Webinar 5: Using mail merge

In Shared Email Templates for Outlook


00:04 Introduction
00:10 Why mail merge
00:30 Mail merge in Shared Email Templates is not a mass mailing service
00:42 Webinar goals
00:59 What is a mailing list?
01:37 Merge fields explained
01:54 Creating a mailing list
03:05 Types of templates for mail merge campaigns
04:13 Creating a mail merge template
10:24 Scheduling a mail merge campaign
12:56 Wrap-up

Webinar transcript

Introduction

Hi! Irina Goroshko from Ablebits is here and on this webinar I will show how to use the Mail Merge feature of the Shared Email Templates add-in for Outlook.

Mail merge lets you use your Outlook inbox for sending newsletters, notifications, welcome messages, and the like to multiple recipients at once.

If after watching the video, you have any questions or feedback, feel free to share them in the comments. The links to the previous webinars find down below.

First of all, please note, mail merge in Shared Email Templates is not a mass mailing service. The tool uses the capacities of your Outlook inbox, and the number of daily emails is limited by Microsoft.

On the webinar, we will:

  • Create a mailing list
  • Create and edit a mail merge template: add images, hyperlinks, and merge fields
  • Create and schedule a mail merge campaign

So, let’s go!

Mailing list and merge fields

A mailing list is an Excel table with email addresses of the recipients and all the information needed to personalize the email messages. For the mailing list, XLSM and XLSX formats are supported; the Excel workbook must be located in OneDrive; the table must be formatted as an Excel table.

As regards to the content, the first column of the table must contain email addresses and the header of the first column must be 'email'. To other columns, you can add all the information needed for merge fields.

But what are these merge fields? These are variable parts of your template. You can change them depending on the addressee. You will add merge fields with the help of the ~%MergeField[] macro, I will show this a bit later. So, let’s start with a mailing list.

I create an Excel workbook—"Mail merge newsletter - test". By the way, this is what we strongly recommend you to do: before creating a campaign with an actual mailing list of your recipients, test it with the help of a test mailing list, to which you can include your own email and a couple of colleagues. Just to be on the safe side and check if everything is working the right way.

The first column, as I said before, always should be named "email". I add the addresses. To the second, the third and so on columns I can add any relevant to these recipients information that I am going to include to the mail merge template. As this is a test mailing list, I make it as simple as possible: a couple of emails and names.

I select the used range and press the Ctrl + T keys to format the range as an Excel table. It is necessary to do, so the add-in could find the table later. Right here, I can name my table. That’s it, the mailing list is ready!

Mail merge template

Now, let’s discuss the types of templates suitable for mail merge campaigns. First of all, you can freely use any simple template you created in the template editor. Also, you can upload a custom HTML template while creating a campaign. And the option I'm going to show you now is to create a mail merge template, select one of the offered layouts and color themes, and adapt it to your needs.

Please note, we’ve tested all the built-in mail merge template layouts on multiple devices and in different Outlook versions to make sure the messages will be displayed correctly. You can freely change text, add your images and hyperlinks and the layout will stay consistent.

However, as mail merge templates consist of nested tables, changing borders, colors, adding or removing rows or columns may influence the layout.

If you make such changes, we can't guarantee that the messages will look good for all your recipients. We strongly recommend that you test the modified layouts on multiple devices and in different Outlook versions before starting a mail merge campaign.

So, let’s create our mail merge template. Right-click My Templates or a folder or a team and pick New Mail Merge Template. The Shared Email templates web app will open in your default browser. So, these are the built-in template layouts. They are laid out like a set of nested tables with a different number of content blocks, columns, and rows.

As you can see, they may include one, two or three columns. Left and right border backgrounds can be colored fully or partially depending on the layout you choose. All the layouts except for the Simple text ones, also contain a sample logo and sample images that you can replace with your pictures.

By the way, by clicking here you can add your own HTML and use it as a template for your mail merge campaigns. But please do not forget to include merge fields to it! So, I pick the first variant of the 2-column layout and click Next.

Here, we are to choose the color theme. When you create the mail merge template for the first time, try out them all to find the one that suits your message the best. Click Finish.

Now the task is to customize the layout and turn it into our message. But first let me do a quick overview of the mail merge template structure. The template consists of content blocks that you can duplicate or remove with the help of this menu which pops up when you click on any place inside the block. This works for all the content blocks except for the header and footer. If you click on the header block, you will see a different menu which works with a nested table—adds and deletes rows, columns, a table and opens the Table Properties window.

So, here is the Sample logo and several sample images. To replace them with your pictures, make sure to locate your images on the network and save their URLs. For my convenience, I collected the URLs beforehand.

Your logo in the header block can be clickable. The sample logo includes a link that you can change by right-clicking it and selecting Link. Also, you can remove the link. To replace the logo, select Image in the context menu, paste the URL, add an alternative description and dimensions if you want. Click OK.

Next, we are to add text. I delete the sample text and paste mine.

Add title… The subtitle… The first paragraph...

And this is interesting. Of course, my message should be personalized. Remember, in the mailing list we created the Name column? It’s high time to use it. The mail merge templates are personalized with the help of the MergeField macro.

So, I place the cursor here, click Insert Macro icon and search for MergeField. I double-click on the macro. Into the square brackets, I enter the header of the column in my mailing list from which the data should be taken. That’s it.

In this template, there is going to be only one merge field, but you can add as many as you need. Just be very careful to enter the column headers exactly as they are spelled in the mailing list—if there’re any typos, the tool won’t recognize the columns and won’t paste the needed values.

Now, what do we have here? The action button. To change text and add your hyperlink, right-click the sample text and pick Link. Add the URL, text you want to see on the button, and, optionally, title.

Next, let’s replace sample images and work with content blocks. Look, the layout offers four content blocks with images, but I need five. To add a content block, I select one of the existing ones and pick the Duplicate Block option in the pop-up menu. Now I’ve got five blocks.

The sample image is replaced the same way as the sample logo. Right-click, select Image, enter the URL. We recommend that you use pictures of the same size to replace sample images, so the layout stays consistent.

Here is a placeholder for a hyperlink, again, you right-click it, select Link, add the web address, and text you want to see.

Next, the layout offers an action button here, but I don’t need it, so I right-click somewhere on the row where the button is located and select Delete Row. In this part of my message, I need a heading, a paragraph, and a button. All these rows are excess, so I select them, right-click, go to Row -> Delete Row. I add text and link to the second action button.

And the last one is the footer. I’m going to leave only two of the social networks' icons, so I right-click the unnecessary ones and click Delete column. To add a link, I right-click the icon, select Link and paste the web address. This block I leave intact.

Voila, finally, we’ve got our mail merge template finished! I name it and happily click Save.

Mail merge campaign

We are ready to create the mail merge campaign! To start creating a mail merge campaign, click the Mail Merge icon here. Click the New Campaign button at the bottom of the add-in pane.

Here, I enter a name for my campaign. It will be displayed only in the Shared Email Templates UI. Next, I type in the text my addressees will see in the Subject line of the email received. If needed, you can enter the email address for reply messages.

Mailing list. I click this icon to import the Excel mailing list. By the way, data from the Excel table is saved with the campaign. So, if you make any changes to the original Excel table after the campaign is created, they won't be considered. I select the Excel workbook. If the workbook is on your local drive, you can click the Upload button to bring it to OneDrive and then select. Pick the table. So, here is our mailing list imported.

Next, let’s define the message body. You can either select a template or paste your HTML-based message. Again, data from the template or your custom HTML-message is saved with the campaign so make sure it is final and does not require any changes. So, I click Copy from a Template and select the template. Here it is.

You can set a date and time for the campaign to schedule it. In this case, the button will be Schedule. If you select Immediately, the mailing will start right after clicking the Send button.

Check the box to save all the sent messages in your Sent Items Outlook folder. And click the button to start the campaign! Select your Microsoft account.

Nice, the campaign is created and is waiting to be sent. Here, you can see a small icon that marks the campaign status—Scheduled. When all the messages of the campaign have been sent, it changes to Finished. You can see it here.
You can delete the finished campaign by selecting it and clicking the Delete icon.

Now, I go to my Inbox and find the new email. Here is the newsletter, everything is displayed correctly, and here is my name inserted.

Wrap-up

That’s it for this webinar! We learned how to create an Excel mailing list, mail merge template, we added merge fields and started the mail merge campaign!

Great, we’ve done a good job! If you liked this video, hit the thumbs up! Thank you all once again and we’ll see you very soon on the next webinar!