Brands

How Mint Turned Content Into a Big Business

By Natalie Burg March 23rd, 2015

The following is an excerpt from Contently’s latest e-book, “On the Money: How 5 Finance Brands Build Loyal Audiences by Investing in High-Quality Content.” To get the free e-book, fill out the download form at the bottom of this article.

For established financial institutions and capstone banks, building an audience can be a little easier if customers are already familiar with your brand and name. But for Mint, a digital personal finance service founded in 2006, there was no head start. They had to start from scratch.

But from the get-go, Mint had a target audience in mind and a plan for reaching that audience. According to serial entrepreneur Sachin Rekhi, one of Mint’s earliest goals was to get the attention of their prospective customers: young professionals. Since this demographic spent so much of their time online, Mint launched MintLife, a personal finance blog that would act as a significant money management resource for these young consumers, even though the company didn’t have a finished product people could buy.

“They decided in the early days to invest heavily in building out MintLife … independent of the eventual Mint.com product,” Rekhi writes on his blog. “This created a welcome audience when their product eventually launched, and MintLife went on to become the number one personal finance blog on the web.”

Even in the early years, articles like “Home Budget: Affordable and Cheap Dates” and “How-To Guide: Paying for College” were perfect for that welcome audience. And when Mint eventually revealed its product—a tool that helped users budget their finances by gathering different accounts and balances in one place—the viral nature of the blog was key to the company’s rapid growth.

How rapid? Mint grew quickly enough to sell to Intuit for $170 million after three years in business. By 2013, the tool reached 10 million users, many of whom trusted Mint to handle their sensitive banking information because of the blog’s smart, helpful content.

Building Content Demand

Since Mint was in the unique position of relying on its site for both sales and content marketing, the editorial team needed to make sure their content hit exactly the right audience.

While many established financial services brands already have more than enough capital to build a publication, Mint had to hustle in the early days before it sold. To create content on a tight budget, the team invited finance bloggers to write for free and sponsored other finance blogs. Those tactics eventually helped Mint attract 20,000 email subscribers.

To fine-tune the creation process without wasting money, the company seeded its content on popular distribution sites, building strong presences on Digg and Reddit and tracking the engagement after an article went live.

As Mint’s former lead designer, Jason Putorti, told KISSmetrics, “Our app didn’t have a high viral coefficient, but we had content that [did].”

That highly sharable content included features like “Trainwreck Tuesday,” a series that highlighted personal finance disasters—some of which were crowdsourced—and in-depth interviews about personal finance habits with people such as Shelley Elmblad of About Financial Software.

In an interview with Big Think, Mint founder Aaron Patzer said that by the time the product was released, MintLife was driving more traffic than their competitors were to their entire websites.

Demand was so great, in fact, their system couldn’t initially handle allowing all 20,000 email subscribers to try the beta version of the product. Mint took the hurdle in stride and created even greater demand by giving readers who wanted early access to the product the ability to post an “I want Mint” badge on their blog or social media profile—which helped boost the search ranking for MintLife content and generated even more buzz for the young company.

Once the groundwork was all laid out, Mint started to see incredible results. Seven months after Mint’s 2006 launch, Bloomberg reported the site was adding 10,000 new users each week. That momentum still continues today. TrafficEstimate.com shows Mint received nearly 12 million visits in January of 2015, up almost 8 million year-over-year.

Brands from all industries dream of building an audience that big. For Mint, there’s no need to dream. The brand committed to content from the very beginning, and as a model to other financial companies, Mint’s owned media property not only became a hub for resourceful articles, but also a place for users to open up their wallets and buy a financial product.

For more case studies like this and an overview of the latest trends in finance content marketing, download “On the Money: How 5 Finance Brands Build Loyal Audiences by Investing in High-Quality Content” below.

Image by Valentyn Volkov