Nimble “CRM” – Am I Missing Something Here?

I have worked with contact management and CRM software since before “CRM” was coined – the DOS version of ACT!, later on Windows 3.x with Symantec Software, Goldmine 4 and 5, SalesLogix 2.1x. Back then Microsoft didn’t have a product in this market space, and didn’t seem to care. In any case, there has been alot of progress in this market niche in the last couple of decades, much of it good. Having worked as a consultant, implementor, trainer, and general mentor for dozens of small businesses over the years – and being an avid user myself – as much as the word “expert” is overused, it’s safe to say I possess a pretty good knowledge of how to “kick it up a notch” and what a business owner should reasonably expect from their systems.

The latest “push”, as you are probably getting fatigued hearing – is “the cloud” and so-called “Social CRM”. Reading other’s blogs, I come away feeling that this is still a very new animal and it can look really different depending upon whom or which vendor you are speaking with. The one thing that I personally feel about all of this is that the phrase “Social CRM” is really – at least for now – a forced attempt to label something with a couple of hot buzz words. The solutions I have been poking around in are NOT CRM.

That brings us to Nimble Social CRM. We got an invite to join their beta a few weeks back, and I figured it would be a good opportunity to check in again on the current state of this market.

I will say at this point, I am, um, let’s say: “underwhelmed”.

The first real sticking point I ran into was getting some of my contacts into the system. Trying to do a single “Add A Person” resulted in a cryptic error referencing a field that was not even visible, leaving me no choice but to cancel. Ok, this is beta software. I get it, and can overlook this a “beta bumps”.

Things kind get worse when you want to import a list of your contacts. Granted, it works, but the work to make it happen is steep – too steep in my opinion. You import options are “Outlook CSV”, “Generic CSV”, vCard, Twitter, and LinkedIn. (It’s curious to me that although Nimble links to Google calendar, it does not allow import from Google Contacts…). I have not yet tested Twitter or LinkedIn imports yet – I will update you on that when I do – as in my world – Twitter and LinkedIn are not the “centers” of my relationships. In other words, I have 100s of important contacts in my current database that are not in either of these two social spheres, and likely never will be.

Being that the “Generic CSV” file was the only format for interchange that overlapped between Nimble and ACT! 2011, I exported about 50 records from ACT! and then uploaded to nimble. Once I uploaded the list, I expected to be presented with a screen/tool that would let me map my ACT! fields to Nimbles fields. Oddly, Nimble just gobbled up the CSV and processed it. When it was done, I had all kinds of interesting looking “contacts” – some had the company in the Name field, most had nothing and some had various portions of the address info. I knew there was a missing piece. I went to Nimble’s “training” area, and sure enough, right at the very top of the liste were a handful of articles on running an import.

To their credit, Nimble has step-by-step instructions to get your contacts into the system. To their shame, it ain’t all that simple even with the instructions and they expect you to manually massage and map your field names to what their system expects. Ouch! Cumbersome, completely prone to error, and tedious. Hope they are working on something. And while we are on the topic of fields – what you see is all you get. No apparent ability to customize or create new ones.

That’s enough for today. In the next blog on this, we’ll review the main features of the system.

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