Continuing with a push to help its own customers grow their business, Intuit Inc. will include a number of Google Inc. services aimed at boosting the online profile of small businesses in its QuickBooks 2007 product line.

In a conference call this week, the chief executives of both companies -- Intuit's Steve Bennett and Google's Eric Schmidt -- stressed that the non-exclusive alliance is a win-win for everyone. Intuit, which has already been working to provide heightened marketing services to participants in its ProAdvisor program, will be able to offer another avenue for small customers to advertise themselves. Google will gain a showcase for its offerings to a broad base of potential clients through an already-trusted source.

"QuickBooks is a best-in-class partners, as well as a great distribution vehicle, to help us reach a very fragmented small business market," Schmidt said.

Senior vice president of Intuit's Small Business Division Brad Smith said that about 3.7 million users operate some version of QuickBooks, and last year, Intuit moved about 1.4 million units of QuickBooks 2006. The hope is that the 2007 version will sell about 1.5 million copies. Depending on the success of the cross-selling foray, Smith noted that Intuit would consider incorporating the Google services in a later edition of its Quicken product line, which has a base of some 2.5 million users.

In conjunction with the Google announcement, Intuit also announced that it had acquired a partner from its developer network, San Francisco-based StepUp Commerce Inc. The tech company helps local businesses convert online shoppers into in-store customers by displaying products on the Internet. Intuit paid about $60 million for StepUp and its subsidiary, JGSI Corp. The company's founder Kendall Fargo, is now a general manager at Intuit and will report to Smith.

StepUp's technology will power the beta version of QuickBooks Product Listing Service. Product-based businesses can let online shoppers know they carry a specific product by using the service to make their merchandise searchable on Google through Google Base. The feature enables users to automatically transfer inventory information to Google Base and, in theory, attract local buyers to their shops.

Intuit cited a number of studies in its decision to target the online marketplace as the place where clients can reach new customers and Smith said that even for businesses that don't sell product on the Internet, Web research and online referrals is still a key advertising vehicle for service-based clients.

Other services available in QuickBooks 2007 include:

  • Google AdWords -- After paying $5 to establish an account, businesses will receive $50 in Google AdWords credits, which allows users to purchase keyword search terms that delivery an ad to Web browsers seeking information about a particular product or service. This feature allows businesses control over their ad budgets, stopping or pausing a campaign at any time, as well as monitoring their spending or changing their advertising message.
  • Google Maps -- QuickBooks businesses, more than half who do not have their own Web site, can create a free online business listing. The feature allows customers to find a business, see a satellite image of it and get driving directions, as well as allowing small businesses to provide information such as their hours of operation, payment forms accepted and printable coupons. The listing can be updated at any time.
  • Google Desktop -- Google's search engine will be imbedded directly into the QuickBooks program, allowing users to search for customer, vendor or financial information anywhere within the program or on their hard drive. A variety of user permissions can be set, restricting some users from having access to QuickBooks data.

The QuickBooks 2007 product line will be rolled out later this fall.

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