Intuit Certification Program Hits Silver and GoldBy Sean Gallagher | Posted 2007-07-27 Email Print
Certification program and solution marketplace turn Intuit into a major channel for partners as on-demand and software as a service solutions give Quickbooks broader reach.
Last October, Intuit recast its Intuit Developer Network developer program for its Quickbooks accounting software as a certification program, and retuned the company's Quickbooks Solutions Marketplace site. The results since then have been a boon for Intuit and a major source of sales leads for software partners that have taken the plunge into the certification process.
There was already plenty of reason for small developers to work with Intuit. Quickbooks has become a dominant force in the small business financial software market, comparable to Microsoft's dominance on the desktop, according to Gary Chen, senior analyst at the Yankee Group.
"They're super-dominant, especially in the smaller end of the market," he said. "There is no real challengerthere are a couple of smaller competitors, but they're really small."
In companies with under 20 employees, Quickbooks has a 60 percent market share, according to Yankee Group research.
That drops as the size of companies increases. In companies with 20-99 employees, Quickbooks has a 40 percent market share; midmarket up to 999 employees, it's 15 percent.
"The position that it has in the marketplace, it's almost become an integration point, a development platform similar to Windows," said Chen. "If you're [an independent software vendor] targeting SMBs, and you want a place to start to integrate your software solution, the two things that come to mind are Microsoft Office and Quickbooks. It's a very obvious choice for third-party developers."
Since the launch of the new program, enrollment in the network is up 670 percent, and now encompasses about 80 percent of the Quickbooks developer community, according to Shannon Adkins, group manager of the Intuit Developer Network. And for some of those developers, the QSM (Quickbooks Solutions Marketplace) has become a major source of revenue. Intuit doesn't charge for the leads generated by QSM.
Part of the reason for that is that the marketplace site now ranks products by the certification level of the developer, and the customer satisfaction rating that each product gets from customers. Getting gold level certification involves submitting a list of customers to a third-party survey company, which performs a customer satisfaction survey, in addition to the quality assurance certification required for silver level membership.
The certification program itself isn't a real revenue source for Intuit. The company charges $1,495 for gold level certification, and silver certification is free to companies that pass Intuit's quality assurance review. Prior to the new program, Intuit's partner developers paid $995 to $1,195 to be in the Solutions Marketplace, which is now free to certified developers.
"Our best developers don't rely on the solutions marketplace as their primary source of leads," Adkins said. But she added that members report the impact of those leads ranging from 30 to 100 percent of their business.
The lead generation in itself is a major reason for developers who build on top of the Quickbooks platform to enroll in the network. "That's one of the major selling points to us [for getting gold level certification]," said Tom Fanelli, vice president of sales and marketing for dESCO, a dispatch software developer based in Ft. Myers, Fla. "We get over 100 leads a month [from the marketplace]."
Prior to getting certified, Fanelli said, the marketplace was delivering about 60 leads a month. "We get a lot of leads, and they're also highly qualified, so we get folks who understand what we do, and because it's such a good fit they usually close faster," he said.
Sina Shekou, president of Propertyware, a SAAS (software as a service) provider in San Rafel, Calif., said his company has also focused more on the IDN certification because of the quality of the leads the company gets from Intuit over other sources.
"We do a lot of Google Adwords marketing, et cetera, and one of the challenges for selling software as a service for our market that way is that Google Adwords aren't very targeted," he said.
But with the new QSM launch in October, "the number of leads [from QSM] that were valuable was 200 to 300 percent greater than what we get from a Google Adwords campaign." And the QSM leads, Shekou said, "are already so educated, they're converting [to sales] on their own."