The Key to Building a Killer App for QuickBooks Online (including an idea for a new app)

What does it take to build a successful app?  This, quite literally, could be a million-dollar question, even a multi-million-dollar question.  But what does success or “killer” really mean?  For most developers, it means billable customers outpacing expenses…  or maybe it’s just about the connections.  Let me offer my point of view on the keys to building a killer app on the QuickBooks platform.

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Micah Sampson, and I am a Voice of the Customer Leader and Care Experience Delivery Leader at Intuit.  I’ve been at Intuit for over 6 years.  In that time, I’ve worn many hats in the Care organization, including being a frontline agent where I was answering 20+ calls a day helping QuickBooks Online customers navigate our product.  In short, I know Intuit customers and products very well.  You can view my LinkedIn profile here.

Ok, now to why you really opened this blog post: to get the secret sauce to building the killer app.  Here’s why this article will be different than some others out there; you will hear it from someone who actively studies QuickBooks customers and understands what they are asking for.  I don’t think I can put it any better than Intuit’s mission statement that’s lived within the company for years:

“Improving people’s financial lives so profoundly they can’t imagine going back to the old way.”

“Great, thanks Micah, now I got what I need….” you say sarcastically as you go back to coding.

Components of a killer app

Don’t worry, I am not going to leave it at that!  Let’s break the mission statement down to its key elements:

  1. Improving people’s…  lives
  2. Profoundly…
  3. Can’t imagine going back…

Improving people’s… lives

Notice that I left out the world “financial”.  I did this purposefully because I don’t believe that all apps will solve a financial problem, nor do I believe that they need to.

But what does “improving people’s lives” really mean?  Well, I would say that for 99% of our customers, it’s about saving time.

How I break this down is that the app is easy to use, simple, and reduces the time I need to spend in an area of my business.  Often times, if a customer has to spend time learning the app or training their staff, they will abandon the app and go elsewhere.


Pretty simple here. Again, break this down into saving time, ease, and simplicity: the savings have to be noticeable or “felt” by the customer.  Meaning, if your app just replaces what I (as a customer) am doing today without reducing the time I spend, I will just abandon and stick with the old way.

Can’t imagine going back

If your app is replacing a current process the customer is using, it needs to “wow” them so much that they wouldn’t even dream of going back to their old ways.  Well, what does “wow” mean?  Think about this; is there some app on your smartphone that just really pulls you in and makes you think “this is awesome!”?  That’s what you’re looking for with your app for QuickBooks.  A simple example for me is Amazon Echo.  Gone are my days of keeping a piece of paper on the fridge or a small white board for tracking my grocery list.  Now, I simply say, “Alexa, add Milk” and my list is updated on my phone.  I’ll never go back.  I even bought an Amazon Tap for work because I want Alexa by my side as much as possible (she does play Jeopardy, after all).

Measuring success for your app

Now, how do you measure this as a developer building a new app?  So glad you asked!

  • Talk to your target customers early and often.
  • Go walk the streets and pop in on some small businesses.
  • Interview the business owners, ask to shadow them for a day, and then bring them into design sessions as you build out your app.
  • Treat your customers (the small business owners) like part of your design team.

Once you think you are ready to launch your, make sure you have a generous trial period for new customers.  This is a great way to test if your app will be successful.  If customers won’t use it for free, they probably won’t pay for it.

If customers aren’t using it for free, don’t give up: instead, rinse and repeat.  Go back to your design team — your customers — and get more feedback.  QuickBooks Online wasn’t successful overnight.  It’s taken many sessions with our “design team” of customers to build an awesome product, and we are still rinsing and repeating.

An app challenge for you

Finally, let me give you an idea for an app that does NOT exist in our marketplace today. Solving for this would serve a large portion of existing QuickBooks customers (as well as a large set of non-customers who haven’t yet made the switch to QuickBooks Online).

One of the most important features for just about any non-profit is “fund accounting“.   Today, QuickBooks Online does not solve for this in a sexy way.  We have tedious workarounds that can result in non-profits abandoning the product.  Why?  Well, many non-profits need to use class- or location-tracking for something else, or they are using the non-plus version of QuickBooks Online and don’t have access to class/location tracking.  Also (going back to how to build a killer app), using class- and location-tracking isn’t true fund accounting. Often, extra steps are needed to be in compliance with reporting, thus costing non-profits much needed TIME, rather than saving them time.

While there are a few apps out there that help non-profits manage donations, none of them handle fund accounting (and I’ve spoken to some of our developers currently published on the QuickBooks App Store).  I can tell you from experience that non-profits currently using QuickBooks Online (and even our Desktop product) are clamoring for someone to solve this issue for them.  Again, go out and knock on some doors of non-profits and ask them how they do fund accounting.  By gathering firsthand insights, then coding, gathering more insights and then tweaking the code, you can come up with the next killer app!

Until next time, thank you to all of our developers who are helping small businesses win every day with awesome apps!





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