Why I’m Switching From Aweber To Ontraport Office AutoPilot

There probably isn’t anything in the world of online business that causes as many discussions, confusions and opinions than talking about different platforms. Which cart…

There probably isn’t anything in the world of online business that causes as many discussions, confusions and opinions than talking about different platforms. Which cart do we use? Which email service should we use? Which plug-ins do we use?

It is easy to get so focused on the software that we become paralyzed by the decision. And, it is easy to assume that because some people you look up to are using a particular tool, then it must be the thing to use.

But, then you see other people using other tools and swearing by them.

Conflicting opinions brings on paralysis by analysis.

I’ve Been With Aweber For Years…

We all need an email marketing platform of some kind. I have been using Aweber for years, and I’ve been recommending them for years. A lot of others you may subscribe to are also using Aweber. They’re quite well known and popular.

Aweber is a great company with a great culture. They’re very good at what they do. The very first chink in their armor (in my eyes) was the introduction of their new message editor. As I’ve already written before, their current message editor is… well, horrible. I imagine once you’re used to it and you’ve never known any better, you’d probably get along OK with it. But, I just want a nice simple message editor to create nice, simple emails. And, after many months, I have yet to talk to one online business owner who likes the new Aweber editor. Most despise it. (Read: New Aweber Message Editor = Disappointment.)

But, am I switching because of their editor? Of course not. 🙂

I actually still very much recommend Aweber – and will continue to. But, there comes a certain point where you begin to run up against the limitations of Aweber.

I Kept Hitting The Ceiling With Aweber

It gets to a certain point in your business where you need and want more than what a normal email list service can provide.

For instance, when you have multiple things for people to buy, you want to have an easy way to keep track of that on your customer list. You don’t want to promote something to somebody who has already bought it. With Aweber, you can add people to customer lists (I usually have one list per product), but then that leads to one person being on multiple lists.

Also, at a certain point, you’re going to want a CRM for your business. An email service like Aweber is not a CRM. It is mainly for names and emails. You can have custom fields with Aweber, but they are unwieldy and not super useful. Having a customer database where I can track ALL of the activity of a single customer in one place is very valuable. (Read: The Search For A Good Small Business CRM.)

But, the real power that you’re going to want as your business grows is more fine-tuned, automated followup. This allows you to put the right message in front of the right person at the right time – and ONLY send people messages they’re more likely to be interested in.

With Aweber, each list has a single followup sequence. And, it is all too easy for subscribers to end up receiving emails that aren’t meant for them, or to be getting duplicate or conflicting messages. And, this is because people end up being on multiple lists.

Switching To Ontraport, Office AutoPilot

Switching to a system like Office Autopilot isn’t a light decision. Their accounts begin at $297/month. So, I’m in no way recommending OAP to everybody reading this post. Aweber is a MUCH better place to enroll if you’re not yet ready for something like OAP. And, you’ll likely know when you’ve reached that point. You’ll be running up against the limitations in your own business and be looking for solutions. If you’re not yet there, don’t worry about it. 🙂

Also, the other big elephant in the room in this space right now is Infusionsoft. I was toying around with the idea of Infusionsoft for awhile. But, I never went with it. The primary reason for that was the reputation it had for being confusing. And, interestingly, those people I know who really dig Infusionsoft typically have somebody on their staff running it for them and don’t personally use it. That’s HUGE for me. Now, I’m a pretty techie guy and have little doubt I could learn Infusionsoft on my own, but the fact that so many people I knew who liked it didn’t use it personally and many who had tried it personally found it too confusing… that’s a warning to me.

But, as with all things regarding online platforms and tools, opinions are like a**holes. 🙂 You can find somebody to give you almost any opinion you want to hear.

In the end, after talking to a lot of people, Office Autopilot seemed to be the way to go.

Why I’m Switching To Office Autopilot

Well, here are a few primary reasons:

  • Customer Database. My list now turns into a full-blown database. I can pull up one person’s record and see everything they’ve bought, what they’ve been doing with my emails, their message history, etc. Everything.
  • Powerful “rules”. I can set almost an infinite number of automated actions to take place depending on any action a person takes. As a simple example, when a person buys one product, I can add them to a customer list, remove them from a prospect list, send them a whole new followup sequence, send them a “thank you” card, assign my VA a task to follow up, etc etc… and it all happens automatically. And, that’s a simple example. Once you see the available options, your entrepreneurial imagination starts going wild with all the automations and systems you can create in your business.
  • Powerful, combined tracking. OAP tracks everything. So, for instance, it will track what your customers are doing on your website. If one of my subscribers visits the consulting page, I can track that and trigger a rule to automatically add the person to a sequence designed to send them more information about my consulting services. This can begin to turn your business into something like Amazon, where you visit certain products then begin to magically get followup information about those products via email. Very powerful.

This thing does a lot of stuff. 🙂

But, in the end, this isn’t all about just me and my marketing. It is also about my subscribers. For instance:

  • I can ensure my subscribers don’t get duplicate emails from me.
  • I can ensure I don’t send irrelevant emails to them because I can more accurately keep track of their interests.

In the end, none of us likes getting emails we couldn’t care less about. And, with a more fine-tuned system like what can be set up with Office Autopilot, it is much easier to ensure my emails are more interesting and relevant to everybody on my list.

So, What About Aweber?

I will still be using Aweber for my tech site (PCMech.com). I just don’t need the fancier capabilities of OAP for a simple weekly newsletter. Perhaps I’ll change my mind at some point – we’ll see. 🙂

As I said above, you have to evaluate your business and see if you actually require the kind of capabilities something like Office Autopilot gives.

If you’re first starting out, OAP is absolute overkill.

If you only have one product, then OAP is overkill.

If you just send a weekly newsletter and don’t do a lot more than that, then OAP is absolutely overkill.

In all those cases, go with Aweber. Aweber is damn good at what they do and there’s a reason so many people use them. (Video: Why I Use And Recommend Aweber).

Never sign up with the likes of Infusionsoft or Office Autopilot just because you see other people doing it. In my opinion, you’ll KNOW when you need something like that. You’ll find yourself getting frustrated with the likes of Aweber, feeling limited by what it can provide.

Plus, it also depends on the size of your list. I was already spending about $300/month on Aweber. Once you’re in that range, the $297 price point for Office Autopilot is just a replacement cost.

If You’re On My List…

You won’t have to do anything. Everything will work exactly the same way.

So, there it is. I’ll likely make some followup posts about this, as well as some “how to’s” regarding Office Autopilot. I know there are people curious about it. Plus, I know just how much people are fascinated with the different platforms out there and which they should be using.

If you think your business is at a point where it needs a CRM, a more fine-tuned followup capability, and more automation, then check out Office Autopilot for yourself.

About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.
  • You can always go with sendpepper first. It basically has the same interface as Office Auto Pilot. It’s just a scaled down version. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles it’s a good way to go.

  • Flo says:

    I’ve been with OAP, Office Autopilot for almost 2 yrs but I’m actually considering going to Infusionsoft now. The reason I’m thinking about switching is because OAP is actually more expensive than Infusion. We send out anywhere from 200k-1 Million emails a month. OAP only allows you to send out 100k with their 297/month package, where Infusion allows 500k. In order to send out 500k email with OAP, you’d have to pay $396 extra per month because OAP charges $99 per 100k emails. So, even if you take into account the fact that Infusion charges 2k upfront for setup, you’d pay $2,800 a yr more to send out the same number of emails. The only other issue I have with them is that their shopping cart isn’t that great. I really like the company, but after two years, I think it may be time for me to find a new home 🙁

    • Infusionsoft’s shopping cart is decent if you have around 30 products or less. However, your right it’s not as robust as a lot of the shopping cart systems. I was in a meeting at Infusionsoft lately and that concern was actually brought up to the CEO Clate Mask. I think you will see Infusionsoft putting a lot more functionality into their shopping cart system. I actually use their shopping cart and have not had any problems with it. I like their billing automation capability. It’s some powerful stuff.

  • David, Michael, Sergio, Gabe, Dean, Randy, Kieth, Joel and others

    Glad to hear you’re all digging Office Auto Pilot. Wait till you guys see the new User Interface we will be rolling out in the next couple months. 🙂 In the meantime if you have any questions on marketing automation, pimping out your Office Auto Pilot account, or just signing up you can connect with us on FB at https://www.facebook.com/officeautopilot

    If you’re sitting on a great case study get in touch with me directly. I’d love to feature you in our Client Hall of Fame and showcase you and your business to our community of users.

  • Hi David,

    I have a good friend who is using Office Autopilot and really loves it. However, I’ve been using Infusionsoft for a little more than a year now. Although there is a learning curve with Infusionsoft, probably the bigger hurdle for most is the significant upfront investment to get started. It’s a bit like learning a new language. Once you understand how the software “thinks”, you can make it do what you want it to, but it’s definitely not always intuitive or easy to remember! You do have to spend a lot of time upfront setting up your system.

    I’ve looked at Office Autopilot but have yet to test it. Infusionsoft seemed to have more features with regard to web analytics, etc. last time I looked but I’ll check it out again.

    My problem with a lot of these “all-in-one” tools is that they don’t do any one thing particularly well. The CRM components are old school (especially compared to something like Nimble), the email marketing tools are clunky and not optimized for mobile, landing pages are functional but not eye-popping, etc.

    On the other hand, I do believe it is valuable to understand customer and subscriber email behaviors in addition to segmenting your list and triggering auto-responders as your business grows. I’m just more of a fan of best in class tools for specialized functionality, and the problem is not all of them talk to each other yet :).

    See you at NMX!

    Stephanie

  • Pramodh BN says:

    David,
    Agree with your assessment of Aweber, OAP and InfusionSoft. We have used Aweber, MailChimp, GetResponse among other email marketing software. Each of them have their advantage, but come with more limitations.
    Office Auto Pilot has it’s little brother (or sister) in SendPepper which does the work of Aweber, MailChimp but more comprehensively. There are host of features that SendPepper provides similar to Aweber, etc but does a better job in a few departments:
    Tracking activities of an individual / lead
    Scoring (in SendPepper pro account)
    Activities (if then rule)

    We have clients on SendPepper, OAP and InfusionSoft. It is based on each clients need.

    We also have for large imported lists, a self hosted InterSpire Email marketer, which is quite comprehensive.

    There are other services as well which are free for a certain list size like LoopFuse and others. If anybody needs more, feel free to get in touch with us.

  • Thanks for your post. We currently use aWeber and are aware of some of the limitations.

    I tried InfusionSoft for about 8 months. They did not have the capability to deal with large downloads, which we have (videos, etc.). Last I checked, they still didn’t. They kept saying they would work with us to fix it, but we never did get their cart to work for large downloads—even if we hosted it ourselves or on Amazon S3.

    I will keep your info about OAP in case we decide to make a change.

    Thanks!

  • Scott Fox says:

    Hey David,
    Thanks for the thoughful and detailed post about email services vs. CRM.
    I’m at the same point as you – frustrated with Aweber and looking for better solutions.
    I still love Aweber for newbies and their autoresponders are pretty good. But the new email editor is nonsensical and they refuse to do anything about improving the format of blog broadcast (RSS) emails.
    I’ve been thinking about Autopilot, too, but they look like a pretty small company. Not sure I want to hand over my lists to a startup?
    Best,
    Scott

    • I think they’ve been around since 2006, so not exactly new to the space. And, the only reason you hear about Infusionsoft much more, I think, is because they go around sponsoring all the IM conferences and pitching people all the time.

  • Joel says:

    I use OAP for a lot of clients and their interface has just undergone a much needed upgrade, especially the form creator. However it can be confusing for the non-techie and isn’t as quick to pick up as AWeber or MailChimp. Having said that, it’s a lot more powerful and though expensive is actually good value for money if you need something like that.

  • A couple of things I don’t like about OAP…

    1) There is no way currently to merge duplicates except manually. It’s a problem.
    2) When you import an email list, they will automatically set email status to “no” for any addresses that start with info, admin or other common ‘role’ email addresses. You can’t set their email addresses back to yes. You have to either contact their support and ask they be reinstated or enter role addresses manually.

    • Every service has its quircks. I would imagine the first one will be handled at some point. Apparently, they’re releasing a new version of it early 2013, simply called OntraPort.

      • I’d think the ability to handle duplicates would be basic. They’ve been in business for years and still don’t have it. I don’t have a lot of faith they’ll have it soon.

        On the other hand, really cool automation tools. It integrates with my shopping cart (although it’s supposed to out of the box and it took support a month to get it worked out).

  • Thanks for this, David. Been looking at this on behalf of a few clients who really need automation rules. How would you rate their tutorials and support?

    • Haven’t dealt with support much yet, but I’ve heard they’re great. And, their support videos are great. In fact, some of them are quite funny. 🙂 They inform and entertain at the same time.

  • Thanh Pham says:

    Hi David,

    I’ve been a big fan of Office Autopilot since I started using it. Like you I’ve used simple email autoresponders but I’ve always felt I hit a ceiling. When I found OA I couldn’t believe I didn’t find it earlier and after using for many months now I can say I made the right decision.

    I went to their conference a couple months ago and was impressed with their staff. I’m still learning how to use some of their advanced features, but if you’re big into segmenting your list this software has all the tools. Some stuff I’ve implemented:

    * Track per contact when they last clicked a link in an email, read an email and visited any page on the blog.
    * Have active response rules for different segments. So if someone reads a post that is about the Mac, they will get tagged with “Interest: Mac”. If someone reads a post on procrastination, they get tagged “Interest: Procrastination”. That way people can “tag themselves” as they browse your website. Then whenever you need to do a mailout, you can laser focus on very specific people (their interest tags and when they last opened an email).
    * Customize content they see on the website – with help of their API, if you see they have a cookie, then you can pull up their Interest tags and then display personal content on the blog. I don’t have this implemented yet but I’m working on that.

    And lots more. The software is really powerful.

    I’ll also be at NMX and I look forward attending your session.

    -Thanh

  • Greg K says:

    David,

    Great information on each platform and sounds like it was a necessary switch. I used Aweber a few years ago and wasn’t too happy with the whole double opt in issue. Email writing was good and was somewhat simple to navigate, but we lost a decent number of people when we had to dump our list into it.

    We’ve been using SendPepper which is the sister company of AutoPilot. It’s the same interface but less features like the triggers. But great for someone starting out. They allow tagging and follows for online and offline.

    At times the tagging can get confusing but their support time is amazing and never longer then a 2-3 min wait for someone to help you.

    Thanks David

  • I agree with you on the editor for Aweber…it is terrible! How can a company be that big and have such a antiquated interface? Oh well, I like their forms and its not too painful to use but I really don’t understand why it isn’t better. Have you tried Mail Chimp? It looks easier. Thanks for the post!

    • No, I haven’t tried Mailchimp. But, one thing I do like better about Mailchimp is their integration. Their API is far more open, so Mailchimp works better with other apps whereas Aweber seems to be an island unto itself (for the most part). For instance, before I started switching to Office Autopilot, I was giving Batchbook.com a try for CRM. And, it integrates nicely with Mailchimp, not Aweber.

    • Michael says:

      I love MailChimp for a newsletter for a service-based business.

      However, I would not recommend for affiliate promotions.

      Their Terms and Conditions has some wording that has some in the affiliate/IM space worried.

  • Hey David,

    I haven’t used Aweber in a while but you can set automation rules to remove a subscriber from an old list when they are added to new ones. My biggest problem was that everyone had to reconfirm their subscription even with those automation rules set up.

    I use GetResponse and had that set up from day 1 and included that into Google Analytics for all kinds of tracking. The other cool thing is that they allow single opt-in for every kind of subscription which might make you think their deliverability would suffer but I’ve been having great results. And for only $25 per month.

    My business is probably much more simple than yours though and both Aweber and GetResponse are far from a true CRM. Instead of really digging deep into the entry level services, you’ll have a much better experience in the long run with OAP.

    Thanks for the post!
    -Gabe Johansson

    • Yes, there are automation rules. Thing is, all they do is handle which email they’re on. With OAP, there are (without looking) maybe 30 or 40 different kinds of actions you can do based on triggers.

      And, yes, having people have to re-confirm is kinda dumb. If they’ve confirmed their email address once, we already KNOW it is valid. So, forcing them to re-confirm if they buy something or opt-in for some new thing you’re doing… that shouldn’t be necessary. It is just more steps for people to deal with.

  • Jacko says:

    Yeah David,

    I’ll have to agree with you, the Aweber email gui is a PAIN to deal with.

    Who knew the process of sending an email could be so complicated?

    Good points on upgrading to a full fledged CRM system I understand what you mean about marketing the same product to people in a list who have already purchased it.

    In aweber you have to manually take your purchased emails and go through your list to take them out this is a pain. There should be an easier way.

  • Hey David, really interesting points and just yesterday I saw a comment about a person who recently achieved massive success and he was saying he “finally was leaving Aweber for OAP”.

    I have to say I had no idea what he was talking about until now that I’m on this article.

    I have one question about this service though, for you to be paying as high as $300 a month on aweber, you need to have a few thousand of leads, did you import them into OAP with no problem?

    I’m not switching anytime soon (it’s way beyond my budget) but I’m interested in understanding this for my offline clients.

    Thanks in advance!

    Sergio

  • I’ve seen the AutoPilot links in an email or two from lists I’m on and when I checked it out I knew that this service was going to be something I’d be hearing about more and more. Just based on what I saw of it, you made the right choice here.

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