So I’m trying to create a database of all the people who’ve ever emailed me on a particular subject. I’d need to be able to have categories (people who emailed 3 years ago, one year ago, etc.; people who mentioned specific things in the email, people who emailed more than once, and so on and on and on.) Now, Excel is free, and it’s there, but is it really the best way to organize this type of info?
Depends on how you ultimately want to actually send an email to them. Most email services have some sort of address book, and often they support tags or groups. You can make the list in Excel and export it to your email service if you want.
Maybe I’m not being very clear: A list of email addresses is just a list of plain text, which is something that’s very simple for most computer programs and websites to work with. It’s usually a 30-second cut-and-paste or export/import (if you know what you’re doing) from one format to another in this case.
An Excel spreadsheet is not plain text, but it can very easily be converted into similar formats like CSV, which is basically plain text with a bunch of commas thrown in to separate columns from each other. It’s an even better way to export and import email addresses. Excel is also much easier to work with than most contact list managers.
However, some programs and websites need one or the other (or something else entirely) and without more details, it’s impossible to say whether either approach is suitable. This ultimately depends on what you want to do with those email addresses in the end – import them into Gmail? Mailchimp? Print them out as one giant list? Make address labels? In terms of email lists, Excel is usually part of the process, not the result. For example, I often type up email lists collected from handwritten signup sheets in Excel and then transfer them to Mailchimp to send out mass emails. If I’m just making a big list for my personal use, I just keep everyone in Google Contacts, but it’s harder to add and edit contacts directly in Google than all at once through Excel.
Hm… okay, here’s what this database would actually be for. I’m going to go through all the email I’ve ever received from fans. (God or Cthulu only knows how long this will take. I may never be seen again.) Then I’m going to send out emails telling them about my new books. HOWEVER, everyone won’t get the same emails, and there can’t be just one generic email I send. It’ll depend on how long ago theirs was sent, specific key things they mentioned, how many emails they’ve ever sent, whether I wrote back to them, how many emails we exchanged, etc etc etc!! So the information has to be organizable on the basis of these factors.
Given all of those facts, would Excel really be the best thing? It almost seems like I need a customer management system type of thing… If there’s a better system out there, I think you can see why I need to get this together BEFORE the info transfer begins. I’d rather spend money on it than use a free one and then find out it doesn’t work.
Sounds to me like there are two functions you are after. For the organizing portion - I would suggest Access - you can create tables that can be linked together and searched based on the specific types of data you are interested in - topic of email, date, contact information, etc.
Once you have your database established - then you can export a file from Access in whatever format is appropriate to create your emails. I am less familiar with the email functionality - so I don’t know exactly what that interface would look like - can you take a csv file (or excel file or other) and do anything with it in Outlook???
I think a mailing list service like Mailchimp would be perfect for your needs for the following reasons:
(Disclaimer: I use Mailchimp for several non-profits I work with and like it a lot, but I’m not otherwise affiliated with them.)
[li]You can populate your initial list either directly on their website or by making it first in Excel. If you want go the Excel route, I’ll explain more below.*[/li][li]It’s free up to 2,000 fans and 12,000 emails a month.[/li][li]It takes care of messy logistics for you, like throttling bandwidth (which some email providers will do if you send too many messages at once, making your account useless for anywhere from a few hours to a few days at a time), automatic unsubscribes (if too many people report your emails as spam, some email providers will close down your account), making sure you don’t use the TO: field and share everyone’s addresses inadvertently, etc.[/li][li]It lets you “segment” your mailing list by both manual groupings and automatic criteria such as “when did I last send them an email?” “how many times have they actually viewed or clicked on my links?”. For more advanced things such as “how good a conversation we had” or “how much I like this person”, you can manually add fields and edit ratings. It also, with a little effort, does overlapping segments groups (“only people that I haven’t sent an email to in the last six months and who like the color red”.[/li][li]If you have a webpage or Facebook, you can make signups automatic and never have to enter another email address manually.[/li][li]The emails can be themed with pretty HTML templates or sent as plain text, your choice.[/li][li]It’ll track opens, clicks, etc. for you so you get a (vague) idea of how interested people are in your messages. If you like, you can even experiment with split campaigns to see if Message A or Message B was more popular for any particular email blast.[/li][/ol]
*If that sounds good to you, sign up and go through their basic tutorials. Then if I were you I’d make the list in Excel after reading their importing guidelines and understanding how to import into specific groups. Using Excel like this would give you the flexibility of tinkering with the data later, with some effort, to export to other CRM suites or mailing list managers or even ordinary databases. But if I were you I wouldn’t bother with an Access database (or any other database, as opposed to a simple spreadsheet) if your ultimate goal is to send mass emails, because most email programs and services have their own database format anyway and it’s usually easier to import into them from a spreadsheet/CSV. A database or CRM suite is useful if you need to perform complicated lookups and searches, but if your goal is to simply email folks, Mailchimp can do that just fine with or without Excel as an intermediary step.
Well, if it gets to that point, I’ll be so happy that I’ll run around screeching with joy, trip over something, and scare the cat.
Thank you so much!! :)I signed up for an account, and I’ll go through all the tutorials. I’m so glad I was able to find mailchimp. I went through my folders on Yahoo, and I have over a thousand email addresses. It would have been absolutely horrifying to enter all that data somewhere and THEN realize it wasn’t the best way to do it.
(And just for the record, I am NOT getting paid by mailchimp.)
Try exporting them to either Yahoo CSV or Netscape/Thunderbird (I think that’s another CSV type). Remember, a CSV is just a text file with a bunch of commas thrown in to separate columns. If MailChimp doesn’t let you import it as-is, open that file in Excel and format the columns the way MailChimp wants them (see the formatting link I posted previously).
Okay, there is one potential problem I could see with that, though-- several pieces of info need to be associated with each email. Wouldn’t this be impossible to keep track of in a text file of addresses?
So I just tried it. It’s not the most elegant thing in the world, but it works.
When you export to a Yahoo CSV, the notes and groups (lists) are retained.
When you import that same CSV into Mailchimp, the data is retained as well, just not converted into Mailchimp’s groups. Instead, they’re saved as text data associated with each contact. Then you can use Mailchimp’s segmenting tool to search for that data (either to email directly or to convert to actual groups).
Thanks! I wonder if it might just be easier, though, to import the email addys into mailchimp one by one. The thing is that I’d have to correctly reorganize all the emails into folders according to the characteristics, because it’s a big ol’ mess right now. It probably would be exactly the same amount of work. Understand, I know that I’m going to be spending a LOT of time on this…