What are custom fields and why/how would I use them?

Custom Fields or Mail Merge Fields are used by you to personalise your emails to your customers. You can also use these fields to filter your sends so that only particular contacts receive the email depending on the details that they have saved for themselves. 

How do I create custom fields? 

The first step in using custom fields is to have a contact list created. When you have created this contact list you can then go to the menu option 'Contact List' and select 'View Custom Field' from there. 

This will bring you to a page for viewing, editing and creating any custom fields you have already created or are planning on creating. Here you will need to select the 'Create a Custom Field' button. 

This will start you through the creation process. You will have to select the type of custom field you want and name it so that you can use it in your Email Campaigns and Autoresponders. If you select to make the field 'Mandatory' your users will not be able to complete the form without entering these details. 

The types of custom fields are:

  • Text Field - Use this to gather small amounts of information about your contacts. This could be their First Name or Last Name etc. You can then use this custom field to personalise your emails by opening with something such as 'Dear %%First Name%%'.
  • Multiline Text Field - This type of custom field is good for gathering larger amounts of data from your contacts such as having them send you comments on your products or service. (If you set the website form you create to 'Emulate a contact form' you will be sent an email with these comments when any user fills out the form).
  • Numbers Only - Using this type of custom field can be good for gathering information such as phone numbers.
  • Dropdown List - This type of custom field allows your user to select only one option from a predefined list of options. You could use this to ask for your users title such as Mr, Mrs or Miss.
  • Check Box - Check boxes allow your users to select multiple options. You could use this to request information on what your users favorite things are such as their favorite style of music. This will then allow you to filter your email sends to only those users that have selected Rock and those that have selected Jazz rather then sending irrelevant information to those users that do not like these genres.
  • Radio Button - You can use this in just the same fashion as the dropdown list but have it set out differently in your form. It will still only allow your contact to select one option from a predefined list.
  • Date Field - Using a date field will allow you to gather information such as Birthdays of your users.

When you have selected your type of custom field and named it you can move onto the next step. This step will have options such as 'Default Value', 'Field Length', 'Start Date' and so on. The most important of these is the Default Value. You can use this so that if your contact does not enter a value but you still wish to use this custom field in your email campaigns you do not have to worry about emails looking strange. 

If you send an email that states 'Dear %%First Name%%,' and your user has supplied the name John you will send an email that reads 'Dear John,'. If you have set a Default value of 'Friend' and your contact does not save his/her name your email will then read 'Dear Friend,' rather then 'Dear ,'. 

Viewing and editing your custom fields 

To view what details are stored in your contacts custom fields you have 2 options. The first is to export your contact list and view the list of contacts as a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. To do this you simply have to select 'Contacts->Export Contacts to a File' from the menu. When you do this you will be given the option to select which contact list you wish to export and which custom fields associated with that contact list to include in this export. 

The second option is to view the list of contacts through the 'Contacts->View Contacts' menu. When you have found the contact that you wish to view/edit the detials of simply select the 'Edit' link next to their email address and you will be shown the information that that particular contact has saved on themselves. 

If this method of editing contact information is too slow then you can either import the contact list again with updated information, choosing to update the current information to the imported file, or you can send a 'Modify Details Form' to your contacts. 

Using your Custom Fields in your Email Campaigns and Autoresponders 

When you create your email campaigns and autoresponders you will see an option, in the WYSIWYG editor, below the WYSIWYG editor and below the text box for text based email content, that reads 'Insert Custom Field'. When you select this option you will be presented with a pop up window that contains a list of all the built in custom fields and then a listing of all the user created custom fields listed by contact list. 

When you decide which custom field that you wish to insert into your email campaign, click the insert link and it will be placed where the cursor was located. 

This will look similar to %%Custom Field Name%% when you insert this into your email campaign. When you send your email to your contact list any details that they have saved for those custom fields will be inserted into the email in replacement of the %%Custom Field Name%% 

Remember that sending a test email campaign will not replace the custom fields. Your emails will still come through with the custom field place holders to show what your email would look like. 

Another thing that you should make sure to remember is that custom fields are associated with contact lists. This means that if you send an email to a contact list that the custom fields are not associated with they will not be replaced and your email will not look correct. Be sure to use custom fields for the mailing list that you intend to send it to.