May 2009 - Posts
How do you market a product that is the Swiss Army Knife of QuickBooks-integrated apps? I can tell you, it is quite a challenge since Method breaks Marketing 101: find the one core benefit of your product and focus all your marketing efforts on explaining that benefit. Now, with all the things Method does, I have to wonder whether the authors of Marketing 101 (whoever you are) ever thought a product like Method would come along? I think not.
Method solves a different unique problem for nearly every user, so we jump at opportunities to get Method in front of key industry leaders who can in turn explain Method better than we can!!
Now, what’s a marketer’s dream? I would say when you uncover that industry-leaders have been talking passionately about your product amongst themselves – you’ve witnessed magic. So, I have to share a recent discovery I made.
In February, I went to Shawnee, Oklahoma (yeehaw!) to have a meeting with CPA Technology Advisor. I presented Method to a boardroom of staff, including the very successful, recently appointed Executive Editor, Darren Root. It took a solid 10 minutes of Q&A and demonstration to reach that “ah-ha” moment, but once we struck that cord, it was clear that Method would be a huge benefit not only to end-users and developers, but to consultants in the tax and accounting industry. I walked away with a lot of great advice and left them thinking about how revolutionary Method Integration really is. Shortly thereafter, Danny took them through a demo highlighting the key bells and whistles that would further their understanding of Method’s capability. Of course, Danny being Danny, left them with a lasting impression.
Little did I know, that aside from the red plastic “Welcome to Shawnee” cup I scored on my trip, we also managed to score some unexpected publicity from the encounter. Just this week, I was checking out the CPA Technology Advisor website, when I tripped over the March 2nd podcast, which happened to discuss Method for a solid 5 minutes! The podcast was led by none other than the highly-regarded Darren Root and Doug Sleeter, President of the Sleeter Group. Darren and Doug clearly get what Method is all about, and are true visionary leaders in their industry. They shared some great insights into what Method is accomplishing, and we are appreciative for their recognition.
Take a moment to listen to the following podcast from the 20:30 to 25:30 marks, to hear what Darren and Doug had to say about Method!
A big thank you to Darren and Doug for your kind words and insight into Method.
I’ll be back in touch via the blog soon…
Have a nice day,
The majority of the conferences I attend take place in the USA. I was happily surprised to meet a fellow Canadian, Esther Friedberg, when attending the QuickBooks Enterprise Conference in Dallas last September. Not only was she from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) but she was also from the same city I grew up in, Thornhill, ON.
Esther started CompuBooks in 1995 and is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor in Canada and an Advanced Certified ProAdvisor in the United States. She is also a professional speaker, writer and educator. Esther is also a member of several community groups including The Sleeter Group and most recently Method’s Solution Providers Program.
Esther recently did a personal review of Method Integration which you can read by clicking the link below.
Just Like Being There…Only Better – a review by Esther Friedberg
Danny Do Couto
With today’s economy, businesses have to make difficult choices as to where they will spend their hard earned dollars. For anyone who attended the Scaling New Heights Conference in Atlanta last week, I strongly feel it was money well spent. This conference gave attendees a very unique opportunity to learn Intuit products, prepare for Intuit certification exams and interact with various ProAdvisors and Intuit Solution Providers. If that wasn’t enough, attendees at the conference received hands-on training from some of the top trainers of Intuit products like Joe Woodard, Laura Madeira and Mario Nowogrodzki just to name a few!
I feel extremely privileged that Joe allowed me to join the Scaling New Heights team last week, seeing as only 2 IDN products were invited to the conference. On Day 1, I led a class during the lunchtime break session, focusing on using Method for CRM (Customer Relationship Management). It was nice to see some familiar faces in a packed classroom. If anyone is like me, my stomach starts to feel a little funny when doing training sessions or presentations, but this time, it was also because I didn’t have a chance to touch my lunch. I was being pulled left, right and center by people wanting to have a few questions answered regarding Method. The training session went off without a hitch and for many people in the room, this was their first exposure to this product called “Method”.
This set the tone for the rest of the day on Monday, leading up to Tuesday when I helped Joe with presenting Method as one of his top 5 IDN (Intuit Developer Network) picks for 2009. I focused my presentation on 10 problems that could be solved by using Method. For anyone who is interested, Joe is offering a simulcast package with 5 of the classes that were at the Scaling New Heights Conference. For more information, please visit http://www.scalingnewheights.com
Scaling New Heights also marked the beginning of our Solution Providers Pilot Program which is going to help empower both Certified Consultants and Certified Account Managers with extensive Method product knowledge starting this week!
This was Joe’s first conference and was a major success. I look forward to attending Scaling New Heights 2010! Nicely done Joe!
Danny Do Couto
As I leaked out earlier this week in my blog post The future of web apps: end-user web platforms, Method Warehouse is now available! If you are already a user of Method Full Blown Edition, the news is even better: Method Warehouse is included in your monthly subscription (yes.....even the Method MRP Calculation!). All you need to do is go to Customize > My Account, and add the Method Warehouse app.
Method Warehouse is an app that solves the inventory problems faced by QuickBooks users. More importantly, it has been carefully designed to solve these problems in the most streamlined and useful manner possible.
QuickBooks users who maintain inventory need inventory tracking outside of what QuickBooks itself currently offers. Whether they are distributor with multiple locations, a retail store that needs real time knowledge of which store has what inventory available, or a manufacturer that needs to know how much inventory to purchase and build – Method Warehouse is the missing piece of the puzzle.
When we embarked on creating an inventory app for Method, we decided to first firmly establish what core problems an inventory app should be solving:
- Companies that have multiple locations need to be able separate their QuickBooks inventory by location, and by sublocation.
- Reorder / Build Points in QuickBooks are not sufficient for companies with multiple locations. They need to be able to set different Reorder / Build Points per location.
- Inventory must be able to be grouped and tracked by lot number, expiration date or revision level.
- Inventory must be able to be tracked by serial number from the moment it enters the door to the moment it leaves, and leave a breadcrumb trail along the way.
- Companies that manufacture goods needed a solid MRP (Material Requirements Planning) calculator that looks at existing inventory, forecasted demand, inventory lead times and existing pending transactions in order to tell manufacturers how much to purchase, how much build, and when to do it.
We think existing inventory solutions for QuickBooks are too complicated, cumbersome and bloated. So, next we set out to find out exactly why this was the case to avoid running into the same perils ourselves. After investigation, we came to the conclusion that they were loaded with unnecessary features – unnecessary because most of the screens in the existing inventory solutions duplicated what already exists within QuickBooks. The existing solutions out there all require you to move all inventory control outside out of QuickBooks and into their solutions, thereby requiring you to enter inventory-related transactions in their solutions only.
However, when building Method Warehouse, we were fortunate to have a powerful, patent-pending, Method sync engine at our disposal that listens to everything that happens in QuickBooks and shuttles changes back and forth with the Method web server. We reasoned that the only way to create a streamlined inventory app was to do what the other inventory solutions couldn’t do, and that was to leverage the Method sync engine to allow users to keep their inventory control in QuickBooks. This allowed us to streamline the Method Warehouse interface to be just a few small screens.
This was no small accomplishment for our sync engine. For example, when a QuickBooks user enters an Item Receipt directly in QuickBooks, the sync engine has to "hear" this Item Receipt, check to see if there are inventory items listed on it, and then figure out which location and inventory bin to move those items to. But what happens when the QuickBooks user later changes the item quantity of one of the items on the Item Receipt? Well, the sync engine has to know that there is an existing transfer order to an inventory bin, and then update that inventory bin with the new quantity. Now, what if the QuickBooks user changes the Item Receipt by using a different item instead of the previous item? Well, the sync engine has to remove the quantity from the previous bin, and then move inventory into a different bin belonging to the different inventory item. And what if the item receipt is deleted altogether? Well….you get the idea. Moral of the story: There is a reason why other inventory solutions require you to move inventory out of QuickBooks!!
Here's a few screen shots of the interface:
Inventory Control Monitor - Automatic alert levels per location, per inventory item
Inventory Locations - Multiple inventory locations, with sublocations
Inventory Control Bins
Inventory Control Transfer Orders
We felt it was a challenge worth choosing – and after you use the streamlined interface, we think you’ll agree it was a good choice.
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'till next time,
Since the launch of Method, I'm asked more and more for my thoughts on what the future holds for small business software. You might be surprised that I respond that the future of small business software isn't software at all! The future is customizable web apps, built on end-user web platforms.
During the last 10 years, I have had the pleasure of working with thousands of companies, learning about their needs, as well as the software they depend on.
When it comes to my thoughts on which business technology will push to the forefront in the years to come, my nod goes to developers that can truly (I mean truly) satisfy the demands of small business. Sound like a cliché? Of course it is. Especially when you look at what small businesses actually want.
So, what does every small business want? Across the board it's actually the same. They want something simple their staff can use. But they don't want to sacrifice on the features they need. Oh, and did I forget? It's got to be very affordable and it's got to be today! In other words they want to have their cake and eat it too…..and it should be no more than 0 calories, and it can't cause a tummy ache.
Wait, wait! Don't despair software developers…...there is hope! Those of us who have started to get their hands dirty with end-user web platforms can report back: "We've seen the future, and the future is friendly."
Let's do a short history lesson.
Desktop Software Programs
The 1980's and 1990's saw desktop software jump on the scene. The model was simple: find a core problem for similar companies in an industry, and sell as many one-size-fits-all products as possible. For small businesses, it was certainly a lot cheaper and painless than getting a custom program made. But with desktop programs the famous Henry Ford quote comes to mind when selling his Model T car: "Pick any color - so long as it's black". Contrary to the desktop software model, companies in the same industry are not all that similar. So, in order to sell more products, developers over-complicate their programs by jamming in as many features as they can in an effort to say "yes" as often as possible. Ironically, this gave them the illusion of being useful, but ended up having the opposite effect.
Web 2.0 apps
The other reason the web apps were successful was that they had the advantage of learning from the mistakes of desktop programs - since web apps are sold on monthly subscriptions they don't have to jam in features to justify selling annual upgrades. Companies like Salesforce.com built empires on being the "anti-software" based on this reason.
End-user web platforms
A shortcoming of Web 2.0's model of keeping it simple, though, is that a well disciplined web developer must say "no" much more often than "yes" to features requests, and must turn away users who start to outgrow their apps - otherwise they'll fall into the tangled feature trap that desktop programs fell into. This, of course creates friction with end users who justifiably can't be expected to appreciate the bigger vision that developers have for their apps, and get frustrated from hearing "no" to most of their feature requests.
Web 2.0 apps have taken us a long way. But they are no match for the next generation technology I refer to as end-user web platforms. Imagine you are an end-user and you have two, nearly identical apps to choose from. Which of the following would you choose?
- Web App A: Developed by a programmer using code. Updates are made by feature requests only.
- Web App B: Developed by a non-programmer on a platform. Updates can be made by users using drag and drop tools.
Of course you would choose Web App B! The platform app would always win. Web App A is a simple, useful app that solves today's core problems. But Web App B is a simple, useful app that not only solves today's core problems; it also imposes no limitations on solving tomorrow's problems - whatever they may be. Perfect for small business! It's like taking Henry Ford's Model T, clicking a button on the production line to paint it red, and then a month later clicking another button to add a sunroof, and then the following month clicking another button to add a rear spoiler! Who wouldn't want that?
I'm going to clarify what I mean by an end-user web platform. Unlike regular web-platforms, which are designed to be used by programmers, in an end-user web platform the user must be able to design and create a system themselves, without any programming knowledge. Users must have the same tools available to them as the developer that built the app. In other words, here’s the big test: it must be possible for end users to re-create an entire web app themselves from scratch using drag and drop tools. No coding.
Now, that's a whole new way of thinking isn't it?
Method Integration - Suite of Apps
When we created Method, we weren't trying to start a revolution. We actually stumbled upon the idea of creating an end-user web platform. At first, it was a platform we created for ourselves so that we could create a suite of simple QuickBooks apps that enabled users to develop and share their own features. It was our solution for not having to put new features into our desktop software every year, thereby preventing it from getting more and more complex! So for the problem we were trying to solve, the solution that later became known as "Method" just made sense. We had to create our own end-user web platform since, at the time, such a thing in the web world didn't exist.
Now that we have a platform, we can rapidly churn out useful, integrated apps for QuickBooks. Later this week, we'll be putting out Method Warehouse, which is an inventory management app for QuickBooks. It's amazing how simple inventory management can be when you strip it down to its core. It's all about knowing where your inventory is (locations and bins), how they got there (transfer orders), and how much material you need to build and purchase in order to meet finished good deadlines (MRP). The entire app is in one single "Warehouse Center" tab within Method. How were we able to make it so simple? Because the Web 2.0 world taught us to strip the problem to the core, solve the problem and nothing else. But since it is built on an end-user web platform, users can keep it simple by adding only the features they need as they need them. Nothing less, nothing more.
Given the optimal solution provided to small businesses, tomorrow's web apps will be built more and more on end-user web platforms, so my advice to everyone is to hop on early and enjoy the ride.
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'till next time,
…just can’t wait to get on the road again. Oh come on now, who hasn’t heard the classic Willie Nelson song? Truth be told, I actually had to Google the lyrics to find out who sang it. I also had to verify with Katie that I wasn’t the only one that could recognize that song. Lucky for me, she was an avid fan, with this song being an iPod favorite! (Joking)
Anyway, as you might have gathered from my reference to Willie’s song, the Method Team is starting its tour across the USA this May. I love conference shows and seminars, as they give a unique opportunity to speak with potential and current users of Method. Not to mention, there is nothing better than in person interaction and showing off what Method has to offer.
Listed below are all the conferences we are currently scheduled to attend.
Scaling New Heights – presented by Joe Woodard
Dates – May 18 – 19, 2009
Location – Atlanta, Georgia
Conference details - http://www.scalingnewheights.com/
2009 California Accounting & Business Show
Dates – June 1 – 2, 2009
Location – Los Angeles, California
Conference details - http://www.flaggmgmt.com/ca/
2009 AICPA Tech Conference
Dates – June 15 – 17, 2009
Location – Las Vegas, Nevada
Conference details - http://infotech.aicpa.org/
2009 Midwest Accounting & Finance Showcase
Dates – August 25 – 26, 2009
Location – Rosemont, Illinois
Conference details - http://www.flaggmgmt.com/icpas/default.htm
2009 The Sleeter Group Conference
Dates – November 9 – 12, 2009
Location – Orlando, Florida
Conference details - http://www.sleeter.com/events/conferences
So, if you’re attending any of these conferences, be sure to stop by, say hello and enjoy an espresso at the Method café. If you aren’t planning on attending any of the conferences listed, perhaps our presence there might change your mind. Just sayin’!
Danny Do Couto