How do I email a personalized newsletter?

Question: I have a mailing list that I send newsletters and announcements to on a regular basis, but recently a few of them have started to complain about their email address being visible to other members of the mailing, in the Cc list. Is there an easy way to send each newsletter individually to each address on my mailing list?

I'd also like to personalize the newsletters, so that each person receives an email with their own name in it. For example, I'd like each newsletter to start with "Dear [FirstName]," and include each person’s actual first name. Is this possible?

Lastly, my ISP recently placed restrictions on the number of email messages I can send out at a time. This means I have to spread out the mailings to avoid getting my account closed or my messages marked as spam. Is there a program that can automate this for me?

Answer: Newsletters are a very popular and effective way to communicate with friends, family, customers and potential customers. One way to personalize each newsletter and also keep email addresses private is to use mail merge. Mail merge takes your message and inserts each contact's first and last name at a designated point in the email. Then it sends the newsletter indidivudally to each contact in your mailing list.

Microsoft Word has a built-in mail merge feature that will do this for you with a moderate level of complexity. Here's their tutorial titled Word mail merge: A walk through the process

Mail merge with Word won't help you with the last issue though – time delays for each message. Many Internet Service Providers limit the number of outbound email messages to only a few a minute, and flag your account for spam abuse if more than a small number of messages are sent per hour.

That means you'll either need to spend a lot of time at the computer sending your newsletter to small groups of recipients at a time, or find a program that can automate this for you.

PC iMail is a mail merge program that was developed with ISP limitations in mind. It lets you set a time delay on outgoing messages, and handles mail merge fields in both the message body and the message subject (something Word can't handle at all).

If you already have contacts in Outlook or Exchange Server, PC iMail will import those contacts and add them to your mailing list. It will also import email addresses from a text file or web page, which makes it easy to build mailing lists from just about any data source.

PC iMail can also search for return messages that contain the word "Remove" in the subject, and can automatically remove those addresses from the mailing list. This gives your newsletter recipients an easy way to remove themselves from your mailing list.

Here's a helpful article for using PC iMail: How to send a mail merge press release or newsletter (without Outlook or Word)
Here's a link to download PC iMail

And one last word of advice: It's a lot more common to send newsletters in HTML format, as most people have email programs that can open an HTML message just as if it was a regular web page. This lets you include pictures, colors, and interesting fonts that make your newsletter much more exciting to read. Both Word and PC iMail will let you send your mail merge message in HTML format.

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Sun's StarOffice has mail merge too, although I wouldn't call it "moderately complex" - it looks like a lot of work to set up (as does MS Word's mail merge): http://docs-pdf.sun.com/817-6341/817-6341.pdf

I have a bunch of addresses in Exchange server, which is not the standard email format. Can your program import these and convert them to regular email addresses (SMTP format)?

Yes, PC iMail was recently upgraded with the ability to import email addresses from Microsoft Exchange Server, and convert them to SMTP format (e.g. yourname@yourcompany.com). It loads each address into a contact list, ready for sending out a group mailing.

For limited numbers or while you're setting up a better system you could just use BCC instead of To in a supporting email client (like Thunderbird from Mozilla). This will show to 'undisclosed recipients'. Not a great permanent solution but a gap filler! Best wishes, Sandy

Sandy, Thanks for posting :-) The problems with Bcc lists are that they're impersonal (each recipient gets an email that's not even addressed to them) and your account can still get banned for spamming if there are too many addresses in the Bcc list. The only way to get around ISP limitations is to only send a small number of messages at a time, and it's nice to have a program like PC iMail to automate that for you. Ricky

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