E-Mail Express

An easy way to send many customized messages.

Key to Instructions
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ow would you like to set up a mass mailing of custom e-mail blasts? Such a process can save you lots of time when you need to get out a very fast tax-deadline alert or some other time-sensitive communication.

In April the JofA demonstrated how to create a mass mailing of custom letters (“ Mass Mailings Made Simple, ” Apr.05, page 48). That process uses the tool we’ll be using—Word’s Mail Merge —but the steps are different. To illustrate the e-mail process, we’ll use Office 2003.

Begin by opening Word’s Mail Merge Wizard by clicking on Tools, Letters and Mailings and Mail Merge . That will evoke the screen in exhibit 1 , below.

Exhibit 1

When you click on E-mail messages , the screen in exhibit 2 will appear.

Exhibit 2

As with all Word mail merges, you have the option of using an existing document or a new one that you prepare on your current screen. We’ll use the latter ( exhibit 3 ).

Exhibit 3

Now we have to tell Microsoft Word where to find the data for Mail Merge . In this case the data are in your Outlook contact list, but you also can use contact information in Microsoft Access and Excel, comma-separated value text files, ODBC-compliant data sources such as ACT or most SQL server-based products.

Then click on Next: Select recipients ( exhibit 4 ).

Exhibit 4

Since we’re using Outlook’s contacts, choose Select from Outlook contacts ( exhibit 5 ) and click on Choose Contacts Folder .

Exhibit 5

If you set up Outlook with more than one profile—one for businesses, say, and one for personal information—you will be asked to select one for this exercise. Otherwise just move to the next step.

You now will be prompted to select which Contact List Folder in your profile contains the contact information ( exhibit 6 ). In this case only one is shown.

Exhibit 6

That will open the Mail Merge Recipients screen ( exhibit 7 ), which gives you an opportunity to populate or filter the list by clicking on the arrow next to the column heading you wish to include: Address, City, State. When you have made your selections, click on OK .

Exhibit 7

Then click on Next: Write your e-mail message ( exhibit 8 , below).

Exhibit 8

We now add the merge fields that allow you to personalize the message. Begin by typing Dear in the body of the document. If you click on Address block or Greeting line, the standard Mail Merge Wizard opens to guide you in adding data fields (as shown in exhibit 7 ). However, I prefer to have complete control over the selection of fields, so instead I click on More items (see exhibit 9 ).

Exhibit 9

That triggers the opening of the Insert Merge Field window that shows all the available fields ( exhibit 10 , below).

Exhibit 10

Choose the First [name] field and then click on Insert . That places the first name of each recipient after the word Dear ( exhibit 11 , below).

Exhibit 11

Now that the greeting is done, complete the letter, adding any other fields you wish. Then click on Next: Preview your e-mail message to take a final look. You can scroll through the selections by clicking on << or >>. You also can Find a recipient , Edit recipient list or Exclude this recipient ( exhibit 12 , below).

Exhibit 12

After completing your selections, click on Next: Complete the merge ( exhibit 13 ).

Exhibit 13

To command Mail Merge to send the messages via e-mail, click on Electronic Mail ( exhibit 14 ).

Exhibit 14

That evokes the Merge to E-Mail window ( exhibit 15 , below), which enables you to enter the e-mail heading information. Fill in the Subject line and use the drop-down menu to select a Mail format . Attachment sends the message as an attachment to the e-mail, Plain text sends it without formatting and HTML preserves the formatting you used when creating the body of the e-mail. When you’re done, click on OK and your messages will be sent.

Exhibit 15

A benefit of using Mail Merge to send a large number of customized e-mails is the increased security that comes from sending each message individually rather than as part of a group. Sending messages to a group field can create a problem; if a recipient wants to send you alone a reply and selects Reply to All instead of Reply , then the response goes to everyone on the list. Mail Merge gets around this problem and keeps your mailing list confidential; no one can see who else received the original message.

JOHN C. KING, CPA, is president of John C. King & Associates, LLC, an accounting and financial technology consulting firm in Norfolk, Va. His e-mail address is johnking@cox.net .


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