How to Send Personalized Emails From Outlook Using a Distribution List

By Steve McDonnell

Mailer mailer reports that a personalized email message can increase its open rate.
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Outlook's Contact Groups feature helps you create personalized emails through a mail-merge, similar to the way that you print mailing labels or form letters from Word. However, Contact Groups, formerly called Distribution Lists, can't be used in a mail merge or even exported to a file. Reselect your contacts and group them in a different container such as a Contact Folder, especially if you plan to email the group frequently.

Assemble Contacts

Launch Outlook and create the Contact Group as a Contact Folder so it can be more easily used to personalize emails. Choose "Contacts," right-click "My Contacts," select "New Folder" and then type the name of your distribution list as the name of the folder.

Double-click the entry for the Contact Group or Distribution List you're going to email. Click "File" and then "Print" to print a list of contacts in the group.

Scroll to the top of your contact list and click a column header to sort it in the same order as your printed distribution list. Locate each contact on the list, hold down the "Ctrl" key and drag the contact to your distribution contact folder to place a copy of the contact's record in the folder. Repeat the process until all the contacts on your distribution list are in the folder.

Create and Send Personalized Emails

Double-click the distribution folder you created to display the list of contacts on the screen. Select the "Home" tab on the ribbon bar and choose "Mail Merge" from the Actions panel.

Choose "All contacts in current view" to use the contacts in the distribution folder. Select "All contact fields" to make all contact fields available for use when personalizing the email.

Choose "New Document" to create a new personalized email template and then click "OK" to launch Microsoft Word.

Create the personalized email in the Word document that Outlook opens for you. Choose "Insert Merge Field" and select the appropriate contact field to fully personalize the message.

Click "Preview Results" to see the message merged with data from your contact list. Click the left and right arrow keys to scroll through each contact and preview the personalized version of the message for that contact.

Select "Finish & Merge" and then "Send E-Mail Messages..." Select the contact field that has the email address, enter a subject line for the message and select the format of the message, such as HTML. Select "OK" to send a personalized email to everyone on your distribution list.


If you make changes to a contact record, the changes will not carry over to the copy of the contact in the distribution list folder.