Better Emailing

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Enhance your email facility

By Sanya Oloruntoba

First Published in PCWorld West Africa Edition

June 2001

Your Email facility

An email account and address is still a status symbol here in Nigeria. However, this situation is changing rapidly. Thanks to the increasing number of ISPs in our cities and major towns and, the establishment of cyber-cafes and email business centres all over the country. To have an email account is not enough. How do you use your email? Is it just for the casual communications with friends, family members and a few contacts here and there? Have you thought about the power of this facility and its great potentials as a social, business, and marketing tool? Here are some hints on how to enhance the power of your email usefully and profitably for personal and business communications.


Email Capabilities

Electronic Mail (email) is simply the process of sending information from one computer to another. The information you send could be texts, graphics, pictures or spreadsheets. The beauty of the email is that the recipient of your message need not be at his desk waiting for it. The information sent is stored on his ISP’s server and forwarded whenever he fetches his mails. This is referred to as the principle of “store and forward” in email. The email software is easy to set up. It could be Web-based or run on the office and home PCs. To retrieve and send mails is quick and easy. Little wonder that email usage by the old and the young alike, has gained rapid acceptance the world over. Someone said there are so many things the email can do that it just might go down in history as a more significant invention than the World Wide Web.


Email as a Marketing Tool

The potential of the email as a powerful marketing tool is just unfolding. If you are a recipient of business emails from around the world, you’ll notice the changes taking place in email contents. You have the option to send and receive your email in plane text or HTML. The HTML format, which I prefer, is colourful and easier to read with your browser. Educational emails are now available too on a large variety of subjects. You could register for a distance-learning course and obtain a degree working from home. All these have “marketing” undertone in that email is being deployed in selling goods, services, ideas, and opinions as never before.


Nevertheless, we have not seen the best of the email yet. A new technology is coming up that will enable an email sender to embed his voice, video and music in a message to his recipients. Marketers will be the first to embrace the new technology and use it to sell goods and services directly to us in our homes and offices.


Consider this evolving scenario with the new technology: You’ll see the salesman in video, talking to you as he displays his ware on your email window. For effects, he may play one of your favourite music as background sound. If he is a travel agent, for example, he may show you the video of some of those exotic holiday places he is selling. At the end of it all, you’ll be induced to click that button to place your order. Mind you, you’ll not be asked for your credit card details. The cookies or spy-wares on your hard disk already know the details! This is not a fictitious scenario. It has been done experimentally and the wide adoption is just a matter of time.


Meanwhile, it is time for us to examine how to deploy your email to market your goods, your services and even yourself. You can start with one or all of the following suggestions:

1. Replace the signature box in your email with an Animated Banner that shows whom you are and what you can do.

2. Link your email to your Website, if you have one. If not, create a personal or business Website and join the more than 10 million private and business Websites on the Internet.

3. Improve your social and business status with electronic greeting cards - ecards.

4. Personalize your email, using the email merge found in most word processors or use a standalone email merge manager. to enhance the power of your email. I will show you how.

Animated Banners on Emails

The use of Animated Banners for adverts was hitherto, confined to the Web. Now, advertisers have brought it to the email. You too can take advantage of this trend in a discrete way. For instance, I often insert Animated Banners like the one shown below  into my HTML business emails to call attention to my Website. With the banner hyperlinked to my site, the email recipient will be attracted to look at the site before closing the message.

You can create similar animated banners, using the Animation Shop program in Jasc Paint Shop Pro or Selteco Bannershop GIF Animator from


Electronic Greeting Cards

Electronics cards are displacing the traditional paper cards. There are greeting e-cards for many local and International festivals, such as Christmas, New Year, Eid Al-Fittr, Halloween, and Hanukkah etc. Similarly, there are e-cards for personal anniversaries, such as Birthdays, Weddings, and Graduations etc. Sending e-cards to your clients and business associates on festival occasions and on their anniversaries will undoubtedly be appreciated.  >>>

Last Christmas, I sent about 100 personalized e-cards for a fraction of what it  would have cost me to buy and mail them by post.


You can design and make your own ecards but professionally made ones are available free at many sites on the Internet. Check the following sites to see what they have to offer:,,, ,


Personalize Your Email

You can use Email Merge to personalize your emails. An email merge is a process of personalizing your messages to many contacts. It works in the same way as mail merge in word processing. There are three main parts to the process. The first is the Database with fields in the records such as First Name, Surname, Email Address etc. The second part is the Message Template containing embedded fields corresponding to those in the database. The third part is the Email Manager or Wizard, which links the database with the message template.

The email merge occurs when the email manager sends your message to the recipients, merging the information in the database with the appropriate fields in the message template.  

The ability to send personalized email to clients, customers and contacts saves you money and promotes your image.


With personalized emails, you no longer send those generalized circulars and notices marked, “To Our Valued Customers”. You address each customer with his real name and your message becomes a person-to-person one, making your offers or appeals more persuasive. Don’t forget that we all like to be recognised as individuals and not just a number on someone’s record

Email merge therefore helps to give each of your customers the recognition they need when you send messages, circulars, notices and newsletters to them. There are many email merge software in the market and here are three you can try.

The Email Merge in MS-Word

There is an email merge feature in MS-Word 97 and 2000, but it is not very well known like the mail merge feature therein. However, it will provide a good starting point for a beginner to learn how to use the email merge. Assuming Microsoft Word is your word processor, launch it now to follow the discussion. From the menu bar, select Tools and then Mail Merge. You’ll be presented with the Mail Merge Helper that lets you create the database and message template for Mail Merge, Email Merge or Fax Merge. However, the email merge feature in MS-Word works best with Microsoft Outlook. If you have Word and Outlook applications installed, you are lucky and need not search for any other email merge manager. If not, look around for a standalone one.

There are more than 70,000 email merge applications on the Internet. You can check this by using search engines such as that in or and search for “email merge software”. You’ll be overwhelmed by the returns received. I have tried half a dozen of those products and found two that I can happily recommend to others. They are SoftBulkEmail at and WorldMerge at

SoftBulkEmail (SBE)

SBE works with the Comma Separated Value (CSV) database format. If your existing database is not in that format, SBE shows you how to convert it. SBE is very simple to setup and configure and its email merge process is quick and smooth.



WorldMerge is another email merge manager. It is well-documented and simple to use. WorldMerge could handle both your lists mailing and your email merge. A Project Wizard helps you to set up as many mailing projects as you like such as Christmas Lists to contain the database of everyone you plan to send Christmas ecards to, or Customers List containing the database of all your customers. WorldMerge is shareware. Registration costs $40.


Which Product?

You may wonder which of the three email enhancement products mentioned in this article is best for you. This depends on your personal preferences and your company’s needs. The email merge in MS-Word may be all you need if you have Word and Outlook already installed. SoftBulkEmail could handle email merge with unlimited number of records. However, the fields in your database should not exceed twenty. In spite of that, it is powerful enough for personal and business use. WorldMerge special features include unlimited fields in a database but the number of records is limited to 100,000. In addition, it has a useful Report Log and a comprehensive user’s manual. Whichever one of the three you use, you will find that the email merge in them will take your email out of the ordinary rank by providing you with the power to personalize your messages to your customers, clients and contacts for effective personal and business communications.


Foot Notes: Microsoft Word 2002 in Windows XP has a much improved Email Merge.

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