CRM Review: VegaPort Free CRM and Email Marketing Software

by Vangie Beal

VegaPort is free CRM software that gives a small business access to customer data, email marketing and a detailed overview of what's going on in your business from a single Web-based dashboard.

The problem with "free" is that there is usually a catch somewhere. In the case of Pravega's free customer relationship management (CRM) software, VegaPort, the catch may be worth it. The Web-based software offers a range of features — from contact management to sales accounts and email marketing — that is well-suited to a small business looking for an easy-to-use CRM solution that is easy on the budget.


Why Pravega Offers Free CRM

Pravega Inc. is a marketing network that offers its customers a central system for marketing. Through the Pravega network, a company can promote itself and in return receive promotions from other customers. Before you worry about using a CRM package from a direct/network marketing company, there is something important to consider: You do not have to join the Pravega network as a marketer to use the free CRM software.

The company's CRM software, VegaPort, is built on SugarCRM's open source CRM software. Over time, Pravega has modified the back-end and added lots of features, but many will find the interface familiar if you've had any experience with CRM software built on the SugarCRM platform.

Basically, Pravega leverages its free CRM software to build its own network. For a small business considering this free CRM software, it will be important to read through the terms of use and decide if getting a daily marketing email from Pravega is worth the savings compared to purchasing off-the-shelf CRM software. In this case, a small business may also want to further investigate the marketing network platform and other solutions offered by Pravega, including email and phone marketing solutions.


Free CRM Software Features

Getting in to the features and options in VegaPort, you'll find that the free CRM software does a decent job of providing the tools and data for any small business to access sales, reporting, deals and opportunities.

To set up VegaPort you'll first want to identify your business users and their accounts through the Member Administration option. This is where you create new users, assign roles and manage user accounts. Of importance in setting up accounts is that in VegaPort, roles are assigned under administration, general user, sales reps, marketing manager and support reps.

Once user accounts are in place, you can then start working with the Accounts Module — conveniently located on the left-hand side quick access tab in the software — to create, edit and manage your accounts and contacts. Here you can create a new contact, account, opportunity, task, or schedule a meeting. As you add data to your free CRM software, all of these customer interactions are linked and will show up in other places in your dashboard. You can, for example, link an account to an opportunity; attach any relevant documents in the CRM system, and so on. You can also assign these accounts to users in the system and set reminders that will be sent to you via email.

One thing we liked about VegaPort is that you can quickly add accounts and tasks to the free CRM software from your email. Say a contact emailed you a document — you could then forward the email to a special email address at Pravega and it will be added to the CRM software.


Creating Email Marketing Campaigns in VegaPort

VegaPort lets you create email or non-email marketing campaigns. When you create a campaign, you can set the budget, see who created it, select targets and then view reports.

When you choose to create an email campaign, it is sent through the Pravega email system. This enables a small business to work directly in the free CRM software for email marketing campaigns. One thing you’ll find is that the email campaigns offer a lot of features and are similar to other email software targeted to small businesses — with the caveat that this one is free, of course.

The CRM software provides options for you to create email templates using a fully-featured WYSIWYG editor, and you can customize the templates to be personalized based on your CRM data for the recipient. So you could choose a person's name, a job title, or other data from your CRM to be displayed in the email. When designing your email, the CRM software offers test options to let you see how the email will look in a recipient's Outlook client or Gmail.

What we liked about the email campaigns is that the reporting data is as good as any you'll find in email marketing software aimed at small businesses. When viewing reports, you can choose basic campaign summaries or look at more specific events, including numbers sent, numbers forwarded, email bounces, opt-outs, opt-ins, or even which links in the email were clicked on.

Lastly, a couple features a small business will appreciate are options to create campaigns for automated email responders that can be automated to be sent through the system for different occasions, like a welcome opt-in message or a birthday greeting, for example. You can also create lead forms that you copy and paste code for directly into pages on your website. Any information a customer provides in that lead form — after a successful opt-in or double opt-in by the customer — will be automatically inserted into the Lead Accounts in the VegaPort CRM system.


Who Can Gain from Pravega's Free CRM Software?

VegaPort is lightweight and doesn't require users to have an in-depth knowledge of CRM to use the software. It is easy to navigate, and your accounts, contacts, leads and other tasks are automatically linked in the system. Being able to use the CRM data for email campaigns or generating lead forms and having that customer lead data sent directly to the CRM system are features that a small business will appreciate.

The other appealing feature of VegaPort for small businesses is that this free CRM software is going to give you quick access to data that a small business needs and not overload you with data and reports that you really don't need or understand.

The obvious benefit to the VegaPort CRM software is that it is completely free. What you get with the free software is 20MB of storage space for your small business of up to 10 people. You can upgrade to 100MB of storage for $15 per month. Full access to the system and all features — with the exception of advanced email testing — is also free.

Pravega also allows you to export your CRM data at any time, so you don't have to worry about lock-in or losing account and customer data should you decide later on that this free CRM software deal is not for you and your small business.

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.


  This article was originally published on Thursday Oct 14th 2010
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