How To Sophisticate Your Email Marketing with Custom Fields
Lead generation is such an important part of any online business.
When first starting out, your main focus is simple: grow an engaged email list by capturing as many names and emails as fast as you can.
But as your business matures, you realize there’s more to email marketing than just collecting emails...
In fact, there’s all kinds of sophisticated automations you can create with one of the advanced email marketing tools that help you better segment your subscribers and boost conversions.
But in order to pull that off, you need the ability to collect more sophisticated types of data.
Sounds intimidating, right? Don’t worry.
Thrive Architect makes it easy to collect that more advanced data on your lead gen forms so you can start building those powerful email marketing automations.
Are you ready to learn about the different types of data you can collect, when you should deploy them inside your lead generation forms, and how to make sure that info gets passed along correctly to your email marketing tool?
Then keep reading...
Basic vs. Advanced Autoresponders & Email Marketing Tools
First, realize that not all email marketing tools are created equal.
Some tools keep things simple — focused primarily on helping you collect names and emails to get your online business started.
However, other email marketing tools offer more complex features that allow you to create email marketing automations that can optimize your conversions while you sleep.
But if you take a look at the looong list of autoresponders and email marketing tools that Thrive Themes integrates with, you’ll notice only some have the Custom Fields data collection feature available.
If your current email marketing tool doesn’t have the more advanced integration rolled out yet, it’s for 1 of the 2 following reasons:
- It’s a very basic autoresponder or email marketing tool that doesn’t support collecting Custom Field data types.
- Custom fields are available, but we haven’t updated the integration yet. We prioritize Custom Field development based on customer demand. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post requesting Custom Fields get added to your email marketing tool if it’s not already on this list.
But as a basic standard, know that ALL of the email marketing tools we provide integrations for, allow you to collect Emails (always required), Names, Phone Numbers and Tags (where supported by the email marketing tool).
How To Set Up Custom Fields within Your Email Marketing Tool
If your email marketing tool is on our advanced integration list, make sure to click the link provided for your tool to learn the exact setup steps required within your autoresponder dashboard to create a Custom Field type.
Email marketing tools are all different in this respect so we won't go into detail here explaining how to set your autoresponder up to receive Thrive Architect lead gen form Custom Field data .
A Quick Note About the Basic Lead Generation Data Fields
In case you’re new to creating lead generation forms with Thrive Themes tools, let’s briefly review the basic data types you can always collect (with any integration tool) and when you should include them with your lead generation elements.
Just remember that deciding to request additional data from your potential leads is a bit of a balancing act. There’s always a trade-off in play between collecting more and impacting your conversions.
Requesting more data from your visitors means more friction which can lower conversions. The opposite also holds true.
So only request additional information from your visitors when absolutely necessary so you can strike the balance between maximizing your conversions and getting the data you need to make you email marketing as efficient as possible.
Email (always required)
There’s not much to say here about this particular data field on your lead generation forms...
If you’re building an email list, you’ll need to collect emails so this is always required (and all email marketing tools support it).
Although the name field isn’t a requirement to include on your lead generation forms, consider it standard practice — and all but expected at this point — by online visitors signing up for your free opt-in offers.
And if you decide not to ask for at least a First Name on your lead generation forms, know that you’ll be sacrificing the chance to personalize your email marketing campaigns (which can really help to boost email engagement and even actual sales)
When it comes to asking a visitor for their name on a lead gen form, It’s best practice to only ask for a First Name as most people will balk at giving their full John Hancock over the internet for security reasons.
Unless you absolutely need a Full Name, best to ask for First Names only.
How To Capture First & Last Names in Thrive Themes Lead Generation Forms
With Thrive Themes lead generation forms, you’re limited to a single Name field by default.
That means you can’t set up two separate First Name and Last Name data fields on your opt-in forms without using the Custom Fields feature (see the Text field section below).
However, some email marketing tools are pretty smart (like ActiveCampaign) and if a subscriber enters their full name within your single Name field, the autoresponder will parse it out into 2 separate First Name & Last Name fields upon receiving the data from your lead gen from.
If this is the case for your email marketing tool and you want to collect a First and Last Name, just make sure to indicate that using the Name field Placeholder feature inside your Lead Generation element:
Have an online coaching, consultation or brick & mortar business where you typically interact with clients or make sales over the phone?
Then you’ll definitely want to ask for a phone number on your lead generation forms. Don’t forget to use the placeholder feature to get the number from new subscribers in the format you’re looking for.
Tags (An optional hidden field that the biggest players support)
Tags can be a very powerful lead segmentation tool that you should definitely be using if your email marketing tool supports this feature.
What is a Tag?
It’s an additional text field you can include on your lead generation forms that gets passed on with all the other subscriber info collected.
When used correctly, Tags can indicate what a subscriber’s interests are (via opt-in offers), what products they’ve purchased from you (via sales pages), and much more...
If you use Thrive Quiz Builder, you can even add Tags to individual quiz questions to gain very detailed insights about how quiz based subscribers answered questions throughout your opt-in quiz.
Tags are basically the OG of email segmentation and a crucial data type you can rely on for most of the basic email marketing automations you’ll first create. And although Tags aren’t all powerful (why we’ve added the more advanced Hidden Fields feature you’ll soon learn about below), they’re practically required input if you want to get serious about automating your email marketing.
However, combining Tags with some of the Custom Field types you’ll learn about next can really take your email marketing game to the next level...
Advanced Lead Generation Custom Fields
Now comes the fun part. It’s time to discuss more sophisticated types of lead generation form data collection.
Let’s get you schooled up on all the Custom Fields you can add to your Thrive Themes lead generation forms (assuming you use one of the email marketing tools that supports them).
Set this up right and the advanced data you collect will automatically get passed along to your email marketing tool so you can set up some crazy elaborate email marketing automations.
Need your visitor to input a short, text based answer to a query on one of your lead gen forms?
Then the Text field is what to use in such situations.
Remember that your visitors have free rein to enter whatever value they want within a Text field — so make sure to indicate the exact answer type and format you need to capture using the placeholder feature.
For example, if you want to use the Text field to capture a visitor’s Last Name (just like the image above), you can set this up by:
Don’t Use Text Fields as Triggers for Your Email Marketing Automations
Because visitors can input ANYTHING in Text fields (even accidentally misspell their answers), it’s a good idea NOT to set up your email marketing automation triggers using the Text Custom Field type.
Use one of the predefined Custom Field type options for your triggers instead (e.g. Radio Buttons, Dropdowns, or Checkboxes that we’ll discuss shortly).
To illustrate how quickly Text field triggers can lead to problems in your automations, just imagine that you ask visitors to input the city they live in...
If someone lives in New York City, they're liable to input NY or New York or new york or NYC or one of many other possible variations — including a complete typo!
So you’re now asking yourself “What’s the difference between a Text and Textarea Custom Field type?”
The most basic answer to that question is:
- Text fields are for short form answers — single word up to a few word responses
- Textarea fields are for long form answers — paragraph and essay style answers
With a Textarea Custom Field, you can prompt your visitor to offer a much more detailed response to a particular question you’re asking.
Use the Textarea field’s placeholder feature to ask your question and/or prompt responses in a guided way.
The Textarea field offers some special design features too, including:
- The ability to set minimum and maximum character counts (visible by the subscriber in a “45 of 500” character count tracking format)
- Visitor ability to resize the input area (so they can get comfortable writing and re-reading what they wrote pre-submission)
In summary, use the Textarea Custom Field type within your lead gen forms whenever you need a detailed, long form answer form visitors. This essentially gives you the ability to transform any lead generation form into a fully integrated email marketing contact form.
And that’s on purpose because the team here at Thrive Themes is working towards a single form element in the Thrive Editor toolkit to help simplify things for you!
This Custom Field type is pretty self explanatory, but super important nonetheless.
With it you can collect — well — URLs.
For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter and internet marketing consultant and you need to evaluate a potential new client’s website as part of your intake process, you can simply request their URL with this particular Custom Field type and get it passed along automatically to your email marketing tool.
Don’t forget to use the placeholder feature to prompt visitors to input the format you’re looking for (e.g. Your website address or www.yourwebsiteaddress.com).
Now it’s time to spice up your data collection powers with some visual design magic!
The Radio Button Custom Field type is useful to deploy whenever you need to present multiple, predefined options to visitors, but only want a single selection.
Visitors can only select a single Radio Button answer choice because whenever a second option is clicked, the previously selected option will automatically deselect.
Click here to learn all about how to customize the visual design of your Radio Buttons within Thrive Themes lead generation forms.
To get an idea of when it’s ideal to use Radio Buttons on your lead generation forms, imagine that you're a fashion consultant and you’re interested to learn whether or not new visitors are looking for custom tailored advice from you (a personal consult) or rather seeking education about how they can DIY their style.
You can create a Radio Button Custom Field on your lead gen form asking:
What are you looking for?
- Advice so I can better pick my own clothes
- Someone to pick my clothes for me
Here's an example of what that could look like when you use Radio Buttons on a lead generation form:
Once subscribers submit the form, that crucial information is then submitted alongside their name and email address within your email marketing tool.
With that data, just take a moment to think about how you could create 2 separate email marketing automations that would cater to those different interests and boost your consults and online sales conversions in the process!
Functionally speaking, Dropdown Custom Fields work exactly like Radio Buttons in the way that they present visitors with a predefined set of options — only one of which can be selected.
The big difference between the two is presentation.
Do you want your visitors to see their possible choices all at once? Then use the Radio Button Custom Field.
Or do you have so many choices that they would mangle the aesthetics of your lead generation form if shown side-by-side using the Radio Button format? Then consider using the Dropdown Custom Field type instead to give your lead gen form a more streamlined look.
Click here to learn all about how you can visually customize your Dropdown fields inside Thrive Themes lead generation elements.
Now, what if you need to present multiple predefined choices for your visitors, but want to give them the chance of selecting more than one option?
For these scenarios, you need to use the Checkbox Custom Field type.
For example, you can use Checkboxes on your lead generation forms if you create content around different, but similar topics on your website and would benefit from knowing if visitors are interested in one or more of those categories.
For example, if you run an internet marketing blog and teach PPC advertising, you probably generate a lot of online content about how to create successful Facebook Ads, Google Ads and YouTube Ads. If that’s the case then it’s important to make sure the right blog posts get sent to the most engaged audience for them.
Unlike the Radio Button fashion consultant example discussed above (who offered both personal consults as well as DIY fashion education — 2 completely separate target customers), visitors to an internet marketing blog are likely interested in learning about all kinds of PPC advertising.
That’s why you want to give visitors the opportunity to express their interest for multiple, different — but somewhat related — types of content.
See how awesome Checkboxes are for advanced email marketing?
Click here to learn all about how you can visually customize your Checkbox fields inside Thrive Themes lead generation elements.
How Checkbox Data Looks Inside Your Email Marketing Tool
When you use a Checkbox Custom Field on your lead gen forms, note that all the different Checkbox options you present will be mapped to a single Custom Field in your email marketing tool.
Take our Internet Marketing Blog example above for example. If you ask:
“What are you interested in learning about?” on your lead gen form and the options are:
- Facebook Ads
- Google Ads
- Youtube Ads
- Instagram Ads
… then a subscriber who selects all four will show up as “Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Youtube Ads, Instagram As” in the respective Custom Field you created within your email marketing tool (Marketing Topics in the example shown below):
In an advance email marketing tool like ActiveCampaign, you can then create Email List Segments based on individual selections within your multi-response Checkbox Custom Fields by setting up:
- "Checkbox Custom Field Name" >> Contains >> "Checkbox Item Name"
For example, if you wanted to segment your list by the Checkbox Item "YouTube Ads" within the "Marketing Topics" Checkbox Custom Field from above, this would look like:
- Marketing Topics >> Contains >> "YouTube Ads"
This is the final Custom Field type available in your lead gen data collection toolkit.
And although this Custom Field type is hidden from visitors without any visual design features to speak of (unlike the Radio Buttons, Dropdowns or Checkboxes discussed above), it’s quite powerful.
Because you can use Hidden Fields to collect and feed detailed data into even more sophisticated email marketing automations.
Like the name suggests, you can use Hidden Fields to collect all sorts of readily accessible information from subscribers on the backend of your lead generation forms.
For example, if either Google or Facebook refers traffic to one of your lead generation landing pages, you can set up a Hidden Field to capture that Referring URL Source information — as long as it’s included in the actual URL.
So if a visitor is referred to your landing page by Facebook with the following URL:
… a Hidden Field is what you would set up to capture that Facebook Referral Source info and pass it along to your email marketing tool.
Or if the referral source was Google:
… Google would be recorded as the Referral Source using the exact same Hidden Field setup.
And it’s not just Referring URL Sources that you can collect either. You can set up Hidden Fields to collect:
- URL QueryStrings
- POST Variables
- Cookie Data
- User Data (IP address, Browser, and all kinds of WordPress User Details)
- Content (Post ID, Post Title, Content Type, and Post URL)
- Time and Dates (in a variety of different format options)
To learn more about how to set up the many different types of Hidden Fields on your lead generation forms, check out this tutorial article here.
Should I Use a Tag or a Hidden Field?
Although Tags are also a powerful kind of hidden field available on your lead generation forms, they’re not as sophisticated as the actual “Hidden Field” Custom Field type.
You can’t capture dynamic data with Tags like you can with Hidden Fields. Tags are simple, pre-set values established by you when creating a lead generation form. Most email marketing tools recognize Tags as their own unique data type and provide unique email marketing features — specifically for Tags.
By contrast, Hidden Fields are considered a Custom Field type by both your email marketing tool as well as the Thrive Architect lead generation element. This means there’s some extra setup steps required to get Hidden Fields working compared to Tags.
However, if you simply apply a “Default Value” to a Hidden Field without checking the “Activate Smart Complete” option, your Hidden Field will function very similar to a Tag.
For example, you could set up either a Tag saying “freebie1” OR a Hidden Field saying “freebie1” The difference will lay in the options your email marketing tool gives you with how you can implement those different data types in your email marketing automations.
To learn more about this, consult the documentation of your email marketing service.
And when you do check the “Activate Smart Complete” box when setting up a Hidden Field, that’s when you can turn it into one of the more advanced dynamic data collection types discussed above.
To learn more about the Activate Smart Complete feature within Thrive Themes Lead Generation elements, check out this article.
What Data Field(s) Should You Use on Your Lead Generation Forms? Interactive Quiz
So now that you know what each of the basic data types (Email, Name, Phone and Tag) and Custom Field Types are and do, when should you use which data type where?
To make this seemingly complex question super simple for you, we’ve created the following interactive quiz using Thrive Quiz Builder to help make deciding foolproof.
Get started by answering the question below...
Now You’re Dangerous...
There you go!
You’re all schooled up on when and where you should deploy which data field types in your Thrive Themes lead generation forms. It’s now time for you to go collect the more sophisticated data you’ll need to take your email marketing to the next level!
What sort of data are you aiming to collect and what types of advanced email marketing automations are you planning to create?
Let us know by leaving a comment below!