An Introduction to CRM Custom Fields + How to Use Them

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CRM & Tech : 6 min read

An Introduction to CRM Custom Fields + How to Use Them

Most companies today would agree that having a standardized sales process is important. (It is).

Not all these companies’ CRMs are mirroring that process though.

Here’s the thing: CRMs come with their own set of standard fields. Some CRMs give you the ability to customize these fields.

Yes, you should do it.

In this post, we’ll go over why customizing fields in your CRM is so important, and which fields you should absolutely be customizing to your sales process and how you manage contacts.

What are fields and why are they so important?

A field is an individual data point within a record in your CRM. Here's an obvious one:

the name custom field in a crm.
“Name” is an example of a field in your CRM.

Businesses use custom fields to track extra contact details and map additional fields from web forms and other applications.

Custom fields are important because they let you capture more relevant information about your contacts. This in turn helps you segment your database, giving you more context about your accounts and contacts and helping you to track everything. You can even automate processes based on these unique parameters in your business.

For example, with a custom field that has the birthdate of you contact, you can automatically create a task to send a Happy Birthday card.

Before you create a custom field…

The old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can be applied here.

Before making changes, evaluate whether or not using an existing standard field would meet your requirements.

Don’t settle though. If there’s a better way a certain field could be used, don’t be scared to create a custom field even when an out-of-the-box one appears to be available.

Here are some things to consider before creating a custom field:

  • Think about what data is going to be placed in it. Is the lead information going to be carried over when it’s converted to an Opportunity?
  • Think about scale. If you’re creating a dropdown for products you have only five of today but maybe will have 500 of a year from now, plan for these future requirements—maybe a dropdown isn’t the most effective way to enter this information because you’ll be endlessly scrolling through 500 options
  • Think about data augmentation services. Do you have plans to integrate programs like Datafox or Clearbit? Do you want to bring in additional information from the web to your profiles? Create a custom field to capture these data augmentation points.
  • Think about whether you want to view data about a contact or company that is involved in a special program, promotion or type of customer group. Does this group requires more attention or special terms for invoicing or discounts? If this information is important to know and you don’t want it buried in an email or notes, think about the custom field you want to display on the profile so that it’s easy to find.
  • Think about data importing. Do you plan to import data from another CRM? Does that CRM have fields that your current one does not have? (If the answer is yes and you’re planning to use Copper now, check out this article first.)

Ready? Here’s how to create a custom field. 

Before creating a custom field in your CRM, define why you’re doing it.

Set an intent behind each field you create.

For example, you might want a custom field to help you do one of these tasks:

  • Reporting
  • Filtering
  • Searching

Pro-tip: Less is more when it comes to fields. What do you want to surface up on the profile when you search within a field? Probably not a long history log.

For example, you want to be able to pull up the answer to a question like: “Can you give me a list of every customer who has product XYZ?”

For the sake of this how-to, we’re going to use Copper as an example (we make customizing fields super easy though—hopefully your CRM does too):

How to create a custom field in Copper:

1. In your Copper account, click “Settings” located in the left-hand menu.

2. Under “Customize Copper” section, select “Custom Fields.”

3. Pick which type of record you want to create a custom field for.

choose a record to create custom fields for in copper crm.

4. Once you’ve selected a record type, a “Create Field on [Record Type]” popup box will appear.

Here, you’ll need to define the following:

  • Type: What kind of field are you creating? (We’ll define each type in the next section).
  • Label: This is what the field will appear under on a customer record.
  • Field Key: This is optional—you can always come back and do this later. These are names you give to this field when you want to run automated processes behind the scenes based on the information in the field.
  • Include in Filters: Filtering is great for reporting purposes. You cannot build reports on fields that are not filterable so be sure to think through the information and how you’d like to retrieve your data.
creating a custom field in copper crm.

5. Then, click “Create Field.” Your new custom field is ready to use!

Now that you know how to create custom fields, let’s jump into all the fields you need in your CRM, and what they do.

Here’s what each of Copper’s field types mean.

Here are all of the available custom field types in Copper, but your CRM might have something similar:

Checkbox

The Checkbox field allows you to have a “yes” (checked) or “no” (unchecked) option.

Example of a checkbox custom field:

  • Is this a reference customer? [Yes / No]

Currency

The Currency field allows you to enter a monetary amount associated with the currency you’ve specified in your user preferences. This is important when calculating conversion rates if you do business in multiple currencies.

Connect Field (Lookup Field)

The Connect Fields lets you link a single record with multiple other records that are related to it.

Examples of “connect” custom fields:

  • Spouse
  • Partner
  • Referred by
  • Direct reports

Date

The Date field type will allow a user to select a certain calendar date.

Examples of “date” custom fields:

  • Birthday
  • Anniversary
  • Contract renewal / expiry date
  • Membership expiry date

Dropdown

The Dropdown field type allows you to provide a menu of choices for a user to select. You'll be able to make one choice from this field to apply to a record. There’s a limit of 255 choices and it’s searchable and filterable.

Examples of “dropdown” custom fields:

  • Marital status: Single, Married, Divorced
  • Subscription type: Monthly, Annual

Multi-select Dropdown

Similar to a Dropdown field, this will allow you to provide a menu of choices for a user to select. This option will allow you to select one, or many, choices to apply to the record. Multi-select fields are filterable.

Examples of “multi-select dropdown” custom fields:

  • Product line
  • Employment status

Number Field

The Number field type allows you to input a number of up to 20 digits. This field is not searchable but you can filter through it.

Examples of “number” custom fields:

  • Company size
  • Fax
  • Revenue/income

Percentage

The Percentage field allows you to enter a % up to 10 characters and is filterable.

Example of “percentage” custom field:

  • Reseller/vendor margin

Text Area

The Text Area field type allows you to enter paragraphs of text, with a limit of 1,000 characters and is searchable (but not filterable).

Example of “text area” custom field:

  • Business description

Text Field

The single-line Text field type allows you to enter a single line of text, with a limit of 250 characters and is searchable (but not filterable).

Example of “text field” custom field:

  • Job title

Tags

The Tag custom field allows you to input keywords that can be used to associate or provide additional context to your records. Tags are searchable and filterable.

Examples of “tags” custom fields:

  • Upgrade
  • VIP

URL

The URL field type allows you to input a web address that’s up to 255 characters. It isn’t searchable or filterable.

Examples of “URL” custom fields:

  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Facebook Profile
  • Twitter Handle

Copper makes customizing fields easy.

It doesn’t matter how nice a pair of shoes are—if they don’t fit your feet, they’re not going to take you very far.

Same goes for a nice-looking CRM without customizable fields to fit the needs of your sales process.

If you’re stuck with a CRM without wiggle room, it might be time to try on a new one. Give Copper a spin for 14 days, for free (we won’t even ask you for your credit card info).