Mail Merge           XXXX     Bullets


This is another learn by doing topic.  It takes you through the process of sending an email to several landlords and arrears letters to a number of tenants.  After carrying out these tasks you should be able to extrapolate what you have learnt to any other mail merge requirement.

You may like to make use of the Training module if not keep track of where you any documents you save as you will probably want to delete them.
                                                                                XXXX.....\ x (XXXX)\ 
Preliminary reading should have included:-
Correspondence and Recording - Introduction
Producing Documents
Saving Documents
Creating Letterheads
Standard Documents - Letters, Emails, Faxes and SMS Messages
Merge Codes
Mail Merge, Export and Report Writer Record Selection

In this topic "mail merge" is used to describe the production of a document being sent to multiple recipients containing the same basic text with embedded data which is specific to each recipient.  This is achieved by using a single document (usually) containing merge codes and will typically be a letter, email or SMS message.

Why "(usually) containing merge codes"?  The document being sent out does not have to contain merge codes.  You may want to send out a newsletter, a brochure, or a message that does not require personalising and the mail merge selection process can be used to assemble a targeted "mailing list".

Before Starting
These exercises refer to the sample documents supplied with the demonstration system.  If they are still in place use them, if not select your own documents.  You may prefer to use your own anyway and that's fine by me.

Regardless of your choice the following need to be in place before embarking upon this voyage of discovery:-

For both landlord emails and tenant arrears
The settings required for this exercise are the demonstration database defaults.  They should be checked in case they have changed.
If you are using your live database, record any differences and where necessary change them back once the exercises are complete.  You may like to keep some changes.
If you are using the Training database make sure they are as shown below.

Go to Setup menu > Preferences > Correspondence tab and set all the rules to <default>.

Go to Setup menu > Preferences > Spell Check Options tab and ensure the British dictionary is ticked.

Go to Setup menu > Standard Documents > select "zL010 Landlord Welcome"
Check the Subject line contains the organisation name.
If it doesn't, or it contains *** Company Name *** 
press [Edit]
highlight *** Company Name ***
right-mouse click anywhere in the Subject box
select Insert Letter Merge Code > Company > Name
{Company|Name} should replace the highlighted text.

For the landlord emails
The standard document of choice will be "zL010 Landlord Welcome"
Identify several landlords with valid email addresses and who have one property at this point

For the tenant arrears letters
Select seven or eight tenants who are in rent arrears
Hopefully this was done using the Tenants Arrears report
If not check the Tenants main screen for tenants with a value in Outstanding - Rent
The standard documents of choice will be both "zT070 Rent Arrears - 14 day Basic Notice" and "zT080 Rent Arrears - Final Notice"

Emailing using Mail Merge
To use Mail Merge to email the same standard document to a number of selected landlords in a "bulk mailing" with each email personalised to contain data relevant to the recipient.

Go to the Mail Merge menu > Landlords > Export and Mail Merge
This will open a window displaying all the landlords that meet the criteria set in the header section.  See Mail Merge, Export and Report Writer Record Selection if you need help.

Note the Record Count

Select "Has Email"
Look at the record count now.
If you are using the demonstration version the number probably will remain the same.
If you do not select "Has Email" the process will fail at a later step if any selected landlord does not have an email address.  Not exactly unexpected since we are wanting to send a bunch of emails.

In the grid section do the following:-
Note all the records are highlighted / bold text which means everyone in the grid will receive an email
Right-mouse click and choose Deselect All which "non-bolds" all the records.
Double click a few lines to select just the landlords you want to receive this email.
If you are using the live system make a note of the landlord codes because you will need to delete Correspondence File records and Notes later.
Either select all records via the right-mouse menu or select a number (at least 3 or 4) landlords to receive this email.

Press [Mail]
This will display the Mail Merge Letter screen.
In the Header section do the following:-
Untick "Use letterhead"
You can include a letterhead in the body of an email if you wish but you should be aware of the following points:-
The way emails are processed through the Internet expands the size to around 140% of the original size.
Any attachments or included images get expanded too.
Including a letterhead in the body of an email will increase the email size markedly.
A short email with a letterhead could consist of around 95-98% letterhead.
You pay for the expanded size of the email, not the size you see in your email program.
The 2% content 98% letterhead will take much much longer to send (or receive too).
Your choice!

Use the From box to select the property manager who will sign off the document.
See Property Managers > Discussion section for other users.
The system will remember the last selection and offer that next time this screen is used.
The selected property manager will be the default offered for Notes and Bring Ups too.

Set the date to appear on the letter in Letter Date.
This date is used as the base date for any merge code {...|Date+n or -n}.
If a Bring Up is required the date offered will be this date plus seven days.

In the Standard Document box select "zL010 Landlord Welcome"
The Subject line should read (for the demonstration version) "Welcome to [Company|Name]".
The body of the letter will appear in the main pane with merge codes showing where data is to be inserted from the database.

At this point, in real life, you could alter any of the settings in the header, change the Subject or choose another standard document.

You can also modify the body of the document to suit special circumstances, however, any changes made will be lost if you subsequently alter either the Letter Date or select another document.

Press [Email]

Press [Continue] on the Add attachments screen
Note the arrowhead stepping through each record on the landlord selection screen as each email is being created.

When all the selected records have been processed the "Save Letters" screen will appear with the save settings set to the system defaults.  Hence the initial setup at the beginning of this topic.
Make sure Save to Correspondence File is ticked and Save as Notes is selected.

Press [OK] and note the arrowhead stepping through each record on the landlord selection screen again as the documents are being saved, in this case exact copies including formatting to the Correspondence File and as plain (unformatted) text in the Notes file.

In your live system the action after the emails have been created will depend upon the rules you have set on the Setup menu > Preferences > Correspondence tab.  You may not even see the "Save Letters" screen.

Press [Close]
You will be returned to the landlord selection screen
Further landlord selections could be made and more emails, letters or SMS messages could be sent.

Press [Close] again to return to the main screen.

Mail merge does not automatically send the emails you have just created which is different to sending individual emails from the [Mail] button when they are sent immediately.  They have been placed on the Email Queue and the sending needs to be instigated manually.  This gives you the chance if you made an "oops" to avoid sending out "scores" of incorrect emails.

We do not want to email these learning emails but we will walk through the process.
If you are in the Training system emailing is blocked so you are safe.
If you are in the live system take care not to press either of the Send buttons.

Go to Admin menu > Email Queue
Press [Cancel] if you get a warning "Failed on "Connect" with the mail server".
The message means the email system has not been set up.

Look at the grid content and you will see the emails we have just created waiting to be sent.

Read more about this screen in the Email Queue topic

For now:-
If you are in the Training system press [Delete All].
If you are in the live system and there are only the emails just created press [Delete All].
If you are in the live system and there are other emails present select each of the emails just created in turn and press the minus (Delete) button on the Navigator Bar.

Press [Close] or the Windows corner "X" to return to the main screen.

Tidying up
If you used the live system for this exercise you now need to delete any saved emails or Notes created in each of the landlords.
Locate the landlord and on their main screen:-
Press [Mail] > Correspondence File > select and [Delete] the emails just created.
Press [Notes] > select and [Delete] the Notes just created.

If you modified any other settings in the live system restore them to those noted at the start of this exercise.

A mail merge document is required which will usually contain merge codes.
The primary filter is the Mail Merge menu.
The recipients are further selected using the header section of the Mail Merge window.
Then specific recipients can be selected by highlighting just those you want to email.
We chose [Mail], the [Export/Print] button is used for the Export and Report Writer functions.
The email from, date, etc were set as required. 
The mail merge document was selected.
It could have been a one-off document with or without merge codes.
The [Email] button was pressed.
The option to add attachments to these emails was bypassed.  
See    XXXXX   for more on this topic
The emails were created in the Email Queue.
The documents were saved according to your system preferences.
Further landlords and letters could be processed.
But we chose to close to the main screen.
The documents were sent by accessing the Email Queue.

Here endeth the lesson on sending emails using mail merge.  You should be easily able to use this function for tenants and suppliers.

Letters using Mail Merge
To use Mail Merge to print arrears notices to a number of selected tenants containing data relevant to each tenant's arrears.
Two "levels" of notice will be created, the first a "fix the problem you naughty boy" notice, the second "you're on your way sunshine".

Because the basic sequence is the same there is no point in working through the selection procedure in detail when it has already been covered in the sending emails to landlords section above.  So the next section only looks at significant differences in any detail.

This too is a learn by doing topic and the prerequisites covered in the Before Starting section above should be reviewed.

Since the objective is to send out arrears letters ideally there should be some tenants in arrears and hopefully you can identify some seven or eight tenants by examining the Tenant Arrears report.

Select Tenants menu > Reports  > Tenant Arrears and stop on the first window.
If you are using the live system note the settings in the Arrears and Vacated Tenants panels as they may need restoring at the end of the exercise.

Run and print the Arrears report or at least the first page.
Select seven or eight tenants with rent arrears to be used in this exercise.  You can use more if you wish.
If you do not have sufficient tenants return to the record selection screen and change the Arrears panel settings to 1 day and 1 dollar.
If those are current settings, or you have less than seven or eight tenants, change the "as at" date forward a few days at a time until you do and note that date.

Now go to Admin menu > Tenants - Export and Mail Merge
Note the tenant record count

Place a tick in the Arrears panel on the left and observe the record count.
The Arrears and Vacated Tenants settings will be populated by the settings from the last Arrears report run and will display the same tenants unless you have included other filtering in either program.
Any other filtering such as by range or portfolio must be manually changed.

Now select only three or four of the seven or eight tenants you chose in the earlier step.
These will represent the tenants to get "stir up letter number one" and as this is exercise it doesn't matter which ones are chosen. 

Press [Mail]

On the Mail Merge Letter screen change the header selections to suit and choose the standard document "zT070 Rent Arrears - 14 day Basic Notice".
The document will appear showing the merge codes.

Press [Print] twice
The Ace Viewer should display a completed letter with the merge codes replaced with the arrears details of the tenant.
Step through the pages to see the resulting letter to each tenant.

To print the letters ready for posting you would press the printer icon.  In this case we can move to the next step unless your really need to fell another tree.
     XXXX    link to Ace Viewer screen topic.

Press [Close] to be returned to the "Save Letters" screen where you can save the notice letters according to your policy.

Press [Close] again to return to the Mail Merge selection grid.

Now select the other three or four tenants chosen in the earlier step who will receive "stir up letter number two".

Press [Mail] and this time select the standard document "zT080 Rent Arrears - Final Notice".

Perform the same steps as before to "print" the second letter ready for posting.

You may stay in the "select - produce - save" loop for as many different letters as you wish to produce.

When you have had enough press [Close] on the record selection screen and you will be returned to the main screen.

As you have just seen the process of producing mail merge letters and emails is identical except for the method chosen to deliver the documents.
Having chosen the recipients and the document to use you press [Print].  Gee whizz, that's so difficult!
The same process was used for saving the letter as was done for the emails.
To send the letters you need to collect them from the printer, put them in an envelope and deliver them.

The Mail Merge Cycle - for letters and emails
This penultimate section shows the "production cycle" for letters and emails and the points at which parts of the cycle can be repeated and / or modified without having to start the entire process all over again.

1.    Use the Mail Merge menu as the primary filter
2.    Select the specific recipients
3.    Press [Mail]
4.    Select the document required
5.    Dispatch the document
6.    Save the document
7.    (Option) Repeat steps 4 to 6 to send another document to the same recipients
8.    Press [Close] and return to the mail merge selection screen
9.    (Option) Repeat steps 2  to 6 to send another document to another group of recipients
10.  Press [Close] to exit mail merge
11.  If emails have been produced go to the Email Queue and send them

Pulling it all together
Mail merge, as described in this topic, is used to send the same document to a number of recipients substituting merge codes in the document with data extracted from the database so the document is personalised to the recipient without having to deal with each recipient individually.

The same process is used to create, produce and save - letters, emails, faxes and SMS messages, it is only the delivery method that is different.  The selection method is the same for the Export and Report Writer functions.

Remember to check the settings on the letter selection screen header as they default to the last selected property manager and "today's" date which is the basis for the LetterDate +/- n dates in the document.

Try out the various mail merge (header) selection options to see which records are offered for further selection.  Keep an eye on the Records Count.

Make use of the "repeatability" of portions of the mail merge process as was done with the tenant arrears letters.

It should be obvious by now that it is extremely important that the data in the database is correct and accurate, so don't use fields for purposes they are not intended for. Not only may you include information that may embarrass you, it may also make your missive completely inaccurate or even cause the mail merge process to fail at some point.  As an example email address fields containing other information will cause the Email Queue sending to fail.

When you have created a new document, modified an existing one, or just want to check the results for your own peace of mind I would suggest you preview it thoroughly by printing it to the screen and check the results before shooting out the door sight unseen.  This applies particularly to a new email or SMS message.

When you first looked at mail merge it may have seemed "to hard" because of the necessary array of options.  Hopefully this topic has demystified the subject.