Recently on Quora, someone asked:
How did Mint acquire 1.5m+ users without a high viral coefficient, scalable SEO strategy, or paid customer acquisition channel?
Since the Quora community found my response helpful, I’m posting it here for everyone:
- The Product. Maybe we didn’t have a high viral coefficient but we had a great net promoter score. People loved Mint, it solved a real problem for people, which is unlike most products with a high viral coefficient. The delight after a quick setup, and having all those graphs and balances was palpable and emotional.
- Blog / Original Content. Noah talks about the pre-launch days here but quite simply we focused on building out a unique personal finance blog, very content-rich, that spoke to a young professional crowd that we felt was being neglected. Eventually the blog became #1 in personal finance, and drove traffic to the app. Our app didn’t have a high viral coefficient but we had content that was. Our infographics and popular articles became regular hits on Digg, Reddit, etc.
- PR. Some entrepreneurs lately seem to be piling on against PR or saying that doing it in house is enough. Mint is an example where we hired a PR agency to do extensive positioning research, and went to town. PR was extremely high quality traffic for us, and the optics for the brand were undeniably good. We trounced all of our online competitors, including Quicken– who sent us legal threats. Patzer talked to every outlet from Entrepreneur to Essence.
- SEO. We had an extensive SEO strategy, and it scaled pretty well. 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 optimize conversion.
- Content Partnerships. We were able to get our content syndicated out to other blogs in exchange for return links, and even did some co-branding deals.
- Distribution Deals. The iPhone app store drove a lot of signups when we released our app. It quickly became #1 in finance and continued to hang around the top of the charts as we iterated. We did distribution deals with other brands as well, they were hit and miss, but worth the effort.
- Email. People loved the consumer advocacy of the email notifications (we told people when interest rates went up, etc.). 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.
- Facebook / Twitter. We leveraged viral social networks, especially Facebook marketing, to create a conversation with our customers. The Facebook fan page has a lot going on from Mint haiku contests to customer tips, and incentives to suggest to friends. There’s friction between that and signing up, but positive brand engagement obviously helps.
- Messaging / Experience. We needed to convert the traffic from passers-by into customers, as well as overcome a huge trust hurdle being in the financial space. The marketing design needed to overwhelm prospects with the benefits to their daily lives in plain language that spoke to their concerns. Empathy was key in crafting the message, and we had to live up to the brand promise.
Specific numbers / percentages on sources are still private, but I hope this is useful!