Electronic billing company epost Thursday linked service with the MSN.ca Web portal, adding yet another plank to its branding campaign.

A collaboration between Canada Post, Cebra Inc. (the Bank of Montreal’s e-commerce subsidiary) and Telus Corp., epost, has been spending heavily on television, radio, newspaper and online advertising in an effort to make the epost brand synonymous with the concept of e-billing. The Web portal approach is designed to help epost pad its subscriber numbers, which now sit at 160,000.

“This is another strategic move in terms of broadening the epost brand to other destinations on the Web,” said Cynthia Stark, epost’s director of marketing. The electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) services available at the epost web site are now also accessible through the MSN.ca portal’s Money section, which also launched Thursday.

The Money site is composed of investing, planning and banking sections and MSN.ca has linked with a number of different companies to provide services in each of them. For example, E*trade is accessible through the investment section and epost can be found in the banking area.

Judy Elder, general manager for Microsoft’s consumer group, said MSN.ca chose epost rather than its main competitor, webdoxs, because it felt epost’s philosophy meshed closest with Microsoft’s.

“We think their mission to provide this service across the country really matched with ours,” Elder said. Also, epost has consistently championed itself as an extension of the post office and its coast-to-coast reach.

Elder said MSN.ca Money is designed as a daily destination for Canadians looking to manage their financial affairs. She added that Microsoft’s research revealed its users to be very interested in paying their bills online, making EBPP a good fit with MSN.ca’s everyday approach.

“Paying bills is something you have to do,” Elder said. “If not every day, then every month.”

Stark said epost is eager to see e-bill payment become an everyday activity.

She referred to MSN.ca as epost’s lead portal, in part because of its size. Elder said MSN.ca is Canada’s biggest Web site, attracting 5.3 million unique visitors each month.

But Stark added that epost’s portal strategy goes beyond Microsoft. She said she expects more agreements with portals to be announced in the near future.

“It’s not just any old portal that we’re going after, (but) we’re definitely talking to a number of the top portals,” she said.

The company’s brand-awareness effort contrasts sharply with that of webdoxs, which boasts 235,000 subscribers. A joint venture between Canada’s seven biggest banks and trust companies, aside from the Bank of Montreal, webdoxs claims it has not spent a dollar on marketing to date, relying instead on its relationships with the country’s banks to capture subscribers.

While webdoxs plans to launch a major branding initiative of its own in the next 12-18 months, David Koa, vice president of sales and marketing for webdoxs, told eBusiness Journal earlier this month that webdoxs is happy letting epost promote the brand for the benefit of both companies.

The arrangement sits well with epost’s Stark as well.

“We believe we’re building the category,” she said, when asked about webdoxs’ strategy. “We’re happy to build the brand.”

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