If you want to skip to the highlights, you can scroll down to the very bottom of this post.
This post includes a lot of info and I created it to help people who were like me who were searching for detailed and honest reviews of Ontraport, InfusionSoft, ConvertKit, WooCommerce, LearnDash, MemberVault and ThriveCart.
Please do your due diligence on anything you invest in your business. I’m sharing the following details to simply give some insight and possibilities of how you can run your online business without using systems that add up to be the equivelenat of a car payment if you’re not actually ready for those systems.
From InfusionSoft to Ontraport to ConvertKit
I enrolled in InfusionSoft at a 3-day event I attended after being enamored with the presentation about making money while you sleep with a fabulous online funnel.
The only problem was I didn’t have much of an online business and made the majority of my money through the clients enrolled from hosting my own events and through speaking.
I essentially paid $297 a month for a few years to essentially send my newsletters. #expensivenewsletters
I see a lot of business owners doing the same thing. But when you get so wrapped up in a system like that, it’s daunting to leave and migrate to another system.
Here’s the non sugar-coated version of why I left InfusionSoft: I didn’t like the vibe and really didn’t like their hard-pitch selling tactics. I don’t believe that “every business needs InfusionSoft” like I would hear shouted from stages at fancy events. I also felt like just a number and not a valued customer.
My experience with it was that it was complex and for an advanced online business, it makes great sense. But I got tired of paying a car payment for a system that I used for a very simple shopping cart and to send a handful of emails every month. I also couldn’t create email sequences without some pretty extensive training, or without a high-end VA (Virtual Assistant) or OBM (Online Business Manager). I am not scared of technology and I’m actually quite tech-savvy, so that’s saying a lot.
Important Note: I fully understand that with any system, if you dedicate the time to know it inside and out, it works. So after spending three years using the system, I was ready for a change.
I made the switch to Ontraport.
At first I was in heaven – it was MUCH easier for me to use. It got off to a rough start when the OBM I hired lost 8,000 of my contacts in the migration. Ouch. I looked at it as a great reboot of starting with a smaller more engaged list, so perhaps not all was lost.
I used Ontraport for over two years and I got to the point that I didn’t like how I couldn’t do some of the functions without either hiring it out or doing even more training in the system. I was also struggling with finding a VA who knew Ontraport and didn’t want to invest $70+ per hour for an OBM who knew the platform to set up pretty basic email sequences.
But more than that, something just felt off. I desired a simple and easy-to-use system that I could use anytime without a VA if needed. A lot of experts will say that’s not a wise move and you should delegate this out completely. I understand that and I choose to run my business with a small team (a few part-time assistants) and if I needed to send out an email or set up a tag, I want to be able to easily do that.
I’ve been simplifying my business year after year and I desired to have streamlined technology to support it. So I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of research. I got free trials to several systems to see what it was like to log in and use it. I also tuned into the energy and followed my intuition.
My goal was (and still is) to simplify the technology in my business that would still grow with me as my business grows.
I know the intuition bit may sound a little ungrounded and woo, right? But it’s just how I do things.
To be clear, this was a BIG decision. Here is everything Ontraport was doing for me:
- Email (newsletters, follow-up sequences)
- Affiliate manager
- Membership site that linked with my WordPress site (how my customers and clients access my digital products)
- Automatically billed clients for programs and products
- Product creation and management (shopping cart)
- Landing pages
- CRM – Customer Relationship Management (tracks all contacts, purchase and payment history, etc.)
The monthly cost was $297 per month = $3,564 per year.
My target is always what I invest results in a minimum of 3x my investment.
I wasn’t making that back from my Ontraport investment. I was basically using it to send newsletters and automatically bill a dozen+ clients each month. I was underutilizing what Ontraport could do and that’s on me and no one else.
While I’m an advocate for delegating, I also dislike HAVING to have a team member do things I needed. I don’t like HAVING to wait for someone else’s schedule if it’s something I want to move on quickly.
I wanted the ability to create stuff quickly when I got the inspiration at midnight, which is not an uncommon occurrence for me.
Most of my business has been built offline through hosting workshops, events, and speaking. I do some online marketing, but not the kind that brings in 5 figures or 6 figures a month strictly from email funnels like the online gurus talk about. 😉
The other thing I didn’t love was the learning center/membership site that delivered my digital products. I couldn’t track which customers finished the modules or not and this really bothered me because I didn’t want to be one more person online creating products but never know how it was really impacting the customers.
How could I interact with my customers? How could I streamline my technology to be easier and work at the level that I really use it?
My research began.
The first thing I needed to figure out is what I wanted to do even possible? Could I replace Ontraport with something that worked well and was easier for ME to use without having to hire team? I asked several people I trusted for their experience.
I also had to let go of the fact that I’d been consistently referring people to Ontraport because I loved them and just do what works for me.
The Email Manager:
I researched many different options for the email manager part and I ultimately decided upon Convert Kit. I’ll tell you why below.
I also like that you pay for the number of contacts you have. Some systems have you pay for each contact on each list they are in your system. So if you have one contact who is in three of your lists, then that counts as three contacts. #crazy
I have a list over 3,000 people so ConvertKit costs me $79 per month.
The top two contenders were ActiveCampaign and Convert Kit for the email part. Why did I go with ConvertKit? It’s easier to use (the visual format of how to make sequences especially makes so much sense for the way my brain works). Plus, I like that Convert Kit has open office hours with live training if you need any help. Their team is awesome and their customer support has been amazing.
Convert Kit also has link triggers, which means if someone clicks a link in an email, you can do cool things like add a tag, or add the person to a sequence, etc. That feature was one of the reasons I like both Ontraport and InfusionSoft and is often missing in systems like Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, Mail Chimp and others.
ConvertKit is an EASY system. I have a feeling that they will add even more features to their system. As a customer, I feel supported and listened to and not like just another number.
Side note: It was interesting to interact with Ontraport to go through the steps to close my account. After paying them close to $10,000 over the time I’ve been with them, not one thank-you or “what can we do better” conversation. Did I ever feel valued as a customer? No. I was really happy with my decision to leave Ontraport.
I felt trapped because that is where all of my customer data was. I felt the same way with InfusionSoft.
Addition to this original post: ConvertKit has gone through some big growing pains in 2018 and I LOVE how they have been transparent and handled them. That says a lot about a company. Even with their growing pains, it hasn’t affected me personally. A lot of the problems I hear people complaining about with ConvertKit comes down to user error or inexperience. I have a great VA who is a pro at ConvertKit and at the same time, I can easily do the basics.
The Shopping Cart:
I have a WordPress site and after I first left Ontraport, I used Woocommerce with the subscription extension, which allows you to run recurring payments. The WooCommerce Subscription add-on costs $129 per year, so $10.75 per month.
So now instead of paying $297 per month, I was paying $79 (ConvertKit) + $10.75 = $89.75 per month. That’s over $200 a month ($2,400 a year) I freed up that I could invest in hiring team or something else.
In this migration away from Ontraport, I also let go of DirectPay and Authorize.net as my merchant services provider, which is the system that processes the credit cards and deposits those payments into your bank. I changed to Stripe because of their interest rates and it accepts all credit cards, including American Express, without having to apply for a separate Amex account to process payments.
With Stripe, I have no annual or monthly fee like I was getting with DirectPay, which was an average of $220 per year in addition to the higher interest rates they were charging me when people used a rewards credit card or what they refer to as a non-standard card.
So now I was saving $2,660 per year (The $200 a month from Ontraport + the annual fees from DirectPay.)
Shopping cart update as of December 2018:
After using WooCommerce for almost two years, I was unhappy with how clunky the checkout process was. I didn’t love the look of the shopping cart experience also. But I had to have a system that easily integrated with both ConvertKit and my membership portal that houses all of my online products and programs.
The biggest hiccup with WooCommerce was if an existing customer who had a username and password tried to buy something, they had to FIRST login to their account, THEN purchase. But the system wouldn’t indicate that but instead would show a green checkmark as if the purchase went through. The customer would input their payment info and everything but the sale wouldn’t actually go through. My team spent a lot of time helping customers track down their username and password and sending links to people to buy things the customer thought they already bought but the purchase didn’t actually go through.
After customers kept having issues with checkingAfter using WooCommerce for a couple of years, I moved to ThriveCart. I found a lifetime deal and loved that wasn’t a monthly or annual cost and that made me even happier.
More importantly than that is the platform itself. It’s SO easy to use. The affiliate program is the easiest that I’ve ever used. I love it.
The lifetime deal I received was $597 and just like it says, that’s for a lifetime. No monthly or annual cost. Not that the small cost for WooCommerce was a big deal, the functionality and customer experience I want to provide to people was lacking.
The Membership Site (Learning Management System):
I looked at Kajabi, Thinkific, and Teachable. I wanted a system that housed the content on my website and so if I changed my mind or the system wasn’t around suddenly, I didn’t lose all of my content or have to migrate things.
I learned about LearnDash, which is a WordPress Plugin and with the ProPanel addition (like a really cool dashboard that runs reports on each user and/or program) I can see every single person and which modules they’ve completed. I can give people certificates of completion for completing modules or an entire program. I can create quizzes in the programs as well so people can submit things to me. I can make it so that people have to complete module 1 before they go onto module two, which is another feature I was looking for.
LearnDash for one site is $129-$159 per year depending on if you get it on a special or not. So let’s assume it’s $159 per year, which is $13.25 per month.
But the biggest issue with LearnDash is the lack of aesthetics and usability. It was functional, yet clunky. So after using LearnDash for a few years, I made the switch to MemberVault in early 2019 and LOVE it. It gamifies the user experience. The founders of MemberVault are absolutely fabulous and the user experience is excellent.
Finally, a winner!
But what about affiliates? I didn’t want a totally separate system for my affiliates, which are something I use frequently for my events and other launches.
After I left Ontraport, I first used AffiliateWP. It’s all done through my website, including payouts, tracking, and creating affiliate links. It’s WAY easier than creating and managing affiliates in either InfusionSoft or Ontraport.
But ThriveCart has a super easy affiliate program built in and that’s what I use now.
The new systems were activated and linked to each other quite easily, but migrating thousands of contacts and hundreds of customers who all had different access to different programs was an adventure.
Thanks to my clients and customers for their patience with this migration.
The good news is that now, my systems are easier to manage and easier to interact with. I’m not over-paying for a system that is bigger than what I need. Plus, the energy feels good and that’s also important to me.
The final bonus is my new VA has willingly learned LearnDash with me, which has been the biggest learning curve, but still small compared to anything I did in InfusionSoft or Ontraport.
How all of these systems work together:
The product is created in ThriveCart.
The content for the program (if applicable) is uploaded to MemberVault.
Customers of the program are automatically sent their login info to access their product through ConvertKit.
The emails associated with the purchase and program are created in ConvertKit.
Everything seamlessly integrates together.
On the customer’s side, when they make a purchase, they receive their receipt, the confirmation email, and if applicable, their username and password to access their program in MemberVault. They are also tagged appropriately in ConvertKit.
It’s easy. It works. It provides a positive customer experience from purchase through accessing their program. Lastly, I’m not overpaying for features I don’t use or don’t know how to use. Hiring a VA to delegate these tasks to is easy also, which is another wise financial investment.
Overall cost breakdown:
I was paying:
- $3,564 annually for Ontraport
- Approximately $1,200 annually for the VA support to do things I couldn’t do and I didn’t have complex funnels running so this was just for basic stuff
- $210 for merchant services fees, NOT including a higher interest rate in some instances
= $4,974 a year
For a lot of businesses, this isn’t a big deal. I’d been paying that since 2010 and was used to it.
But I finally just had it with overpaying for things I really didn’t need and wasn’t using in my business. And the inability to do the things I wanted to do EASILY was the thing I was done tolerating.
However, for most small service-based businesses this is a big deal and completely unnecessary. (In my opinion.)
I talk to a LOT of business owners who don’t like InfusionSoft of Ontraport but the thought of migrating things to another system is daunting – they feel trapped.
I get it.
Now, I pay
$79 per month for ConvertKit ($948 annually) (There is a $29/mo version too if you have fewer subscribers.)
$79 per month for MemberVault (There is a free and a $39 version of MemberVault too.)
= $1,896 per year.
Plus the one-time cost of $597 for ThriveCart.
Even with the one-time ThriveCart cost, I save over $3,000 per year that I can put into delegating even more to a team member, retirement, humanitarian projects, or active marketing costs like Facebook marketing, sponsoring events or even hosting one of my own.
I’ll end this with, this is just ONE way to do this. Do your due diligence and follow your gut.
And please, if you aren’t happy with the technology that is supporting your business, change things sooner than later and choose something that is going to grow with your business.
The flip side of this is I see a lot of business owners choosing what’s free or really low cost, but it won’t allow them to grow as their business grows. Don’t over-invest, but don’t under-invest either.
I’m happy to answer any questions you have in a comment below or in my private Facebook group here.