Many times a startup creates a product and then thinks about marketing and fundraising. Mint.com did the opposite. Before Mint even had a product, they had 20,000 customers who wanted to use their product when it came out. It might even be one of the precursors to the success we’ve seen in recent years in crowd sourcing for capital start up. Mint Founder Aaron Patzer credits a good portion of that build up to success to content marketing.
In an interview Patzer stated, “Either you have a fantastic idea and you’re one of the only people in the world who can do it, or you have a fantastic idea and you have to be the best executor on that idea.” The idea was personal finance software to track individuals spending and debt. There were other companies out there who did that, but they could be cumbersome and had drawbacks. Instead of taking the approach of getting a product out there fast, Patzer and his Mint team started laying the foundation.
For one thing, he was delving into the finance industry. And the software required accessing banks, credit cards, mortgage information and loan information from customers. That’s not an easy barrier to overcome without building a relationship of trust. Would you enter all your account information into a company’s portal without knowing what they did? I certainly hope not.
So while the Mint team built the right kind of prototype to debut, they also started garnering interest from potential customers. They stated what the software’s goal was, and when a beta would be ready, but in the meantime, they started using content marketing like madmen. Whatever they could do for free or relatively cheap, they did, and did it to the right audience.
First up was the Mint.com blog, which was a unique personal finance blog directed toward young professionals. This traditionally neglected segment of the finance world made Mint.com the number one blog in personal finance. With content-rich topics, Mint was gaining fans and followers. The regular infographics were also a viral success, with many regularly reposted on content sourcing sites like Reddit.
By the time they released the beta after almost nine months of investing in content marketing, they had enough interested customers that it overloaded their system and they needed an upgrade already. To garner even more attention, they told their original beta customers that if they posted badges on their social media, they would then be VIPs and get access to the “alpha” version. With a simple customer appreciation upgrade, they got their brand on 600 blogs, almost overnight, giving their SEO a boost too.
But they didn’t stop the content marketing once they had an outstanding product. In addition to the infographics, their posts consisted of a mixture of original in-house posts, finance expert guest articles and syndicated content. These posts ranged from what credit cards CEOs used to the personal finance stories of the Mint employees. Opening up about personal finances is not something you rarely see, but Mint got people to do it and it was well received. They even have a theme of Trainwreck Tuesdays about nightmares in personal finance.
Mint Answers is another arm of their content marketing strategy. Similar to Yahoo Answers, it’s a community question board that people ask about any finance questions they have. The people answering were a compilation of finance experts. Questions ranged from should I buy or lease my next car to how do I manage paying off credit card debt?
Publishing content daily is not an easy feat, but it pays off. From 2006 to 2009, Mint.com gained almost 2 million customers. At that point they sold the company to Intuit for $170 million. Today, Intuit continues the original content marketing strategy, making updates along the way. Their monetary backing has also helped Mint.com become the most successful personal finance software. As of May 2015, there are more than 15 million Mint.com customers. They track more than $80 billion in transactions and $1 trillion in loans and assets.