For the most part, I generally find people have heard of Mail Merging. Microsoft Word provides the functionality to easily combine a list of contacts with a standard letter which can then be printed off at the click of a button saving time and quite often your sanity. Gone are the days of having to one by one change and personalise individual letters.
What many users don’t know is that you can also use the Mail Merge feature within Word to send out bulk email messages. This feature still provides the flexibility to personalise each and every email message and it seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Outlook to make the process very simple.
I do encounter people who find the idea of email merges a little daunting. A great idea if you want to test out this functionality first is to create a test recipient list containing just a few people such as yourself, your husband, or your team members etc and then test sending the email message to this smaller group before you go ahead and send out an email to a hundred, or couple hundred people. Once you feel confident with the process and are happy with how the email message looks when received, then you can send out your message to your real recipient list.
Let’s take a look at how you can create a mail merge to send out bulk email messages.
The Email Message
The first step is to create the basic email message you wish to send out to recipients. This is all created within Microsoft Word.
- Open Microsoft Word
- Select the Mailings tab and click the Start Mail Merge button
- From the options select Email Messages
- The document will now be displayed full screen, just like an email message, instead of seeing the standard sized document with margins
- Type up the text you wish to include in the email message including an opening salutation and message body
- If you would like to include your usual email signature, open Microsoft Outlook, create a new blank email and then copy your signature from the email message and paste it to the bottom of the email mail merge document
- The mail merge process allows you to include as much personalised information as needed. From the example below, you can see I have included two unique pieces of information: Name and CompanyName.
The Recipient List
If you need to send an email out to a bulk list, you generally have that list stored or saved somewhere. The recipient list may be in your Outlook contacts, in a database file, or saved in an Excel workbook. Microsoft Word can use any of these recipient list types. If you do not yet have a recipient list then you can create one from scratch within the Mail Merge wizard, OR, create one in a basic Excel workbook.
For this exercise, I will show you how to create a simple recipient list using the Mail Merge feature.
- From the Mailings tab, click the Select Recipients button
- Choose to Type a New List
- The New Address List window will appear:
- You will be provided with a default set of columns with options for Title, First Name, Last Name, Company Name etc available. You can customise the information you wish to include in your mail merge
- Click the Customize Columns button
- The Customize Address List window will appear:
- Any fields you do not wish to include, select the field and click the Delete button
- Any fields you wish to add, click the Add button
- If you wish to rename any existing fields, use the Rename button
- I have now customised my field list to include only the information I wish to work with
- Click OK
- You will now only see the columns for the fields you have specified
- Now you can start entering the data, use the TAB key on the keyboard to move through each column and enter in 3 or 4 sample records for this exercise
- Now we need to save the recipient list, click OK
- You will now see the Save Address List dialog box appear:
- It is important to note that by default, the Address List will be saved as a Microsoft Office Address List (*.mdb) and will be saved to your computers My Data Sources directory
- If you wish to save it in a different location, navigate to the new location and then give the file a name
- Click Save to finish
- You will now see that many of the remaining buttons on the Mailings ribbon area have now activated allowing you to use the features
Completing the Merge
Now that you have your email message and recipient list organised you are left with the final steps of completing your email mail merge.
- Place your cursor in the email message in the location you wish to include some personalised information, in my example, I want to insert the individuals first name at the start of the email message
- From the Mailings tab click the lower part of the Insert Merge Field button, a drop-down menu will appear:
- You will see a list of the fields available from your recipient list
- Select the first field you wish to include e.g. First_Name
- You will now see the field code has been inserted into the email message. It is important to note you cannot simply type in <<First_Name>>. The mail merge will now recognise this. Use the mouse to click on any of the field codes and you will see they are then highlighted in grey indicating they are a special field code, not just plain text.
- Repeat this process for any other pieces of personalised information you wish to include
- Make sure you do not accidentally delete any spaces between words etc when inserting the merge fields
- My email is now ready to be merged:
- From the Mailings tab select Preview Results
- The field codes will now be replaced by actual data from your recipient list
- You can use the navigation arrows in the Preview Results group of buttons to browse through each record in your recipient list
- If you are happy with the preview version you can then proceed to the final email merge
- From the Mailings tab select Finish & Merge
- Select Send Email Messages
- You will now see a message appear asking you to confirm the field name from your recipient list which contains the email addresses and will also allow you to specify the email Subject line
- Complete these final details and click OK
- If you switch to Microsoft Outlook and open the Sent Items, you will now see your email messages being sent, one by one, through your email account
- You can open and view any of these individual email messages at any time
Save the files
Lastly, you will need to save the email mail merge document. The bonus with this is that you can open the email merge document at any later date and use it again. Make whatever small changes you may need and off you go again without the need to start from scratch. Your email mail merge document will maintain the link to the recipient list so every time you open the file that link is reestablished.
- Click File and select Save As or press F12 on the keyboard to perform a Save As
- Select a location you wish to save the email mail merge document to, I usually try to keep the document and recipient list in the same location to make it easy to work with
- Give the merge document a relevant name and click Save
You have now completed the steps required to create an email mail merge. Be sure to check out my other articles relating to Microsoft Word.