Not pretty, but possible.
So you use Google Apps and you want to send a sales letter to all your prospects? Or an invitation to all your customers?
Google Apps users are sometimes disappointed that there is no mail merge function in Google Docs, the word-processor, like there is in the desktop version of Microsoft Word. (The online version of Word in Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite, Office 365, also lacks this capability.)
Microsoft Word lets you create a form letter with merge tags that automatically pull names from your groups within your address book in Outlook or elsewhere, such as Apple Address Book on a Mac. The mail merged document can be sent to a printer, to new documents or by email.
There are at least three ways to run a mail merge within Google Apps, though long-time Microsoft Office users will not find them quite as simple and in most cases only work for sending to email.
Here are the three best workarounds.
The Good – Google Contacts + MailChimp or other email marketing service
If you are wanting to merge a large number of email addresses with an email message then using a web-based email marketing service such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor is a good option.
MailChimp has the advantage of sitting in Google’s Marketplace app store which means that it has some level of integration with Google Apps. Single-sign on between for Google Apps users means you don’t need to remember another username and password, which is a big plus for convenience.
- MailChimp can automatically import all your contacts from Google Contacts.
- Great features such as segmenting lists, statistical analysis including open rates, campaign management, and so on.
- Best suited to newsletter-style content as it includes unsubscribe information on each email which gives it away that it’s not a personal letter.
- Can’t send attachments yourself. MailChimp offers to host attachments up to 10MB in size.
- Can’t automatically import groups within Google Contacts. If you just want to email your sales prospects you have to export the group manually and import it to MailChimp.
The Bad – Use a Google Spreadsheet template
The excellent Digital Inspiration blog has a tutorial that includes Google Spreadsheet template that includes a basic mail merge script.
You can use this template to automatically import any group within Google Contacts and send a message to all the group’s members. No further scripting is involved if you stick to the template outline.
Click on this link to get a copy of Digital Inspiration’s template. Your browser will display a security message asking to confirm making the copy before it creates the Google Spreadsheet template.
The Mail Merge option appears in the document menu after the Help tab. There are two options in the Mail Merge menu; import a group from Google Contacts, and send mail merge.
- No scripting required. Works as advertised, quick and fast.
- Can be saved in the Google Docs file system and reused as needed.
- Template works with standard Gmail accounts as well as Google Apps for Business.
- Limited ability to send graphical content.
- It’s a bit weird writing an email with each sentence on a separate line of a spreadsheet.
- Best for simple text messages.
The ugly – Google Forms + Google Spreadsheet
Google has a tutorial on how to do a mail merge using a spreadsheet of names and email addresses and the in-built Script Editor. The tutorial takes an example of a spreadsheet of data collected by Google Forms and turns it into a mailing database. It’s not for the faint-hearted so if you’ve never scripted before, the long strings of code will be a bit daunting.
- You can do some pretty powerful stuff such as automatically embedding maps customised to each recipient. Check out the demo at 40:20 using Google Maps.
- You need to learn how to code basic scripts.