I’d just started using, and loving, Mint a week before they got bought by Intuit. From a user’s perspective, this seems like bad news. From a Web business perspective, as this Slate article points, it seems encouraging and offers some good lessons. Not sure I get the difference between Web 2.0 and 2.5 as defined in the article, but it is true that more and more tools needed to grow a business online are free or very cheap. Most interesting part to me:
Yesterday, at a panel I moderated in San Francisco, Donna Wells, Mint.com’s chief marketing officer, stunned a room full of digital marketing pros by noting that she really didn’t have much of a marketing budget. Mint.com has gone from zero to 1.5 million users in two years with no ad campaign, save a mid-five-figures sum spent on search engine terms. Rather than purchase traffic, it has pursued the same type of strategy that food trucks and online magazines do: Using free social media and piggybacking on popular new communications technology. Mint.com has more than 36,000 Facebook fans and 19,000 Twitter followers, a well-trafficked blog, and a popular iPhone application.
Mint.com, which advises customers on how to pinch pennies, does some penny-pinching of its own. It uses WordPress (free) to run its Web site and blog. To analyze traffic partners, conversion rates, and other essentials of an online business that generates its revenues through lead generation, it uses Google analytics (free and sufficiently simple that Wells’ marketing staff can use it without the help of software experts). Wells referred to a bunch of other services it uses to keep tabs on its site, such as ClickTale and Crazy Egg and Compete, as “virtually free”—costing a few hundred dollars a month. Mint.com’s main market research tool is Zoomerang, which helps companies conduct online surveys and collect user feedback. The cost: about $700 per year.