Hack 38 Include Payment Buttons in Email Messages

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Use the PayPal Payment Request Wizard to send Pay Now buttons from Microsoft Outlook.

Sending invoices via email with PayPal's Request Money feature [Hack #17] is a quick and effective way to ask someone to pay you. The Pay Now buttons PayPal includes in the resulting email make it easy for your customers to pay you; after two clicks and a login, customers with PayPal accounts can send you money in less than a minute.

But the Request Money feature has its limitations. While the email appears to come from you, it's actually sent from PayPal, which means that you won't be able to customize it fully. If you need to include pictures, files, hyperlinks, custom HTML, or multiple purchase buttons, you'll have to send the email yourself.

4.12.1 Creating PayPal Payment Hyperlinks

Adding a PayPal payment hyperlink to your own email involves nothing more than typing a simple URL [Hack #18] . The required parameters to create a basic hyperlink are email address, payment amount, and item name.

However, there are many optional parameters you can include in the hyperlink to help you provide a more complete payment record, such as the currency, item number, quantity, shipping, and request for shipping address. For example:




As you can see, the hyperlink begins to become unwieldy. Hyperlinks this long or longer cause problems because email programs chop them up into smaller pieces when they wrap the text. More than likely, only the first piece will be hyperlinked and a customer will not think twice about clicking it and attempting to complete the transaction with incomplete information.

The simplest solution is to run the address through TinyURL[1] (http://tinyurl.com), which will convert it to something that looks like this:

[1] SnipURL (http://snipurl.com) also works and takes it a bit further with tracking features. For a similar, yet far less useful URL-processing tool, try HugeURL (http://hugeurl.com).


The resulting link is always short enough to be spared the aforementioned word wrap. Unfortunately, the https://www.paypal.com/ prefix will be lost, and your more diligent customers might avoid it.

See [Hack #39] for another, more official way to get shortened payment URLs, and protect your email from spammers in the process.

4.12.2 Using the PayPal Payment Wizard

Want something more professional-looking than a bare URL in your emails? Nearly all modern email programs support HTML (much to the bane of the minimalists among us), which means that you can replace ordinary URLs with hyperlinked, graphical buttons right in your email messages.

Simply use your email software's formatting tools to insert an image and then link it to a payment URL you construct. In fact, URLs in hyperlinks can be as long as 1024 bytes (characters), which is plenty for PayPal's payment URLs. Of course, there's a cost: these payment buttons can be time-consuming to create...until now.

Enter the PayPal Payment Wizard, a free add-in toolbar for Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Outlook Express that allows you to painlessly insert payment buttons into your emails.

You can create five different types of PayPal payment buttons, each with six different button designs:

Payment Button (Basic)

This type of button is easiest to use, because it requires only your email address and payment amount, but it offers the fewest options.

Product Button

This type allows you to enter product details and request a shipping address [Hack #28] .

Service Button

This type allows you to enter a service description [Hack #30] .

Auction Payment Button

Use this to request payment for an auction item [Hack #31] .

Donate Button

Use this to allow the donor to specify the donation amount [Hack #40] .

To use the Payment Wizard toolbar, start by downloading it from http://www.paypal.com/outlook and installing it on your computer. You might be asked to close Microsoft Outlook if it's open.

The PayPal Payment Wizard currently supports only Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express on Windows. If you're using Eudora or some other email software, or if you are using a Mac or Linux, you'll have to create payment buttons manually.

To insert a button with the Payment Wizard, follow these steps:

  1. Open Outlook or Outlook Express.

  2. Click the Payment Request Wizard icon on the toolbar (shown in Figure 4-7).

    Figure 4-7. Payment Wizard toolbar in Microsoft Outlook Express

  3. When you see the first page of the wizard, click Next.

  4. On the Payment Button Type screen, choose one of the five aforementioned payment button types. For this example, select the second option, Product Button, and click Next.

  5. The Product Button requires only the email address to which payment should be sent, and the payment amount, as shown in Figure 4-8.

    Figure 4-8. Creating a Product Button

    There are several optional fields. You can specify the subject of the payment email you'll receive if the recipient pays. The First Name and Last Name fields are not currently used, so you can leave them blank. You can leave the Buyer's Email, Subject, First Name, and Last Name empty, because they are not required.

  6. If your product requires shipping, turn on the Solicit Shipping Address option. PayPal will ask the buyer to specify a shipping address.

  7. In the Product Details area, enter the name of the product and its ID number, if you have it.

  8. In the Sale Details area, enter the price of the product. If you are selling multiple identical products, change the quantity to the reflect the quantity you are going to sell. If you are selling two toy trucks for the same price of $15 each, enter $15 and change the quantity to 2. You will see the Total Payment update to $30.

    The Payment Wizard does not support multiple products. If you are collecting payment for more than one product, you will have to summarize the products in the Name field and enter a quantity of 1. See the next section of this hack for another solution.

  9. In the S&H field, enter the amount to charge for shipping and handling. If you change this field, you will see the Total Payment update to reflect the new amount.

  10. Select the currency, confirm that the Total Payment is correct, and click Next when you're done.

  11. On the Button screen, select the button you would like to put into your email. The wizard provides six payment button images, all hosted on the PayPal web site (they might not appear if you or your recipient are not connected to the Internet).

  12. If you would like to use another image for your button, select the URL option and enter the URL of your image file (presumably hosted on your own site). The button must be on a web server that can be accessed by anyone via the Internet. You can also choose the Text option to put the PayPal payment URL behind a text link instead of an image.

  13. Click Next to view the You're Almost Done screen, where you'll see a summary of the values selected for your Payment Button. Verify that the information is correct and press the Test button to see the button in action.

  14. If you are planning on sending many similar buttons, check the Save settings box. The wizard will save your settings for the next time.

  15. Click Insert, and the fully configured button will be inserted into a blank email. (You won't be able to click on the button, because you're in edit mode.)

  16. At this point, complete the email. Type one or more email addresses into the To field, enter a subject, and include a note or instructions to accompany the button, as illustrated in Figure 4-9.

    Figure 4-9. Payment Button ready to send from your own email

  17. Click Send when you're finished.

When your customer opens the email, he will be able to click the button and pay you after logging into his PayPal account. To test this experience firsthand, send the email to your own email address.

4.12.3 Including More than One Button in an Email

Since the PayPal Payment Wizard creates a new email message with each button, there is no way to use it to insert more than one button into a single email message. However, overcoming this limitation is easy enough:

  1. Insert a payment button with the Payment Wizard, as described in the previous section.

  2. Using your mouse, select the area around the new button, making sure to include the lines above and below the new button, as shown in Figure 4-10.

    Figure 4-10. Selected Payment Button including line above and below the button

    If you select only the button and not the lines above and below, you'll get only the image without the hyperlink.

  3. Copy the selection to the clipboard by pressing Ctrl-C or by selecting Copy from Outlook's Edit menu.

  4. Click to place the insertion point (text cursor) where you'd like the new button to appear, and paste the button into the existing email by pressing Ctrl-V or by selecting Paste from Outlook's Edit menu. You can paste the button into any email, including one that already contains a payment button.

Repeat the process for each additional payment button you would like to insert. To verify that the image and corresponding hyperlink have been pasted correctly, as well as to make any changes to the URL, right-click the button and select Properties.