Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doing Mass Mailings in a Snap


Master the Mail Merge and Save Time This Holiday Season

It's a well-known fact that December is by far the busiest month for the US Postal Services -- and chances are it's your business's biggest month for mailings, too. Whether it's seasonal greetings, end-of-the-year reports, or just the usual old invoices, your mailings can really get big this time of year. If you're tired of addressing envelopes by hand or going through your own labor-intensive workarounds in order to avoid the intimidating Mail Merge feature in Microsoft Word, now is the time to figure it out once and for all. Once you've mastered it (and it's a lot easier now, thanks to the Mail Merge wizard in Word), you'll save untold amounts of time, and you'll have the opportunity to review, update, and organize your business contacts at the same time.


The ins and outs of Mail Merge are far too extensive to cover in a single QuickTip, so instead we'll give you a basic overview and pointers on where to find more information.


Plainly put, a mail merge pulls data from a source such as Outlook, Access, or even an Excel spreadsheet, and it plugs that data into a defined format such as mailing labels or form letters with personalized salutations. So the trick is mainly in assigning the proper fields and making sure that you've got your end destination (usually in Word) looking for the right information in the right place.


If you use Outlook as your data source, you can create contact categories and then sort by those categories. Individual contacts can belong to several categories at once, so if you want a customer to get your monthly print newsletter plus your holiday card, you can create categories called "Newsletter" and "Holiday Card" and then assign both to that customer. Here's how to create a new category in Outlook 2003.


Here's the full Microsoft tutorial detailing how to do a mail merge. It takes 40-50 minutes to complete the tutorial, but that could still be a lot less time than you could spend trying to figure it out yourself!


Here's another good Microsoft resource that walks you through a mail merge in Word 2003 and 2002.


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