n [Interview] How YNAB Promotes Its Budgeting App by Focusing on Customer Education & Success | The Anti-Marketing Manifesto


YNAB — which stands for “You Need a Budget” — is an online budgeting app that helps people gain complete control over their finances.

Founded by Jesse Mecham in 2004, YNAB teaches people how to look at their money in more empowered ways. For users, the ultimate goal is to “pay this month’s bills with last month’s income”…so that you’re no longer living paycheck to paycheck. As you begin to “age” your money, you become more financially secure. You learn to increase the amount of time between the date you’re paid and the date you spend that money.

YNAB offers fantastic customer education via written online content on its website. I believe this is one of the key factors in why the company has been so successful. Their user-friendly, educational articles help readers improve their financial situations even if they don’t actually buy the product.

(BTW, that’s the litmus test for great anti-marketing content: it inspires, motivates, and educates people even if they don’t buy anything.)

YNAB says it’s “genuinely invested in customer success,” and this attitude has helped the company build a successful product that people can’t stop raving about.

I heard about YNAB almost a year ago from a friend. I quickly became a paying customer of theirs, and have been one ever since. What I like about them is not only the app itself, but the fact that THEY WRITE GREAT CONTENT! (If you’re a home business owner looking to increase sales, it’s absolutely critical that you broadcast high-quality content to your potential AND existing customers!)

Curious about how YNAB promotes its product, I reached out to Lindsey Burgess, Chief Marketing Officer, for an interview.

Below, she shares a bit about how YNAB reaches new customers.


Michelle Lopez #1: What’s the backstory on how YNAB’s budgeting software came to be?

YNAB: Our founder, Jesse Mecham, started YNAB as a side hustle. At the time, it was growing very, very slowly.

One day — while at his day job (because that makes the story even more awesome) — he was fiddling with his website. Instead of leading with product features, he decided he would lead with the “why.”

He wrote four rules, which would later become the guiding philosophy for why budgeting with YNAB works. The rules are simple, yet life-changing: 1) give every dollar a job, 2) embrace your true expenses, 3) roll with the punches, and 4) age your money.

ML: #2: What’s been the most effective way to get NEW people trying out YNAB’s budgeting software?

YNAB: Today, we lead with and invest in education at every turn. Whether or not you use our software, we can and will teach you how to gain control of your money. We have a team of teachers (more teachers than marketers!), who host 100 live, interactive workshops every week.

We have a weekly podcast, to get people thinking about their money differently and staying committed to improving their finances and their lives.

We post weekly videos, outlining financial concepts and strategies at a high level. We post on our blog nearly every day. Our customer support team should really be called “coaches,” because they don’t just help you troubleshoot technical questions, they can help you decide whether to pay off your debt or save an emergency fund, how to get out of debt, and whether or how to budget with a partner.

We’ve invested heavily in helping people be successful — and as a result our customers are incredibly passionate. They tell their friends and family. They can’t stop talking about how YNAB changed their lives. We didn’t invest in education and killer customer support in order to create solid word-of-mouth marketing…but boy, did it turn out that way!

ML #3: What’s your biggest challenge in spreading the word about YNAB?

YNAB: Up until a year ago, our product was desktop software with companion apps. We recently switched to a web app (SaaS model), with companion apps that do a lot more than they used to, but are still not a whole solution. For example, as of February 2017 you cannot sign up for our product from your mobile device. You have to sign up on the web app, and then you can log in and use the mobile apps. Even as I write this, it sounds ridiculous.

But we had to prioritize, and this is where we landed. From a marketing perspective, it has really limited where and how we can spend money effectively. It is actually a little bit painful from a marketing perspective. We are wholly focused on redesigning and launching mobile apps that are full-featured and equal in scope and capability to our web app, which will hugely open up how and where we spend money.

ML #4: To what extent do you use email marketing to generate sales?

YNAB: We have several email courses that we advertise, very top of funnel, to generate new leads. We have used this strategy on and off for years, and it very consistently delivers for us.

We have a weekly newsletter that we use — both as a tool for retention and to convert new inbound traffic. We also use multiple email drip series throughout the 34-day trial period to help convert “trialers” to new subscribers.

We have a couple funnels that are proven and dialed in, but in general, I think this an area where we actually have a lot of room to grow. We’ve never had someone dedicated to it. I dream about that though! 🙂

ML #5: Why do you think YNAB has been so successful?

YNAB: I wish I (Lindsey) could take credit, but I believe YNAB is successful because we have a truly exceptional product and are genuinely invested in customer success. The result is crazy loyal customers who are, in fact, successful — very successful — and then they can’t shut up about us. Marketing gold. 🙂

Of course, the software is great, but the reason YNAB works so well is the method — the Four Rules Jesse wrote back at his day job (even though he had never talked about it that way before). When you create a product based on principles that truly enable people to improve their lives, you cannot help but become successful.


[Editor’s Note: To get more people raving about your product or service, use anti-marketing to educate, inspire, and motivate new and existing customers to make a purchase. Your anti-marketing content should always be guided by your company’s principles AND your unique personality and voice.]

About the Author

Michelle Lopez Boggs is a copywriter, editor, and author of The Anti-Marketing Manifesto: How to Sell Without Being a Sellout. She writes for 8-figure brands and teaches her clients follow the MEI(S) principle: motivate, educate, inspire, and sell. To download a FREE copy of her book, click here.

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