This speaks to the current POV that agencies who focus solely on brand building and marketing will have a hard time growing their business. Clients realize they can now do much of the marketing heavy lifting themselves — and very cheaply. Agencies who focus on providing content and building customer relationships via multiple distribution streams will be the big winners.

MINT.COM – started at home by one man, sold to Intuit for $170 Million.

At a panel in San Francisco Donna Wells, Mint.com’s chief marketing officer, stunned a room full of digital marketing pros when she admitted she 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 for a mid-five-figures sum spent on search. Rather than purchase traffic, Mint.com has pursued the same type of strategy that food trucks and online magazines do: use free social media and piggyback 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 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, 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.