How to customize mass mailings in Gmail

Mail merge used to be a powerful tool, and still sees some use in businesses that rely on physical mail. E-mail is much handier for reaching people quickly, but the lack of customization tools can make it feel impersonal. Fortunately, there's a great, free tool available to customize mass mailings in Gmail.

Physical mass mailings can be easily personalized through MS Word and other programs, but it can be trickier to tailor mass e-mails.

A consulting firm called IT4SmallBusiness whipped up a simple e-mail merge tool in the form of a Google Docs template. One caveat: Gmail doesn't like its users to send out too many messages at once, spam being the nuisance that it is, so you may need to either limit your mailing or space them out over hours or days. Here's how to use the tool: 

  1. Make sure you're logged on to Gmail and Google Docs. 
  2. Open a copy of the spreadsheet tool here (or here if the first link doesn't work for you). 
  3. There are three tabs you can access from the bottom. The first contains detailed instructions, the most important of which is this: don't delete or modify anything in a red cell. 
    Step 3: Mail merge instructions tab.
    Step 3: Mail merge instructions tab.
  4. To start writing your e-mail, just click the second tab, labeled Email text. If you want to add customization fields beyond first name and present, just add double brackets <<like this><:like this="">> and make sure you spell the field the same way each time you use it. 
    Step 4: Compose e-mail.
    Step 4: Compose e-mail.
  5. Click the third tab, Data to be merged, to add e-mail addresses and other information. If you added new customization fields in the step above, you will need to enter them in the top row. Import or paste your data into the spreadsheet. 
    Step 5: Merge data.
    Step 5: Merge data.
  6. To see if it'll work, select Test Mail Merge from the Mail Merge menu on the right of the Help menu. (If you can't see it, try reloading your page.) This brings up the first three messages as tests to see if your merge is working. You will need to authorize the script the first time you use it. 
    Step 6: Test mail merge.
    Step 6: Test mail merge.
  7. If they look good, select Run Mail Merge from the Mail Merge menu and let the script work its magic. 

<:like this="">That's it! It's pretty straightforward, but still powerful. 

<:like this="">Thanks to Red Ferret for the link!

About the author

    Rob Lightner is a tech and gaming writer based in Seattle. He has reviewed games, gadgets, and technical manuals, written copy for space travel gear, and composed horoscopes for cats.

     

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