Mint.com has long been a company I’ve admired for their displacement of traditional financial management software products like Microsoft Money and Intuit Quicken. Launched in 2007, mint.com had over 20,000 requests to use the product prior to launch and quickly became a recognized startup. In less than two years after launch, Microsoft discontinued its Microsoft Money product in June, 2009 and four months later, Intuit acquired mint.com for $170M. Taking a closer look at how mint.com was able to quickly drive early awareness reveals the primary components of their initial marketing strategy, which serves as a playbook for nearly any internet startup.
Mint took a three pronged strategy as developed by Noah Kagan, then Mint’s Director of Marketing.
- Targeting. Noah and chief designer Jason Putorti used the tried and true approach of testing to determine the most effective means to driving traffic. Using good old searching, they found and targeted personal finance blogs, financial gurus and other influencers or hubs on personal finances as well as communities of target users they determined would be attracted to the tool. Next they developed several different test landing pages for their site and measured the conversion results from the various targets to determine which sites and keywords were most effective. This approach refined their SEO strategy. You can view the various landing pages here: http://bit.ly/xAtksk
- Word of Mouth. Mint was exceptionally successful at this, using a combination of their own blog site and third party bloggers. Because the product was amazing to start with, users were enthusiastic to share about it with friends and family. Mint provided an easy to use referral tool as well as post badges entitled “I Want Mint” for bloggers in exchange for early access to the tool. Second, they identified lesser known bloggers who had strong followings and proactively sponsored their blogs, creating loyalty from the audience that matters most. Lastly, their own blog site was crafted with useful information and quickly became the number one personal finance blog.
- Press. Mint.com set goals for the various publications and key influentials in the personal finance space they wanted to engage. Through a PR firm, they conducted positioning research to focused on these targets and drove tremendous awareness of their product by achieving targeted placements.
Combining these approaches, Mint.com was able to capitalize on nearly every popular finance search query and align content for it through their blog, various landing pages and third party blog sites. They used scorecards and metrics to closely track results and make refinements as they went along knowing that what gets measured is what gets done. As a result, they gathered over 20,000 email addresses prior to launch. Once mint.com was ready to launch, they called ever person to let them know. Ultimately, they had over 1.5M users within three years of launch.