E-mail Blasts: “Personal” Mail Vs. BCC Mail

Sending a personalized e-mail blast takes a few more steps than sending a BCC mailing. Again, the starting point is doing a search in RESUMate to find the records of the people to whom the e-mail blast will be sent before clicking the E-mail Clipboard Copier icon in RESUMate.

Once the E-Mail Clipboard Copier is open, choose the item that says: “E-mail and name.” This choice will copy to the Windows clipboard the first name, last name, and e-mail address of all records in the currently active window, which in this case is the search result.

These three pieces of information (First Name, Last Name, E-mail Address) are now ready to be passed on to another program that will merge the name information with the body copy of your message, and use the e-mail address as the sending address for the message itself.

The concept of a personalized e-mail blast is the same as the older function of using “mail merge” to place a name and mailing address at the top of a letter that will be printed on a laser printer. In this case, we don’t need a physical mailing address since we’re sending an e-mail, but we do still need the recipient’s first and last name.

Any recent version of Microsoft Word provides both the physical mail merge option along with the e-mail option. In both cases, you need to create the body copy of the message in Word, which will then be merged with the name information, coming from a data file created by copying and pasting the clipboard contents to an Excel file.

In fact, this may be the first thing you’ll want to do after clicking the “Copy to Clipboard” function in the RESUMate E-mail Clipboard Copier. Open a blank Excel file, and immediate click “Paste”. Right away, you’ll see a 3 column spreadsheet, with columns for first name, last name, and e-mail address. Save this file with a name and folder location that you can find when you use Word or some other program to create the actual e-mail blast. This file is the “Data File” that Word and any other program will use to send your message.

Word itself has good on-screen instructions for sending a personalized e-mail blast. Start by clicking the “Mailings” tab in the row of tabs at the top of the Word screen. This will open a tool bar in which you’ll see choices for “Start Mail Merge” and “Select Recipients.” Select either of these and touch the F1 key, and you’ll see complete instructions for each step. (Depending on which version of Word you’re using, you may have to look around a bit to find these functions, but they will be there).

In addition to Microsoft Word, there are other good software options, both desktop and web-based, that can use the Excel file that was created starting from RESUMate’s E-mail Clipboard Copier.

A program I like is called “E-mail Merge Pro.” This is a desktop program with a one-time price of $39.95. There’s also a free trial option if you want to give it a try before spending even this modest amount. You can find this program at www.standss.com.

E-mail Merge Pro uses a “Wizard” format, so there are on-screen instructions for each step in the process, and there really aren’t that many steps to deal with. Basically, you point to the Excel file (or the csv or tab delimited file) that contains your names and e-mail addresses, and then create the body copy of the message in Outlook itself.

One thing I like about the program is that it contains built in safeguards to keep you from sending your message to people you did not want to include in your e-mail blast. It forces you to take a final look at your list of names, and easily remove any name of your choosing. Finally, it lets you see exactly what your message will look like in Outlook, showing you samples of individual messages, just as if you had created a single message to each person in Outlook.

A web-based program I use regularly to send e-mail blasts of my own is called Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com). This is also an inexpensive product, with monthly prices based on the number of names and e-mail addresses that your have stored at their site. The lowest monthly price is $15, and this includes up to 500 contact names and addresses. If you have 10,000 contacts, the price is $85 per month.

There are no additional charges, so you can mail your contacts as often as you wish; the pricing model is based solely on the number of unique contacts that you have uploaded to their site, not on the number of times you mail to these people.

One big difference between E-mail Merge Pro and a web-service such as Constant Contact is the appearance of the message itself that lands in the recipient’s inbox.

With E-mail Merge Pro, the message is a simple text formatted message, exactly as if you had created it yourself in Outlook. With Constant Contact, your message can look like a graphically sophisticated piece of advertising, with images, color, and a variety of design formats. All of these design touches are easy to do, and a very high level of user support will help you as you get started.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether a plain text message or a graphically sophisticated message is more appropriate for your purposes. As a general rule, I think marketing communications, such as a newsletter, will benefit from better graphics, while a purely functional message may actually do better in a plain text format.

Finally, here’s an important qualifier. Sites like Constant Contact require you to have permission from your contacts to send them unsolicited e-mail messages, and it’s not as simple as checking a box that says: “Yes, I have permission to use these names.” There is a built-in enforcement method as well. If a significant number of your messages “bounce” as undeliverable, or if a large number of recipients opt out of your list (there is a built in opt-out option a the bottom of all messages), or if a significant number report your message as spam, you will not be allowed to continue to use this service until you have cleaned up your list.

There are lots of other web-based services in addition to Constant Contact, and some may have a lower standard for “permission-based marketing”, but I think best sites will still require you to have had significant prior e-mail contact with the people on your list, so that your bounces, opt-outs, and spam reports will be minimal. A Google search for “E-mail marketing web applications” will find lots of alternatives.

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