Marketing Tips

2016 Guide to Building a Small Business App and Launching on QuickBooks Apps.com

QBecosystemCongratulations! If you are reading this post, you plan on using the QuickBooks Online REST API v3 to seamlessly connect your app to QuickBooks Online (QBO) data and publish it on the QuickBooks App Store (Apps.com). If you aren’t, you may be missing out on the huge opportunity for developers in the small business market. Think of this post as being your comprehensive guide to getting your small business solution in front of millions of QuickBooks users, and a network of over 100,000 QuickBooks ProAdvisors.

Before we jump into the steps below, I highly recommend you sign up for a QuickBooks Online trial and test out a few of the top Apps.com apps to familiarize yourself with the best design and workflow patterns. Doing this early in the process will help you avoid many hours of re-work caused by “re-inventing the wheel”. It is also a good idea to brush up on the web-based standards: OAuth, and OpenID. (Read more: QuickBooks API Integration 1: The Basics by Sam Shaaban.)

 

Step 1: Set Up Your Developer Environment

If you haven’t already, you should create your Intuit Developer Account, set up your QuickBooks Online Developer Sandbox, and use the QBO API Explorer to test some of the payloads you’ll be moving between your app and QuickBooks Online. The developer site also has many SDK downloads available in the most popular languages, so grab those too.

When you are ready, you’ll need to create your first app. (Read more: Creating Your First App by Tristan Sokol.)

 

Step 2: Build Your QuickBooks Online Integration

Not sure what to build? Focus on solving for your existing customers first. If your app is a small business SaaS app, chances are that many of your existing customers use QuickBooks Online as well. They probably also have a need to move some data between your app and QuickBooks Online, and they are currently jumping through unnecessary hoops to accomplish this. An easy place to start is to physically watch one of your customers. When you see them open your app and QBO side-by-side on the screen so that they can type things from one into the other, that is the data that you need to integrate via the QuickBooks Online Accounting API endpoints or the Reports API within the Accounting API Reference.

The first thing you want to implement is the OAuth workflow and add the “Connect to QuickBooks” button to your app.

Your customers click on this button to grant your app access to their QuickBooks Online data. This button launches the QuickBooks OAuth connection process. It is similar to a Connect to Facebook or Connect to Twitter button you may have seen in other web-based SaaS apps. (Read more: OAuth for Intuit Demystified by Peter Vogel and QuickBooks API Integation 2: The Horrors of OAuth by Sam Shaaban.)

Once successfully connected, your app is ready to start moving data to and from QuickBooks Online via the RESTful API calls.

 

Step 3: Have Your Existing Customers Use Your Connection To QuickBooks Online

At this point you should have been able to identify and build data connections that your customers find valuable. Now you are ready to push your code live and start letting your customers use the connection. To get your production keys (also called PROD tokens) follow the steps described in our documentation.

By solving for your existing customers first, you have done the following:

  • Ensured you have a solid integration that truly solves a small business owners problems.
  • Created a chest of loyal users that you can ask to write you great reviews the day you launch on Apps.com.

Is your app brand new? Do you not have any existing customers? Tweet that you are looking for some customers to try out your app and QBO integration. If you CC @IntuitDev or me (David Leary) we’ll do our best to help get your tweet bubbled up to the accountants and customers in our networks.

Now you are well underway to having a growing QuickBooks Online connections report and a successful Apps.com launch.

 

Step 4: Determine How Your App Will Appear On Apps.com

As you can see in the table below, there are now 5 paths to publishing on QuickBooks Apps.com. You’ll need to ensure that you take the path that best fits your app. Ideally, you want to use the “Standard Listing” implementation, which gives the deepest integration and the most seamless customer experience. However, that might not be the best fit for your app today, so you can start with one of the other types of implementation, then move to the Standard Listing as your app and processes improve overtime. (Read more: New Referral App Listings for the QuickBooks App Store, Apps.com by Lori Fraleigh.)

SaaS AppsMobile Only AppsOn Premise Installed
or Hosted Apps
Standard ListingModified Single Sign On (SSO)Referral OnlyReferral OnlyReferral Only
Why you would choose this optionYou want to offer the best customer experience, get the highest conversion rates, and have your app offer a 1-click signup experience inside of QuickBooks Online.You want to offer a better customer experience by leveraging OpenID to ensure your self-service on-boarding experience is as seamless as possible, but not use Intuit SSO for login to your app.You want to get a referral link to a QuickBooks specific landing page on your apps website.You want to get a referral link to a QuickBooks specific landing page on your apps website.You want to get a referral link to a QuickBooks specific landing page on your apps website.
Where your app is displayedApps.comOn Apps tab in QuickBooks OnlineApps.comMay appear on Apps tab in QuickBooks OnlineApps.comMay appear on Apps tab in QuickBooks OnlineApps.comMay appear on Apps tab in QuickBooks OnlineApps.comMay appear on Apps tab in QuickBooks Online
Customer experience from app card1-click signup experience via “Get App Now” buttonStreamlined signup experience with account provisioning via “Get App Now” buttonWebsite referral via “Learn More” buttonWebsite referral via “Learn More” buttonWebsite referral via “Learn More” button
Additional marketing opportunitiesPreferred eligibility to rent a booth at QuickBooks Connect ConferencePossible deeper partnership based on performancePreferred eligibility to rent a booth at QuickBooks Connect ConferencePossible deeper partnership based on performancePreferred eligibility to rent a booth at QuickBooks Connect ConferencePossible deeper partnership based on performancePreferred eligibility to rent a booth at QuickBooks Connect ConferencePossible deeper partnership based on performancePreferred eligibility to rent a booth at QuickBooks Connect ConferencePossible deeper partnership based on performance
Requirements SummaryUses QBO API v3OAuth + OpenID

“Connect to QuickBooks” widget

“Sign In With Intuit” button

Uses QBO API v3OAuth + OpenID

“Connect to QuickBooks” widget

Uses QBO API v3OAuth

“Connect to QuickBooks” widget

App website has a QuickBooks specific landing page

Uses QBO API v3OAuth

“Connect to QuickBooks” widget

App website has a QuickBooks specific landing page

Uses QBO API v3OAuth

“Connect to QuickBooks” button image

App website has a QuickBooks specific landing page

Required ReviewsTechnicalSecurity

Marketing

TechnicalSecurity

Marketing

TechnicalSecurity

Marketing

TechnicalSecurity

Marketing

TechnicalSecurity

Marketing

 

 

Step 5: Build Out Your Apps.com Integration

NOTE: Referral Only apps should skip to Step 6 below.

One of the major advantages of having your app on Apps.com is the one-click signup experience from the app card (your app’s landing page on Apps.com), as well as from within QuickBooks Online via the Apps tab. This allows customers to signup for your app, authorize your app to access their data in QuickBooks, and start using your app as quickly as possible. This is made possible by implementing OpenID in your SaaS app. Essentially, we hand off the known user to you (allowing the user to bypass the need to create a second user name and password on your site) and allow you to trigger the OAuth process in the background via the directConnectToIntuit() API call.

You also need to add the “Sign In with Intuit” button (OpenID) to your sign-in pages, so that the user can easily sign into your app the next time they use it.

Sign_in_blue_btn_med_default

Your QuickBooks Online and Apps.com integration should now be finished.

 

Step 6: Submit Your App for Publishing on Apps.com

NOTE: Referral Only apps must create a support ticket requesting to be a referral app before starting the publishing process.

Before you start the publishing and review process, make sure you have completed Step 3 of this post. Then make sure your app passes all the tests on the Apps.com Requirements checklist, meets the security requirements, and will pass the marketing review. (Read more: Practical Tips for Common Web Application Security Vulnerabilities by Jarred Keneally)

Once you have fully tested your app, you are ready to publish your app on Apps.com. You’ll need to sign into the my apps section of developer site and choose the app you are ready to publish. Ensure you have the production app settings page filled out, then click the Publish button. You are now ready to fill out your app card for any of the Apps.com global regions that your app supports. Once everything is perfect, click the Submit app for review button. If you don’t have all the images or copy 100% ready for your app card, you can still submit it, and then update your app card in the future.

Clicking Submit app for review triggers a thorough technical, security, and marketing review process. (Read more: Overview of Apps.com Review process by Tristan Sokol.)

Once completed, your app card is pushed live to QuickBooks Apps.com so QuickBooks Online users can discover and sign up for your app. You can then place the “Available on QuickBooks Apps.com” badge on your website and other marketing materials.

At this point be sure to request reviews from the customers you solicited in Step 3 of this post. The apps on Apps.com are listed in order by the number of reviews, so starting out on the first day with multiple 4 and 5 star reviews is crucial to your success.

Step 7: Play The Game

You made it! Your app is now listed on Apps.com and is in front of millions of QuickBooks users, your existing customers have written you great reviews, and now it’s time to focus on growing your app’s customer base. The good news is that the Intuit Developer Partner Program will help you grow app revenues, maximize your marketing impact, and reach your targeted customers. (Read more: Intuit Developer Announces New Partner Program.)

One of the best ways to get lots of small business customers is to engage with the ProAdvisors, accountants, and bookkeepers that are supporting them on a daily basis. (Read more: 10 Things Successful Small Business App Developers Do To Win With Accountants by David Leary.)

Need Help? Have Additional Questions?

Here are some useful links:

Here is a handy punch-list you can use to keep track of your progress during the development and review process:

Developer/App adds the “Connect to QuickBooks” widget and the OAuth workflows
Developer/App switches to production tokens
Existing Developer/App customers using the connection
Developer/App finishes the Apps.com integration and OpenID workflows
Developer/App ensures all the tests on the tech requirements checklist pass
Developer/App fills out app card and publishes the app
Intuit does tech review of Developer/App
Developer/App passes tech review
Security review is initiated
Security company contacts Developer/App and makes arrangements for the security scan
Scan is complete and results are reviewed with Developer/App
Developer/App passes the security review
Developer/App is handed off to the Apps.com marketing team
Developer/App completes the marketing review including finalizing the app card
QuickBooks Apps.com marketing team works with Developer/App on the day they should push the Apps.com app card LIVE
Developer/App is published on Apps.com

 

See you on Apps.com!

-david

Questions, comments or concerns? Share them on our developer forums.

 December 22, 2015 | David Leary