Tips & Tricks: how to email merge using Outlook

Posted on Categories IT Hints and Tips
email merge

Sending emails to contacts has become easier with the development of online email marketing tools.  You can easily make professional looking emails and personalise them to the contacts in your list. In addition, there are options to track your emails, find out if people are opening them and even work out which links they are clicking on.

Recently, I was asked by a client to do an email merge through Outlook. I realised that it had been a long time since I’d done one of those, as most of the bulk mailings I do now are generally using email marketing tools. Microsoft have developed their Office suite extensively over the years and the systems have become more and more user friendly. Even Excel pivot tables are fathomable these days!

With all the tools available to you, why would you want to do an Outlook email merge? The main reason would be that you have a relatively small list of recipients that you want to send something a little more personal to. Additionally, it’s only likely you will want to do this for something that is a one-off or occasional email.

Here’s a quick ‘how to’ for doing an Outlook email merge.

  1. Create your email list in Microsoft Excel. It will only need to contain information that you want to merge in to your email. E.g. recipient first name and email address.
  1. Open Microsoft Word.
  1. Draft your email. Make sure you include your email signature at the bottom, this won’t be picked up out of Outlook when the emails are sent.
  1. Open Microsoft Outlook – make sure the default account is the one you want to send the emails from.
  1. Go to the Mailings tab.

email merge

  1. Select ‘Start Mail Merge’ and then ‘E-mail Messages’. This will change the view of your document.

email merge

email merge

  1. Click on ‘Select Recipients’ and then ‘Existing List’ – navigate to the folder your email list is saved in and select the Excel file.

email merge

  1. A dialog box will pop up prompting you to select a worksheet from your Excel file. Select the correct one.

email merge

  1. Select ‘Insert Merge Field’ and insert the relevant fields in to the correct part of your email. They will show in the format <<Merge Field>> in your email.

email merge

  1. You can use ‘Preview Results’ to check you’ve inserted the merge fields in to the correct sections of the email.

email merge

  1. Once you’re sure you’re ready, select ‘Finish & Merge’ and ‘Send Email Messages’.

email merge

  1. Another dialog box will pop up, this time you have a couple of options available to you.

email merge

‘To’ – this is a dropdown menu of the fields in your Excel file. Make sure it is set to the field containing the email addresses.

  • ‘Subject line’ – this is the subject line for your email. Make sure it is relevant to the email you are sending as you would do normally.
  • ‘Mail format’ – you can send the email as HTML (which will show formatting such as colours and specific fonts), plain text (standard, non-formatted text) or as an attachment (this will send your email as an attached word document, but the email body will be blank).
  • ‘Send records’ – you can choose all or a selection of the records from your Excel file.
  1. Once you’re happy all your options are correct, click ‘OK’. It might seem like nothing has happened, but if you go to your sent folder in Outlook you’ll see the emails start to appear. Open one and you’ll see it looks like a standard email but with your merged details inserted.

email merge

A couple of things to note about this method, if you have multiple accounts in your Outlook you will need to do a test run to make sure it is sending from the correct email account.

You can’t send attachments with this method, although if you do a search there are methods to override this.

If you’re not comfortable with the email sending automatically, you can go to the ‘Send / Receive’ tab in Outlook and select ‘Work Offline’. This will send the emails to your outbox but they won’t send until you go back online.

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