How to Do Email Mail Merges using Excel and Outlook

This is probably a bit of an "oldie" but I have been asked about it a lot recently, so I figured it was worth documenting. 

Why would you use this?

There's a few reasons why you might need to do an email mail merge.

  1. You've got an email that you've got to send to a few people, perhaps it's an invoice or just a seasonal greeting. Whatever it is, you don't have a group to send it to and you don't feel like just pasting everyone's email address into the BCC field.
  2. You need to reference specific pieces of data in your email -- data attached to an individual. For example, on an invoice reminder run, you might have a due date, an invoice number, an amount and a project code. 

The Procedure

1. Create an Excel Spreadsheet with your people's details in it. 
You should use the first line to have column headings like Name, Email and FirstName. 

You only really need name and email but if you want to refer to other things (eg: like the project number/job number, invoice number etc) in your email merge, then you just invent a column header and add it. 

Save it somewhere where you'll be able to find it; 
eg: C:\temp\MergeData.xlsx

(Obviously, you'll also want to save a copy of that list somewhere else because it will probably be a matter of corporate record). 

2. Open Microsoft Word and write your email leaving spaces where you want things filled in. 
Don't forget your signature because it probably won't get attached otherwise.

If you're sending a greetings card or some other kind of email marketing hook, you might want to set up an image and links. To do this, just use the normal word image import and hyperlink functions. 

3. On the ruler at the top of Word, click Mailings then Start Mail Merge. 
Choose "Email Messages" from the drop down menu.

4. Click on Select Recipients and choose "Use an Existing List".
A file open dialog box will appear.  
Browse to where you saved your excel file. Click on it and click Open

5. A dialog box will appear. 
If your sheet doesn't contain other data, the values here will be right. 
Make sure that the [x] First row of data contains headers is ticked. 
Then click Ok

6. If you're going to insert any fields, like the first name;
a. Position the cursor where you want it to go (ie: after dear but before the comma) then 
b. Click Insert Merge Field and 
c. Choose the field. In this case FirstName.  

In the case of an invoice reminder, you might insert the project number, due date, dollar amount etc.

If you're not using any merge fields, just skip this step.

7. Click on Preview Results
You can walk through the results by clicking the forward and backward arrows

Check carefully because if you've used an old spreadsheet you might have left data near the end (ie: if you have more than 2 results and you only have two names ... you'll need to check your spreadsheet). 

If you're using a few merge fields, you'll want to check things over pretty carefully -- at least until you have the procedure working perfectly. 

8. If it all looks okay, you're ready to send. 
Note that if you're doing something complicated, like Images and links, you should do a test run and send to internal recipients as well as gmail and hotmail accounts. That way you can see how the message looks on different platforms and you can test the links.

Before proceeding, make sure that Outlook is already open.... that way you can be sure that there will be no crashes or plugin problems on startup.

Then, in word, click on Finish and Merge, and pick Send Email Messages from the list.

9. You'll see a dialog box, 
You can leave most things as they are but you'll want to put a subject on your email.
Then click Ok.

10. It might seem like nothing has happened but it has. 
Click over to Outlook and check your SENT folder.


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