The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M. for distribution to NAPM affiliate newsletter and web site editors. 


Email List Management

December 2001

A few suggestions on using email to send newsletters to affiliate members.

Email is a great tool to keep in touch with affiliate members, send notices about upcoming workshops, seminars and programs and distribute meeting minutes. If you have not already automated this process, it's time to start. I can't emphasize enough that the time to start is now. It's a complex and daunting task if you try to do it all at once. The learning curve can be steep…but if you never start climbing it, then you'll never get to the top.

There are a number of options for the newsletter or notice format as well as options for how to manage the mailing list and send messages. Here are some thoughts about managing the mailing list.

NOTE: I'm using Office 2000 products, but there are similar functions in Office 98 and even more in Office 2002. The menus and commands may have a different name, but the functions will be there somewhere.

Where you keep the mailing list and how you send the notices is probably a function of the size of the list and the time you want to spend keeping up with changes. Microsoft Access or Excel works well for a large member list and the data can be imported into Outlook to create a contact list of members. Look in the Outlook help files for instructions to import a list, it's pretty easy.

TIP: When using Excel or Access as a database, set up a separate column or field for each data element (example: don't lump address, city, state and zip together, separate them!)

For small lists, I like to use an Outlook Contact list. This limits your flexibility, (example; no field for C.P.M.) but simplifies list management and data entry. One the list is set up in Outlook then Outlook can easily send messages to all or some of the contacts.

Sending email from Outlook: 

  1. Open the Contact list and select the people to send messages to. I like to use categories to keep track of the various groups of people (Board members, New Members, Committees, etc. then send messages to a category of contacts)
  2. Once the group of people is selected, open the Actions menu and select "Send Message to Contact" This will set up an email message to all of the selected contacts. Type or paste the message into the body and send.

CAVEATS

  1. The complete mailing list will appear in the "TO:" block, and every recipient will see everyone else and have the option of copying the names and sending messages, SPAM and anything else to everyone. I recommend blocking and copying the email addresses from the "TO" field to the "BCC" address field. Put a generic affiliate email address in the "TO" field. This way all of the recipients will get a BCC copy of the message and not be able to see everyone else.
  2. Your ISP mail server will have to handle all of the messages as a block. Many ISPs will not allow you to send a block message like this to more than about 30 people at once. No big deal, if you have a small list and/or you can just send messages to groups of 30 people at a time.

Use Word Merge Files

A better option would be to use and MS Word mail merge file to create and send the message.

  1. Mail Merge can be started from the Outlook contact folder. Once the contacts have been selected, open the TOOLS menu and select MAIL MERGE. This will give you the option of creating a mail merge document that can be addressed to each recipient. 
  2. You can also open MS Word, and then create a mail merge file by importing data from an Outlook address book, Excel or Access database. 
  3. Word will be creating a "form letter" addressed to each member.
  4. Once the mail merge file is created in Word, you have the option of merging the document to EMAIL. This will create separate email messages in your Outlook Outbox to each recipient. 
  5. By sending each message as a separate message, it gives the ISP mail server a better chance to handle the load without crashing

CAVEATS

  1. Make sure you have "auto send" turned off in Outlook so you can preview and check the messages. Once you have previewed the messages, you can connect to the Net and send them. 
  2. You can only send text files. Any fancy formatting in WORD will be lost as it converts the document to an email message.

Commercial Mail List 

  1. A third option for mailing lists is to use a commercial mail list manager. There are several good on-line mail list managers that range in price from free www.topica.com  to "pay through the nose" Check out this web site if you are looking for a list of them http://serverwatch.internet.com/mailservers.html  I used to use www.listbot.com  until it became expensive.
  2. An on-line commercial tools lets people sign up and manage their own data. It makes managing the list easier, but you loose flexibility , and add cost.
  3. I've been testing a relative inexpensive person mail sever called ARROW MAIL. It runs on my computer and automates the management process similar to a larger on-line service.  It seems to be working fine and I have almost convinced myself to buy it.

Issues & Resources:

  1. Using Outlook to manage and share contacts is a powerful and flexible way to get started. I recommend setting affiliate records as a separate personal folder contact file. Then the folder can be shared among board members. It saves having to spend the time creating the database in Access or Excel, naming fields and does a lot to automate data entry. There is lots of good information about how to do this in the Outlook help files and the Microsoft Knowledge Base. http://support.microsoft.com/ 
  2. BTW;  I hope you know to drag an incoming message from the inbox to the CONTACTS folder and Outlook will set up a new contact. Dragging a message also works for setting up a calendar or task item.  This makes it real easy to add someone new to the contact list.
  3. Using Word merge files seems to be a great way to bypass some of the limitations of Outlook and create a set of separate messages to each member. Merging in Word is a little harder and I highly recommend downloading and reading the expanded mail-merge help file from Microsoft. It's available in Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q282307. http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;Q28230
  4. If you can hook up with someone in your affiliate who knows a little about programming with VBA; tools can be created to send email messages directly from Excel or Access. Here is an article that contains the code to do this from Excel. How to Use an Excel Database to Send E-Mail (Q241498) http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;Q241498  At one time, Microsoft used to have a working copy of this macro on their web site, but it's no longer posted. If someone really wants to try this, drop me a note and I'll send you a copy of it.
  5. Don't try sending newsletters as attachments to email unless the newsletter file is small and/or you only have a few messages to send. Either paste the newsletter into the message as text, and/or post the newsletter on a web site and send everyone a link to it. Sending a lot of people an attachment and/or if the attachment is large, will quickly overload an ISP email server or crash your email program.
  6. If you send email directly from your system you are going to quickly discover one of the downsides. Managing the mailing list can become a full-time job. Shortly after clicking the "SEND" button, your mailbox will start filling up with rejected messages and bad email addresses. Cleaning all of the bad addresses up, or deleting them before you try to send again is irksome to say the least. It seems like no matter how hard you try, email addresses still get screwed up, lost or changed.
  7. Commercial "OPT- IN" mails lists by pass this problem by requiring each user to subscribe to the list with a valid email address. They confirm the email address is valid so you don't have to go through the problems of dealing with bad email addresses. If someone wants to be on the list, then they have to take correct action themselves. For a large mailing list using a commercial service makes a lot of sense.
  8. One more great resource I'd suggest reading. It's an article written about publishing newsletters using Front Page. Chapter 8 talks about some of the distribution issues. Develop An Email Newsletter, a tutorial written by Thomas B Bergman, author of  The Essential Guide to Web Strategy for Entrepreneurs (Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0-13-062111-0). http://www.microsoftfrontpage.com/usingfp/newsletters/index.html

In a future article, I'll talk about some of the newsletter formatting, preparation and posting options.

Mike


MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 11/26/2016