What type of custom field should I use?
We understand that customization is important, and LACRM provides a few options you can use to add custom fields for your unique needs. Those fields can be added to a contact or company, or you can add fields to your pipeline. (If you’re not sure where to add a custom field, check out this article on the difference between contact and pipeline fields). With each field that you add, you’ll have an important decision to make regarding what type of field is the best fit. This article explains the differences between each field type, to give you a better idea of when you should use which kind.
Note: Only administrators can create custom fields.
Adding a custom field
Custom fields can be added by mousing over “Settings” and selecting “Custom fields.” On the next page, select the appropriate option based on where the field should appear, either Contacts, Companies, or a specific pipeline. Then, select “Create a custom field” near the top of the page. In the dialog that opens, you can enter a name for the field, and then choose a field type.
Text Box (single-line)
A text box field is a good option if you need some flexibility, but won’t have too much text to enter. Text boxes accept any entry in the field, including letters and numbers, so you can dump any relevant detail into one space. This type of field is best if there is a wide variation in the values of the field. For example, common text box fields include tracking a spouse/partner name, children’s names, or a favorite hobby or sports team.
For those in consulting, a text box could also be used to track “Project Name”. Insurance agents might use a text box to track a “Policy Number”, while travel agents might use a text box to track the “Preferred Airline” or “Loyalty Program” of a client.
Text Area (multi-line)
A text area field is a good option if you need some flexibility and will have a larger amount of text to enter. Text areas accept any text in the field, so you can dump any relevant detail into one space. You can also use line breaks in text areas, which can be helpful to break up larger entries. For example, common text area fields include “Special Considerations”, “Additional Requests”, or other specialized note area fields.
Insurance agents might use a text area to keep track of “Special Requirements”. Customer service agents could also use a “Summary” field for an issue reported by a customer.
A dropdown list is a good option if the potential field values are limited. With a dropdown list, you’ll have a set of pre-entered options to choose from, and you won’t need to type in any data here. This option should be used if you will only ever have a single value in this field. For example, common dropdown lists include tracking the “Lead Source”, or the “Industry” of a business. You can also use a dropdown list to track other categories or levels.
Business or life coaches could also use a dropdown to track the “Type of Plan” for a client. In the education industry a dropdown could be used to track the “Starting Semester”. Insurance agents can use a dropdown to track “Carrier”, or “Policy Type”.
A checkbox list is a good option if the potential field values are limited, and if you’ll often need to select more than one value. You can pre-enter the options in the checkbox list, and then later check off the appropriate options rather than typing in any data. For example, common checkbox lists include tracking what “Product” or “Service” a lead is interested in.
A checkbox list could also be used to track “Positions” that are offered in the recruiting and career services industries. Business or life coaches could also use a checkbox list to track the “Goals” of a client.
A number field is ideal if the only entries will be numbers (no letters or special characters!). This field will also allow you to sort and filter by amount, so you could find everyone with an entry above or below a certain number. This type of field is often used for “Account ID” or “Client ID” numbers, as well as “Value” or dollar amount fields.
In the travel industry a number field could also be used to track “Commission”, or a quoted amount. Real estate agents might also use number fields to track the “Current Best Offer”, or the “Final Sale Amount”.
A date field is perfect for tracking important dates, and will only allow dates with both a month and day, or with a month, day, and year. Date fields also have an option to appear on the calendar, which can be helpful for keeping an eye on upcoming important dates.
For example, date fields are commonly used to track a spouse’s birthday or an anniversary. Date fields can also be used for things like the date something was received, or a “Contract Expiration Date”.
Recruiters might use a date field to track the “Start Date” of a particular hire. Non-profits could use a date field to track when a donation was received. Travel agents can track passport issuing and expiration dates using date fields as well.
A contact link field is a good option if you need to create a link with another contact or company. This field prompts you to search existing records for a name, and once you select the name it’ll appear as a link on that record, so you can click right on it to go to the other record. This field is helpful for tracking things like referrals, family members, or other involved professionals.
Real estate agents might use a contact link field to track the “Inspector” or “Title Company” being used by a client. In construction, a contact link field could be used to track the “Other Specialists” working a job, like an electrician or a plumber.
A file field is a good option if you need to track specific files or documents. This option allows you to upload one or multiple files from your computer to that specific field. The uploaded files will then appear by name, and you can access the files by selecting them. This field is helpful for tracking things like contracts, quotes, images, or other important documents.
Recruiters might use a “Resume” field to track the resume of an applicant. Travel agents might use an “Itinerary” field to track the itinerary for each trip. Insurance agents might also use a “Policy” field to upload policy related documents.
Now that you know about all of the different field types available, it’s important to know that there are some situations where tracking the exact same information might use different field types.
For example, say you want to track the product of a sale and you have a set list of products. In this situation you could use either a dropdown list or a checkbox list, which both allow you to pre-enter the options that you’ll select later. The difference here is whether your customers buy one product at a time, or if they often buy more than one product. If your customers only ever buy one product at once, you should use a dropdown list. If your customers often buy more than one product at once, use a checkbox list instead.
Another common field that can vary in type is a value field. If you want to have a specific number, so you can look at the exact amount or calculate totals elsewhere, you’ll want to use a number field. But, if you want more of a ballpark estimate, you might create a dropdown list that has a range of values for each option (ie, 1-500, 501-1,000, etc) instead. Either option will work to track value, but the end goal will determine which field type is the best.
If you assign ID numbers to clients, you’ll likely want to add a field for that information. If your ID numbers are numeric only, you can create a number field for that information. But, if your ID numbers are alphanumeric and include letters as well, you’ll want to use a text box instead.
Finally, it’s very common to create a field to track the source of a contact or lead, but the field type can vary. If you accept new leads by referral only, you might want to use a contact link field so you can connect them to the person who referred them. If you have a set list of sources, and only ever get contacts from those sources, you could use a dropdown with each source listed as an option. If you have a lot of variety in your sources instead, it may be best to use a text box field so you can type in each source accurately as it comes in.