Earlier this week, I got a phone call from a radio programmer with an interesting question: A record label had given him 100 digital download codes for a band's new single. He wanted to give these away through his radio station's website. What's the simplest way to do this and notify all of the winners, as the Promotions Director would rather not spend an entire afternoon cutting and pasting 100 emails?
I thought I'd share my answer, as many of you may find yourself in a similar situation at some point. The specific tools you will use will depend on how your station is set up, but the general principles are the same.
1. Build a contest entry form on your website using your usual software.
2. Export the contest entries as a .CSV file.
The CSV (Comma Separate Variable) file format is simply an easy way to move data from one program to another. In this case, we want to move the data out of your form-building or database software and use it in a spreadsheet.
3. Open this CSV file as a spreadsheet.
Which program you will use to open this spreadsheet will depend on what software your station uses as an email client. For example, if you use Microsoft Outlook for email, you'll probably want to open the spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. If you you use Google's Gmail, you probably want to open it as a Google Sheet. Note that we're talking about the software that you use to send individual business emails, not the Email Service Provider (ESP) that you use to send mass emails to listeners (Constant Contact, Mailchimp, AWeber, etc.).
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4. Randomly delete all but 100 rows.
These are your winners. I'm not a lawyer, so check with your legal team to make sure that you do this in a way that conforms with your station's contest rules.
5. Add a new column and paste in the digital download codes from the record label.
Or, if there's a unique link for each winner, paste these into this column.
6. Set up a Mail Merge.
A mail merge is a process in which your email program sends out lots of emails by pulling in data from a spreadsheet and dropping it into a template. It's a convenient way to send out a large batch of emails.
To start, you'll need to set up an email template. For example, a template might look like this:
Dear [[FIRST NAME]], Congratulations! You've won a free digital download for The Archies' new song, "Sugar Sugar." To download it, go to http://freedownload.com and enter this code: [[DOWNLOAD CODE]] Enjoy! Love, Everyone at WKRP
Once you've written the template, you can set up your email program to fill in the placeholders with the data from the spreadsheet. The exact process for doing this depends on which email program you're using, so you might need to search the web for specific instructions. Here are instructions for doing a mail merge with Outlook and Gmail.
Note that email programs may have a limit on how many mail merge emails you can send out. This is to prevent you from using mail merge to circumvent spamming laws. You may need to send out your mail merge in a couple of batches. I don't recommend using it for a contest with several hundred or thousands of listeners, but it will work well for dozens.
Mail Merge is a great technique that can save your promotions staff a lot of time. You can use it in many other situations as well. For example, if your station is producing a concert and you need to send information to lots of band managers, or if you want to send info to a lot of clients. I hope this technique saves you some time.
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