Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara & the Social CRM Revolution, Part 1
Jon Ferrara is a veteran of building solutions that answer the needs of entrepreneurs and businesses. An entrepreneur himself, Jon Ferrara developed GoldMine in the 1980s before selling it to FrontRange in the 1990s. Not content to rest on his laurels, Ferrara saw the potential of using social media to attract and retain customers and founded Nimble in 2009. Since its launch, Nimble has quickly established itself as a leader in social CRM software, winning awards and recognition from PC Magazine, Gartner, and more.
In our exclusive Q&A, Jon Ferrara talks about what makes Nimble unique and shares his insights about the CRM industry and how social has transformed customer relationships.
What inspired you to create Nimble?
It’s very similar to what caused me to create GoldMine in the first place. I think that the best entrepreneurs create products based on their need because they’re passionate about it and they understand the problem. The problem that caused me to create GoldMine was the recognition that people don’t work in a vacuum; they work as part of a larger team, and everybody in the team touches the customer. I was looking for a platform that would enable me and my team to more effectively attract and retain customers. And I looked around for a tool that would enable me to integrate my contacts, my communication, my activities, my sales and marketing automation, and it didn’t exist. So, I built GoldMine.
What caused me to create Nimble was something very similar. I started to use social media about four years ago. I immediately saw the immense power of it and its application, not just for personal but for business relationships because life is social, business is social. People buy from people they like and they like people who know them. You can’t know somebody without looking at their walls, without listening to them. In the old days, we did that by going into somebody’s office and looking at the books they read, the degree of the school they went to, the knickknacks they collect. And today, you get to know people by looking at their walls electronically.
The problem is that, in order to do so, it takes six different tabs in your browser and three different apps on your desktop. None of it is connected. It’s hard to know what you said and who you said it to. So I looked for a tool that would enable me to integrate my relationships—my contacts, my social contacts, my personal contacts, my business contacts—with the communication I was having with them. Today, we just don’t communicate via email anymore; we communicate via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare. And so, I built Nimble as a social contact manager. It enables an individual and a team to attract and retain customers, manage relationships, and ultimately to turn their social communities into customers for life.
How would you sum up Nimble’s mission?
Nimble’s mission is to make it easier to see who your contacts and prospects are, to surface the important ones to provide you with opportunities for engagement, and to stay talking online with them.
Nimble provides you with a much more three dimensional record of your relationship with contacts: mapping out the social profile, showing you your shared relationships, showing you what you or your team members have said or done with the contact, and giving you opportunities for engagement based on what that person’s saying.
Nimble was built originally with the small business in mind. Why focus on the small business?
I believe that small businesses recognize the benefit and power of social media, social marketing, and social selling. And, I think they’re more nimble and able to adapt and adopt these new products and processes. If you take a look at the marketplace today, there’s a lot of complex legacy CRM systems that have been traditionally used by medium and large business. And these systems are entrenched in companies that have processes and people in place that will not be easily converted. And in all businesses, these big CRM systems are too complex, too costly.
What is Nimble doing differently compared to the other CRM systems available? What do you think of the new breed of CRM systems that are integrating social into their platforms?
There’s a variety of legacy CRM systems out there that are all pretty much the same. They’re basically a copy of a copy of a copy, which is that they’re database programs. All of the enterprise and midmarket CRM systems that have been on the marketplace for five or ten years are all reporting platforms. They don’t tell you anything. Their main purpose is to track your activity and your sales forecast so management can keep track of things.
But salespeople don’t live in their CRMs. They live in Outlook Address Book, Google Contacts, and now Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and HootSuite. The current crop of CRMs is strapping social on the side. They’re adding social as an afterthought, which means you can put on a picture or an icon of that person’s social identity but it doesn’t integrate what you said to that person, what they’ve said to you or your team members, what that person’s saying to the world, and whether there’s an opportunity to engage. And that’s the missing piece: engagement.
There’s a variety of CRM systems on the marketplace, both lightweight and simple to more complex. But the bulk of them are focused on either the contact side, which is simple contact management, or the CRM side, which is more business process and forecast activity tracking. Very few of them have fully integrated social in the way Nimble has, where it allows you to bring in your disparate contacts from all the places they are, synchronize the communication activities for you and your team, and offer opportunity for engagement.
I think that many of the CRM systems on the marketplace now are attacking pieces of the problem, but I’ve not seen a product that unifies the contacts, the social, the engagement, the communications, and the CRM for an individual team the way Nimble has so far.
How does Nimble do all that?
We have an integrated inbox that basically shows all your communications across all your different networks so now you don’t have to go to all of them to see all the communication. You could essentially do that within one place. We integrate in the activities and the calendar, and we allow you to track your sales forecasts and deals. We also give you a social stream. So just like in HootSuite, where you have the ability to see your Mentions and Direct Messages, etc., Nimble gives you all of that together. When people are talking about you in social networks, you can go ahead and click on it and see who they are, reply to them, Retweet them. Nimble will then give you the opportunity to bring that person into your network and begin to map out their social profile and engage with them.
Would you say the most compelling part of Nimble is that it’s like a unified inbox in that it connects all these disparate communications and emails into one place?
I think that the inbox is compelling but I think ultimately, we’re all about people; we’re all about relationships. Business and life is built on that. Your contacts are not in Outlook anymore and they’re not in your CRM systems anymore. They’re in a variety of different social streams and communities. And Nimble brings all that together and then shows you what you’ve said and what your team members have said and gives you opportunities for engagement. It surfaces the people you should be talking to; it actually thinks for you.
For more information about Nimble, read Part 2 of our Q&A with Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara as he shares more of his insights into the social CRM market and Nimble’s value within it. Nimble easily connects all your contacts, communications, social conversations, and calendars into one place, enabling organizations to listen and engage with the right individuals to attract and retain them as customers.
To learn more about Nimble, head to Nimble.com