Jason Putorti, previously Head Designer at Mint.com and now Designer in Residence (love that) at Bessemer Venture Partners, explains on his blog how Mint.com got to 1.5 million users so fast before being acquired by Intuit.
This was challenging for Mint because the site isn’t obviously viral or SEO friendly, and didn’t spend a lot of money to acquire customers.
But they had a great strategy nonetheless.
Jason is right to put this front and centre. All the smartest customer acquisition strategies in the world will amount to nothing if, at the end of the day, you don't have a great product.
'People loved Mint, it solved a real problem for people (...) The delight after a quick setup, and having all those graphs and balances was palpable and emotional.'
You need to have a blog with original content. It can't be just a list of press releases. It gives your company character, and also can be good for SEO and PR.
'(During the pre-launch days) we focused on building out a unique personal finance blog, very content-rich (...) Eventually the blog became #1 in personal finance, and drove traffic to the app. (...) Our infographics and popular articles became regular hits on Digg, Reddit, etc.'
We love this one because it's contrarian. Conventional wisdom among early stage entrepreneurs is that PR firms are a waste of precious money. Mint.com went with a PR firm from day one and this reaped huge dividends.
'(We) went to town. PR was extremely high quality traffic for us, and the optics for the brand were undeniably good. (...) (CEO Aaron) Patzer talked to every outlet from Entrepreneur to Essence.'
Even though the Mint product wasn't SEO friendly, they had a relentless, metrics-driven SEO strategy.
'We had a lot of landing pages, content on the blog and marketing sites, and had a very metrics driven approach to all of it. For every popular finance query on Google, we had a page and content for it, and iterated landing pages to optimise conversion.'
Opt-in email lists are a tremendous way to connect with your users. We think it's a medium that's much more powerful than Facebook or Twitter. But you have to use it wisely and include great content, or else you'll piss people off.
'Because we provided a lot of value with email, our opt-out rates were low, which enabled us to use it as a marketing channel.'
Putorti shows that a Facebook fan page is important, but only if you make it alive and really work on it. They have 'a lot going on from Mint haiku contests to customer tips, and incentives to suggest to friends.'
As Putorti points out, converting visitors to users is particularly challenging for Mint as it's a finance site, so people have a trust hurdle. As a result, '(t)he marketing design needed to overwhelm prospects with the benefits to their daily lives in plain language that spoke to their concerns.'
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