Mail Merge using Outlook

If you have a small list of clients and you are using Outlook, one of the solutions to follow-up with them is by using the Mail Merge function. The Mail Merge function allows creating personalized mailing labels, envelopes, form letters, catalogs, e-mails, or faxes for mass distribution.

You personalize all these items by using contact fields, information that can be read from the contact information that you have stored in Outlook. The mail merge can be started either from Microsoft Outlook or from Microsoft Word, however it will be completed in both cases using Word (this works with Microsoft Word 2002, 2003 or 2007). In the example presented below I chose to send a mass email using Mail Merge from Microsoft Outlook 2003 (before you do any real mailings you should do a test just to get familiar with the process and to see if everything works as it's supposed to work).

Once you have Microsoft Outlook opened, the first step is to select the contacts that you want to send the email to: you can select individual contacts by holding the Ctrl key and the left mouse click, you can create a mail merge for contacts that are in a specific folder, or you can create a custom view of contacts so you would send emails only to customers from a specific country, from a certain company, etc. (you have the Current view option on the left side of Outlook and you can select a custom view based on their category, company, location, follow-up flag). After you select the contacts you want to email, go to Tools and click on Mail Merge:
Mail Merge in outlook

The Mail Merge Contacts window will open. By default Only selected contacts will be selected (if you used custom selection). In the Fields to merge section leave the All contact fields option checked, as you might want to use additional contact fields that are not in the current view. Mail Merge has an option to load an already saved mail merge document, but if you're doing this for the first time leave the New document option on in the Document file section.

The selected contacts can be saved as a data file if you want to use the same list to send an email in the future, so if you want that check the Permanent file option and choose a location.

In the Merge options section you should select Form Letters (document type) and Merge to E-mail (per our example) - a Message subject line field will show where you have to enter the subject of the email you're sending:
Mail Merge contacts

Now the fun starts and you can see how far the customization of the email can go based on the Merge Fields options you have. Microsoft Word will open and after some processing you'll be able to compose the email. First you have to click on the Main Document Type button (from the Mail Merge toolbar) and select the type of document as E-mail messages. You can start typing the content of your email. Where you want to add a custom field (meaning a personalized word based on which contact you're sending it to) click on the Insert Merge Field and select the item that you want to be personalized. For instance if you want your email to start with a greeting that uses the contacts' first name, you would click on Insert Merge Field and scroll/select the First Name option and click on Insert. You can use as custom merge fields all the fields that you have stored in Outlook.

Even more, what's powerful about this is that you can use conditional options. Say you want to insert a certain phrase if a condition is met, or a different phrase if that condition is not satisfied. This is where you have to click on the Insert Word Field option and select the If...Then...Else option that will give you the option to input the conditional text. While working with merge fields it's recommended to also check the preview merged fields option and the highlight merged fields one so that you will see what Outlook interpreted.:
Mail merge conditional option

Complicated? Well you'll see that after some practice you can do some interesting personalized mailings. Last step is to actually send this, meaning you'll have to click on the Merge to E-mail button (last on the right in the Mail merge toolbar).
Merge to e-mail

Now here's one problem it might appear, if you get the following warning window: A program is trying to automatically send e-mail on your behalf. Do you want to allow this? If this is unexpected, it may be a virus and you should choose "No".
Outlook warning
I was able to dodge this by doing the following change: in the Outlook menu options, go to Tools, Options, E-mail options and select Advanced E-mail Options. In that advanced settings window uncheck the option Automatic name checking. Also, I changed in the Mail Format window the default email editor for HTML emails to Microsoft Office Word 2003 (both checkboxes). Try running the mail merge wizard again and see if this warning still shows. If it does, then the only other thing left is to use a free program called Express ClickYes (search Google for it), and what this program does is automating the clicking process. That's about it on the Mail Merge tutorial. As I mentioned before, there's much more you can do with it after a little practice.