If you’ve ever implemented an email marketing campaign or a cold email outreach strategy, you understand the nuances of these approaches.
To simplify the process, many email marketers and salespeople use mail merge—a feature in Gmail that allows you to personalize and automate an email outreach campaign from right within Gmail.
But what exactly is mail merging in Gmail, and how do you do it? Read on for an overview of how to mail merge in Gmail, along with our picks for the top 7 tools to help you do it easily!
Table of Contents
- What Is Mail Merging in Gmail?
- The Pros and Cons of Mail Merging in Gmail
- How to Mail Merge
- The Best Tools for Mail Merge in Gmail
What Is Mail Merging in Gmail?
Mail merging in Gmail is a strategy used to make cold emailing and email marketing simpler and more effective. Put simply, mail merging allows you to use an existing spreadsheet (or other easily parsed database) to customize individual emails based on a preexisting template.
For example, let’s say you’re designing a welcome email to send to your newest customers. It includes some information about your brand, and a discount code for their first order. You could use mail merge to automatically populate and customize the name field, sending a personalized email to each person in your list. You may also be able to customize other fields, like offering different discount codes to different people based on how they signed up.
The Pros and Cons of Mail Merging in Gmail
There are some pros and cons to consider with mail merging. These are some of the top benefits of mail merging in Gmail:
- Personalizing messages. Mail merging allows you to personalize messages you’re sending out in Gmail. Research shows that personalized emails tend to perform better; they get more opens, have higher response rates, and tend to increase your overall ROI. Use mail merging in Gmail to address individuals on your mailing list specifically, or provide different pieces of content to different types of customers. It’s a good way to “warm up” an otherwise “cold” email campaign.
- Reaching real inboxes. Deliverability is always an issue in email marketing. If your email seems too spammy, it could be flagged and sent to spam before it ever reaches a recipient. More pressingly, if your email seems like a sales or marketing email, Gmail could automatically send it to the Promotions tab. With mail merging and personalization, your email will come from your actual Gmail account which will help to make your email stand out as real and organic—making it much more likely to land in an actual inbox, and get opens and responses.
- Simplifying a bulk email send. Sending lots of emails to different people in a list can be complicated—especially if you have lots of variables to consider, or if you’re managing a big list. Mail merging with Gmail simplifies the process. You can work almost exclusively within Gmail (with the help of another platform in some cases) and plan an entire campaign in the space of just a few clicks. If you’re creating and managing campaigns regularly, this could help you save hours of time.
- Utilizing spreadsheets and other data. If you have an existing list of prospects or leads in Google Sheets (or in another spreadsheet format), mail merging helps you take advantage of it in Gmail. Use mail merging to take advantage of all your customer data stored in spreadsheets.
- Leveraging your Gmail account. Gmail is one of the best email platforms around, but it’s not built to help you send cold email outreach blasts or manage email marketing campaigns. Mail merge gives you a chance to work within your existing Gmail account, while still getting the best out of your sales and marketing strategies.
There are also some downsides to consider:
- Perception of spam. Even if you’re personalizing messages to an extent, the automated nature of your emails could make them seem like spam. If it seems like your message was generically written and mass marketed, your recipients won’t be receptive to its content. Fortunately, you can combat this by spending more time adding value to your outgoing emails—and by personalizing your messages as much as possible.
- Room for error. You’re going to be relying on the integrity of your data sheet and the functionality of automation when managing your campaign. Accordingly, there’s significant room for error. If your spreadsheet isn’t up to date, or if it includes inaccurate or irrelevant information, it could compromise the integrity of your messaging. The only way to counteract this is with more thorough screening and checking.
- Lack of true personalization. You can use mail merge to “personalize” your email messages with things like names and different offers, but the core message is mostly going to be the same. If you wanted “true” personalization, you would have to write a unique message for every person on your list. Obviously, this isn’t feasible for mega-lists, but it’s a weakness you should still keep in mind.
- Learning curve. There are some tools that make mail merging in Gmail simple and straightforward. Even if you have little to no experience in email marketing, you should be able to launch a full campaign. That said, there’s still a learning curve to mail merging, and you may struggle with your first few iterations.
How to Mail Merge
There are tools that you can use to plan and execute a mail merge in Gmail. Each of these tools has a slightly different set of features and can be used in different ways, but most of the time, you’ll follow a similar process.
This process is as follows:
1. First—send a test!
Before we get any further, make sure you’re equipped to send a test. You’ll follow all the steps below with test information (such as email addresses of your coworkers), and execute an email blast to make sure it’s being sent correctly. This is your chance to check for any errors, and ensure the right messages are going to the right people. Test received emails in multiple ways (e.g., on different devices and on different platforms) if possible.
2. Import your contacts.
When you’re ready to start a mail merge, import your contacts into Google Sheets. You’ll want to create headers for recipients’ first names and email addresses at minimum; depending on how you want to customize your emails, you may need to add other fields as well.
3. Create a draft.
At this point, you’ll need to create a draft of the email you want to send. You’ll need to leave room for sections and spaces where you’ll include customizable content; because of this, you may want to leverage a template from your tool of choice. Otherwise, you can create a draft in Gmail.
4. Insert attachments.
If you’re going to send attachments as part of this email blast, you’ll need to include them.
5. Prep your CC/BCC recipients.
If you need to include recipients in CC or BCC lines, this is your chance to include them.
6. Enable tracking.
Your tool of choice may allow you to track metrics related to your email blast, including things like opens and clicks. If this is the case, you’ll likely need to include a snippet of code in the HTML of your email. Do this now to enable tracking.
7. Run your mail merge process.
When ready, you’ll run the “mail merge” process. Depending on the tool, this could mean accessing your Google Sheet and clicking a “mail merge” button or accessing a different platform.
The Best Tools for Mail Merge in Gmail
These are currently some of the best tools you can use to practice mail merging in Gmail:
1. Google script.
First, consider using this Google script. It’s completely free and has no existing limits beyond Gmail’s own limits. Copy the spreadsheet and create a copy in your own Google Drive. Then, follow the steps above to initiate a mail merge in Gmail. Add recipients to your spreadsheet as you see fit, then check the script by going to Tools > Script Editor. You can adjust this script as you see fit, provided you have the experience to do it. When you’re ready, head to Mail Merge > Send Emails—just make sure you run a test before your full list.
MailShake is designed as a cold email outreach tool that allows you to track emails within Gmail and plan out entire email marketing campaigns. You’ll also have access to automatic follow-ups, and a host of other tools meant to make your life as a salesperson or marketer easier.
There’s also GMass, which functions as an email marketing service inside Gmail. With it, you can build and initiate mail merge email campaigns in Gmail, set automatic follow-ups (with up to eight stages), and tracking for metrics like email opens and link clicks.
Vocus.io offers a number of features and tools for Gmail, designed for salespeople. This includes mail merge, campaign creation, tracking, analytics, and even automated follow-ups. It can also integrate with a range of different CRM platforms, including Salesforce.
SalesHandy is known for its Gmail mail merge features, but you can also use it for a number of other sales and email functions in Gmail. Automate entire campaigns, track your progress, and make use of preexisting templates and automatic follow-ups to save time.
6. Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM).
Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) is currently used by more than 10,000 organizations, and attempts to make the mail merge process as simple as possible. With it, you can create personalized, trackable email campaigns without ever leaving Gmail—and it doesn’t take long to learn the ropes.
Woodpecker is primarily an email automation platform that can be used for Gmail mail merging purposes. You can use it for your cold email outreach campaign, inbound lead nurturing, and of course, mail merge and personalization.
Now that you know all about how to mail merge in Gmail, and the best mail merge tools for Gmail, are you interested in getting more out of your cold email outreach campaign?
You might need the help of a better email analytics platform—like EmailAnalytics. With EmailAnalytics, you can tap into Gmail and learn more about your email volume, your most popular times, and even your average response time. Sign up for a free trial today, and learn more about your email habits!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.