Meeting Notes

September 12 1995

News You Can Use:

Symantec recently announced an update for ACT! for Windows. ACT! 2.0.5. is available from Symantec (800) 441-7234, the Symantec bulletin board (via Compuserve or America Online), from or from E Tech Systems at (708) 352-4770. The main benefits of the update are improved envelope and label printing.

While we are on the topic of updates, one ACT! user at our most recent User Group meeting commented that macros he had once written were no longer working properly. It is not unusual for macros written in one version of ACT! to be unstable when the software is updated. The best bet is to rewrite your macros after you update ACT!. (For those of you who are novices, macros are useful for executing any series of commands that you perform freqently.)

Here's a helpful tip for writing reliable macros. Just prior to recording, click on the down arrow outside the line labelled "Mouse" in the Record Macro dialog box so that the entry reads "Ignore Mouse". When recording your macro, enter all instructions using just the keyboard. To end the recording, execute the command: EDIT MACRO, STOP, MACRO with the mouse.

One ACT! user wondered if it was possible to have a calendar pop up and automatically remind him of his daily appointments. One way to do this is to write a macro to bring up your daily calendar and to specify that ACT! run this macro upon start up. Once your macro is written, tell ACT! to run it upon startup by executing the commands: EDIT, PREFERENCES, MODIFY STARTUP. Enter the name of your macro in the space provided for the startup macro "name".

While we're on the subject of calendars and appointments, it is worth mentioning ACT!'s auto-rollover capabilities. If you desire, ACT! will rollover any uncompleted calls, meetings, or to-dos to the next day. To activate this feature, use the command: EDIT, PREFERENCES, SCHEDULING. You simply need to check off which activities you would like to be rolled over. It usually makes most sense to roll over calls and to-dos, but not meetings.

Once in a while it is necessary to make one field in a contact record the same for a whole group of contacts (or even an entire database). Assuming the name of the sales rep handling a particular contact is in one of the user fields, an example might be assigning a group of contacts to a new sales rep. One way to do this is to use the EDIT, CURRENT LOOKUP command after first selecting all the contacts to be modified. Enter the new information in the appropriate field and click "OK". It is best to backup the lookup before making this sort of change as insurance against unintentionally overwriting contact data. (You can do this by using the FILE, SAVE AS command thereby creating a new database.)

If you just need to temporarily change a field such as changing all contacts' names to "occupant" in a form letter, simply type the word "occupant" in the appropriate place in the letter template.

MEETING FEATURE: Creating Marketing Letters With ACT!

Writing form letters is one of ACT!'s most used features. We will explore ways to easily personalize form letters and tell you how to customize the ACT! menu to include your own "standard" letters, how to use outside databases, and give you some tips for writing successful letters.

The first step in writing a form letter is to create what is known as a letter template. This is done using the command: FILE, NEW, LETTER TEMPLATE. You can use the "insert" dialog box to input the various variable fields such as name, address, etc. Next type the body of your letter. An easier way of getting started is to begin with a pre-existing letter template - such as "american.tpl". Access the template using the command: WRITE, EDIT TEMPLATE. Change whatever is necessary, type the body of the letter, and SAVE AS a letter template using an alternate name so as to avoid overwriting the original template.

One way you can customize your form letter is to insert a variable such as the contact's name or the company name in a sentence. For example, you might write: "It was a pleasure to see someone from <0Company> at our recent seminar". ACT! will also accept any graphics that can be created with or pasted into the Windows Paintbrush program. This can include a signature or letterhead graphics. Use the Windows clipboard commands (COPY and PASTE) to transfer any graphics to your ACT! letter template.

Once a form letter template has been created, form letters can be compiled by selecting the contacts of interest and using the WRITE, FORM LETTER command.

If you use standard letters such as thank-yous or quotes, you can save time by creating a letter template for these letters and adding the letter to the WRITE pull-down menu. Use the WRITE, MODIFY MENU, ADD command to customize the menu.

Numerous list brokers such as American Business Lists (Omaha, Nebraska) compile mailing lists. After the search criteria for a list are established (say auto dealers in California), a diskette is delivered with information that can be imported by ACT! and mapped to appropriate contact fields. Form letters and mailing labels can then be written to these contacts.

Now that we've discussed the mechanics of writing form letters, it is worth spending a little time addressing the content of a good marketing letter. The first rule of writing copy that sells is to think before writing. This means listing every feature of your product or service and translating each into a benefit. Next, arrange these benefits in the order of their importance to your prospect. Select the most important benefit. Use this benefit in a headline.

In general, use more headlines, more paragraphs, and fewer words to maintain interest. Keep the letter lighthearted and the message positive. Demonstrate your experience, authority, and expertise. Tell your prospects what to do and how to do it.

Finally, keep the letters coming. It will take repeated mailings for your message to get through.

User Group meetings are free and open to all CCS members. They are held on the second Tuesday of each month 8 times a year at the Midway Motor Lodge in Elk Grove Village. Call E Tech Systems at (708) 352-4770 for details.

Copyright 1995 by Alan M. Lee, all rights reserved. Other nonprofit computer user's groups may reprint this material providing credit is given the author and C.C.S. Future rights for publication reserved by Alan M. Lee. ACT! is a registered trademark of Symantec Corporation.