Friday, 30 December 2011

Why kicks arse

Falling out of touch
A while ago, I realised I was finding it hard to keep track of all my friends and acquaintances. Some of them were on facebook, some were on LinkedIn, some were in my Google contacts, some were in my phone. It was a mess! And I also intuitively felt that I was losing contact with many of them because I wasn't regularly connecting with them. Furthermore, when I'd go to networking events, I'd end up with a whole bunch of business cards from people I wanted to stay in contact with, and I wouldn't know what to do with them.

I was looking for a solution. A customer relationship management (CRM) system sounded good, but most of them were expensive and none of them seemed to integrate facebook or LinkedIn that well. They seemed to be designed for companies rather than individuals.

What is a contact management system
In Keith Ferrazi's book, Never Eat Alone, he talks about setting up a contact management system (CMS) that gives him reminders to 'ping' people regularly. It sounded like a great idea. It also sounded like Keith had developed his system himself. I went looking to see if anyone else had come up with an off-the-shelf CMS.

I found a few:
- Network Hippo
- Nimble
- Rapportive

Review of the top 3 CMSs
I've played around with those three systems. What I was looking for was a system that was super easy to use, that integrated in all of my different contact databases (facebook, LinkedIn, gmail) and provided followup reminders.

After a few months, I've decided that is the winner in my eyes.

Why kicks arse
I prefer Nimble over the other CMSs because it is super-automated and super-easy to use. Rapportive and Network Hippo require you to manually refresh your contact list (Rapportive even makes you go to LinkedIn, click export and then import the file - that's way too much work for me).

The unified inbox
The killer functionality is Nimble's 'unified inbox'.

You get one inbox with all of your emails, facebook messages, twitter DMs and LinkedIn messages. This rocks because it means I save heaps of time. Instead of having to go into four different systems, I only have to go into one. What's more, I find it helps me focus on achieving Inbox Zero. If I log into Facebook to check my messages, there's a big temptation to look at the News Feed and before long I'm way off track! is about 1-1 communication and nothing else.

Task management
I've played around with a few task management apps. In my experience, a lot of my tasks come from emails. I wanted a quick and easy way to turn an email into a task. Previously, I'd been using Remember The Milk. It's quite good and there is the ability to forward emails to your RTM account. But it's still a bit clunky for me.

Nimble whacks in task management with your inbox. You can turn a facebook message, an email, a twitter DM into a task really easily.

It also makes it easy to associate a task with a person. I find that I'm far more motivated to get something done if I'm doing it for someone. For example, before Christmas, my job was to come up with the Kris Kringle list (I've built an app to do it). I'd been putting it off until I associated the task with Mum. Suddenly I was doing it for Mum and because I care about my Mum, I did the task right away.

What I don't like about Nimble
There is one key feature that Nimble doesn't do yet: Follow Up reminders. It's not a deal breaker for me, but it would make it a far better app.

I'll split this into two types: ping reminders and waiting on reminders.

Ping reminders
Keith Ferrazzi advocates the idea of 'pinging' people regularly. He sends out something like 200 emails/phone calls/SMSs per day to stay in contact with his massive database of friends, customers and business partners. His argument is that by sending a short message (pinging), people will keep you 'top of mind' and if there's an opportunity that they come across, they'll flick it through to you because they've been thinking about you.

The way Keith does this is he sets up reminders in his contact management system. He'll set a contact frequency for everyone in his database. Some people he might ping every 2 weeks (the ones doing exciting things that he wants to be part of). Others he might ping every 6 months to check in and see if they've started doing something more exciting:P

Nimble sort of allows you to do this. You can create tasks "Ping so and so in 6 weeks". It works but it's a bit clunky. There's a feature request for Nimble to add in a more streamlined ping reminder system. Hopefully they'll get that working soon.

Waiting on reminders
An app that has revolutionised my workflow is Boomerang for Gmail [qqq]. With BFG (hey there's even a Roald Dahl link there!), you can set up automated follow up reminders for emails you've sent. For example, I had a potential client who I wanted to build some software for. I sent them an email and ticked the box in BFG "follow up in 4 days if they don't reply". This is a lifesaver because previously I'd send emails and then forget to follow up to make sure the other person read it and actioned it.

In a sales context, this is really important. Research shows that a lot of the time, people don't respond to the first message. It can take 5-7 emails/phone calls/conversations until someone will buy something from you. Many people give up after the first non-response. They feel like 'silence = rejection'. It's more likely that the other person was just super busy and didn't have time to read or reply to your message.

With BFG, I can set up these response checks so that I can follow up if someone hasn't replied to an email. It would be great if Nimble had a similar feature. You can sort of do this by adding a task to follow up. But this is a bit clunky compared to the ease of Boomerang for Gmail. I've lodged a feature request and hopefully Nimble will add this to its arsenal.

Conclusion: use
I highly recommend Nimble for everyone who wants to get multiple inboxes under control and improve their network weaving ability.

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