Nimble – To CRM or To Not CRM

Nimble – To CRM or To Not CRM

After a long while I had the pleasure of chatting with Jon Ferrara again for some time, covering things CRM and, of course, Nimble. As you may know Jon is a long time CRM veteran who released his first product named Goldmine back in 1990. Jon is also a very vocal advocate of sales and marketing being first of all “human to human”, something that he claims that most CRM systems are not good at. Consequently, he dubs these systems as “Customer Reporting Systems” as they do not excel at helping salespeople giving a good look at the persons they interact with but are more focused on reporting. Being in the CRM world for a long time myself I cannot really disagree with him about this fact itself; we might have a discussion on what CRM overall is and why it went the (wrong) way it took. Some thoughts on what I think CRM is and how Nimble stands in this, along with some thoughts on how to go ahead with Nimble will come below …

Historically CRM systems require a lot of data entry. This is where Nimble is somewhat different, which is something that I like. No CRM can do without manual data entry, but Nimble makes this pretty simple. The system is built around persons and interactions with them and strives to merge calendar, email, social media and contact data base into aggregated views, giving context about involved people.

Changes done by the contacts in their external profiles can get pulled into Nimble in a semi-automated way. The goal is to always have the context of persons that are involved in an activity, deal, etc. Of course other CRM systems can do similar things, but most of these systems come with a very different price tag.

With the help of plugins for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that offer a widget this additional context about the sender of an email is extended into GMail in the form of a side bar. This neat functionality is also available as Outlook/Office365 plugins, of which the former needs some improvement in the integration and visualization, but still is useful.

Of course there are mobile apps for Android and iOS as well. After all, who can live without these today …

The system’s philosophy mirrors Jon’s that a CRM system is there to help the person doing the real work, not force them to enter data. This means two main things:

  1. Enable the sales persons to have all relevant data about an activity and the relevant persons on one screen
  2. More importantly: Automatically aggregate and merge data from different sources, and keep them up to date with minimal human intervention.

There, of course, still is some intervention necessary to make this fully work, just think how common the name “John Smith” is, but it is pretty helpful.

In order to get set up Nimble is able to pull data from Google applications, like contacts, mail, and calendar, Google+, as well as Office365, to name a few. This works like a charm. Sadly, LinkedIn has removed its APIs but after the acquisition by Microsoft they should be opened up again, as Microsoft itself will need them for various integrations. This, clearly, will be of help for all other vendors, too. And Nimble already had a LinkedIn integration until the APIs got shut down.

With the ability to directly send messages to persons via email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., Nimble serves as a kind of one-stop-shop for individualized communications. Nimble clearly has a focus on one-to-one interactions although one can send limited mail merge as well using a simple segmentation process and offering the use of simple mail templates that can be built within the system. Along with the system’s ability to track opening and click rates there is a simple marketing management functionality.

In addition, there is a simple opportunity management (called Deals) that puts the opportunities into stages and allows for customizing the opportunity stages. On top of these deals there are a simple dashboard and graphical reporting. This offers some essential sales intelligence.

This opportunity management essentially makes Nimble a social sales tool, instead of a mere contact- and activity management-, and social engagement tool.

Overall I think that Nimble is a good tool for the targeted small organizations if they focus on direct communication with their customers and prospects. Looking at the G2Crowd categories of CRM and Sales Intelligence the system fares very good in terms of user satisfaction, which means that the team seems to have hit the right functionality in the right way.

It is CRM, isn’t it?

Which brings me back to the question about what CRM is and where Nimble stands relative to CRM – and to the question of further development opportunities. I do not want to open up the “CRM is a strategy” discussion again and hence will use the definition of CRM that Paul Greenberg coined in his 2015 article on the clarity of definition of CRM, Customer Engagement and Customer Experience. After all I am a suite guy and Paul’s definition is as good as it gets:

“Customer Relationship Management is a technology and system that sustains sales, marketing and customer service activities. It is designed to capture and interpret customer data, both structured and unstructured, and to sustain the management of the business side of customer related operations. CRM technology automates processes and workflows and helps organize and interpret data to support a company in engaging its customers more effectively.”

Using this definition Nimble is not a full CRM system as it covers only parts of the processes and functionalities required. There is no dedicated service component and the process and workflow automation are only rudimentary as well, which gives some possible direction for further development; after all customer service is a type of engagement, too. Here is a chance to stand out as outside of the tier 1 systems not all CRM systems offer customer service functionality; and in times of SaaS these modules are often separated out and need to be subscribed to independently.

What Nimble does is covering some aspects of the marketing and sales processes, and these very well.

The above definition, however, offers some high level guidance in what could be looked at by the Nimble team. Options are to deepen the existing or to broaden functionality.

The many reviews on G2Crowd.com offer scope for user driven improvements. I am sure that Jon and team know this as good as I do and that they have their eye closely on this and other sites. Having said that these reviews also indicate a very high degree of customer satisfaction; so Nimble is clearly on the right path.

Finally, adding my own two cents, there is some opportunity in enriching the marketing functionality to offer campaign management features and maybe to allow Nimble’s customers to communicate with their customers via a consumer facing mobile app, using technologies as e.g. Epikonic offers. And then there is the topic of messaging apps. Business Insider just reported that in 2015 we have seen the usage of messaging apps surpass the usage of social networks. Messaging platforms have been opened for brands to communicate with people. This is clearly one of the near term trends that the Nimble team needs to take into account to increase the relevance of the solution.