Showing posts with label Marketing 3.0. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marketing 3.0. Show all posts


What Is Account Based Marketing?

A growing number of B2B marketers are embracing account-based marketing (ABM) as part of their overall marketing efforts. ABM perfectly complements the traditional, short-term marketing goal of generating leads with efforts aimed at driving long-term revenue growth.

What is account based marketing?

In its simplest form, ABM is a strategy that directs marketing resources to engaging a specific set of target accounts. ABM doesn’t just call for alignment between sales and marketing teams – it forces teams to align because personalization at the account level requires sales and marketing to be in sync on account-specific messaging. The motivation? Higher revenues in a shorter time frame.
Instead of casting a wide net with their lead-generation efforts, marketers using ABM work closely with sales to identify key prospects and then tailor customized programs and messages to the buying team within target accounts.

Why would you want to practice ABM?

Even as buying circles are growing, marketing teams are feeling more pressure to directly impact revenue growth. It’s a core reason that the ABM approach is seeing significant uptake. ABM focuses you on relationships in your highest opportunity, highest-value accounts.
For instance, assume you sell an expensive SaaS product or consulting service. Rather than take a blanket approach – going after small businesses, SMBs, and enterprises – you might start by focusing on those accounts that have the highest need and the required budget.
By combining efforts and resources, marketing and sales can more efficiently engage and convert accounts. In fact, they gain the luxury of slowing down to develop a thoughtful approach that boosts the odds of driving engagement.
That well-considered approach matters at a time when buyers are increasingly insistent on outreach tailored to their business and even their personal interests within the business. ABM requires that marketing and sales engage each person on the buying team in a personalized way. A personalized approach is essential when aiming marketing and sales efforts at a few select, high-value accounts.  
Personalize well and buyers are more open to your outreach and less likely to ignore your content and communications.

Who does ABM benefit and how?

Some say ABM is most effective for B2B companies that sell to a few large key accounts or accounts of a certain size in a specific industry. Others argue that ABM can work for B2B organizations of any size, as long as the focus is on high-value accounts.
At a more granular level, ABM is a win-win-win for sales, marketing, and customers.
ABM perfectly complements the account-based approach sales teams have embraced for years. With the dedicated involvement of marketing, sales teams can better personalize their outreach. Nurturing targeted members of the buying committee with appropriate marketing messages tends to speed up the sales process, allowing sales to achieve better close rates while closing bigger deals faster.
Marketing benefits because sales sees the marketing team as a trusted ally on a strategic mission. Rather than deliver leads that languish, marketing works in tandem with sales on a defined list that both teams agree make the most promising targets. In fact, 84 percent of businesses using ABM say it delivers higher ROI than other marketing campaigns.
A valuable by-product is that ABM enriches the marketing team with a much deeper understanding of the company’s overall target audience. Marketing can apply their insight into what content and messages resonate to amp up the results of their other efforts.
Customers also benefit from ABM in the form of a better experience. Buyers prefer personalized interactions, and ABM delivers just that. Serving targeted content and messages that resonate takes up-front work, and customers will recognize and appreciate this – and the fact that you don’t waste their time with ones that are off the mark.

How to align sales and marketing around an ABM strategy

Getting sales and marketing working as a cohesive account team is the ultimate secret to success. Without that alignment, your target accounts will suffer through a fragmented experience as marketing and sales trip over each other, rather than pave the way for each other to effectively engage with key decision makers.
Success starts with clear communication between your sales reps and marketers, and continues as both groups execute their part of the strategy throughout the buyer journey. Agreeing from the get-go on the ultimate goal of the ABM program helps marketing and sales get in sync and figure out the most fitting target accounts and the best strategy for reaching and engaging them.
While the top objective is to land new accounts or expand business with existing ones, marketing and sales should define smaller goals that align to the bigger goals. These stepwise goals can include:
  • Pinpointing a higher number of decision makers within each account
  • Securing a greater number of senior-level appointments/meetings
  • Accelerating the sales cycle
  • Encouraging higher customer loyalty or reducing churn
  • Closing a higher percentage of large deals
  • Boosting revenues within existing accounts

Creating an account based marketing strategy

When marketing and sales share a similar mindset – how to target and land accounts – they can collaborate around a common goal. The first step is co-developing an ABM strategy so sales and marketing can work together as parts of a joint “account team.”
At a high level, this means marketing focuses its budget on the accounts that sales deems most important. Sales and marketing agree on common goals, messaging and content, how to execute, and metrics to evaluate success. Let’s walk through the core steps of developing an ABM strategy.

Step 1: Identify high-value accounts

Analyze your existing customer base to identify the ones that fit your definition of an ideal customer. While this definition can vary based on nuances such as industry and other overarching descriptors, it often boils down to the most profitable, long-term, happy customers who are a pleasure to work with. In other words, they’re a strong fit for your company, enjoy success with your solutions, and deliver the biggest lifetime value.
Keep an eye out for the existing accounts that have shown openness to expanding their footprint with your company, along with new accounts that satisfy your strategic criteria. For new accounts, you might answer the question “Does this account have an urgent need we can address and that would compel it to spend $X amount?”

Step 2: Map individuals to accounts

In any B2B deal involving a significant purchase, your marketing and sales teams will need to help drive consensus among the key stakeholders. Your first step is identifying those who can wield influence on the final buying decision. These are the committee members you need to engage and persuade to take action.
For example, let’s say a company selling marketing software is identifying key decision-making roles within select accounts. The list of individuals might include the CMO, digital marketing managers, CIO, and CFO.
Just remember: Individual contacts are important, but in the context of the entire account. In other words, you need to connect the concerns and needs of each person on the buying committee back to the strategic objective of their company. Your main goal when engaging each stakeholder is to help drive consensus for a purchase decision.

Step 3: Define and create targeted campaigns

Once you’ve chosen your target accounts and individuals, you need to develop personalized campaigns designed to resonate with them. Keep in mind that building and nurturing relationships is central to a successful ABM program. You’re most likely to succeed by providing valuable consultation and education, all mapped to the account’s buying cycle.
It starts by aligning your messages and content with the interests, needs, and challenges of each account and key stakeholder. Ideally, you should develop a unique value proposition and relevant content for each stakeholder that influences a buying decision.
Bake ample thought leadership content into your content plan:
  1. Understand what stakeholders believe. Start with research into the existing state of the conversation, so you can meet your reader where they are.
  2. Develop and articulate a well-informed point of view. Make a strong case for your position, and make it clear that you have the authority to take a definitive stand.
  3. Frame your story in terms of value delivered. Back up your viewpoint with real-world examples that demonstrate your ideas in action.
If your messages and content are on point, buying committee members might share it with their colleagues. Truly personalize the message for each individual within an account. Doing so, you instill confidence in your company as a trusted advisor and partner that has done its homework and is providing useful information and guidance.

Step 4: Pinpoint optimal channels

To reach your target accounts and the key stakeholders, figure out which channels they use most to research trends and solutions. This may vary by role or even industry, so don’t assume you can apply a one-size-fits-all approach here.

Step 5: Develop a strategic playbook

To clarify roles and responsibilities, put together a playbook that outlines who does what and when. Specify the tactics that both marketing and sales will use to engage contacts within accounts and drive interest and action. Give this meaning by designing a campaign cadence that maps each communication/outreach with the appropriate channel and message or content.

Step 6: Execute your campaigns

Marketing and sales engage with accounts on an individual level using a personalized strategy that makes sense for each contact. Campaigns can include an array of tactics, including email, special events, direct mail, ads, and more. Since relationships drive ABM strategy, use that to guide your outreach.
For example, maybe a specific team member reaches out because they went to the same college or share the most professional connections with the contact. That team member can then make introductions to the team member who owns the account.

Step 7: Measure and optimize

Measuring ABM results is different than measuring the impact of standard lead-generation tactics. Marketing and sales are jointly accountable for driving pipeline and revenue when it comes to ABM. You care about moving accounts – not individuals – through the purchase process.
In addition to tracking account engagement, tally opportunities created, along with closed-won deals and their value. Give your teams enough time to generate results – in line with the typical purchase cycle – and then adjust your strategy and tactics as necessary.

Types of account based marketing

ITSMA is widely credited with pioneering the ABM approach in the 2000s. Along the way, it has identified three ABM approaches companies take: strategic, lite, and programmatic.

Strategic ABM

This approach is executed on a one-to-one basis, typically for highly strategic accounts. Relationship-building is a core focus of strategic ABM. As a result, this approach relies heavily on personalized marketing campaigns that demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the target account.

ABM Lite

The ABM Lite approach makes it possible to pursue ABM at scale. In this version, the focus is lightly personalized/customized campaigns aimed at a small group of like accounts. For instance, accounts of a similar size facing comparable challenges and pursuing analogous initiatives might get the same messaging and creative.

Programmatic ABM

You could say programmatic ABM combines strategic and lite ABM by calling upon the latest technologies to tailor marketing campaigns for target accounts at scale. Usually this approach goes hand in hand with a focus on a certain horizontal or vertical segment.  
You might find it makes sense to use just one approach or a mix depending on your business and the sophistication of your ABM program.

Account based marketing vs. inbound marketing

Some marketers wonder whether they should dedicate their resources to ABM or inbound marketing. But it’s not an either-or decision. Both are core practices in the modern marketing toolbox. And they actually complement one another.
While you are engaging individuals within target accounts with personalized content and interactions through outbound methods, you can reinforce your messages with your online presence calling upon best practices for inbound marketing. In other words, you are trying to attract your target accounts through helpful, relevant content. You may even gain a new target account through your inbound marketing efforts – one that perfectly fits your definition of an ideal customer but was overlooked as you pulled together your target list.
Since your inbound success depends on your content being found online, you need to develop your content with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. Many B2B organizations also find it effective to amplify their content reach using online ads.

Account based advertising

With account-based advertising, you proactively choose who should see your display ads. To that end, every account-based marketer can take advantage of LinkedIn Account Targeting. After you upload a list of your target companies, Account Targeting matches them against the 13+ million Company Pages on LinkedIn.
At scale, you can get in front of key stakeholders across target accounts with ads tailored to their role and stage of the buying cycle. For your initial outreach, you can use LinkedIn Sponsored Content campaigns to display relevant content to a select audience segment. Then through Sponsored InMail, you might directly reach out with a short message from a sales rep with a personalized offer.
While you can reach any stakeholder using account-based advertising, it’s especially valuable for engaging the decision makers who aren’t actively conducting purchase research for the solution in question. Think the CFO or Procurement Officer. Account-based advertising is a relatively inexpensive way to expand your reach within your target accounts.
In a pilot of LinkedIn Matched Audience campaigns, marketers saw an average 32 percent increase in post-click conversion rates and 4.7 percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion.

Common barriers to ABM success

While it takes a concerted effort and up-front work to launch an ABM program, success is within reach for every B2B organization. So why do some companies struggle to unlock their full revenue potential via ABM?

Failure to align on the right target accounts

It’s a given that if marketing and sales don’t agree on the same target accounts, all the promise of ABM goes out the window. ABM works largely because of the combined power of marketing and sales hyper-focused on the accounts with the highest potential. Fail to get in line on this foundational element of your ABM program and all your other program tactics will be for nothing.

Lack of accurate shared data

Calling upon a shared source of data about target accounts goes hand in hand with identifying the right target accounts. According to InsideView, 43% ranked lack of accurate/shared data on target accounts is the top challenge to sales and marketing alignment. If marketing is turning to its marketing automation system of record while sales consults CRM to pinpoint target accounts, it’s no surprise the two groups are out of sync.
Check out our recent post for ways you can align around your target audience and knock down these barriers to success.

Unrealistic expectations

If you’re hoping your ABM program will transform the buying cycle and your revenues overnight, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Rather than expect miracles, set realistic goals. Until you smooth out all the wrinkles and your ABM program kicks into high gear, you’re far more likely to see incremental improvements rather than mind-blowing results. As long as you maintain an upward trajectory, you’re on the right track.

Examples of account based marketing in action

A number of new tools and technologies on the market have made ABM more practical by enabling marketers to deliver targeted messages with improved precision. As we previously mentioned, LinkedIn has a targeting capability that helps support ABM: LinkedIn Account Targeting.  
LinkedIn Account Targeting enables marketers to engage the accounts that matter most to their business by tailoring their LinkedIn Sponsored Content and LinkedIn Sponsored InMail campaigns to a list of top priority accounts, and then layering profile-based targeting, such as job function or seniority, to put their content in front of the right people in a particular organization.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, look no further than these examples of marketers who have used LinkedIn to drive ABM success.

Genesys uses ABM to drive 60% of net-new leads

When the Genesys digital marketing team needed a solution to underpin their newly launched ABM program, it chose LinkedIn. As Bhavisha Oza, Director of Digital Marketing for Genesys, says, “LinkedIn, with its massive professional network, was unique, as it offered an ABM program targeting IT and support functions, our core buyer personas.”
Using LinkedIn’s highly accurate account targeting capabilities and LinkedIn Sponsored Content, the team ran campaigns that put their brand in front of the target audience. Thanks to a combination of targeting and optimization, the team’s ABM efforts have yielded encouraging results, with 60 percent of all leads generated being marketing-captured, or net-new leads.

ServiceNow captures 100% of form fills using ABM

In support of its ABM strategy, ServiceNow used LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities to deliver content to niche decision makers within select accounts. “We haven’t seen any other solution that is able to give us that level of targeting,” says Suma Warrier, Manager of Customer Acquisition and Personalization for ServiceNow. Once it noticed a high percentage of LinkedIn traffic was coming via mobile, ServiceNow integrated Lead Gen Forms into its campaigns. The company saw stellar outcomes, including a nearly 100% improvement in form fills by using Lead Gen Forms.

SalesLoft reduces cost-per-conversion by nearly 50% with ABM

Every quarter, SalesLoft’s marketing and leaders agree on account list tiers. Then the company uses account targeting and contact targeting to run ABM campaigns designed to engage decision makers at the prioritized accounts. By using ABM and LinkedIn to connect with prospects on a deeper level, SalesLoft has cut its cost-per-conversion (CPC) nearly in half.

Spigit converts a higher percentage of leads into revenue with ABM

While a lower CPC is cause for celebration, the real proof of success is revenue generation. Spigit used LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities and LinkedIn Sponsored Content to run a series of ABM campaigns. The results far exceeded LinkedIn’s benchmarks, with an overall lifetime click-through rate (CTR) of 0.517%, with an engagement rate of 0.567%. According to Lin Ling, Growth Marketer at Spigit, “LinkedIn has been, by far, the best channel for generating quality leads that convert, helping us exceed our revenue goals and achieve 7X ROI.”

10 Marketing experts define account based marketing

Marketers can learn how to bolster their ABM efforts – or implement a new program – by studying other marketers who are ABM leaders. We asked 10 ABM experts to share their definitions of account-based marketing, which can provide some insight of how they put it into practice. Share their words of wisdom with your colleagues should you need to inspire them to get on board with ABM.
Account based marketing is more targeted and personalized versus spray and pray, where you’re just trying to capture anyone in your net. You’re being very specific about who you want to talk with, and it’s a way for sales and marketing to align on the target.
                            -- Meagen Eisenberg, CMO, MongoDB
In its purest form, account based marketing has been around forever. Account based marketing is simply instead of fishing with nets, we’re fishing with spears. You identify exactly the prospects you want to do business with and then you market very precisely and narrowly to them directly. I think we have a renewed interest in ABM now, because there’s an advancement in tools and technology that make it a little easier to execute – but the idea of doing target account selling and target account marketing is not new.
                            -- Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing
Our definition of account-based marketing is just good marketing. If you only had one prospect to sell and market to, you would treat them with the same principles as outlined in ABM. It’s just aiming at a more well-defined area of that funnel, and treating your best buyers in a much more personal way. And we’re focusing on not only the lead but the account as a whole.
                            -- Justin Gray, CMO, LeadMD
To break down walls between sales and marketing, ABM is pretty close to a silver bullet in that it aligns programs’ dollars and focus behind the accounts that the sales teams cares about. So there's inherent buy-in. That said, ABM is only as good as your visibility into your highest potential accounts and best-fit customer segments, which gets clearer over time. So it’s most effective when deployed as part of a comprehensive set of targeting strategies.
                            -- Dave Karel, Principal, OutLeap Marketing 
Account-based marketing is thinking of the account as a market of one. It’s about being laser-focused on their needs and deploying the most effective marketing tactics available to nurture value-added, pervasive conversations with key stakeholders. This is the place where marketing and sales are at their closest, brought together by common goals and a crystal clear understanding of what success looks like.
                            -- Nick Panayi, VP, Global Brand, Digital Marketing & Demand Generation, DXC Technology
I define account-based marketing as total marketing and sales alignment around who are target customers and the efforts to go get them. They align with the same outcome in mind: to get a specific account as a customer.
                            -- Dave Rigotti, VP of Marketing, Bizible
ABM to me and to CSC is treating a single account as a market of one, and within that marketing of one we’re looking to customize our marketing activities and message in close collaboration with our sales team – and not just down to a buying center or persona but right down to the individual.
            -- Dorothea Gosling, Director, Marketing Programs, Pursuits & ABM, DXC Technology
Account Based Marketing is a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.
                            -- Jon Miller, CEO and Co-Founder, Engagio
Instead of leveraging a set of broad-reaching programs designed to touch the largest possible number of prospective customers, an ABM strategy focuses marketing and sales resources on a defined set of targeted accounts and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each individual account. With ABM, your marketing message is based on the attributes and needs of the account you’re targeting.
                            -- David Cain, CMO, PlanGrid
Account based marketing is focused B2B Smarketing. I say “Smarketing” because ABM is all about focusing on the right accounts in collaboration with sales. ABM is not a solo activity. It's the combination and range of activities from advertising, direct mail, calls, emails, content — all centered around the ideal set of accounts that you believe has the need for your solution. It's quality over quantity in its most basic form.
                            -- Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder and Chief Evangalist, Terminus


Does Anyone Really Believe Advertising Any More?

Apparently consumers are taking this old saying to heart: "Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear." Market research firm Lab42 just released a study that revealed that 76% of its respondents think advertisements contain exaggerated claims, and a mere 3% think ads are "very accurate."
According to Lab42's survey of 500 respondents, while 38% wish for more accuracy in advertising, only 17% would like to see more laws in the United States that regulate advertising. In the U.S., advertising is seen as free speech, but that's not the case in other countries such as the UK, where ads are routinely banned for being misleading or exaggerated.


A myth | the right agency

'Don't pick a company. Pick a culture.'

The advice i can give  is to look for a culture that doesn't only produce great work but also great people. I guess most of us know deep inside it's more than work that matters, we can break down agency culture into five points and shared simple ways on how to recognize it. 

1. Collaboration
If you get into a culture that values collaboration, there's room for client to contribute. Places that value collaboration tend not to be about the person, they tend to be about 'THE BEST IDEA WINS'. This is not about people or ego, it's about the idea. How you recognize it:
  • How are people seated? Departments? Integrated? Floors?
  • Do they assign ideas to people? Groups? The boss? Name on the door?
  • How do they review work? In the open? Corner office? Small/big?
2. Generosity
It takes generosity to teach. A culture of generosity will allow people to explore their own ideas, potential, find their own voice and learn from failure. How you recognize it:
  • Do co-workers celebrate brand success as their own? Do they want what you want for yourself?
  • How do they give and share credit?
  • What's the approach to training and education? 
3. Courage
Client need an organization that stands up for brave ideas. How you recognize it:
  • Do you look at their work and ask 'How the hell did they do that?'
  • How many ideas do they bring to a pitch?
  • Have they ever resigned business for a creative or cultural differences?
4. Accountability
A culture of accountability quickly teaches that success or failure matters. Being accountable for the outcome, either positive or negative, is leadership. Be in a culture that shares your definition of success and that teaches you to lead. How you recognize it:
  • Do they embrace metrics? Do set them at all?
  • What is the ultimate win to them? Awards? $$$? Long relationships? Happy clients?
  • What is the compensation structure for clients? For staff? For leaders? What does it reward? Performance? Seniority? Internal political success?
5. Ambition
It's important to understand your brand ambitions and find an agency that shares the same ambitions.  If you're missmatch it's going to be a bad relationship. If you aspire to greatness, attach yourself to an organization that aspires to greatness. How you recognize it:
  • What goals do they aspire to? Success as defined by clients, industry or culture?
  • Do they talk about what they could do better more than what they do well?
  • Do they visibly push themselves?
  • Do they attract 'Challenger' clients and brands?


Marketing 3.0 :::Reflections

Ingenuity and originality is more important than ever no matter what is the media/ medium channel.


Marketing 3.0. [ do more, do it better and reach further ]

  1. I’ve posted 1121 innovative , mind opening articles 
  2. I’ve had 11,215 comments
  3. We’ve had 2.5m page views
  4. I’ve had 1.4m visits
  5. I’ve 1,283 followers on Twitter
  6. I’ve been mentioned by more than 1000 global marketing blogs
  7. Google has indexed the word [Marketing 3.0.] 4,800 times
  8. I’ve had 6,151 subscribers to mail list
  9. Marketing 3.0. blog has been connected to my YouTube channel and slide share

Mentions as of 1.4.2010


Eichborn Flyvertising in Frankfurt

Eichborn, the German publishing house, used flies to get the word out on their exhibition stand at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse). Eichborn’s logo includes a fly so it made sense to use flies to carry the logo in a “fliegenbanner” with the words, “Eichborn, der verlag mit der Fliege” (the publisher with the fly). Ultra light miniature banners were attached to 200 flies with natural wax. The flies, carrying an extra load, tended to land on people for a rest, getting the attention of people all over the display area. The Jung von Matt team behind the campaign tell us that flies were not harmed in the process. After a short time the banner dropped off by itself.
Eichborn Flyvertising

The Flyvertising campaign was developed at Jung von Matt/Neckar, Stuttgart, Germany, by creative directors Jacques Pense and Michael Ohanian, art directors Benjamin Beck and Thomas Lupo, copywriters Norman Scholl and Lennart Frank, account managers Daniel Adolph and Christine Seelig.


Daffy's Dancers JUMP out of MOVIE SCREEN

The discount retail chain Daffy's staged such live performances over the weekend at the Ziegfeld Theater in Midtown Manhattan before screenings of the new film Amelia. In a campaign by Johannes Leonardo in New York, part of WPP, dancers acted out how shoppers try on clothes in what was called Fitting Dance."


Insect advertising| Banners on flies

In Microsoft's Imagine09 conference in London yesterday and one of the speakers point forward the view that if you really wanted to get noticed then you need to follow the idea of 'étonnez-moi' ('astonish me') - if you really want to make an impact and stand out, then think big and dream the impossible (so called 'Dreamtelligence'.)


Out of the multitude of ways a brand can spread its message using insects to do so must rate as one of the oddest. But that is exactly what German publishing house, Eichborn, did when it let a load of flies loose at a PR event.
Initially, flies might seem an odd choice as a marketing medium. They are associated with plagues, have a reputation as a germ carrier and spend most of their life gravitating towards excrement. Seemingly not the ideal brand advocate, but one thing you can say about flies – they get everywhere.
Eichborn, which uses a fly as its emblem, decided this trait would be a major asset in the bustling atmosphere of Frankfurt book fair. Miniature banners were attached to 200 flies using wax; each had ‘The publisher with the fly’ printed on it as well as the location of Eichborn’s stall printed on it. The flies were then let loose around the book fair.
The campaign received a lot of PR attention in Frankfurt and generated a great deal of interest in Eichborn’s stall at the book fair. Eichborn later reported that no flies were harmed during the process.  
The headline reads "Eichborn fly banner at the Frankfurt Book Fair" and the final wording in the video is translated as "The banner was attached with wax and dissolves after a few hours by itself" - may be this is the ultimate in 'buzz marketing?'

BRAND: Eichborn


CATEGORY: Entertainment

REGION: Germany

DATE: Oct 2009

AGENCY: Jung von Matt




LA Fitness| Swimming pool

Keeping fit is not just a fad – it’s a way of life.
Stress at work is spurring one in five of us to exercise MORE than we did a year ago, according to research published today. The study, which was commissioned by gym chain LA Fitness, suggests most of us find exercise a great stress buster.
Swimming is considered one of the best ways to keep fit. But as Catherine Bayfield reports if youre thinking of taking the plunge you may want to make more of a splash than this lot did.



Marketing on $700 a Year

Last month, Intuit, the personal finance software firm that owns Quicken, paid $170 million in cash for, a two-year-old personal finance site with 1.6 million users. That corporate embrace comes after much frustration on Intuit’s part. At one point the company wrote Mint a letter demanding “substantiation and evidence” of the rival site’s rapid-fire growth. Compounding the vexation was the cost of acquisition for those consumers, whose numbers are currently growing by more than 130,000 each month: virtually nothing.

Donna Wells, Mint’s CMO and a former exec at Intuit, is a veteran marketer used to the big media budgets she had in previous jobs at Charles Schwab and American Express. At Mint, however, she may well represent a new breed of CMO who is spending very little on brand building and bypassing advertising in the process. Thanks to new social media and communications technologies, partnered with adept PR strategies, Wells showed that building a so-called Web 2.5 brand doesn’t need to cost much these days—and the experience is liberating.

“We built this brand on the cheap. In two full years at Mint, I spent what I would have spent in two days at Expedia,” laughed Wells, who was previously svp-marketing at the travel site. “Mint was my fourth startup, and the tools that are available to me now, even since my last startup in 2000, offer amazing reach and adoption through places like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and iPhone apps. It’s a phenomenal time for a marketer.”

Mint’s start kicked off with a well-read, popular blog—launched in March before the site’s product launch in September 2007—and key exposure when Mint launched at TechCrunch 40 and won top honors. Wells created a Facebook page where Mint now has more than 36,000 fans and attracted a following of 19,000 on Twitter. Free applications like WordPress power Mint’s blog while another free tool, the user-friendly Google analytics, lets staffers track site traffic. Mint does pay for some other off-the-shelf services for its site, spending all of $700 a year.

Wells estimates the marketing costs at Mint over the past two years to be around $2 million. That amount primarily includes salaries for the marketing staff which now numbers five, including herself, and out-of-pocket expenses like hiring an outside PR agency. She also experimented with search initially, spending about $50,000.

“The idea that you need a huge amount in marketing and advertising dollars is simply not true,” said Laura Ries, president, Roswell, Ga., consultants Ries & Ries. “That was a major fallacy in the dot-com boom where companies went out and spent millions and got no benefit. Companies like eBay and Amazon did it by being first at something, by standing for something and having a credible strong idea that generated the PR and word of mouth necessary to get into the minds of consumers.”

As a free money management tool, Mint obviously has a compelling appeal in the current economic climate. But Ries also noted the site’s quirky name and compelling blog, which in a world of forgettable corporate blogs won the award for best blog at the Online Media Marketing and Advertising awards last month. That communiqué reinforces an identifiable voice with the brand that initially attracted 20 and 30-somethings, Ries said, particularly in contrast to the older-skewing Quicken, with a less-defined image given the number or products associated with the brand.

Wells admits she will modify her marketing strategies as Mint goes more mainstream under Intuit but, even with new financial resources, vows to keep using the cheap tools that launched the brand and keep nontraditional media at marketing core.

Other creators of recent popular Web 2.5 brands share Wells’ reluctance to spend on advertising—and it’s not because they don’t have the money. founder Tim Westergren said his four-year-old Internet radio site expects to bring in $40 million in revenues this year, more than double that in 2008. But while he spent “maybe $100,000” on search in Pandora’s early days, he’s not interested in traditional marketing. Instead, he’s focused on customer service and bonding, no easy feat given the 35 million U.S. registered listeners to Pandora’s automated music recommendations. Westergren, a musician and composer, said a primary focus of the site’s marketing, and a major expense for the site, is a team of eight people who respond to every listener inquiry. In a busy month, Pandora’s “listener advocates”’ might deal with 30,000 e-mails, with topics ranging from new site features and new bands to complaints. Additionally, Westergren travels around the country talking to listeners at “town halls” held in coffee shops, community centers and bookstores. (He’s not just interested in what urban hipsters have to say—upcoming trips take him to places like Sioux City, Iowa, and Billings, Mont.) He said that while that might sound “old school,” it’s critical.

“Each town hall includes just a small number of listeners, obviously, but it’s a p
owerful cementing tool. They become ambassadors for you,” said Westergren, who cautioned about the need to take in the bad with the good. “In this day and age, it just takes a few enthusiastic people to do some damage to you on the Web; there are so many ways to evangelize.”

For his part, David Karp, the 23-year-old Internet entrepreneur who founded short-form blogging platform Tumblr, said more traditional marketing communications couldn’t achieve what his own team could do in viral product design at the nearly two-year-old site.

 “We did an experiment with outside PR, but we found people couldn’t explain it as well as we could,” he says. “The marketing is all on Tumblr’s site. We thought, ‘What features can we build, what design changes? How can we get visitors to further engage and share the experience?’ We always looked at the product as inherently viral and designed it that way. As it becomes more social with the Tumblr dashboard (which quickly lets users add other users to lists of friends), you can follow friends, publish and repost.”

 Last week,, a Pandora-like recommendation service for movies and TV, launched in public beta. The site’s co-founder, Yosi Glick, who’s clocked in time as a marketer at tech companies like Orca Interactive, said his lack of interest in advertising the new site strikes some acquaintances as odd. “‘How do you do zero-dollar marketing?’ People from the b-to-b environment find that intriguing,” he said. “Is it possible, they ask? It is indeed possible.”

Glick’s optimism about grassroots marketing may be premature. Still, sites like Jinni, along with Tumblr and Pandora, have all the advantages that accompany marketers who are the first in their categories. It’s a lot harder for others who later jump in and play catch up to the pioneers.

But even those companies with a head start like Amazon and eBay ended up using traditional advertising once they became dominant players and needed to protect their leadership status. So while marketers like Wells have launched successful sites on a dime, their experiences may still be the exception, not the rule. Advertising will remain a critical marketing support at launch—and thereafter, some observers contend.

“In general, you need more than one tool to launch and maintain a brand,” contended Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates. “If you’re the third one out there (in a category), you’re going to need more. Successfully doing it on a shoestring is not an average situation—it’s more like winning a lottery ticket.” 

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