Nimble CRM Review 2017 - In-Depth Look At a 'Social' Customer Relationship Management App
In this Nimble CRM review, we look at a product which focuses, more than most CRM systems, on social relationships. Is it a good fit for your business?
Our overall rating: 3.5/5
Nimble CRM overview
Nimble is the brainchild of Jon. V. Ferrara, best known as the co-founder of the well-known Goldmine CRM system. Unlike Goldmine however, Nimble runs in a web browser rather than natively, and it is designed to go beyond the scope of traditional contact management, by allowing users to integrate social media data directly into the CRM. In this post we’re going to take a look at how well all this works.
Before we delve into Nimble’s features however, it’s worth pausing for a moment and asking the question: what is CRM?
What is CRM?
CRM (customer relationship management) software is chiefly used for managing relationships with potential and existing clients, helping you to convert leads into clients and keep your existing clients happy; but in addition to this core function, most CRM systems are designed to help you perform a range of other useful business tasks.
CRM applications will usually allow you to:
- store and segment contacts
- view a communications history between your business and your prospects/clients
- assign and manage tasks
- manage calendars
- manage a sales pipeline
- deal with customer enquiries
We’ll go through each of these in depth below. But first, pricing.
Nimble CRM pricing
The pricing structure for Nimble is pretty simple: it costs $25 per user, per month - or $22 per month if you pay upfront for a year's service.
If you need to increase the contacts or storage limits, additional fees apply (more on those anon) but in essence, we are not dealing with several different pricing tiers.
Nimble used to cost $15 per user, making it extremely competitively priced; however, its new $25 per user per month fee now puts it in the same ballpark cost-wise as some industry leading CRM products – the Salesforce starter plan, for example, costs $25 per user per month; Zoho’s professional plan (which, like Nimble, comes with social CRM features) costs $20 per user per month. It comes in considerably cheaper than Infusionsoft’s starter plan, however, which works out at $99 per user per month. Unlike Nimble, all these products offer several different pricing tiers – the figures quoted above are for plans at the cheaper end of the spectrum and in fact you can pay a lot more to use these products.
Several CRM products however do come in cheaper than Nimble – for example Capsule ($12 per user per month) or Highrise (the basic plan allows use of the product by up to 6 users for $24 per month); there is a $12 per month Zoho starter plan too.
It’s important to note that the CRM products mentioned above all work in different ways and offer very different feature sets and contact limits; so it is difficult to provide an accurate pricing comparison. That said, I think that broadly speaking, it’s fair to say that Nimble does come in at the cheaper end of the CRM spectrum.
Now, let’s take a look at the features.
Contact management in Nimble
We’ll start with a very basic function of all CRM systems: contact management. Nimble allows you to host up to 25,000 contacts; if you exceed this, a fee of an additional $10 per month per extra 10,000 contacts applies. There is no limit to the number of contacts you can store on the system.
You can import data from a variety of sources into Nimble, including:
- LinkedIn (CSV)
You can ‘tag’ the contacts on the way in so that you can identify the source of your contacts later.
Most users will probably start off by importing a CSV copy of their existing database. This used to involve a very tedious manipulation of your database so that field names matched Nimble's required format exactly...but thankfully, Nimble have improved the import process significantly and it's now possible to map fields from your CSV file to Nimble's format easily during it. Additionally, you can specify how you'd like Nimble to overwrite and merge records during the import process - for example, you can ask Nimble to check email addresses and website addresses for unique matches to ensure that no records are merged or duplicated incorrectly. This corrects a long-standing problem with Nimble where it used to merge records based on name alone (leading to all sorts of merging errors).
In addition to standard CSV imports, you can also import some social data, and link social accounts to your Nimble account. (We’ll deal with all that later on in this review).
All in all, the import process in Nimble is now easy to use and robust.
Nimble is very flexible when it comes to how you segment your data. You can either apply ‘tags’ or populate existing fields on the database to flag different types of data; alternatively you can create and use your own custom fields for this purpose. Be careful, however, with tags if you need to export data regularly into other systems – because rather than exporting a column of data with the name of the tag and a ‘True’ or ‘False’ flag beside it (so that you can clearly see who’s been assigned a particular tag or not), Nimble will provide you with a series of columns named Tag 1, Tag 2, Tag 3 etc. – all containing a mix of different tags. These fields, in my view, are useless and can make segmenting your data outside of Nimble using tags extremely difficult – so you may wish to create and populate custom fields in Nimble instead. Within Nimble, however, tags work well – you just click on a tag or a combination of tags to see segmented data.
Exporting contacts in Nimble
Exporting data in Nimble is very easy: you just select the records you’d like to export, and hit an export button. Rather than being able to download the exported data immediately into a downloads folder, however, you need to wait for an email to arrive containing your records. The plus side of this is that it’s a more secure way of letting you access your data; the downside is that you may have to twiddle your thumbs for a bit while you wait for it to arrive. This can be slightly disruptive to workflow.
There are a couple of other niggles I need to flag up when exporting data too. Firstly, and as mentioned above, if you plan to export data regularly from Nimble for use in another tool, you need to be careful about how you categorise data – you won’t be able to make a huge amount of sense out of tags due to the messy way that they’re exported.
Secondly, and somewhat inexplicably, Nimble doesn’t export a field containing the date that a record was created on the system. This is a very serious issue and could provide users (particularly those migrating from Nimble to another CRM) with a major headache down the line. There is a workaround – you could create a custom field called ‘date created’ or similar, which would get exported; but you’d have to remember to populate this every time you created or imported a record in Nimble. This 'no date' issue is far from ideal and probably represents the biggest flaw in the product.
Nimble's 'Today' screen
A Nimble feature worth drawing attention to is its 'Today' screen. This presents you with an overview of all your upcoming activities, deals plus engagement opportunities (based on social media mentions). It also 'surfaces' important contacts that you might wish to reach out to or stay in touch with, based on keywords that you provide in Nimble's settings.
Getting social with your contacts
One of Nimble’s biggest USPs is, theoretically at least, the way it allows you to view social media information associated with them within a CRM context. Now, when I first started using Nimble, this aspect was great. I could pull up a contact and, assuming I was connected to them on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook, could see a whole host of information about them in one spot – recent Facebook status updates, LinkedIn bios, latest tweets etc. I could also view a history of any social interactions on any of these platforms that I’d had with them.
Unfortunately however, Facebook and LinkedIn stopped sharing data with third party applications like Nimble; not exactly Nimble’s fault, but this significantly reduced the ‘social’ aspect of the product. So whereas you used to be able to link your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts directly with Nimble, access all your contacts from these platforms and message them from within the Nimble interface…you can’t any more.
On the plus side, you can still integrate Twitter nicely into proceedings; and you can import data from LinkedIn via a CSV file. This does give you a reasonably good 'social view' of your contacts, but it's not a '360 degree' one. Finally, and importantly, Nimble will still help you identify the social profiles of your contacts (when you add a contact, it scans the web to see if it can find a social media profile match) and will use social data publicly available on the web to provide you – where it can – with potentially useful biographies on your leads and clients.
Nimble’s Smart Contacts App
One of the most useful things about Nimble is its Smart Contacts App. This is an extension that plugs into Chrome, Safari or Firefox (it’s also available as a mobile app). Whether you’re in your inbox, on a Facebook page, or just browsing a set of Google Search results, you can just hover over a contact or company name and the Smart Contacts App will automatically provide as much social information as it can find about them. The app also gives you the option to add that person or company to Nimble there and then (i.e., without having to go into the application) and update key information about them (lead source, status etc.). You can also apply tags. It’s extraordinarily ‘big brother’ – but judiciously and ethically used, the information the app provides can be extraordinarily useful.
Nimble and communications history
For me, the best thing about Nimble is the way that it deals with communications history. So long as you are using a Gmail or IMAP email account, it will keep a log of all communications between users and contacts automatically. You just go into a contact’s record, click on a ‘history’ tab and hey presto, all your emails to and from that client appear. Unlike many CRMs, Nimble does not require you to BCC a ‘dropbox address’ to add emails to the communications history – it just logs everything. If you’re uncomfortable with team members seeing particular communications, you can set Nimble up so that only you see all your communications history – and you can then ‘unlock’ and share individual emails by simply hitting a padlock button. This aspect of Nimble is extremely good.
Nimble’s integration with Google Apps and Office 365
One of the strongest features of Nimble CRM is its integration with Google Apps. Calendar sync is two-way; and two-way contact sync is also possible with the help of a tool called Pie Sync (note: this costs an additional $5 per user, unless you are the sole user of the product, in which case there is no additional fee).
Nimble adds anything it can find from Google Apps to the communications history tab, meaning that when you go into a Nimble contact’s record, you can pull up not only previous email correspondence but past and forthcoming meetings too. Additionally, you can attach files from Google Drive to contacts.
The integration with Google Apps is, in short, superb, and makes Nimble an attractive CRM choice for the many companies that use Google’s suite of business products.
The Office 365 integration is fairly good - Nimble apps are available for both the web and desktop versions of Outlook (plus several other Office 365 / Microsoft apps, including Skype, Dynamics and Edge) and you can view a comprehensive history of Outlook interactions with leads and clients. However, you aren't currently able to integrate Office 365 calendars directly into Nimble, and contact sync doesn't appear to be two way yet. This makes Nimble CRM somewhat less useful to Office 365 users.
Nimble’s ‘unified inbox’
A Nimble feature which sounds great on paper – but sadly works less well in practice – is its ‘unified inbox’ idea. The original idea behind this was to allow you communicate with contacts in one place, regardless of whether they were on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or good old fashioned email. In days of Nimble past, before Facebook and LinkedIn removed API access, you could send and receive emails, or Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn messages just by clicking on Nimble’s Messages tab. In days of Nimble present, the unified inbox is not particularly unified: you’re more or less limited to sending and receiving regular email, plus managing tweets.
Having said that, having access to your email within a CRM tool is potentially very useful, because it means that you can work largely in one environment; because your calendars are also there, along with your company database and sales pipeline, you are in theory saved the hassle of switching between an email app and Nimble all day.
Sadly, however, the implementation of email management in Nimble is pretty poor. For a start, Nimble only shows you your inbox and sent items; it does not let you access any other email folders at all, or (other than sending stuff to a Gmail archive) file email in any way. This means that you DO have to regularly switch between your own email program and Nimble regularly.
Nimble comes with a handy ‘group messages’ feature. Unlike tools like Mailchimp or Getresponse, it uses your own SMTP server to send messages. This means that there are daily limits to how many emails you can send out. These limits depend on two things: first, how many emails your email provider is comfortable with you sending out per day (or indeed hour) and second, how much you are prepared to pay Nimble for the privilege of doing so. On the standard $25 per month plan, a user can send up to 100 emails per day using the group messaging feature; for an additional $10 or $20 that user can send a maximum of 200 or 300 emails per day respectively.
Aas a way of sending out personalised messages to small groups of contacts, this functionality is pretty useful - I've always found that in a B2B sales context personalised, text-based messages drive more engagement than graphic-heavy HTML emails.
What’s more, you get basic stats on whether these contacts have opened your mail or not, and how many times they’ve read your message. You can use this data to segment your contacts and send specific follow ups - Nimble refer to this as 'semi-automatic marketing' but to be honest it looks and feels more like a manual process to me!
In my view, group messaging in Nimble is currently a 'nice to have' but ultimately, it's no substitute for using a proper email marketing tool like Mailchimp, Aweber or Getresponse - all products, which for the record, you can integrate to a degree into Nimble (an official Mailchimp integration is provided by Nimble and you can use Zapier to plug Aweber or Getresponse into it).
When it comes to group messaging, it'd be great to see Nimble take a similar approach to Salesforce or Infusionsoft - i.e., provide a fully integrated mass mailout tool which allows you to send emails to thousands of subscribers without issue, and also caters for drip marketing.
Nimble handles task management reasonably well – it allows you to create tasks, assign them to other users, or associate them with particular contacts.
I would like to see Nimble go further in this regard, however: it would be good if, as is the case with Capsule’s “tracks” approach to task management, you could set up a series of tasks for users to follow when certain things happen on Nimble. For example, when a lead reaches stage X on a sales pipeline, it would be great if Nimble users could be automatically presented with 5 tasks that they must complete in order to move them onto stage Y.
In Nimble you can either use the built-in calendar, or, if you’re a Google Apps user, you can access your Google Calendar directly within the app. Sync between Google Calendar and Nimble is two way, which is very useful and means Nimble steals a march on some other CRM products in this area. Also excellent is the way that clicking on a contact’s ‘Pending and History’ tab will bring up any meetings in your calendar that you’ve ever had, or are planning to have, with them. A bit less excellent is the fact that Nimble won’t led you add or sync tasks to your Google Calendar.
I really like Nimble’s Sales pipeline functionality, which can be found under the ‘deals’ tab in Nimble. You can use a suggested series of sales stages for each deal – or define your own (‘discovery’, ‘initial communication’, ‘solution design’ and so on) – and moving deals from one stage to another is really easy. Everything is really well connected: once you associate particular contacts with deals, clicking on a deal brings up a list of all recent communications between you and that contact, any relevant meetings and so on. Likewise, information about the deal gets added automatically to your contacts too. You can view your deals in either ‘pipeline’ or ‘list’ format, and Nimble will weight your prospective revenue from these deals according to how likely they are to happen.
Additionally, Nimble will calculate simple reports based on the sales pipeline, of who in the team has been naughty or nice in terms of closing deals and bringing cash into the company. These are not customisable, but they will suit many companies just fine.
Dealing with customer enquiries with Nimble
Because of its strong communications tracking, Nimble is good for logging customer enquiries or viewing previous enquiries. It's also good for taking an enquiry, linking it to a task, and assigning it to somebody else. However, it's no substitute for a proper helpdesk like Zendesk or Freshdesk. If you'd like to use a helpdesk in conjunction with Nimble, you can use an integration. And speaking of which...
Nimble only provides a few integrations that don’t involve making use of a third party sync tool like Zapier. These are for
- Google Apps - productivity suite
- Office 365 - productivity suite
- Mailchimp – email marketing tool
- Circleback - address book manager
- Wufoo – form creation / data capture app
- Hubspot – CRM tool
- Pandadoc – document management tool
Other than Google Apps and Office 365, the most relevant integration for most users will, I suspect, be the Mailchimp one. Sadly, at the moment, the integration is one way only – you can send Nimble contacts to Mailchimp but not the other way round. On their website however, Nimble say that this functionality is coming at a later date (it's been saying this for a long time however...).
To hook up other apps to Nimble, you'll need to use a 'sync' tool like Zapier or itDuzzit. This will take a bit of effort, and the quality of integrations will vary from tool to tool - but will mean that you can use other applications with Nimble. Nearly 60 apps can be integrated this way – notable ones include Aweber, Shopify, Zendesk, Freshbooks and Gotowebinar.
Interface and ease-of-use
As CRM tools go, Nimble is fairly easy to use. Its web-based interface is fairly clean and attractive, and shouldn't present a steep learning curve. The only gripe I have with it is that it's not 'responsive', meaning that using Nimble on a tablet or phone is not ideal. A pretty good iOS / Android app is available however, which offers a lot of key Nimble functionality to users on the go.
Nimble review conclusions
Nimble has a lot going for it. It's relatively cheap, it integrates well with Google Apps and the way it handles communication history is excellent; additionally, its Smart Contact App makes adding contacts to a CRM a breeze. However, there is one problem that prevents me from recommending it wholeheartedly as a CRM tool: the fact that you can't export the date a record was created. This is a key piece of information for any business and the fact that Nimble doesn't include it in exports baffles me. The only conclusion I can draw about this is that its omission might be deliberate - an active attempt to dissuade you from migrating to another platform. I hope this isn't the case.
If Nimble can sort that problem out, it would become a very good CRM option for many small to medium sized businesses, particularly those who use Google Apps, or for whom cost is a key concern.
If you are interested in Nimble, you can try before you buy - you can avail of a free 14 day Nimble trial via their website.
Nimble pros and cons
Here is a summary of pros and cons of the product:
- Reasonably priced.
- Excellent integration with Google Apps.
- Excellent approach to storing / viewing communications history.
- Easy-to-use sales pipeline features
- Comes with a very clever 'Smart Contacts' app which makes adding contacts from across the web to Nimble extremely simple.
- A good mobile app is available for the system
- Exports don't include the date that a record was created.
- Doesn't quite live up to its 'social CRM' billing, because there is no longer any API support for Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Using email within Nimble is not great – you can't access any of your folders, or move mail to them.
- The way that tags are exported makes them fairly unusable outside of Nimble (i.e., in Excel, Access etc.)
- Nearly all integrations with other apps require use of a 'sync' tool like Zapier or itDuzzit.
Alternatives to Nimble CRM
There are a wide range of alternative CRM products on the market - at the cheaper end of the scale, I'd recommend taking a look at Capsule CRM or Zoho; more sophisticated but expensive options include Infusionsoft or Salesforce.