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Custom Fields Vs Tags

I’d like to address an issue that has plagued Infusionsoft users  since the dawn of time (I suspect it has anyways.) “When do I use a  custom field, and when do I use a tag?” There has always been an air of  ambiguity surrounding this question, with vague definitions and unique  use cases and a long list of exceptions; but today I’d like to provide  some information that will help you decide which is appropriate for your  specific scenarios.

First, I’ll discuss what each of these have  in common, and then I’ll outline a few of their key differences and  lastly I’ll leave you with a few guidelines for deciding what you need. 

Tags  and Custom fields are both great ways to store information about a  contact. Tags and Custom fields are both easily searchable, and can make  filtering through your list to find a targeted audience much easier.  Both can also be used in a campaign decision diamond to route contacts  down the appropriate path and create a more customizable experience for  that customer. 

Now, where do they differ? Well, first and  foremost there are no limits to the number of tags you can create. There  are however limits on custom fields.  You can create up to 100 Custom  Fields for each of the different types of records. You can also apply an  unlimited number of tags to a contact record. Whereas, generally you  can only store one piece of information in a custom field (the exception  being list box fields.) This means, tags will accumulate over time, but  a custom field will only retain the most recent piece of information  supplied. 

Another key difference is that Tags can be used to  trigger automation. By applying a tag, you can trigger a campaign  builder goal, therefore firing off automation. Yes, if a custom field is  filled out via a webform, or internal form, either of those can also achieve campaign goals, but simply populating  a custom field on a record cannot inherently fire off a campaign  builder sequence. 

The last difference to discuss here is that  values placed in custom fields can be merged into emails and tasks to  personalize the email content or task details on a per contact basis.  Tag information can be used to route contacts to send the appropriate  email or task, but cannot be used to personalize the content itself like  the other merge fields. 

So, those are the similarities and differences, but how do I  decide which one to use?  Well, the hard truth is it’s going to be a  unique case by case decision for you; but let me give you some  guidelines to help make that decision easier. 

After reading the  steps below, hopefully you’ll get a good foundation of information to  arm you in making decisions as you set up, or refine your CRM. These are  primarily suggestions to give you some guidance, but you may find that  you need to deviate from one of these rules for a one-off type scenario  and that’s okay.

Remember, each business is unique, but using  these guidelines will give you a head start in designing an efficient  CRM that is easy to search, grow, and scale!

  • If the information is unique to that particular contact record,  then you should use a custom field. (i.e. Dog’s name, license plate  number, favorite ice cream flavor) However, if the information helps  segment them into a group of like individuals, you should can use a tag.  (i.e. Dog Owners, BMW Drivers, Ice Cream Fans.)
  • If you will need to merge this information into an email at some  point, you’ll want it in a custom field. For example, if you tag them as  “ice cream fan”, you won’t be able to start your email “For an ‘ice  cream fan’ like you…”.  However, if you have a custom field that lists  their favorite ice cream flavor, you can start your email “Since I know  you love ‘mint chocolate chip’ ice cream, I thought you’d enjoy this…”.
  • If more than one piece of information can be true, you will want a  tag. This one can be tricky to wrap your head around, but if you’re  creating a custom field for “Supporter of” and you list Liverpool,  Manchester U and Arsenal, they can only be a supporter of one of those  teams. However, if you use tags, then you open the possibility that  someone might support more than one club (in this scenario it’s probably  less than likely, but you get the idea.)
  • If you need to trigger automation as a result, you’ll want a  tag. If you need something to happen based on the new knowledge you  have, you will likely want to create a campaign starting when a specific  tag is applied. You can trigger a campaign to start when a custom field  is populated, but there are some limitations regarding what the value  of the field is, and how it was populated.