As part of a recent project for a client I ended up evaluating a truckload of CRM (customer relationship management) systems that are aimed at small businesses. CRM systems basically let you manage (and pester) contacts, track communications histories and so on. For example, you can use CRM tools to
- identify leads in your database
- communicate via email with them
- keep a history of all communications activity (email / verbal / SMS etc.)
- add relevant sales data to leads
- analyse communications and sales data to inform communications choices
Equally, you can use them to log business enquiries coming from potential clients and send relevant follow-up communications at a later date. (CRM systems also let you do a whole load of other stuff too, including task management, sales pipeline work and more but the above list probably sums up what most companies use them for).
Anyway, I must have signed up to 25 free trials (and a couple of paid-for services) over this period of research. Whilst there were quite a few nifty tools out there, one stood out as being rather interesting: Nimble. Nimble is different to all the other tools I tried, in that it allows you to manage and communicate with a very wide variety of contact types, including those you have on social media.
For example, not only can you import your company's database into Nimble, you can connect your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts, meaning that you get a 'complete picture' of a contact - and a lot more ways to connect with (some would say spam!) them. Before placing a sales call to an unsuspecting lead, for example, you can check their recent activity (let's say a fishing trip) on LinkedIn and Facebook and casually drop something appropriate related to that activity (let's say the price of bait) into the call. Which makes them think you care about them on a personal level. Yes, very cynical, I know.
Nimble is clearly signposting the future of CRM. It's an interesting tool which I would recommend above several other CRM systems aimed at SMEs which I've encountered to date - but it's also very big brother, and, when I put my consumer hat on and think of myself as a 'lead' that somebody is peering at, I'll have to admit to finding the thought of a company having such a complete overview of my life a little scary. Maybe it's time to revisit my privacy settings...