Nimble provides a centralized, software-as-a-service application for managing contacts and communications across multiple social networks and email, with consolidated contact profiles that show all of an individual's online identities and recent communications. The vision articulated by Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara, who was a co-founder of Goldmine in an earlier wave of salesforce automation technology innovation, is to make it easier for users to see the entire network of contacts they have established, even though they are scattered across many websites and applications.
Nimble came to market last year with a base contact manager product, which it continues to offer for free, and team editions that make it possible to share social contacts and conversations across teams of people who are working with the same customers, or potential customers.
The social CRM market for incorporating social concepts into customer relationship management is in such a formative stage that Ferrara said his company is often compared to Salesforce.com even though "the visions of Salesforce and Nimble are so far apart that it's not really a fair comparison to either company," Ferrara said.
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Once authorized as an application for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or, now, Google+, Nimble delivers a merged feed of posts from all of those networks, along with a tabbed interface for viewing incoming posts from each individual network. Email can be added to the same user interface, using the integration with Gmail or the IMAP standard for connecting to Microsoft Exchange and other compatible mail servers.
The Facebook integration originally handled personal connections but now works with Facebook Pages, pulling in communications with--and profile information for--fans of a business, organization, or celebrity page.
Nimble uses the slogan "More Customers, Less Work" to articulate how social software can make a sales team more productive. "You won't ever type everything you know about a customer into a CRM system," Ferrara said, but access to a contact's social stream provides a lot of context about how that person identifies himself to the world. Sales and marketing revolve around a cycle of finding customers and then working to maintain customer relationships where these social contacts are increasingly important, he said.
Brian Butler, a top sales executive at Skyline Boston, said Nimble has proved its value with salespeople at all levels of technical and social media savvy at his firm, which sells and manages tradeshow exhibits. "My brother is closing a sale right now because of the social aspects of Nimble," thanks to a contact made through LinkedIn, he said. "So we have one sale that directly correlates, which is more than I had expected at this stage." Skyline converted from an outdated version of Goldmine, going live with Nimble in mid-December.
Butler said he almost canceled his first meeting with a Nimble sales representative because he was 90% sure he was going to pick SugarCRM. But he took the time to see a demo, and it wowed him. "That meeting was actually three hours long, once I saw this was such a forward-thinking product [that] seemed to fit every one of our needs," he said.
On the other hand, Nimble "isn't a finished or polished product at this moment, but we went into this knowing that," he adds. "Very happy [we] made the decision to sign on." Nimble 2.0 promises to be more polished. Integrations with HubSpot for marketing automation, MailChimp for email broadcasts, and Woofu's contact-form builder help round out Nimble's story, Ferrara said. HubSpot, which incorporates social and mobile channels into inbound marketing, is particularly significant. While Nimble will be creating some lightweight functionality in areas such as marketing automation, partnerships with specialists will be important for customers with steeper requirements. He said he hopes to forge similar partnerships with organizations that address high-end requirements for marketing automation, such as Marketo and Eloqua.
"Nimble will do the 20% key core functionality--simple marketing, maybe some simple customer service--then extend that with integration into these other platforms," he said.
Meanwhile, Nimble is establishing channel partnerships to help it connect with and serve a broader customer base.
Sid Lejfer, president of Harvest Solutions in Waltham, Mass., is a former Goldmine reseller with 20 years of experience in the CRM industry, who more recently has been working with cloud services such as Salesforce.com. When he heard about Ferrara's work with Nimble, "I connected with him immediately because I wanted to work with him again," Lejfer said. Now he is excited about assisting customers that want to use Nimble in combination with other applications, such as HubSpot.
"Nimble gives you one simple Web-based interface to help you stay organized and manage conversations, no matter where they take place," said Karen Holt, Harvest's lead social CRM consultant. With the 2.0 release, "they've made the user interface very crisp and clear," with a tabbed user interface that makes it easier to see all your interactions with a contact across multiple networks, she said.
Improvements she still wants to see include an application programming interface that would allow her firm to do its own custom integrations, as well as a Nimble mobile client.
Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard
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