Nimble CRM Review (2018) - In-Depth Look At a 'Social' Customer Relationship Management App

 Nimble CRM logo

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: 4.0/5


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, with two plans are available:

  • 'Nimble Contact' - $9 per user, per month
  • 'Nimble Business' - $25 per user, per month

The 'Business' plan generally offers more of everything - with increased storage, email template and user license limits, but there are there are some key differences between the plans which might nudge you in favour of the business plan, four particularly important ones being:

  • group messages: you can only send these if you're on the 'Business' plan
  • deal pipelines: you can only create and view sales pipelines if you are on the 'Business' plan
  • reporting: again, this is only available on the 'Business' plan
  • communications history: it's limited to 30 days on the 'Personal' plan

If I'm honest - and I expect this is true for many potential Nimble users - I would not use a CRM product if it didn't come with pipelines, reporting and unlimited communications history as standard, so for many businesses the 'Nimble Contact' plan will be ruled out immediately. Nimble argues that the $9 plan is a good option for businesses looking for a contact research and management system, but in my view, the 'Nimble Contact' version of the product should not be seen as a fully fledged CRM system.

I would argue therefore that the 'real' cost of Nimble is therefore $25 per user per month. This 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 starts out at $80 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 considerably cheaper than the 'Nimble Business' plan – 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 comes in somewhere in the middle of the CRM pricing 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 5,000 contacts on its 'Basic' plan and 25,000 contacts on its 'Business' plan; 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 if you're using the 'Business' plan; a cap of 25,000 applies to the 'Basic' one.

Importing contacts

You can import data from a variety of sources into Nimble, including:

  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn (CSV)
  • CSV
  • Outlook
  • vCard

Additionally, thanks to an integration with PieSync, you can import and sync data from a wide range of third-party web apps, including big hitters like Mailchimp, Xero and Getresponse.

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. 

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).

One thing you might want to watch out for when importing data involves connecting your G Suite account. When you use Nimble for the first time you are prompted to connect it - which is very easy to do. However, your contacts are not automatically imported when you do so - you'll need to go to your settings and then click 'Networks and Imports' to import them. Similarly, you have to connect your Google calendar manually.

It would be better if Nimble gave you the option to connect both at the point at which you connect your G Suite account. (I haven't tried to connect an Office 365 account to Nimble - but I suspect Office 365 users would face a similar issue).

All in all though, the import process in Nimble is easy to use and robust, and the options for importing and syncing data with other apps are comprehensive.

Segmenting contacts

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 rather difficult – so you may wish to create and populate custom fields in Nimble instead.

 In Nimble, tags are very easy to use - but the way that tags are exported in Nimble is messy, and means that manipulating or segmenting your data outside of the platform will be difficult.

In Nimble, tags are very easy to use - but the way that tags are exported in Nimble is messy, and means that manipulating or segmenting your data outside of the platform will be difficult.

Within Nimble, however, tags work really well – you just click on a tag or a combination of tags to see segmented data.

 Tags in Nimble CRM 

Tags in Nimble CRM 

Searching for contacts

A strong aspect of Nimble is the way it allows you to search your contacts - you can use quite a wide range of criteria to search for contacts. For example you can search by location, education, biography an interest; not just name or company, which is the norm on many CRM systems.

 Nimble's search options

Nimble's search options

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, but to be fair it's better practice from a data protection and privacy point of view (something that just got a lot more important with the onset of GDPR).

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.

(A workaround is to use custom fields within Nimble - you can create these easily and then just populate them with flags of your choosing. It makes segmenting your data a little bit more clunky within the system but in my view leads to better results and data which can be migrated more easily to other platforms or analysis tools).

Nimble's 'Today' page dashboard

A Nimble feature worth drawing attention to is its 'Today' dashboard.

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.

Nimble's Today Page

You see the 'Today Page' when you log into Nimble, and you can access it at any point within Nimble by clicking the 'Today' link in the main navigation.


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 if we're honest about it, 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 rather ‘big brother’ in nature – but judiciously and ethically used, the information the app provides can be extraordinarily useful, as the video below demonstrates.

An overview of the Nimble Smart Contacts App for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.


Contact capture

There are two little Nimble CRM features relating to contact capture which are worth flagging up due to their 'niftiness' value.

The first is Nimble's 'email signature capture'. If you're a Gmail user, you'll appreciate Nimble's ability to parse email signatures to quickly create and update contacts while you're on an email thread.

The second is Nimble's mobile business card scanner functionality. This allows you to scan business cards a mobile app to create contact records while you're on the move.

Both of these pieces of functionality are potential time-savers, and they're included in both the "Contacts" and "Business" Nimble plans. A thumbs up for these features.


Nimble prospector

A feature recently introduced by Nimble is it's 'prospector' tool. This allows you to visit a company's website, and using an option on the 'smart contacts' bar, find out specific contact details for people at that company which might not be visible on their website. This can be added instantly to your Nimble contacts.

You are given a certain number of credits with your monthly plan (10 on 'Contact', 25 on 'Business'), and time you perform a lookup using the prospector, you use up a credit. If you need more credits, these are priced as follows:

  • 50 credits - $9.95 per month / $0.20 per credit
  • 200 credits - $29.95 per month / $0.15 per credit
  • 500 credits - $59.95 per month / $0.12 per credit
  • 1000 credits - $99.95 per moth / $0.10 per credit

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.

The communications history tracking of Nimble is extremely good, and probably the thing I like most about the product. The only negative thing I'll say about it is that if you're on the $9 per month 'Contact' plan, you can only access 30 days worth of messages. (This contributes to my general feeling that the 'Contact' plan is best avoided).


Nimble’s integration with Google Apps and Office 365

Another strong feature 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: additional costs apply here).

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 really good too - 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.


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 could be a bit better. 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.

Additionally - at least as far as my G Suite email account is concerned - there is quite a time lag between when an email arrives in your Gmail inbox and when it shows up in Nimble. This makes it unsuitable for any time sensitive communications.

Nimble argues - with some justification - that using their "smart contacts" sidebar is the best way to work in one place; you can basically add it to your browser or Outlook to get instant access to many Nimble key features in one place. Whilst I see the logic in this, the sidebar doesn't give you access to the entirety of Nimble's functionality and for me, I'd love to use a CRM workspace where I could do everything. 


Group messages and mass mailouts in Nimble

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 into Nimble (there's a built-in integration for Mailchimp; and you can use Pie Sync to integrate the other two products).

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.


Task management

Nimble handles task management reasonably well – it allows you to create tasks, assign them to other users, or associate them with particular contacts and deals.

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 3 subsequent tasks that they must complete in order to move them onto stage Y.


Calendar management

In Nimble you can either use the built-in calendar, or, if you’re a Google Apps or Office 365 user, you can access your Google Calendar directly within the app.

Sync between these calendars 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.


Sales pipelines in Nimble CRM

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.

You can assign a primary contact to a deal, along with any other contacts associated with the deal, and track all activity relating to these people in one place.

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 customizable, but they will suit many companies just fine.

Nimble's sales pipeline is very easy to use, and connects well with other aspects of the application.

Another nice feature of the sales pipeline functionality in Nimble is the fact that you can create and use multiple pipelines. This is helpful for businesses that have different types of sales cycles. Because of their customizable nature, sales pipelines can also be created with project management in mind - i.e., you can use them to manage processes as well as sales.

The only problem with the deals / sales pipeline functionality in Nimble - and it's a big one - is that they it is only available on the $25 'Business' plan! As touched upon earlier, this will (and should) rule out out the $9 plan for many businesses.


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...


Integrations

As discussed earlier, Nimble integrates with key products like G Suite and Office 365 out of the box; it's also got built in Twitter and Mailchimp integrations. For any other apps, you'll need to use a third party 'sync' tool like PieSync or Zapier.

Fortunately, Nimble partners with PieSync to provide a wide range of integrations (50+) for key business apps, including Xero, Quickbooks, Mailchimp and Getresponse. I haven't tried them all out, so I can't vouch for the quality of each, but the fact that these are official integrations should in theory mean they are of a good standard.


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 Office 365; and the way it handles communication history is excellent; additionally, its Smart Contact App makes adding contacts to a CRM a breeze.

The main gripe I have with the product is that its $9 per month entry level plan is very limiting in terms of the functionality if offers - to the extent where really it is best avoided in favour of the more expensive $25 per month plan. If your budget doesn't stretch that far, I'd take a look elsewhere (I'd pay particular attention to Capsule as a cheap, simple alternative).

If you are interested in Nimble, the good news is that 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:

Pros

  • It's reasonably priced.
  • Excellent integration with Google Apps and Office 365.
  • Good contact search functionality.
  • Good selection of Pie Sync apps which allow two-way sync between Nimble and popular business apps.
  • Easy-to-use import functionality.
  • 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.
  • Useful contact capture tools are included (email signature scanner for Gmail plus a mobile app for scanning business cards).
  • A good mobile app is available for the platform.

Cons

  • Key functionality - including sales pipelines and reporting - is missing from the entry level plan, making it unusable for many businesses.
  • 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.
  • There is a time lag between when a message arrives in your Gmail inbox, and when it shows up in Nimble.
  • 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.

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.


Video introduction to Nimble