Review: Nimble Social CRM and Contact Management

Friday Jun 24th 2011 by Vangie Beal
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Nimble's hosted contact management solution provides small businesses with a single massive inbox to easily manage and monitor client communications and social streams.

Social CRM is one of those new words that some label a buzzword while others look to find merit in the new technology and applications.

For the most part, social CRM is a CRM (customer relationship management) strategy that is based around adding a social element to traditional CRM processes to increase customer engagement and interactions through social media and social networking platforms.

Many CRM vendors have started to add social applications to their CRM and contact management software, but in some cases that's been limited to social collaboration inside the network firewall (e.g., your company teams).

One area where social CRM is really taking off is with new vendors looking to provide small and midsized businesses (SMBs) with tools to leverage a social element that lets the business connect customer conversations and relationships from public social spaces into the CRM and call center process.

For the small business, leveraging social media through social CRM applications and tools makes sense, and right now a number of companies and new startups are offering a range of tools that focus on adding that social element to the traditional contact management processes.

Nimble Contact Integrates All Social Contacts

One of the new players in the social business app space is Nimble. The company launched its first product, Nimble Contact, in a public beta version in February. Nimble, as a social contact manager, excels at performing its primary function. This lightweight, online social software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform lets businesses use social relationships as a customer management and contact tool.

In today's socially connected world, small business owners and employees have contacts scattered everywhere. We communicate with co-workers, customers and partners using email, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and LinkedIn. Many of us also use the old standbys — like face-to-face meetings and landlines (or cellphones) too.

Nimble provides a simple Web-based solution to integrate all your contacts and the contacts of those on your team, socially, in one screen. There is no need to open multiple programs and Web browsers and copy and paste client details into an email or Excel sheet. Import your contacts, label them according to the type of contact, and you can easily track and follow them and their social conversations and connections.

Nimble Contact: A First Look

The first positive note for this hosted service is just that — it's hosted, so small businesses have no need to hire IT staff or buy expensive hardware and software to leverage the social contact management. If you can open your browser and use Gmail or Facebook, then you can create a Nimble account and leverage your social contacts for your business.

The process of creating an account is pretty standard. You create your free online account, then start by importing contacts from your social services and email, or adding new contacts one at a time.

The Nimble Contact Manager interface is very straightforward and adding contacts is not at all difficult. You have the following four tabs with options for each task:

  • Contacts: Add Person, Add Company or Import Contacts from Google Contacts, Outlook CSV, Generic CSV, vCard, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. You can import up to 5,000 contacts from each service and Nimble automatically tags the contact by service name or lets you create your tags to filter contacts by. Any communication with any contact on any of these services can be managed through the Nimble interface, so there is no need to load Facebook, Twitter, and other services in different tabs of your Web browser.
  • Messages: The messages can be synced with any online email account or your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn status messages. You can view, send or delete messages for these services from the Nimble interface.
  • Activities: You can create new tasks or new events from within this tab, and also keep track of upcoming and completed tasks. The Activities tab will also sync with your Google calendar.
  • Social: The social tab lets you quickly view all social streams in one view or see Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn streams separately. You can search messages and see your favorite Twitter hash tag searches as well. From the Social tab you can choose "new Message," then select the social service to set the message on or send a new message via email or social service.

The sheer amount of contact information you can bring in to Nimble is impressive. Nimble Contact provides the tools for you to manage those contacts. For each contact, you can define a tagging system, such as by service name or your own tag based on how you interact with the client. For example you can create a 'client' tag and then attach that tag to everyone who is a client to make it easier to find a contact based your business with that person.

As you find a new contact via email or social media, you import that contact, fill in any missing data about the person and tag them, and they will become a part of your live Nimble social stream.

With all your contacts and messaging systems imported and synched in Nimble, you can see all social streams and also manage and communicate with all your social contacts from within one easy-to-use Nimble interface. The more you use Nimble Contact to monitor, communicate and view the supported services, the more Nimble starts to feel like one massive inbox for all these services.

Nimble Social Relationship Manager for Teams

Expanding on its initial offering, Nimble has added team collaboration capabilities that extend Nimble's functionality across every team, department and business to build and nurture relationships.

Team capabilities enhance Nimble's solution, as any team member can check any contact and see what is pending, who is working with the contact, what has been done, and who has done it.

Team basically allows all users to see all of the conversations that have occurred with every contact and team member. You can also schedule and delegate tasks, and comment on any team activity.

The Future of Nimble Contact is Nimble CRM

In using Nimble, it is easy to see how it would work and work well for individual business owners, entrepreneurs and smaller home-based businesses — businesses where there is less "team" communication and more one-on-one contact and messaging direct with customers.

What isn't evident yet is the bigger social CRM picture where larger sales teams or an entire office could use Nimble as their only Contact Manager and CRM application to replace existing infrastructures.

Remembering that the hosted software application is only recently out in public beta, however, the current feature set and performance of the hosted application does indicate that there is promise for this to be the social contact management app for your small business — it isn't going to replace you CRM and sales force automation app just yet. That is something we'll have to wait for in future releases.

Nimble Pricing and Availability

Addressing the issue of teams, sales and CRM functionality in Nimble, Jon Ferrara, CEO and founder of Nimble, said in an interview that Nimble Contact will always be completely free to use. The company does expect to roll out additional features, including Nimble Team ($10 per user per month), Nimble Sales ($19 per user per month) and CRM ($29 per user per month) versions to complement and expand the functionality of Nimble Contact Manager for small businesses.

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