Our talk with Jon Ferrara of Nimble brings us to discuss the need for relationships and the effective nurturing of them. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #26 Your Network is Your Net Worth is followed below.
#26 Your Network is Your Net Worth
Jon Ferrara on episode #26 of Talk Experiential.
JOEY: Welcome back to another Talk Experiential Podcast. Excited for my guest, Jon Ferrara, founder of Nimble. Excited to have you on our show today.
JON: Thanks, Joey. I’m excited to be here. I really think that we’re on this planet to grow, and we do that best by helping others grow. So any opportunity I can to have a conversation with somebody like you who has an audience of people who want to grow, and we can have a conversation about their growth, is just a pretty effing great day for me.
JOEY: Absolutely. I agree with that. Well, I’d love to hear your story. I mean, I currently use Nimble. I’ve been using it for years. You founded GoldMine, which I’m excited to talk to you about that. I remember back in the day that GoldMine was a very advanced CRM for the day, and would love to hear how that all happened.
JON: Yeah, I am happy to talk about any part of that journey. I think that the lessons learned of building GoldMine and Nimble combined would be interesting for your audience, because we actually used influencer marketing to scale GoldMine back before it was a term.
JOEY: Wow. No, that’s cool. Let’s just start with, how did you become an entrepreneur? I mean, is this something that you’re kind of born with? And then how did GoldMine happen?
JON: Well, you know, that’s an interesting segue into GoldMine in that I was a reluctant entrepreneur in some respects. My dad was the number one car salesman in the country back in the 50s with Lincoln Mercurys, and he had the first Subaru dealership, and I grew up on his car lot. And I swore to myself I’d never be in sales, because my dad was a car salesman and, you know, sales is a four-letter word, and my uncle helped radar and microwave at MIT in the 40s, and he had an aerospace company that built a lot of the communications systems for NASA and all the moon missions and things. So I wanted to be an astronaut. So I bought a computer, and I studied computer science, but I didn’t have the money to put myself through college, so I got a job at a computer store, because I knew more about computers than anybody I knew, and it turned out I was pretty good at sales, and I was making $70,000 a year working part-time, living at home, going to college in 1981. And that was a lot of money back then. But even then, I didn’t want to do sales, so I got a job at Hughes Aircraft and worked in aerospace for long enough to know I’m not an aerospace guy. Got a job at a start-up in Boston, and it was there that I started to experience the value of relationships and the need for effective nurturing of them and engagement. And back in 1987-88 when I was doing this, there was no outlook. There was no sales force. There was no term CRM. We managed relationships with something called a Day-Timer, and we communicate with something called pink “While You Were Out” slips, and we did our forecasts on a spreadsheet. And I thought that was dumb, and so I looked for a tool that would integrate email, contact, calendar, and sales and marketing automation. I couldn’t find it, so I quit my job at Banyan and started a company called GoldMine. We started it in Los Angeles on $5,000, never took a dime of venture, and eventually scaled it to about 10 million customers, almost $100 million in revenue, and we did that by identifying the influencer of our prospects. So back in the day, we had a networkable business application. It wasn’t just CRM. It was a contact management for the whole company because relationships are managed not by sales people but by everybody in the company, and we built the first networkable relationship managers. So who best to sell that to our customer but the person that sold them the network? So I cold-called every Novell reseller in the country, and I got them to use it because people sell what they know and they know what they use. And then they started to recommend it and resell it. That’s how we got to our first $100,000 a month in revenue. And then Avaris started asking us for leads, and I didn’t know how to advertise. In fact, I didn’t really have the money to advertise effectively, so I started contacting the places where our prospects would learn about technology, Forbes, PC Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, etc., and I said, “How can I help you write more stories?” They said, “Tell us stories about how people are using technology to grow.” I started telling stories. They started retelling those stories. And that’s how we grew to the next level, about $1 million a month. And at that time, Microsoft ate Novell, so Microsoft doesn’t innovate. They iterate. They wait for somebody else to build the market. Then they come in when it’s big enough with their muscle, which is billions of users and hundreds or thousands of resellers, and they came out with NT Server, Sequel Server, and Exchange Server, and our customers at that time were saying, “Hey, Jon. We love GoldMine, and that has a built-in database, D-Base, but we need it more scalable. And we love the fact that it hooks up to IMAP and Pop, but we need a more secure email transport. And we’re at the enterprise level. We need something more secure for our operating systems.” So we built GoldMine Enterprise, which required a seat of NT Server, Sequel Server, and Exchange Server for every seat of GoldMine, solved our customer’s need to scale, solved our partners’ need to make products and services revenue. But more importantly, we became Microsoft’s number one ISV in the world, and that’s what got us to $100 million in revenue. At that time, in ’99, I was 40 years old and ran GoldMine for ten years, so I sold it and I retired for ten years and raised three babies. And I’ll tell you what, Joey. I don’t know if you are a dad. Are you a dad?
JOEY: Yes, I am.
JON: So you know how precious family time is.
JOEY: 100%, yeah.
JON: And so I just feel blessed that I spent ten years being a present father, husband, member of my community. It was the best thing ever. Highly recommend spending time with your family and your friends, and especially your spouse. Quality time is a real good thing. And that’s the GoldMine story.
JOEY: Well, that’s fascinating. So you started this thing no marketing, it sounds like you were a hustler, cold-calling and then kind of took the PR route, I assume? That kind of helped?
JON: Yeah, yeah. So it’s really a combination of influencer marketing, so getting other people to tell your story. So the Novell resellers had a base of customers. They already sold the network to them, and I had an application that ran on the network to enable them to drive more revenue from the customers, so rather than just selling the operating system, they actually sold a solution on top, and that was a perfect start. But then, to really scale, you need to build the brand globally, and you need to drive net new eyeballs, and telling stories to the press about how customers are growing using technology really helped to define the whole CRM marketing. In fact, I’ll tell you a story. A guy named John Taschek, who’s head of strategy at Salesforce, was the editor of PC Computing back in the day when I was teaching him what CRM was. Today, he runs strategy for the largest CRM company in the world, and I’m proud to say I think I taught him a lot of what he knew back in the day about CRM and network business applications.
JOEY: Oh, man. That’s really cool. And then, how did Nimble come about?
JON: So I was starting to use social media in 2006, ’07, and ’08. And I saw it was going to change the way we work, play, buy, and sell. And I started looking for a relationship manager that integrated with social. I couldn’t find it. I found something called Hootsuite and Tweetdeck which unified social conversations into streams, but it didn’t tie the social conversations to people. So if I basically saw that somebody was talking about me in Twitter, who is Joey? When was the last time I talked to Joey, right? What’s Joey’s business about? And I’d need to fish Joey out of that conversation and build a record in order to begin to engage. And then I started looking at contact management, and I saw it was broken. When I was playing around with that, basically Google was the only cloud contact platform with email, contact, and calendar there in the cloud. And email, contact, and calendar are three separate tabs in Google, in Gmail, G-Suite. And so contacts aren’t linked to the conversations you’re having or the activities that you’re driving, so that’s a broken contact management in my regard, because GoldMine did that 30 years ago. Email, contact, and calendar should be linked, so you have history. And then you need context. Who is somebody? And what is their business about? So you have to Google them to know what that is. And the best way to understand who somebody is, is it walk in their digital footprint, to walk in their Twitter, their Facebook, or in their LinkedIn. And so I saw that not only should email, contacts, and calendar be unified, but social should be linked to all of that. Not just their identity, but the history of interactions and their business information. And so I started hearing notes in my head, like I heard in the GoldMine days. So I picked up my guitar, and I basically put a band together, and we built Nimble. And basically, Nimble pioneered not just social selling and social CRM, but really the value of a unified relationship manager, not just for sales people but for everybody in the company, because it’s not just sales people that touch the customer, and it’s not just prospects and customers that you need to engage with. At Nimble, we engage with editors, analysts, bloggers, influencers, third-party developers, investors, advisors, and prospects and customers, and traditionally CRM isn’t a great place to put all of that. And you really need a team relationship manager. And today, the contact tools you have, Office 365 and G-Suite Gmail and iCloud aren’t good at contact manager, because basically every team member has a separate contact database, and email and calendar aren’t linked, let alone social. And so Nimble basically unifies all of that, becomes a team relationship manager, and that could either be your CRM or actually it works with your CRM. In fact, Microsoft pushes us worldwide as the simple CRM for Office, but we’re actually becoming a gateway to dynamics. And that’s really replicating what happened with GoldMine. If you think about it, we started with Novell, and then Microsoft ate Novell, and we basically became the number one driver of sales for NT Server, Sequel Server, and Exchange Server. We started with Nimble with Gmail G-Suite, which was effectively the Novell of our era, because if you have PCs, you tie it together with G-Suite Gmail. But Microsoft ate them with Office 365. Today, there’s 165 million Office 365 customers. There’s seven million G-Suite customers. So it’s really game over with email productivity, and the battle is going to be Azure. Because, if you think about it, ten years ago, companies, corporations said, “We’re never going to the cloud. We don’t trust it.” And a few years ago, they started dipping the toe in the water by putting their exchange servers in the cloud with Office 365. Tomorrow, it’s going to be the rest of the servers, because every company has either been hacked or is going to get hacked, and they can’t afford to manage and maintain their servers and firewalls, etc. And so Azure’s the place where a lot of businesses are going to put their servers, and the company that can not only drive adoption and sales of Office 365 but retention and adoption of Azure and the other crown jewels of Microsoft like Dynamics will become the next GoldMine, and we’re basically primed for that position, because Microsoft has signed a global resale agreement with Nimble. They’re pushing us worldwide through all their distributors. We’ve signed up 30 of their top 50 global distributors, like Tech Data and Ingram and others, and basically are spinning up tens of thousands of Microsoft resellers who traditionally have sold plumbing to plumbers, IT infrastructure to IT decision makers. But now, we’re getting them to use Nimble to become modern sellers, and to start selling Nimble on top of Office, which will help them become Azure and Dynamics resellers in the future. And so, history is kind of repeating itself, and it’s really amazing to see.
MIDROLL: If you are an agency or brand that has human engagement at your life events, please check out Air Fresh Marketing’s certified vendor partnership program’s new platform that is helping clients win more business, helping them put on higher quality events, and spend a lot less time training and interacting with staff. Please go to www.airfreshmarketing.com/partnerships.
JOEY: Yeah. Well, it’s fascinating what you’ve built and how you’ve brought it all into one. I mean, I think one of the biggest things is data is king, understanding who you’re talking to, but also, you know, kind of what we were talking about offline, just the value of network and relationships. You know, from just growing my company through marketing and through, you know, the Talk Experiential is just building these relationships. Now, I’d love to talk a little bit about how you’ve grown this, just through these relationships, and why is it so important for, you know, people to really understand, like, you never know what’s going to happen ten years down the line. I have a sales guy, a director of partnerships. We worked ten years ago at a sales job. We worked with GoldMine, the CRM. We’ll probably laugh about it a little later. And now he works with us. But I’d love to learn kind of on your end, like just through growing your companies, you know, why is relationship so important, and how did it help grow your companies?
JON: Well, Joey, I’m going to tell you a story. Imagine selling a company at 40 years old for more money than you could ever imagine in your life, and getting a head tumor a year later and almost dying, and having two babies sitting there, and a wife, a young life. How would that feel?
JON: It’d be kind of scary, right?
JOEY: Upside down, your life.
JON: Right? And so that’s me at 41, and that was, I don’t know, 17 years ago and, knock on pressboard, and – let’s knock on some real wood. But in the journey of getting healed, right? From, like, just from healing the tumor, I also went on a spiritual journey, and I came to the conclusion that we’re on this planet to grow our souls by helping other people grow theirs. And when you talk about the value of relationships, you know, they just don’t – it’s not just the people you do business with. It’s everybody around you. I think that you owe anyone you’re with your presence. And to try to leave them with something, even if it’s a smile, right? And so, I think the value of relationships are just critical to your personal and professional success. Your network is your net worth. Your personal brand plus your professional network will help you achieve your dreams in life, and I think that that’s what’s helped me to build two global companies, if you think about it. Nimble was built by identifying the influencer of my prospect and building relationships with them, thereby building the Nimble brand, my brand, and driving eyeballs to our website, which has been as high as 100,000 uniques per month with zero advertising. And the way that we did that is we identified the influencer of our prospect in and around the areas of promise for our products and services and began sharing their content, attributing the category and their name appropriately which generated eyeballs of people looking to be better, smarter, faster at social sales and marketing, audience of that influencer, and relationships with the influencer themselves. And that results in traffic to our brand and in sales, but more important, introductions in relationships. And I’ll tell you a story that just happened last night. You know Lee Odden, right?
JOEY: Lee Odden, yes.
JON: Okay. Lee Odden is one of the top influencers and speakers on marketing. I get an email from Lee Odden last night. It says something to the effect of, “Hey, Jon. Our team continues to love Nimble as an influencer CRM that we use for ourselves, but I was consulting with Adobe and SAP this week in San Francisco, and their heads of influencer marketing could really use Nimble. Is it okay if I do an introduction?” I said, “Heck yeah.”
JON: And I got an introduction, and now I’m having a meeting with the head of influencer marketing at Adobe on Friday, right? Now, why did that happen? It didn’t happen because I pay Lee Odden. It happened because we’ve built and nurtured a relationship with Lee over time, and it’s not just a business relationship. In fact, it’s really more personal. I believe in the five Fs of life. Family, friend, food, fun, and fellowship are the commonalities that we share with each other in order to build intimacy and trust. And ultimately, that rides through any business connection. LinkedIn is like walking in my lobby. But if you want to know who Jon is, walk through my Instagram, my Facebook, my Twitter. These are the softer places where we’re connected on our commonalities. A barbecue, or backpacking, or whatever family. And Lee and I have connected across a lot of commonalities, including the fact that he’s from a small town in Minnesota which is where my great-grandmother gave birth to my grandmother. And so relationships are so critical, but we’re over-connected and we’re over-communicated. You could only manage 100 to 200 people in your head at one time. That’s called the Dunbar limit. And most people have thousands of connections. And when you are going to interact with somebody, you need to know who they are, you need to know the history of interactions you and the team have had, you need to know what their business is about for you to be effective in the one-to-one communication. But the most important thing is to follow-up and follow-through. People fail at the basics of business. Follow-up and follow-through is critical, and you don’t do it because you have to go to the CRM to do it, and you work for the CRM by having to look shit up and log it. I believe your CRM should work for you by building itself and then work with you wherever you are in email, in social, on your phone, so that you can be prepared for every engagement, do the follow-up and follow-through which will result in deeper relationships, will result in you achieving your dreams in life, which I hope involve you serving others and helping them grow, because that is why we’re on this planet.
JOEY: Absolutely. Well, man, I really appreciate this. This is great. And I mean, you take it to a human level too. It’s like, we’re not numbers. You know, we’re not numbers in a CRM and we’re trying to connect, and you know, I like how it’s just, you can connect on a deeper level, kind of what you’ve been talking about. You know, and taking it offline, because I think a lot of people out there always put business in front, that this is why we’re going. I go to a lot of events, really just to build relationships and not have an agenda. And it frustrates me when someone’s like, “Hey, go directly into business.” Which is fine, because I understand that’s where they’re at. But, you know, usually there’s going to be a stopping point for a minute. But you know, going to a deeper level and understanding, we’re only on this planet for a very short period of time. It’s like, you go down to like, where are you at and why you are here, so it’s really fascinating to hear your story and how you’ve grown over the years.
JON: Yeah. I really think that they’re not going to write on my grave, “Built – invented CRM and contact management, made millions.” They’re going to say, “Beloved father, husband, friend, member of the community.” And that’s why we’re here. But you can achieve your dreams and be successful in life without eating other people, right? And so, if you think about it, sales today is a four-letter word, but I believe service is the new sales. I believe that if a sales person entered into every relationship with the intent to serve and grow that other person, even if it meant recommending a competitor’s product at that particular moment, if that product suited them better, I think that that sales person would become even more successful, right? But if you think about it, Joey, this is nothing different than what Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey have taught over the past 100 years. So if you think about it, I think that social is creating a renaissance in relationship, it’s increasing the transparency and expectations that we have of each other, and is bringing us back to a small village where your reputation was based on the promises you make and the experience that you deliver, and I think that’s a great thing, because the era of bag ’em and tag ’em, Oracle Enterprise, shoot ’em in the head sales, I think, is ending, and we’re getting back into a place where relationships really matter. And if you do that right, you can have infinite success and be happy too.
JOEY: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Jon, thanks so much. Our time is up here, but I would really love to follow up with you, and maybe we can get you on another show, and maybe meet in person at some point. I mean, I like you quite a bit, so.
JON: Yeah. And I’m up in Denver periodically. Actually, I’d love to introduce you to some of my friends in Denver. Do you know Joel Cohen?
JOEY: I do, actually. Yeah. He walks by my office quite a bit, and I’ve met him once. Yeah.
JON: And Mia Voss? Do you know Mia Voss?
JOEY: I don’t think so.
JON: Okay. Well, I have some cool friends in Denver that I’d like to connect you with. In fact, I have some friends that are influencers in marketing that I think would be great for your show. So let’s chat about that after we wrap this up.
JOEY: Sounds good. Well, thanks for joining.
JON: One last thing?
JON: For your listeners today, I want to offer them a special. If they go to Nimble.com and sign up for Nimble, it’s free for two weeks, they don’t have to put a credit card in or anything, but if they decide that Nimble will suit their needs for relationships, and it doesn’t matter if you have a CRM, like HubSpot or Salesforce or Dynamics, or they don’t have a CRM, Nimble can be your CRM or work within your existing CRM. There’s a code, JON40, that they can put in, that they can save 40% off their first three months. So I just want to give them a little bit of incentive to become more nimble in their relationships.
JOEY: That’s perfect. And I’ll have this on the show notes as well. You guys can click on the link to check it out.
OUTRO: If you like what we’re doing with Talk Experiential Podcast, please make sure you five-star it and review it. Also please share it on Facebook and Twitter, or any other social media outlets. Please tell your friends who you think that will get value out of our podcast. Your support will help continue the success of Talk Experiential.
Find the list of full Talk Experiential episodes here.