Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #7 Mass Emailing Campaigns

As promised both in Arrow-Tip #6 and to David Couper in a great LinkedIn question, I’m continuing the topic of when to use Outlook distribution lists versus mail merge or some other email software. As we stated in Arrow-Tips #6, if you are regularly emailing a group of recipients smaller than 25 in number and they don’t mind sharing their email addresses with each other then distribution lists work fine. Otherwise, you really should think about the dreaded mail merge. Here are some benefits to using a mail merge:

  • Each recipient gets an individual e-mail so the recipient’s privacy is protected
  • Emails with only one recipient are less taxing on an email server and will not bog down your Outbox
  • Mail-merge will allow you to personalize your emails with the recipients name, company name or other standard contact information.
  • Individual emails allow you to to track each email individually with read and received receipts.

Mail merges are especially good for snail mail envelopes or labels, but are they really the best solution for mass email or drip marketing campaigns? A year or two ago I might have said, “Yes”, but with all the new anti-spam conventions not to mention some of the wonderful products on the market specializing in email marketing the answer now is a resounding “No.”

Anti-Spam Issues

First of all, you don’t want your domain to get labeled by all the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) out there as one that generates spam. It is not all that hard to end up in the spam list these days especially if you have ever sent the same email to more than 100 people. Some ISPs look for emails that go out in batches as small as 25 in number. So if you are using your mail merge to send out a newsletter to your entire list of 1000 contacts, you may already be on the spam list and once you get there it is a very painful process to get off. What is the harm in being labeled as spam? Best case scenario, your email goes through to the recipient, but the subject line gets the lovely word “Spam” added to it – we’ve all seen that before. Worst case scenario, you email is blocked by the recipients ISP and even if you send a regular email to the recipient that is not part of a mail merge, it gets blocked before it can even make it to their Inbox to be tagged as spam. Imagine not being able to use email to communicate with a client and you’ll understand the seriousness of this issue quickly.

So how do you remain spam compliant. There are some great experts on this issue (again I’ll point to my friend Johnny Dunigan with Concerto Networks), but here are some general things to keep in mind:

  • If you do use Microsoft Outlook mail merges or distribution lists, keep the recipient list down to less than 25 per merge.
  • Make sure to include your physical address and phone number at the bottom of your email or in your signature since anti-spam software looks for that information to confirm you are a legitimate business.
  • Include an option to opt out of receiving the email which can be as simple as a statement at the bottom or top informing the recipient to reply to the email with the subject line “Unsubscribe.”
  • Try to keep the size of the email small so that it does not bog down mail servers or take a long time for the recipient to download.

Really, that list is just the beginning – there are all kinds of anti-spam compliant rules and they change constantly as spammers find new and sneaky ways to get past spam detectors. So if you really want to make sure you are doing the most to stay anti-spam compliant, you should consider a third party software or service that specializes in handling mass email campaigns.

3rd Party Mass Email Services

Recently I started using a great service for my newsletters and announcements called Constant Contact. I know some of you are familiar with it because I get your emails with the trusty Constant Contact logo at the bottom (good job Brea Gratia of Sanctuary Spa d’ Sante!). Some of the benefits of using an email service include:

  • Anti-spam compliant – they keep up with all the rules for you!
  • Wonderful statistics to show you who opened, read and clicked through any links in your email
  • Unsubscribe tracking so you know who to take off your recipient list
  • Professional templates for newsletters, events, and more where you can personalize your emails.

Constant Contact is a monthly subscription service that is very affordable and well worth the expense. I’ve also have clients who have been happy with a product called CoolerEmail and my dear friend Mona Curry of Aegis Internet Technologies is a huge supporter of Group Mail Pro. All of these products allow you to import contacts from Microsoft Outlook to include in your campaign. I’d love to hear from those of you using one of these services to share your experiences wih the rest of us. Personally, I wish Constant Contact integrated a little better on the back end with Microsoft Outlook e.g. updating unsubscribers contact records by checking the “Unsubscribe” category. But since I don’t usually get many unsubscribers, that really hasn’t bee an issue yet and overall, I’m happy with the service.

Most of you know that I’m a big advocate of outsourcing functions that are not part of your core business and using best of breed software products. You wouldn’t go to your general practitioner for dental work and you shouldn’t use Outlook for your mass emails either.

Again, I welcome your comments on this topic – let’s get a good discussion going!

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on October 16, 2007 in the following categories: Arrow Tips, Front Page, Inbox, Social Media. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


Hi Misty,
I use Constant Contact for my spa and fitness studio. It is extremely user friendly and you can jump right into it on the first day. Since they have a new format – it is even easier. However, when I signed up with them for my vacation cabin in Asheville as a seperate account, I made a huge mistake. I called one of my lists “Fran’s List”. They put a hold on the account and actually shut it down. You are correct about their being compliant with the anti-spam rules. I had quite a time getting them to refund my money.

Because of that, I was faced with an opportunity to find another company to use. I have to say that I have absolutely enjoyed using as my email program for the vacation rental. The main reason I like it better for my cabin is the way Private Label Mail tracks those who read. It is much easier to see how many times each person has opened, how many clicks to the links, etc. This company also has a free webtracker you can place on your website pages and track unique visitors to your website, referrers to your website and much more. The statistics are more complete than Constant Contact and much easier to read, especially the way it is compiled. Private Label Mail’s owner, Lydia Sugarman, is very easy to work with and will help walk you through the beginning. She is very personable and easy to work with.

Constant Contact is better at keeping your photos assembled and how they can be easily sized for the email.

I work with both companies on a regular basis and use each of them completely. Constant Contact is user friendly and PrivateLabelMail has better tracking.

Brea Gratia
Sanctuary Spa
Methode: Fitness
Chalet Quietude
Charmed Cottage (NEW)


Good overview! Thanks for the time to gather all this info in one place. I’m in agreement on entry mass mailings – a third party service like Constant Contact is an easy way to try your hand; especially if mailings are not regular.

Where I think a program like GroupMailPro becomes particularly handy is when emails need to be specifically targeted (i.e. the inclusion of particular content for particular recipients) and branded. The reason I’m so sold on this program is that it provides the flexibility and reach that just can’t be supported by a third party. It’s also cost effective when you have large or mulitple mailing lists. I’m impressed with GroupMailPro because it allows for effective list management (subscribe/unsubscribe), exclusions, relay, and deep reporting.

The only downside to using an independent, locally hosted software is that you have to keep up with anti-spam rules as you mention in your piece (i.e. allowing and promoting an unsubscribe option and, optimally, providing a physical address in the footer). You can find the rules regarding spam at:


Don’t forget that Constant Contact has a free 60-day trial.

Good pint, Denis. Love Constant Contact!


Having one of your important mails marked as a spam is a big thing. It must not be the way it is. Spam folder are for spam messages and not for some important messages. There are a lot of softwares that solves this problem, one of that is the one I have surfed in and can be found at I don\’t if it really is good but reviews says it is.


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