantee ensures you have enough time to evaluate the software for your business.

Try ONTRAPORT today

ONTRAPORT Pros

  • Large selection of pre-made campaign templates.
  • Campaigns, Forms, Landing Pages are all shareable with others.
  • Supports split testing within campaigns.
  • Campaigns can have multiple triggers for parallel execution.
  • Great context sensitive help and extensive knowledge base.
  • Dynamically segment your contacts using groups.
  • 90-day money back guarantee.
  • Use the same editor for creating landing pages, emails, and forms.
  • Very active and helpful Facebook community.
  • 2 free onboarding calls to help you get started.

ONTRAPORT Cons

  • The basic plan is limited to 1000 subscribers. Need to upgrade to Plus or Pro plans once you hit this limit.
  • No conditional logic support in emails.
  • Can’t easily resend broadcast emails to unopens.
  • Can’t easily split test broadcast emails.
Affiliate Disclaimer: I hope you enjoyed this ONTRAPORT review. Please note that any links inside this article may be affiliate links to ONTRAPORT. That means that if you click on one of the links and sign up, I may be compensated for it. If you do happen to click, thanks! Any money we make keeps this site running and allows us to keep producing high-quality reviews.
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