For the most part, I find people have heard of a Mail Merge. The process of combining a list of contacts with a letter which you can then merge together and print. Did you know that you can also use a mail merge to send bulk email messages? This saves time and quite often your sanity. Gone are the days of having to one by one change and personalise individual email messages.
I have encountered people who find the idea of email merges a little daunting. If you prefer to test out this functionality first, you could create a test recipient group containing a few people such as yourself, your spouse, or your team members. You can then send out a test message to the test group. Once you feel confident with the process and are happy with the end result, you can send out the message to your real recipient list.
Let’s take a look at how you can create a mail merge to send bulk email messages using Word.
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 is now displayed full screen, just like an email message:
- Enter the text you wish to include in the email message. Include an opening salutation and message body section
- To include your email signature, open Microsoft Outlook and create a new blank email. 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 required. 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 bulk email messages to a list of recipients, you would usually 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 file types.
If you do not have a recipient list then you can create one from scratch during 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
- Begin 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:
- By default, the Address List is saved as a Microsoft Office Address List (*.mdb) and is saved to your computers My Data Sources folder
- 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
- The field code is inserted into the email message. It is important to note you cannot simply type in <<First_Name>>. The mail merge will not recognise this. Use the mouse to click on any of the field codes and you will see they are 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 when inserting the merge fields
- The email is now ready to be merged:
- From the Mailings tab select Preview Results
- The field codes are 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, proceed to the final email merge
- From the Mailings tab select Finish & Merge
- Select Send Email Messages
- You will see a message appear asking you to confirm the field name from your recipient list containing the email addresses. It will also allow you to specify the Subject line for the email messages.
- 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 so you can open the 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.
- Click File > 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 send bulk email messages using the mail merge feature in Word.