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Newsletter promotes site, sells ads

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For trade show information portal Tsnn.com Inc., New York, having an e-mail newsletter is a multifaceted boon. The newsletter, eXpofiles, shuttles traffic to the company's Web site, helps promote loyalty and provides a forum for feedback.

In the nearly two years since it was created, eXpofiles has changed from a medium for gathering internal marketing information to a bartering tool and advertising domain for Tsnn.com's dozens of sponsor and partner companies.

"I think that our goals in creating eXpofiles were just the same as a store would have in advertising--that people don't have to think to come here," said David Larkin, CEO of Tsnn.com.

Larkin said the first step to creating a newsletter is to nail down technical logistics. An e-mail newsletter with a virus, or one that is sent multiple times, won't soon be forgotten by readers--or sponsors.

The next consideration is the newsletter's content. "There's sometimes a very fine line between indifferent copy and interesting copy," Larkin said. "And if it's not going to be interesting, you're sort of a junk-mailer, not a permission-based mailer."

Tsnn.com generates much of eXpofiles' content internally, but it also taps marketing partners and industry sources for free content. For Tsnn.com, part of creating a good e-mail newsletter meant doing the job itself.

"For us it was really a pretty no-brainer decision," Larkin said. "We're the ones in touch with our partners, we're the ones who talk to people in the industry to get ideas for content."

Keeping costs low

Internal development has also kept costs low, said Nancy DePiano, Tsnn.com's director of marketing.

Since Tsnn.com started the newsletter, DePiano has been responsible for much of its content and design.

What began as a simple text version evolved intoan e-mail message and Web page combination. Subscribers clicked on an article or section name within an initial e-mail message and were linked to a Web page Tsnn.com had set up for the newsletter.

But early this year, Tsnn.com transformed eXpofiles into an HTML format, which allows the newsletter to employ a variety of graphics, fonts and logos without having to transfer readers to a separate Web site.

Besides being more visually appealing, DePiano said, the new format allows for more and higher quality advertising opportunities.

For example, she said, being able to support ads with logos makes for better brand identification opportunities than simple text ads with links to a URL. When eXpofiles was text-based, she said, it didn't even offer any advertising opportunities.

A package deal

Tsnn.com earns income by selling data and advertising, and from commissions on products and services sold through its Web site.

One of eXpofiles' primary roles has been to enhance Tsnn.com's ad offerings. The newsletter ads are often offered as a "reward" in part of a larger sponsor-partnership package that may include Web site ads and commissions, Larkin said.

Among these sponsor-partners is Branders.com Inc., Foster City, Calif., which advertises and sells promotional products on the Tsnn.com site. Branders.com's partnership deal also includes ads in eXpofiles.

"We're very keen on newsletters," said Cathy Webber, business development director for Branders.com. "We think that we have a better probability of getting folks to go to our site if we have some sort of information and a link."

Branders.com advertises in about half a dozen trade show e-mail newsletters, Webber said. It has been a Tsnn.com sponsor-partner since February.

Tsnn.com does not sell to or share its subscriber list with other companies, so advertising in eXpofiles is also a way for companies such as Branders.com to reach the newsletter's highly targeted subscriber base, Webber said.

For now, Tsnn.com will concentrate on procuring more eXpofiles subscribers. To do so, the company plans to feature the newsletter more prominently on its Web site, Larkin said.

Tsnn.com also may begin supplying content from eXpofiles to its partner companies. For example, if a partner company wanted to send out a trade show marketing bulletin, Larkin said, Tsnn.com could supply the content, which would include a link to the Tsnn.com Web page.

The move, he said, "ultimately helps to brand us and send traffic back to our site."

Tsnn.com will maintain a marketing mix that includes print ads, public relations and industry trade show exhibits. Yet, "there's no reason not to make [the newsletter] program bigger," Larkin said. "We're already geared up to do it. We have people who help send us content. [And] I think it's real important to be in somebody's mailbox every couple of weeks."

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