Intuit's channel program for its MasterBuilder construction software is something like a layer cake. One group sells the software; another installs it; and Intuit ships the product and the invoice. And throw in another group that can refer the business that results in the sale. "We've changed our strategy to strengthen our customer's experience from sales start up through implementation and upgrades," says James Gregg, director of sales for Intuit's Construction Business Solutions.
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Intuit acquired MasterBuilder with its 2002 purchase of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based OmWare for $46.1 million. It was one of four vertical market acquisitions made by Intuit within a short time and is one of only two Intuit businesses that use resellers. Intuit's goal ever since has been to increase MasterBuilder's exposure in the accounting profession, and has been tinkering with its formula for selling and distributing the software.
In May, Intuit revamped the sales program to pull itself out of the mix. Previously, both it and its Solution Providers sold MasterBuilder. Under the new program, Intuit dropped out of the sales effort, choosing to turn sales over to a group of regionally based resellers.
In October, Intuit created the Authorized Associate program to aid resellers by providing them with referrals. Associates receive greater access to training and support, along with sales resources, in their efforts to generate referrals.
This new approach gives resellers responsibility for all sales within their territories. One reseller will have the exclusive right to operate within each of 25 territories. There are currently 12 incumbents, with 12 more firms to be assigned. Intuit is recruiting resellers in open territories, including Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.
"We're looking for providers who want to sell the solutions to contractors, are well networked, and focused on customer service. It also doesn't hurt for them to have experience selling other project management solutions," says Gregg.
VARs develop regional sales and marketing plans, while collaborating with ProAdvisors, who install the software, and provide training, technical support, and business consulting to the associates who recommend it. CPA firms are enrolled in all three levels.
"The enhancements to the program change the value proposition for solution providers. They own their own territories and invest in them without the influence and competition from Intuit or other Solution Providers," adds Gregg.
Gregg says creating the territories will solve several problems. "Customers will know who to go to," he says. "Also, it stops price shopping, which was becoming a serious issue."
Resellers, who are responsible for recruiting ProAdvisors and Authorized Associates, pay $3,000 to join the program and receive a 40 percent margin on sales. Intuit gives them an in-house copy of the software, leads, and marketing tools. It also conducts direct mail campaigns.
ProAdvisors receive a not-for-resale copy of MasterBuilder, product updates, and enhancements, and toll-free support from dedicated representatives in the technical support department. They can also take advanced certification tests to demonstrate their skills. Advisors pay $1,000 to join, plus $900 for training the first year, and $1,000 each year for renewal.
Authorized Associates, currently numbering about 300, receive a not-for-resale version of the software, along with updates and enhancements. They can place 15 free technical support calls each year. Annual membership is $295 per company, but that is waived if a client purchases MasterBuilder each year. Their clients can receive a 5 percent discount on MasterBuilder software. Associates must take six hours of online training, with additional training available.
The MasterBuilder software line covers four areas of the construction process: estimating, production, accounting, and analysis. Modules in the line include General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Job Costing, and Reporting, Scheduling, Purchase Orders, Subcontracts, Change Orders, Payroll, and Billing. Intuit Master Builder 2004 is priced at $1,894; the Enterprise Edition at $2,495. Add-on modules are $795 each.
However, associates don't just get software and product support. Intuit says that the knowledge that associates get from learning the software included greater knowledge of the construction market and the ability to provide construction-specific accounting services.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this channel is that Solution Providers are responsible for establishing a network of Master Builder ProAdvisors and Authorized Associates, who handle the software's implementation, training, and technical support.
"Together, the channel focuses on providing a consistent and positive customer experience from sales and marketing to implementation and training," says Gregg.
Dennis Feidner, owner of Chief Financial Officer on the Go in San Francisco, a reseller for the last three years, says the software line is "great because it works with all levels of construction such as homebuilders, general contractors, and plumbers."
He continues that, "It provides alternatives for clients to learn the software at a low cost. When I was a CFO, I brought software and then spent lots of money on training. I promised myself I wouldn't do that to my clients."
Feidner's company had $1 million in MasterBuilder sales last year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. He expects a 30 percent increase this year.
The company works with 14 ProAdvisors and eight Authorized Associates. "The new channel strategy is great. I can get a call from Intuit with a lead and within 30 minutes, I can call the contact to discuss the client's needs and requirements for implementation and training," he says.
For example, after a plumbing company responded to an Intuit advertisement, Intuit forwarded the company's inquiry to Feidner. After assessing the company's needs, he was able to close the sale and refer the installation to a ProAdvisor that had experience working with plumbing companies.
Once Feidner contacts the ProAdvisor, the advisor implements the software.
However, Feidner will provide clients with tools, and books to understand the software. He will also register them for training classes and performs a variety of services such as implementing cost codes and check formatting.
One positive aspect of selling MasterBuilder is the ability to develop repeat business, he says.
"Once we build a customer base, we have a large percentage of our clients come back to buy additional modules, and seats," says Feidner. "If customers are happy using MasterBuilder, they add to the system and it's good for our overhead."
Mary DaVolt, who has been involved with construction and accounting for 17 years, has been working with both ProAdvisors and Associates.
"The new channel facilitates collaboration between peers and it's not only a win-win situation for the partners, but for the customers," says DaVolt, principal of Madison, Wis.-based Construction Management Solutions.
She holds quarterly meetings for the ProAdvisors to train them in aspects of the program they don't understand.
Leslie Shiner, owner of the Mill Valley, Calif.-based Shiner Group, and a ProAdvisor for 20 years, likes the ability to work with the resellers.
"The new channel helps in terms of sales. I've done sales before, and I don't have the background," she says. "It's nice to partner with sales people. The new territories clearly establish which Solution Providers I should deal with in each city."
Intuit Construction Business Solutions
HQ: Santa Rosa, Calif.
Phone: (888) 429-9941
Product: Intuit Master Builder