Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nimble: A New Take (from Some Old Hands) on CRM

UPDATE: Nimble Contact available for free as of 02/28/11 -- to register!

You may recall or be sufficiently motivated to look up the nursery rhyme, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick / Jack jump over the candlestick." With all due respect to Jack and his candlestick-traversing powers, it is often better to be nimble than quick. That's especially true for SMB decision makers who have not yet taken the plunge into customer relationship management (CRM) software – which is apparently most of them.

"Approximately 60% of CRM buyers are first-timers and most of those first-time buyers come from the small business community. What are these businesses using for CRM today? Many use some combination of Microsoft Excel and Outlook with some CRM process hacks thrown in….To the extent small businesses are using CRM, many are using [10-to-20-year-old] systems like ACT. It's hard to find a market that's readier for a technology refresh."
– Scott Albro, Founder and CEO of Focus, in an online discussion of opportunities for SMBs to succeed with CRM. (You can view and join that discussion at

So why aren't more SMBs using more CRM yet?
1. CRM's too hard – which means that solution providers have neither delivered nor sufficiently explained enough business benefit to persuade most SMB decision makers.
2. CRM's too expensive – which means that not even cloud-based CRM solution providers have delivered solutions that are sufficiently affordable, easy to deploy and use and beneficial to the business to persuade those decision makers.

And for those who were quick to adopt CRM software, many are likely now finding varying degrees of difficulty in adapting those tools to deal with perhaps the biggest thing to hit CRM since CRM itself – social media. How best to track and manage the social exploits of your customers and prospects, or to engage them meaningfully via these new channels?

Enter Nimble, founded in 2009 by Jon Ferrara. In 1989, Ferrara was a founder of GoldMine Software, developers of pioneering, multi-award-winning CRM and sales force automation (SFA) software for SMBs. GoldMine CRM, now available from FrontRange Solutions, claims more than a million users. So Jon and his team at Nimble know their way around the challenges of delivering compelling software solutions for SMBs.

In a recent conversation, Jon said two things that really resonated with me. One was that "humans want to help each other, but modern tools don't really enable us to do that." The other was that "the [relationship management software] market has not fundamentally changed in the 10 years since I left it [and sold GoldMine.]

In response to both drawbacks, Nimble combines the experience of Jon and his team with social media savvy and support, cloud-based delivery and usability that parallels that of popular Web-based resources such as Gmail, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Invitees to the current private beta test of Nimble, including yours truly, are asked to say nothing about the solutions features, functionality or look and feel until Nimble becomes publicly available. So I won't until then. I will say, however, that conceptually, the goal of Nimble is to tie together all of the contacts, calendars and communications that help to define, manage and optimize the relationships that matter most to an individual, a team or a business.

A key design goal, according to Jon, was to accomplish all of the above in ways that do not interfere with how users use the tools they use now. (A digressive mini-rant here. Do users of some CRM solutions really have to remember to send a blind copy to those solutions of every single e-mail they want those solutions to track and remember? Really? In this day and age, when rules-driven software has been around a long time?? And people wonder why more SMBs aren't yet using more CRM? Seriously??) To meet that design goal, the Nimble team first built a software foundation with robust application programming interface (API) support. The user interface I can't discuss came after that.

So Nimble promises to consolidate all relevant, actionable information about all each user's contacts, their social and professional online network connections, all messages and all activities. And to bring together internal collaboration and external listening and engagement. And it promises to do so in ways that users and administrators will find to be better, cheaper and easier than competing CRM offerings. Based on what I've seen, these are promises Nimble can likely keep, if the company can build and maintain a superior ecosystem of partners, developers and other stakeholders and contributors. Which I think it can.

Nimble the team and the company promise much more, however. For starters, the first offering, Nimble Contact, designed for individual users, will be free. Follow-on offerings will include additional features to support teams, sales forces and full-blown CRM. Pricing will likely range from approximately $10 to $30 per user per month, depending on the edition chosen. (For comparison, currently charges $5/user/month for its Contact Manager for up to 5 users, $25/user/month for up to five users of its Group edition and $65/user/month for its unlimited-user Professional edition.)

If you want to see what a strong contender for the future of CRM, social and otherwise, looks like – one that users can and will actually use – visit and sign up for a free Nimble Contact account. If it works for you, you can use it to start building the future of CRM at and for your business. Nimbly, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Michael for your kind words of support of our vision to bring the R & S, Relationships and Social back to CRM. I invite you and your readers to join me on a journey to empower all of us to be more effective at Listening & Engaging the right people, at the right time to create more deep and trusting relationships.

    Jon Ferrara
    CEO Nimble