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Mail Merge Methods and Instruments

Mail merge is an indispensable tool for those who want to perform mass emailing by themselves. There are various instruments with diverse options. But the main purpose is always the same - make your mass emails look like an individual ones.

Table of contents

What is mail merge and what is its purpose

Mail merge is the technique of inserting personal data into bulk mailing, making each message personal. Such personal information is contained in the data file and can be added to different message areas like address field, email body and others. Where exactly the information can be added depends on the software you are using.

With such software, you automate the work you would have done manually to ensure a personalized approach to each recipient. All you have to do is merge the basic template with the necessary personal data, and now there are hundreds of individual messages tailored to each specific person. After necessary preparations, the mail merge process runs smoothly and quickly, and the saved settings and data can be used for further mass messaging.

The advantages that personalized mail has over impersonal emails with multiple recipients in the "To" field are obvious:

  • First, it significantly increases the chances of success when contacting new customers in "cold" commercial mailings. Studies confirm that potential customers are far more likely to respond to personal messages.
  • Second, the rules of business correspondence often require personal contact with partners and customers. When sending general notices or invitations to friends and acquaintances, it is also desirable to address them by name.
  • Third, separate messages are required not only for business etiquette purposes but also for confidentiality. When a single email is sent to multiple addresses, those addresses are transparent to all the email recipients.
  • Finally, the main purpose of personalization is to send different data to each recipient, while the basic text of the message may be common. With mail merge programs, don't change the text and add data manually.

How to perform a mail merge

To automatically personalize your bulk messages with the help of a mail merge program, you usually need to create two main files: a mailing message template and a database file.

  1. The data-source file contains variable personal data for both message fields and body, and sometimes attached data.
  2. The message template is an email draft where special placeholders are made to indicate where to put the individual data.

This is an approximate description of the mailmerge process. This approach may vary depending on the software and the mail client you are using.

How to mail merge in Outlook

When performing a mail merge, you look for the best mail merge software suitable for the email application you use. To understand which tool is the best mail merge for Outlook, we need to discover and compare special aspects of mergers that work with Microsoft Outlook for Windows.

The best known among those is the Microsoft Word Mail Merge option, but is it the best one? Let's learn the ins and outs of mail merge when using Word, and we will see.

Creating mail merge documents

Creating a data source

When you conduct a mass email campaign from Outlook, the first thing is to compile the personal recipient's data into the database table. You need to determine which data is individual for each recipient.

First, it's an email address. This is the primary parameter for personalization. A mail merge program creates a separate message with a unique address, generating these emails one by one according to the mailing list.

Other data is added to the table for each addressee in the corresponding row. The data may vary depending on your needs and the capabilities of the tool you are using.

When mail merging in Microsoft Word, Excel spreadsheet is used as the source of data. The columns may contain limited types of personal information. You can put in the table email addresses, recipient information for the greeting line and address block, and the data for mail merge fields in the message body.

Mail Merge: prepare Excel table for mailing

The most advanced instruments like Mail Merge with Attachments offer the possibility to personalize every part of the message, including all message fields and attachment files. You can put in the database table any information you need for your mailing campaign. Unlike the Word mail merge feature, this Outlook add on can also personalize the Subject, CC, and BCC fields, and attachments. For complete personalization, send mass email with different attachments, indicating the path to them in the table cells.

The utility works with the .csv files, the universal file format in which any spreadsheet table can be saved. Once the data-source file is ready, save it and close. After that, go to Outlook to make an email template and mail merging from Outlook directly. No more applications are required.

Other tools may have certain limitations, so it's recommended to decide in advance which areas of the message you will personalize and check the options of the mail merge instrument you will use. Once the required data is prepared, you can consolidate it in the database table, like Google Sheets or Excel worksheet, or save it in the common CSV format, depending on the program you use.

Creating an email template

When using Word, you can type your general email text right into the current Word document or use an existing one. Use built-in functions to customize the recipient addresses and the greeting.

In case of using our Outlook add-in just start a new email as usual or open an existing .oft or .msg file. So the email draft is made like any other Outlook message.

If you have one or several common attachment files to be sent to all the recipients, attach them to the message. You can eliminate them from the message template later if required.

When you have finished with the template, save it in OFT or MSG format.

Specifying mail merge fields

It is very easy to insert any special data in the mailing. When creating the template with our utility, allocate the merge fields in the text where needed. For the placeholders, put a macro {FIELD#Name of the column} as shown.

Mail Merge with Attachments: composing email template

To put the similar placeholders in Word, click Insert Merge Field on the Mailings ribbon tab or More items... on the Step 4 of Mail Merge Wizard and then select fields from the database.

Completing the mail merge process and previewing the results

When previewing ready-to-send messages in Word you can check the text of merged messages browsing through them with the arrows.

The advanced version of Mail Merge with Attachments utility allows saving the merged emails in a specified Outlook folder for checking them before sending. Unlike previewing in Word, you can control the entire message, not only its text. The messages are saved exactly as they will be delivered to the mail merge recipients.

Advanced features of the alternative mail merge tool for Outlook

Advanced instruments not only make up for the above-listed shortcomings, but also provide additional options for more convenient and productive mass messaging and email campaigns. Let's look at this with the example of the Mail Merge with Attachments utility.

Customizing CC, BCC and Subject

To assign an individual subject to every message and add carbon copy and blind carbon copy addresses, add this information in the corresponding columns of the data table. Select the appropriate macro on the General tab when configuring the utility.

Adding attachments in mail merge

You can attach any files common for all recipients directly to the message template.

To personalize the messages with the attached files, go to the Attachments tab after launching the utility. Learn more about adding attachments in mail merged emails. Additional options allow the expansion of macros in the attached Word documents, the conversion of Word attachments to Adobe PDF, and the removal of attachments if they were added to the message template.

Sending merged emails

The Advanced settings of the add-in open up additional options for managing the sending of messages:

  • Choose an Outlook account and the sender's address before sending the messages.
  • Schedule the starting time of sending the messages and the delay for each subsequent message sent. This will help to overcome the sending limits of your mail server. In addition, it reduces the possibility of ending the mailing messages in the recipient's spam folder.
Mail Merge with Attachments: Advanced settings

Selecting data for mail merge

Limit the range of rows from the data table indicating the rows to be used or skip the rows containing a certain value. This setting allows you to use one data file for multiple mailings, excluding unnecessary addresses.

Tips and Best Practices for Using Mail Merge

  1. Maintain a Clean and Organized Data Source: The quality of your data has a significant impact on the outcome of your mail merge. Ensure your data source is accurate, up-to-date, and free of typos or errors. A clean and organized dataset will help keep your communications professional and error-free. So, take an extra few minutes to double-check and clean up your data source before initiating the mail merge.
  2. Leverage Personalization, but Don't Overdo it: Personalizing your mass emails can boost engagement and give your communication a human touch. However, too much personalization might make your emails appear artificial and scripted. Use elements of personalization judiciously. Ensure that your use of personalized fields, like first name or company name, fits seamlessly into the context of the message.
  3. Craft Engaging Subject Lines: The subject line is the first thing your recipients see, and it largely determines whether your email gets opened. Make it enticing and relevant to the content of your email. Experiment with personalization in your subject line, but remember to keep it natural and concise.
  4. Always Preview Before Sending: Before you hit send, take advantage of the preview function. This lets you spot any mistakes or inconsistencies that may have slipped through. Checking your emails thoroughly before sending ensures your message comes across exactly as you intended.
  5. Avoid Spam Triggers: Be mindful of certain words, phrases, and formatting that can signal spam to email filters. Things like excessive use of exclamation points, all caps, or words like "free" or "win" could land your carefully crafted message in the spam folder. Research spam triggers and avoid them to ensure your emails reach the inbox.
  6. Segment Your Data for Better Relevance: If you're dealing with a large database, consider breaking it down into smaller segments based on criteria like location, purchase history, or demographic attributes. This allows you to tailor your messages more accurately to each group, leading to better engagement and conversion rates.
  7. Consider Timing: The time of day you send your email can impact its effectiveness. Studies show that emails sent at certain times, such as early in the morning or in the evening, can have higher open rates. Experiment with different sending times to find what works best for your audience.
  8. Incorporate a Clear Call to Action (CTA): Each email you send should have a specific purpose, and this should be crystal clear to your recipient. Whether you want them to check out a new product or sign up for an event, ensure your CTA is easy to spot, simple to understand, and compelling enough to encourage action.
  9. Respect Your Recipients' Privacy: Providing a clear and easy way for recipients to opt out or unsubscribe from your emails is essential. It shows respect for their inbox and their choice, and it also complies with email laws in many regions.
  10. Choose a Reliable Mail Merge Tool: The tool you choose for your mail merge can make a big difference in how smoothly the process goes. Look for a tool that's not only reliable, but also user-friendly, and comes with useful features like customizable templates, preview options, and comprehensive support resources.

Following these tips will not only help you run a successful mail merge campaign, but it will also ensure that your communications are professional, personal, and respectful to your audience's needs and preferences. Whether you're aiming to boost your marketing efforts or streamline internal communications, a well-executed mail merge can be a powerful tool in achieving your objectives.

Summary

When mail merging in Outlook, users usually tend to use Microsoft Office feature built in Word or look for the most comprehensive third-party tool.

Using Microsoft Word to mail merge in Outlook has its benefits and drawbacks.

The advantages of this instrument are the following:

  • Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard is designed to make it easier for users who rarely do the mailings.
  • You can use this function to send bulk emails and create, edit, and print regular mass letters, envelopes, and labels.
  • You may use your Outlook contact folder as a source of the mailing list. However, if you have to put any particular information in the message text, the source must be a database table. Another option is to create a new data file right from inside Word Mail Merge Wizard.
  • The Word Mail Merge provides ready-made address and greeting blocks to be edited automatically.
  • You can preview the ready-to-send merged Word documents and edit them or exclude them from the mailing list right away.

The main point in choosing a tool for a mail merge is its ability to work with the personal information you need. Here, the Word Mail Merge feature has restrictions:

  • The Subject. Word does not allow you to customize the subject for each message. You can add only one subject for all recipients in the mailing list.
  • The CC and BCC. It is impossible to add any CC or BCC addresses to your mass emails.
  • Attachments. You can't add either shared or personal attachments to the mailing messages when using Word.

To overcome these restrictions, use a third-party add-on in addition to or instead of the Microsoft Word tool.

The most all-around solution should meet the various user requirements. One such tool is the advanced version of Mail Merge with Attachments utility, which not only has all the necessary options for mail merge, but also for sending out personalised documents in bulk. Here is a quick overview of its functionality:

  • personalize any message field, as well as any part of the message body;
  • attach any files to the messages, add individual attachments to each separate email, instantly convert Word attachments to PDF format, put placeholders in the Word documents to include them in the mail merge process;
  • preview the results as complete, ready-to-send messages;
  • select a sender mailbox and Outlook account;
  • set the sending time and date;
  • send each message with time delay in one click;
  • determine which rows from the worksheet are to be merged each time the utility is run.

Choose the mail merge instrument that best suits your needs and create any quantity of individual emails at one go.


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