In a recent issue of Office Watch, Lee W asked about sending a large number of messages from an Access database:
" I have a need to send 50,000 emails w/ an attachment. The email addresses are currently stored in a Microsoft Access database. Does Outlook have any limitations? "
You can see our full reply here.
The technical details of an bulk emailing can be handled by Word and Outlook -- but there are issues when sending out a large number of similar messages. 'Large' can be as few as a hundred in some circumstances ...
Lucy J from 'beautiful Iowa' wrote after reading our response to Lee:
"I send out a monthly email for a small club - about 200 addresses.
I read your 'Clever Outlook Contacts' and now I've put the entire membership list into a separate Contacts folder and done the email merge from there, following your detailed instructions. It saves a lot of time.
But there are a lot of hassles with people not receiving the message, a huge number of automatic responses and so on. You send out a lot of emails - any tips for us sending on a much smaller scale? "
Lucy went on to say that she'd seen some free or low-cost mailing services on the Internet but was worried about privacy issues (if the service misused the list data), so she preferred to handle the mailing herself.
The main problem with a 'large' emailing might not be with Word or Outlook but your ISP and anti-spam measures.
Talk to your ISP
Many ISP's have limits on the number of outgoing messages permitted each day or week from each customer. This is intended to stop spammers using the ISP's to send out bulk mail. You should check with your ISP to see what limits they impose - often these limits are unrealistically low and people get blocked after sending only a few hundred messages (when running a small club, charity or PTA etc).
You should advise the sending ISP of your intentions before doing the mailing and keep a record of who you deal with -- if you're later accused of misdeeds you can point to your advance notice.
Even if there are no stated limits, sending out thousands of virtually identical messages has a high risk of being deemed spam almost no matter what you do, the content of the message or the circumstances.
In your message
In any massed sent email you should have some note in the message about who is sending it and why the message is being sent to that person. If appropriate some option to remove or change the email address should be given. For example:
"This message is being sent to members of the Murphy Brown Appreciation Society, if you wish to change your email address or be removed from this list please contact our 'Executive Producer' at <email address> with a copy of this message."
Include the email address, possibly name or other identifying info in the body of the message:
"This email was sent to: <Email Address>" or
"This email was sent to: <Name> at <Email Address>" or
"This email was sent to: <Name> at <Email Address> membership No: <Membership>" or
Sometimes people respond with short (and occasionally rude) messages asking to be removed - but the name or email address they give is different from the one on your list. That's why it's useful to include the address and other info in the body of the message - it will help you identify records that need editing.
Keep a record of requests to change email addresses. Some people ask to be removed from mailing lists without thinking ... then later they'll ask why you stopped sending messages <sigh>. With a 'paper' trail you can figure out what happened.
The 'From' address
Ideally the From address should be clearly linked to the group or company you're sending for. This helps assure people the message is legitimate.
For example a message from 'Fred@freddagg.com' about the monthly 'Murphy Brown' meeting might be mistakenly deleted as spam but the same message could be labelled as from:
"Miles Silverberg - Murphy Brown AS" or
"Murphy Brown - your monthly FYI"
Keep in mind that the From address for the mailing will get many administrative and automatic replies - 'Out of Office' and 'Vacation' messages, undeliverable error messages, requests for manual confirmation (an anti-spam measure) etc.
We suggest you use a separate email 'From' address to your standard one -- this not only helps separate the bulk email responses from your usual email but also protects against your own address being 'farmed' and targeted by spammers in future.
Most ISP's offer their customers multiple email accounts or email aliases -- you can use one of these to handle the responses to a club mailing. The email account or alias should be named according to the group eg "MurphyBrownAppSoc@<isp domain> etc.
More complex to setup and run is a domain name for the group then all emails can appear to come from say FYI@MurphyBrownAppSoc.org which is a subject beyond the scope of this short article.
If the mailing is a regular one you should use a consistent 'From' address and suggest that list members put that address in the 'Safe Senders' or 'White List' of their Junk Mail filters.
Managing a separate 'From' address.
Either Outlook or Outlook Express can handle different 'From' name and address.
In Outlook use the 'Profiles' option to create a separate Outlook configuration on the one computer.
For Outlook Express a similar feature is called 'Identities'.
In Windows Vista, Outlook Express is called 'Windows Mail' and does NOT have the identities feature. Instead you need to create a separate Windows login.
Check the help files for your software to see how the feature works in your case.
Article posted: Monday, 12 February 2007
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