What is Nimble, and how did you and your team get started in this field?
I have been working on the frontlines of this effort since 1989 when I co-founded GoldMine to develop sales and marketing automation software solutions. 20 years later, I launched what I call the “next evolution in relationship management.” In 2009, I founded Nimble, a Santa Monica-based provider of a web-based “social CRM” system for small- and medium-sized businesses that ties together contact lists, email accounts and calendars with Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter to offer sales and marketing teams a central location to track and manage customer interactions across multiple communication channels. Marketers, rather than salespeople, have made up the core of Nimble’s user base thus far.
How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize Nimble to manage their social relationships internally or create better end-results for clients’ social media marketing?
Marketing, advertising and customer relationship management systems and other automation tools are increasingly important. Businesses large and small are seeking to digitize and operationalize their processes to become more efficient, organize their social media marketing efforts and ensure that no business opportunities are slipping through the cracks.
What trends and changes in the market led you to realize that Nimble would fill a void?
90 percent of the marketplace lives in the Outlook address book or Google contacts. The core of your contact management is broken for most businesspeople, and today we don’t just communicate via email. We communicate through a variety of social channels — Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — and now those networks are beginning to grow.
There’s a variety of places that you could, should or would be using to connect with your community and constituency. Your contacts aren’t in Outlook, they’re not in Google and they’re not in your CRM. They’re all over the place. They’re in Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and Google+ and Foursquare and Pinterest. We bring all of those contacts into a single place and map out how you’re connected. If you’re not connected, we enable you to go ahead and connect with that person, and we then track all of the conversations and engagements that you’ve had with them.
What are the features of Nimble, and how do they integrate with third party tools to help companies maintain better relationships with their most important contacts?
The problem with marketing platforms is that when you grab a lead out of a marketing system, it’s just a one-dimensional email. It’s just a single person that doesn’t really tell you much other than the footprint of what they’re doing on your website, which basically tells you how hot the lead is.
Nimble takes that one-dimensional contact record and integrates with third party marketing tools like Hubspot to turn it into a three-dimensional record so you can see who this person is, how you’re connected and what that person is saying on their social streams. You can even drill down and see what that person might be saying about you, your company or your product. That’s our vision. We want to be the heart and soul of a company’s relationships and engagement. We want to enable them to manage the attraction and retention of those customers, and then integrate with their other platforms and tools to be a social business.
Do you think the proliferation of social media in the business world has made client relationships easier to manage or more complex?
CRM and marketing systems are databases that collect the data necessary to run reports that allow management to keep a finger on the pulse of the business. That has not changed. CRM companies are paying lip service to social by adding icons to contact records that enable them to display a person’s picture or social icons. However, they do not have the conversations that has occurred with that contact and the company or its team members, let alone the social stream necessary to engage with that person to connect with them. So I think that they’re still evolving.
I think that CRM companies are talking about social business and the social enterprise, but I don’t think that they’re really delivering it yet. Social is probably the most applicable to marketers, and yet they have been some of the last to adopt social. But right now, I think they’re really beginning to see the power and opportunity.
What changes do you see happening in social media as companies like Nimble blur the lines between separate social networks? What new trends are you most excited about and why?
I think there’s a cultural divide that will make it harder for the transition to social business. CEOs need to lead the charge by engaging as an example to their companies. If you look at my profile, you can see that on a daily basis, I am actively sharing, connecting and engaging. In fact, every single care@Nimble.com email that comes into our company goes into my inbox. I actually read them, and I respond to the customers because I learn from these engagements.
I think that most executives are afraid of social. They don’t understand it. They think it’s something that their spouse uses to connect with friends on Facebook. In reality, it is changing the way we work and play, and companies that get that today are going to be with us tomorrow, and companies that don’t get that won’t. Do you remember when people were afraid of giving their employees access to browsers? Or when they said, “Why would we need a website?” I definitely believe that there’s a shift going on and that we’re early in the cycle of that shift. And I think that it’s an even bigger issue culturally than technically.
How do you see social media relationships and the way we communicate over these channels evolving in the next three to five years?
You have a variety of business processes and departments for customer-facing activities in marketing, customer service, accounting, product, sales and especially the C-level executives. All of these people have tools that they’re using to connect with and reach the customer, and I believe at some point all of that will be stored in the customer record whereby you’ll have a complete view and be able to do some really incredible things with that information.
That’s sort of what we’re trying to do for the small- and medium-sized business customer: to tie it all together and then create the workflow and the automation that enables them to seize opportunities that might have otherwise fallen through the cracks. With GoldMine 20 years ago, we trademarked a thing called automated processes, which are actions based on triggers that allow you to create actions. You can basically control the flow of customers and prospects through your system. If there was a forecasted sale and there was a credit hold, or a forecasted sale and a trouble ticket occurred or a forecasted sale and that customer started saying something about you or your competitor, there are alerts to prompt actions. I think this is sort of the future of business: integrating these disparate platforms and people, empowering the entire company to be on one page and enabling everyone to be a receptor to conversations with the customer.
A social entrepreneur at heart, Jon Ferrara founded GoldMine Software in 1989 where he served as the executive vice president of the company until it was sold in 2000. GoldMine is one of the best-selling CRM products that helped pioneer the entire sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) market. During this time, Ferrara was awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award while GoldMine was named PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice in 1993 and again in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
After selling GoldMine and watching the immense rise in power social media was experiencing, Ferrara entered the startup world again when he noticed a distinct lack of any product that effectively combined relationship management, social listening and engagement and collaboration with sales and marketing. In 2009, Jon founded Nimble to create an extensive social business platform to fill this gap.