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Tools of the Trade: “Gmail Gadget” makes Nutshell an attractive CRM

Tools of the Trade is a series showcasing an app, gadget or service that entrepreneurs may find useful.

As we’ve grown Silicon Prairie News from its early days as a side project into the company it is today with ten employees, we’ve had to create processes and implement tools to do what is at the core of most businesses: manage information. I want to share more about one of those tools, Nutshell, a web-based CRM (customer relationship management) application.

We began using Nutshell in February as a way to better manage our sponsorship-sales process and have since extended it to include managing the speaker recruiting process for our Big Series events, managing press contacts and more.

We choose the product because of its reputation for deep integration with Gmail – its Gmail Gadget (below) – and its intuitive nature. After using the product for nearly ten months, I can attest that the reputation is valid. For example, like other CRMs in the cloud, Nutshell allows you to “bcc” an address to add an outgoing email directly the CRM. With Nutshell that address is simple (bcc@nutshell.com) and universal – all senders include the same address and the software routes the message to the correct contact. Nutshell matches the senders address in the system to know who sent it. Other CRMs I’ve used in the past accomplished the same thing but with messy, longer “bcc” address, each unique to the sender.

Nutshell’s import features are nice and clean, too. We were able to easily import from our previous CRM and after each Big Series event we’ve been able to import registration lists with minimal clean up to the system after the fact.

There are several features that we haven’t had the chance to use but look promising. Nutshell allows users to implement automated workflows – managing follow-on steps as a lead moves through the sales process – and quick access to sales analytics, as two examples.

Nutshell also offers extensive reporting on the data, such as an activity report. On the fly reports are easy to create can be downloaded for more extensive manipulation. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve about the software, however, is that there is no great way to print or download the online reports in a way that retains their formatting. The ability to download to PDF would be a simple fix for them to implement in the future.

The Nutshell file 

  • Description: Web-based customer relationship management software
  • Launched: November 2010 (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Audience: Sales teams of all sizes in any industry; current users range from individuals to companies of 1,000
  • Competitors: Capsule, SalesForce and Highrise, among others
  • Cost: $10 per user per month

To learn more about Nutshell, I conducted an email interview recently with Whitney Ferdon (below), a project manager for the company.

Silicon Prairie News: Where did the idea of Nutshell come from? What’s the company’s origin story?

Whitney Ferdon: Our founders built another software company several years ago and had a strong need for a CRM with good process management. After trying many different products (including the big guys like Salesforce), they had to divert an engineer to build their own home-rolled system. While that system isn’t connected to Nutshell, the experience building that system is what started the idea for Nutshell.

The actual development of the product was done with a team of a designer, engineer and product expert (Andy, Tyler, Guy) that had worked together on several different projects.

SPN: How many users does Nutshell have and what has keyed your growth?

WF: As a fast-growing, competitive industry, we’re reluctant to share specifics. We continue to grow like crazy, and are pouring profits back into product development. We’re hiring new engineers and designers and recently hired several product experts and product managers.

SPN: What does the future hold for Nutshell? What’s your founder’s vision and what keeps your team so invested in this product?

WF: Our short-term goals are to improve support for customers who are managing their ongoing business. Nutshell excels at supporting the new lead process, and we’re really focusing on improving the way businesses interact with their ongoing customers.

We’re also pouring a lot of effort into third-party integrations, and have released Olark and Zendesk integrations over the past month.

Long term, we’re excited to bring our focus of high-quality design and pleasant user interface into other business software: an arena that’s full of ugly, uninspired forms.

Our mobile team have also begun work on an iPad app, which is going to make our already mobile application even more accessible for sales people on the go.


Credits: Screenshots and Ferdon photo from nutshell.com.

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