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I’ve Seen the Future of CRM – Here’s What it Could Mean for Your Business

135,000 people descended upon the streets of San Francisco to attend Salesforce.com’s 2013 Dreamforce Conference,“the biggest cloud-computing event of the year.” The theme of the opening keynote was a spoof on the classic movie “Back to the Future.”  The ironic part of it is – forget about the future – even the present looks a lot like something out of a sci-fi movie.  We’re already living in a world where all of our electronic devices and household items are becoming “smarter” and interconnected in a way that seemed impossible just a few short years ago.

Big Brother is here to stay
Michael Simmons

Several recent events have brought the concept of big data collection and mining to the forefront of many people’s minds. We now have a greater awareness than ever before that things once thought to be private really aren’t.

If this idea makes you uncomfortable, I have bad news: big data collection seems to be here to stay. In essence just by having a mobile phone or email account these days, you’re opting in to be tracked and hit with advertisements before you even realize you’re ready to buy.  This inevitable evolution of technology and society is not all bad news for business though. Rather than fearing this shift, companies should embrace it and try to leverage it as an opportunity.

Companies that leverage customer relationship management (CRM) programs intelligently can collect vast amounts of data about consumer activity, which allow them to market in a more timely and intelligent fashion. Cloud computing makes it possible to collect, store, analyze and manage this data more efficiently and cost-effectively. The convergence of big data and cloud computing is an exciting trend that’s empowering businesses to connect with their customers in a more relevant, timely way.

If you’re still resisting this trend, take note of the following finding from an IBM study: “Organizations gaining competitive advantage through high cloud adoption are reporting almost double the revenue growth and nearly two-and-a-half times higher gross profit growth than peer companies that are more cautious about cloud computing.” Salesforce.com is one cloud-based company that’s leading the way; it recently closed out its first billion dollar quarter (36% annual growth).

It’s all about mobile, social and real-time

Salesforce’s new app, Salesforce1, is already receiving rave reviews. Investment News says the app is “an innovative new mobile platform designed to connect customers and businesses to sales, service and marketing.” It has been touted for its “real-time mobile reporting” and “predictive analytics” capabilities. Salesforce1 allows you to access and update all of the information in your CRM database on the go and in real time. For example, if you’re in the middle of a marathon meeting and need to check your current inventory levels or see which new deals have closed today, the app puts the latest information at your fingertips.

The integration of social media data is taking these technologies to the next level. Salesforce’s Service Cloud allows companies to more effectively use social networks as another channel to listen and engage with clients and prospects. You can see the social profiles of your contacts to gain a better understanding of their interests and needs, and you can monitor what is being said about your brand (whether it’s positive or negative) in real-time so you can respond to customer service issues faster and head off small problems before they
become big ones.

CRMs are becoming an essential business function

CRM systems allow businesses to track and store vast amounts of data about customers and prospects. The more data you have about your sales cycle that is accurate and relevant, the more deeply you can analyze that information to gain insight that will ultimately help you improve your close rates and increase revenue.

CRMs can also help you automate content marketing. Theoretically, the more automated your sales cycle can be (while ensuring that prospects are receiving valuable content specifically related to their needs), the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close. You’ll be able to track which pages clients and prospects are visiting on your website, where they’re coming from, and how engaged they are, so you can start targeting them in a more strategic way. You can track return on investment on your marketing efforts to see what’s really working and what isn’t. And ultimately you’ll be able to improve forecasting efforts and projections.

While implementing a CRM program can be time-consuming and expensive, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. With powerful business intelligence and insights into your customers’ buying process, you will be able to improve your sales cycle and convert more prospects into clients. Don’t dismiss CRMs and cloud-computing as trends that are going to go away. Do your research now to learn how these technologies could help your company in the future.

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Michael Simmons is the chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s HYPE Miami (Helping Young Professionals Engage) committee and a business development specialist in Kaufman Rossin’s Miami office. Kaufman Rossin is one of the top CPA firms in the country. Mike can be reached at msimmons@kaufmanrossin.com.

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New Year’s Resolution: Get the Most Out of LinkedIn!

As we begin 2014, now is an opportune time to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and that you are using this powerful, professional social networking tool as effectively as possible.

If you work in the professional services industry, clients and prospects may be perusing your profile as they start thinking about their business plans for the year. If you lead a nonprofit organization, you know the importance of leveraging your personal network to connect with donors and corporate sponsors. And if you’re thinking about changing jobs this year, you definitely want to use LinkedIn as a tool to reach recruiters and potential employers.

Here are 12 LinkedIn tips (hint: one for each month of the year). Make it your New Year’s resolution to get the most out of LinkedIn!Lisa Cawley Ruiz of Kaufman, Rossin

  1. Log in daily – Once a week or – gasp! – once a month is not often enough to stay on top of connection requests, LinkedIn messages, group discussions, notifications and your contacts’ activity. Just as you check your email every morning, get into the habit of checking LinkedIn regularly.
  2. Adjust your privacy and notification settings – You can choose why and when you want to receive email notifications and who can see your connections and other information. You can also turn your activity broadcasts on or off (helpful if you’re making a bunch of updates – see #3 below). If you can’t log in to LinkedIn daily, you might at least want to receive daily email notifications so you won’t miss important updates.
  3. Update your profile – Are your current position and recent accomplishments listed? Do you have a well-crafted summary that tells other LinkedIn users who you are as a professional? Have you added your community involvement, skills and credentials?
  4. Add media – Take advantage of LinkedIn’s professional portfolio feature by showcasing videos, images, documents and links on your profile page.
  5. Respond to invitations to connect – Accept, reply or deny these but don’t leave them sitting in your inbox; a client, prospect or recruiter might be trying to reach you.
  6. Check your LinkedIn messages – See #5 above.
  7. Share something interesting – Posting a link to a news article, blog or event is an easy way to share valuable content and stay visible with your network. Out of ideas? See #9 below.
  8. Build your network – Use the “People You May Know” feature (accessible from the home page) to find LinkedIn users to connect to. You can also import contacts from your email accounts, CSV files and apps such as CardMunch and Evernote, but review your contact lists carefully before deciding if you’re going to import them.
  9. Customize your news – Pulse has replaced LinkedIn Today. Choose the types of content you want to see and which of LinkedIn’s 300+ Influencers you want to follow. If you read something interesting that may also be interesting to your contacts, share it.
  10. Join groups and contribute to discussions – Search for groups related to your interests, your industry and the industries or prospects you are targeting. Vet groups before you join to see if they are active and if they might be a good fit for you. There are more than 1 million groups on LinkedIn, so be selective. Listen to the conversation first, then actively participate by starting discussions or commenting on discussions posted by others.
  11. Follow-up through LinkedIn – Did you meet an interesting contact at that networking event last night? Don’t just collect his business card and send a follow-up email. Use LinkedIn to search for his profile, learn more about him (including whether you have any connections in common), and send him a connection request and a personalized message. Nurture the online relationship by sharing valuable content with your new contact.
  12. Give and get recommendations – Ask a client, coworker, or former supervisor to write a brief recommendation of your work for your LinkedIn profile, and offer to write recommendations for those whose work you truly appreciate. Although LinkedIn’s Endorsements feature has succeeded in increasing engagement on the site, written recommendations still hold more weight in the eyes of customers and employers.

With more than 259 million members and two new members joining every second, LinkedIn is the second most popular social network among online adults (Facebook remains #1), according to a new Pew Research social media study. Let 2014 be the year you finally start using it right!

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Lisa Cawley Ruiz is a brand journalist in Kaufman Rossin’s Miami officeKaufman Rossin is one of the top CPA firms in the country. Lisa can be reached at lruiz@kaufmanrossin.com or you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Get Connected with Florida Banking Professionals

Are you using social media to connect with others in the Florida banking community? You should be. LinkedIn makes it easy to network with like-minded professionals.  You don’t even have to leave your desk to follow Florida banking news, get to know other professionals, demonstrate your credibility and see career opportunities!

If you’re a LinkedIn member, you can use the built-in search function to find and join a group of professionals in the Florida banking industry.  Use the drop-down arrow on the left side of the search box to choose groups, then enter keywords (e.g., “Florida bankerJason Chorlins of Kaufman Rossins” or “Florida banking”) to find groups that might be of interest to you.

 1. Select your groups

If you join too many groups, you won’t be able to keep up with all of them.  Be selective when deciding which ones to join. Look at how many members each group has, how many discussions are happening this month and how many of the group members are already in your LinkedIn network.  For example, here are a few you could try:

  • ACAMS South Florida Chapter is great for connecting with other certified anti-money laundering specialists.
  • FIBA Anti Money Laudering, FIBA Operations & Technology Committee and FIBA Broker/Roundtable are good ways to connect with regional banking professionals with a specific industry focus.
  • South Florida Banking Institute offers resources for professional development, helping bankers to expand their knowledge with research, products and services.  This online group supports a live organization which provides seminars and networking.
  • Financial Services Regulation keeps you up to date on financial regulation changes and issues.
  • Florida Banking Group is a very active group, offering an idea exchange and lots of discussions – more than 200 so far this month.

 2. Observe first

After you join a couple of groups, make a point to visit the group pages and read the discussions. In the beginning,  just observe rather than commenting.  It’s good to get a feel for the the topics of discussion and the most active group members.  If after observing the group for a couple of weeks you don’t think it is a good fit, try another group that is more focused on your banking interests.

3. Add value

Once you’ve identified groups that are a good fit for you, contribute to the conversation. By commenting on active discussions, you will gain visibility.  Another strategy is to do the opposite – respond to posts that have little activity. What’s the advantage of that? Well if the person who started the discussion is someone whom you want to get to know or who works at particular company you’re targeting, you may be able to win his or her attention by being one of the few who replies to his or her posts.

4. Start a discussion

If you’ve recently been quoted in an article or if you’re presenting at an industry conference,  you can share that information with your groups.  You can also post news articles that you think might be of interest to the group – whether or not you wrote them. Remember to add an insightful comment to your post.

 5. Stay top of mind

If you don’t stay active in your groups by frequently visiting and commenting, someone else will take your place in the spotlight.  Social media memories are short. Try to visit your groups every day, if even just for a few minutes each morning.   LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for networking and keeping up to date on industry news, if you learn to use it effectively.

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!

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Jason Chorlins, CPA, CFE, CAMS, CITP, is a risk advisory services manager in Kaufman Rossin’s Miami office.  Kaufman Rossin is one of the best accounting firms in the U.S. Jason can be reached at jchorlins@kaufmanrossin.com.

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LinkedIn Offers Painless Networking for Legal Professionals

If you’re like most attorneys I know, you recognize the importance of networking.  But many lawyers just don’t have the time to attend every event, join every group, participate on every board.  Particularly in the early years of a career, the struggle between billable time and business development time is pretty one-sided, with billable winning most of the battles.

One of the easiest ways to get connected in the South Florida community is through social media.  Ronald Friedman CPA of Kaufman RossinIf you’re a LinkedIn member, it’s very easy to find and join a group of like-minded professionals.  Just click the down arrow on the left side of the search box, and choose groups.  Use keywords in the search box to find groups that might be interesting.

1. Choose your groups

You don’t want to join every group; you won’t have enough time to keep up with them.  A search for “lawyers” yields 5,248 groups!  Narrow it down a little, and then dig in.  ”Florida lawyers” generates 66 results. You can also try other variations, such as “Florida attorneys” or “Florida legal.” A good way to judge whether a group will be productive is to look at the statistics – how many members it has, how many discussions this month, and how many group members are in your network.  A few interesting examples are:

  • Florida Lawyers Group is connected to the Florida Bar.  The group’s mission is to “enhance our business opportunities and expand our referral networks.”  It has more than 1,400 members and 231 discussions.
  • Other groups are specific to practice specialties.  Compare before you join.  Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers has 1,712 members and 10 discussions this month, whereas Florida Defense Lawyers Association has just 238 members and 10 discussions.   Check out who is in each one before you decide – quality connections are better than quantity.
  • Don’t forget to check on industry groups related to your practice.  If you’re involved in protecting intellectual property related to technology, you may want to join a group like Florida Technology Professionals.  It’s been around for five years and has more than 8,000 members.

2. Watch for a while

Adjust your settings to receive group updates, but also proactively visit your groups regularly.  For the first few weeks, spend time absorbing without commenting.  You’ll get a sense of the topics, the tone, even the players.  Make sure you want to be known by these people and that you respect their opinions before you jump in.

3. Contribute intelligently

Commenting on more popular discussions gives you more visibility.  But responding to posts from people who generate few comments could be valuable too, if they are specific people you want to get to know or people who work at particular banks you’re prospecting, for example.  If you’re the only person who replies to their posts, you may make grateful new friends!

4. Start your own topics

If you’ve written a white paper or you’re presenting at a conference, starting a discussion in a group is a great way to promote your expertise.  But even curating news (posting stories you read that might be of interest to the group) gets your name in front of them, as long as you add an intelligent comment.

5. Don’t neglect your new friends

Social media memories are short.  Unless you are frequently visiting and commenting, someone else will take your place in the spotlight.  Set aside time on your calendar every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes every morning.   You’ll find it’s a great way to keep up on industry news and build connections painlessly!

Feel free to contact me via LinkedIn!

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Ronald S. Friedman, CPA, is an assurance and advisory services principal in Kaufman Rossin’s Ft. Lauderdale office. Kaufman Rossin is one of the top CPA firms in Florida. Ron can be reached at rfriedman@kaufmanrossin.com.

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Don’t Overcomplicate Your Marketing Plan

Is one of your business goals this year to improve your marketing effectiveness, but you’re not quite sure where to start?

For many entrepreneurs, marketing tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list. But whether you lead a professional firm, run a family business or direct a non-profit, you won’t thrive without strategic marketing.

Our first Kaufman, Rossin Presents seminar of the year focused on the 10 steps any entrepreneur can take to create a marketing plan that is targeted, measurable and achievable – and under-complicated. Janet Kyle Altman, marketing principal at Kaufman, Rossin, led a dynamic panel discussion that offered insight for entrepreneurs on these steps:

  1. Think under-complicated
  2. Define your target audience
  3. Assess competitors
  4. Define your brand
  5. Get media attention
  6. Implement social media
  7. Consider advertising
  8. Get involved in organizations
  9. Be smart about digital media
  10. Execute, measure and adjust

Panelists included Tauffyt Aguilar, director of online marketing and communications for the University of Miami Health System, Josh Merkin, account director at rbb Public Relations, Javier Milian, senior business analyst at the University of Miami Health System, and Aubrey Swanson, president and social CEO of AUBOOM Media.

Make 2013 the year that you finally gave marketing the attention it deserves. We created the 10-Step DIY Under-Complicated 2013 Marketing Plan workbook as a resource for entrepreneurs like you. Get your free marketing workbook, and start today!

Watch more videos of the marketing seminar on our YouTube channel.

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Lisa Cawley Ruiz is a brand journalist in Kaufman, Rossin’s Miami office. Kaufman, Rossin & Co. is one of the top CPA firms in the country. Lisa can be reached at lruiz@kaufmanrossin.com. Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.