| ou want to tell 130 clients about several new
professional services and send them updated fee schedules. You
considered outsourcing the project to a direct-mail ad agency
and found the setup alone for each variation of the letter was
$65—way over your budget. Worry not. This is a job your
support staff should be able to handle after reading this
We’ll use Microsoft Office’s Mail Merge function, which merges and integrates documents and data sources, to customize the letters. The final product will be 130 personal letters to each client’s contact person.
The setup takes just a few minutes. You have two options: Use the Mail Merge toolbar ( exhibit 1 , below)—a shortcut method that you’ll probably prefer once you get the hang of it—or the wizard, which takes you through the process step-by-step. We’ll demonstrate the process with the wizard so you can see how each step works.
To open the wizard, click on Tools , point to Letters and Mailing and click on Mail Merge . Your screen should resemble exhibit 2 ; however, yours obviously won’t have the main document letter we prepared to illustrate the process. Notice that our letter lacks a contact person’s name, an address or a salutation; we will add that later. Notice, too, that on the bottom right-hand side of the screen the wizard is ready for you to launch the first of six steps.
Step 1: Under Select document type , click on Letters because that is the type of document you want to create. Then click on Next: Starting document at the bottom right of the screen, to bring up the screen shown in exhibit 3 .
Step 2: Under Select starting document , choose the setup for your letter from the following options: If you are starting from scratch, click on Use the current document . If you want to use a template, click on Start from a template . And if you already have a saved letter you want to open, edit and send, click on Start from existing document .
Since you do not have a letter ready, select Use the current document and then compose your letter.
Then click on Next: Select recipients ( exhibit 4 ).
That moves you to step 3 and produces the screen shown in exhibit 5 .
Step 3: Insert the addresses of your clients by choosing one of the first two options shown in exhibit 4, or you can type a new list (that process will be described later). In our example, since we have the information stored in an Access database table, we select Use an existing list under Select recipients and when we click on Browse to find the list, the Select Data Source screen appears ( exhibit 6 , below).
To browse through your folders for the address table, click on the down arrow next to My Data Sources . Find the desired database, click on it, and the Select Table dialog box appears ( exhibit 7 , below). It lists all the tables available in that database. We have highlighted the Client table.
If your client list is in Outlook , click Select from Outlook contacts ( exhibit 8 ).
That evokes the Select Contact List Folder ( exhibit 9 ).
If you wish to create a new list, click on Type a new list and Create ( exhibit 10 ).
That brings up the New Address List screen ( exhibit 11 , below).
Fill out each client’s information and click on New Entry for each additional entry. After entering all the names and addresses, click on Close and name and save your new list so you can use or edit it later.
For those readers following along using Word, please note that you will not be able to proceed to step 4 until you have at least one recipient established.
Begin by clicking on Address block to specify the address elements. As shown in exhibit 14 , below, you can choose one of many different formats for the person’s name, whether to include the company name in the address and whether to insert the postal address.
If you are using Microsoft Access, click on the Match Fields option (see bottom of exhibit 14 ). That brings up the Match Fields screen ( exhibit 15 ), which requires a link for each element of information (last name and first name, for example) to its corresponding database field.
After you’ve matched the fields and clicked on OK , you’re ready to add the greeting line. Go to the Mail Merge screen ( exhibit 13 ) and click on Greeting Line to specify the greeting elements.
Fill in the requested information ( exhibit 16 ) and click on OK .
You now can preview each custom letter by using the back (<<) and forward (>>) arrows or by clicking on Find a recipient . Note in exhibit 18 that we used the arrows to display our 130th recipient. Be aware that you still can make changes to the letters, such as editing the recipient list or excluding recipients by selecting the appropriate function.
Return to the Mail Merge screen and click on Next: Complete the merge ( exhibit 19 ).
Step 5: At this point you can complete the merge setup, or if you wish, you can click on Previous: Write your letter and further edit the letters or print them.
As you can see, Mail Merge is a powerful tool that will save you time and money while creating professional, personalized letters. You also can use it to set up customized e-mail messages, envelopes and labels or a directory of addresses.
BONNIE BRINTON ANDERSON, PhD, is an assistant professor of information systems, School of Accountancy and Information Systems, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Her e-mail address is email@example.com . LARYSA V. OPRYA is a graduate student at the School of Accountancy and Information Systems. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org . MARSHALL B. ROMNEY, CPA, PhD, CFE, is a professor of accounting and information systems at Brigham Young. His e-mail address is email@example.com .