Ask Jon Ferrara what he thinks of today’s CRM software, and he’ll tell you, patently, that it sucks. Ferrara is the co-founder and former CEO of GoldMine, one of the pioneers of customer relationship management and salesforce automation software in the 1990s. He sold GoldMine in the ’00s for $100+ million, but returned to the game in 2009 based on the belief that CRM was still broken.
The result was Nimble (not to be confused with Nimble Storage), through which Ferrara and team hope to take the pain out of CRM, optimizing it for the Social Era. Marc Benioff and Salesforce have done a lot to bring social to the forefront of the CRM discussion (with Chatter, acquiring Radian6, Facebook evangelism, etc), but as Esteban Kolsky points out in detail, CRM is still not doing enough to solve the most common problems workers face every day.
Koslky concludes that, for CRM solutions to be truly effective, they need to do a better job of managing and channeling our social data and providing context. Within CRM systems, customers and contacts tend to be two-dimensional, like a business card, but contextualizing those profiles and conversations with up-to-date, relevant knowledge gives them real meaning. And utility.
That’s what Nimble is trying to do. By bringing valid, relevant social discovery, engagement and collaboration into the mix, Nimble wants to let sales people, marketers (and everyone else) avoid customer research and data entry and get back to engaging with and talking to their customers. To do this, Nimble developed a social relationship manager that lets you tap into the conversations the people you care about are having on social networks and engage with them when necessary (and relevant).
Nimble recently released a new version of its solution, which means that it now integrates with the major social networks, pulling email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare and Twitter conversations and profiles into one portal. Users can now see conversations they’ve had with a customer or contact on email or on social networks in one place so that they don’t have to switch back and forth between apps to find the info they need. (This is, as far as I can tell, is the real underlying potential of Klout, but its value prop pales in comparison.)
This context can be powerful. Until now, finding new customers has been impersonal, with cold calls and emails being the norm. But with Nimble, users could identify a potential lead through LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends and then, when they see that the person checked in nearby on Foursquare (or, say, at a favorite restaurant), they could engage them in conversation. Based on their Twitter feed, they’d even be able to find some mutual points of interest to talk about.
It’s a bit creepy at first brush, but there’s application for this beyond a use case for marketing and sales, as Nimble becomes a good way to simply manage your social networks and contacts, and re-connect with those who you haven’t talked to in awhile, for example.
To wit, the new Nimble adds a section called “Engagement Opportunities” to its Daily Digest (a daily email blast that gives users a run-down of birthdays, job changes and future activities), which alerts you to opportunities to reach out to both new and existing connections.
But my favorite new feature would have to be the addition of a Rapportive widget, which can be a huge help to anyone who spends a significant portion of their day in Gmail. Rapportive (which was recently bought by LinkedIn), via pop-up, gives you a brief overview of what email contacts are saying in their social streams.
Nimble’s widget adds this functionality, so that every time you get an email from a Nimble contact in your inbox, you can hover over it with your mouse to view their social profiles. And, if they don’t show up, with one click, you can add them to your Nimble contacts. This is huge for those looking to optimize time management.
As mentioned before, if you’re like me, you don’t really give a hoot about what your Klout score is, but it can be a valuable tool to connect all of your social networks to in order to get a makeshift, aggregated social stream. Facebook can also be the same if you connect all of your favorite apps to your feed, but who wants to broadcast every Instagram, Foursquare check in and tweet to their Facebook friends? Oh, right, that’s why Google+ exists.
But, with its new update, Nimble now links your communications to contact info and lets you view social profiles, it also allows you to see a consolidated view of all those social streams mentioned above within the person’s contact card. You could see what I’m posting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, for example, and then engage me to talk about one of those subjects. Big picture, it’s very similar to what Entelo is trying to do for recruiters.
It’s a great way to make new contacts and especially useful for sales people, customer service, business development — any case in which relationship management is critical. It makes it easier to reach your target audience, engage them and facilitate introductions with your key customers, investors, etc. You could see how startups and entrepreneurs might find this useful.
Nimble may or may not represent a new generation of CRM software, but it is definitely a movement away from things like database marketing and reporting, the traditional realm of CRM tools, to focusing on sales optimization, activities and events and engagement. It automates the sales force just as GoldMine and others set out to do over a decade ago, but with renewed focus on contact management and relationship development. “Intuitive” gets thrown a lot, too, in relation to design, but I think Nimble qualifies in this respect, it’s so easy that even a blogger can use it.
What do you think?