Import Your Contact List From a File

How to import your contact list from an excel file & other email programs

NamasteLight avatar
Written by NamasteLight
Updated over a week ago

Importing audience contacts

You can import up to 65,000 contacts from an Excel spreadsheet or any number of contacts from a Comma Separated Values (.CSV) spreadsheet. Read on for detailed instructions.

Before importing, you'll want to create additional contact fields to import your data into.

How to import contacts into your audience:

  1. From the Audience page, click imports on the left. From the import page, click the blue Import Contacts button on the top-right.

  2. After making sure your list complies with our permission standards, upload your file by either dragging it into the box displayed, or by clicking Choose file to select a file from your computer.

  3. Choose how you want us to handle any email addresses we find in the file you’ve uploaded that are already associated with contacts in your audience. You can choose to leave existing contacts alone and just add new contacts from your file, or you can choose to update existing contacts with the information within your file. This is generally the way to go if you want to add existing contacts to a new group along with new contacts, or if the file you’re uploading contains the most up-to-date information about your contacts.

  4. Choose whether you want to scan this import for changes that should trigger field change workflows. Field change workflows enable you to trigger automated workflows based on specific changes to fields in your contacts’ records. For example: you can create a field change workflow to send an email when a contact’s “Account status” field is changed from “Trial” to “Welcome.” You should only check this box if you’ve activated a field change workflow, and you want contacts to be able to trigger it if they are updated by your import. 

On the next step, Map your fields by following the directions on the page. To help you get a head start on mapping your fields, we're automatically running the "Guess" function here to speed up the field mapping process. We're using some fancy logic to anticipate if your file has a header row and will pre-check the Skip box to ignore that header row in most cases.

If your file contains information that you want to import into Emma, but you haven’t yet created a field, you can do so by choosing the Add field option from the field dropdown menu.

From the pop-up modal, you can name your new field and choose a field data type from the dropdown menu. Click Save to continue mapping your fields.

  1. When you’ve finished mapping your fields, click Continue.

  2. Move on to the next step where you'll create a new group for your import or select an existing group in your audience. Click Continue. Once you've reviewed your import summary, click Import to start the process.

*Note: Currently, we support Excel 97 files (marked with an .xls extension), Excel 2007 (marked with an .xlsx extension) and csv files. If you run into trouble importing your file, consider copying all data and pasting special (values only) to a new workbook before attempting your import again. This helps to clear up troublesome formatting. In general, if you're having trouble importing an xlsx or csv file, re-saving as xls may do the trick.

Import speed will depend on the size of your file, as well as how large your existing audience is, since imports check every new record against every existing record. It all happens pretty darn fast, but you can refresh your browser window to wait for the icon on the left to change from a clock (in progress) to a green checkmark (success). If the import shows up as a red X, there was a problem. Click on the down-arrow button to the right to view the error, and follow the instructions to re-import the newly tweaked file.

After a successful import, you can also click that downward-pointing arrow to the right to select to view the import statistics.

Helpful tips

  • Don't worry if your file contains several entries of the same email address: We'll weed those out during the import and also look for any improperly formatted email addresses, which we'll move to the Error tab for easy cleanup. Now, if is on your spreadsheet twice -- first as Bill Smith and then as William Smith -- the information closest to the bottom of the spreadsheet is what's imported;'s name will be William Smith in your audience.

  • Make sure that the spreadsheet you're importing doesn't have multiple tabs along the bottom. Your account doesn't understand how to read files like this, so not all of your contact information will be imported.

  • The numeric field properly adds a decimal point and a zero behind any number imported to that field. If you don't want this, we suggest using a short-answer field.

  • If your file has less than 10 errors, we'll tell you exactly what went wrong with your import and where you can find that error in your file. You can access that information from the imports page, by selecting the name of the import.

The error message will look something like this:

Importing to custom fields

It's easy enough to import text into text fields. But what happens when you're importing into a custom field that's a pull-down menu of dates or state abbreviations, or a series of check boxes or radio-button choices? If you're importing into one of these special fields, you'll want to take a minute before you import to make sure the information in your import file follows these standard formatting rules:

  • For Checkbox menus, make sure each option is separated by ':::' (three colons, no spaces). For a menu of favorite pizza toppings, the options in your spreadsheet might look like this: cheese:::sausage:::onions.

  • For Dropdown and radio button menus, make sure your Excel file's options match your dropdown menu options exactly. 'New York' won't match up with 'NY' and needs to be converted prior to import. Also make sure your options don't contain more than 200 characters of text apiece.

  • For Select multiple fields, make sure each option is separated by ':::' (three colons, no spaces).

  • For Date-fields, your dates must be formatted in one of these three ways: 01/01/2016; 01-01-2016; 1/1/2016. Any other format will cause your import to fail.

  • All data imported to custom fields must match exactly. Field names and options are case sensitive, state abbreviations will not map to fully spelled out state names and data imported must be spelled exactly like the field options. 

There are quick, easy ways in Excel to change the formatting of an entire column of data. Be sure to use Microsoft Excel's help section if you're not sure how.

Note: Importing to any of the fields above will override what is currently populated in that field. You'll want to be sure that all existing and new selections for your members are populated in the file you're importing so as not to erase existing data.


Importing the same list twice

You can import a list you've imported before without any trouble.

If you've already imported a list of, say, 500 contacts, and now that list is up to 1,000, you can import the full list of 1,000 on top of your existing group. On Step 1 of the import process, we’ll ask If this list includes contacts who are already in your audience, how should we handle them? Choose leave them alone, and we'll simply add the 500 new contacts (based on email address). Choose Update their records with information from this import, and we'll add the new 500 and make sure the previous 500 people have all been updated to match what's in your file. This is helpful if you want to update people's contact information or add more information than an earlier import contained.

Helpful tip

In order to import your contacts into your audience, you'll need to prepare an Excel workbook or Comma Separated Values (.csv) file with each piece of data (email, first name, last name, etc) in separate columns. (Remember, an email address is the only required piece of data to bring a contact into your account.) Oftentimes, this means exporting current contacts from your personal mail program. Once your file is ready, you can import your contacts. To help you on your way, we've gathered instructions from the various mail clients out there. Click on the mail client's name to visit its official help page:

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