Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Where is lead data captured?
The extra data you want from your readers is collected on the same form they have to complete as part of the standard sign up process. The custom data is placed on the form just after the CAPTCHA test, as in this simple example from Gawker Media's auto site, Jalopnik. In this case all that's being asked for is the reader's ZIP code, defined by Gawker to be a required field.
How do I define custom fields for my newsletter?
Like most things in FeedBlitz, at the Newsletter Center. Click the "custom subscriber data" link (also marked out by the >icon you see at the top of this post) in the left hand column, where you'll be taken to a screen with options to define, report and link to your custom fields. Click the configuration link at the top and you're taken to the screen that does all the heavy lifting.
Note that the custom fields you define for subscribers apply to all your newsletters - subscribers are asked for the same information, no matter which publication they sign up for.
What kind of fields are there?
FeedBlitz currently supports different types of custom data field:
- Text - an edit control where the user can type pretty much anything;
- Choice (lists and radios) - where the user picks one option from a list you define;
- Multiple Choice (list and check boxes) - where the user can pick several options from a list you define.
A final option is the "separator" field, which you can use to split a form containing many custom fields into sections.
When you define a custom field, you also give it attributes which tell FeedBlitz whether the field is required or optional, whether the field should be hidden from the subscriber, and what to put on the form itself to help the visitor enter the right data. Most importantly, you give the field a name (such as "FirstName") which is how the field will be referenced later during the tutorials on customization, personalization and segmentation.
How do I define a custom field?
Let's say you want to capture two pieces of information from the subscriber: their name (so you can later say "Dear Jane" in your newsletter); and their gender. Let's also say you have an existing database you want to correlate your FeedBlitz subscriptions with, so a third field will be defined called "ID" to store the customer ID of the subscriber on the other system.
Defining a simple text field
From the edit screen, click "Add Custom Field." We'll call the first field "FirstName" (without the quotes, no spaces), which is what is you type between the <$ and $> signs (the reason for these will become clearer in a later tutorial). OK, so it's text, but what's this "default value" thing? The default value is used when the custom field is used in another part of FeedBlitz, but there is no data for it in the database. For FirstName we might make the default "Reader" since then a salutation might be "Dear Reader" instead of "Dear Jane" You can also leave the default blank and come back to it later.
We want this to be required and we do NOT want it hidden. Last two items: the "UI Label" (UI is the abbreviation for User Interface, i.e. the web page the form appears on). You could simply say "First Name" here, but you could instead say "Enter your first name" if you wanted to be more imperative. This text goes on the left of the form, and the space where the user enters this data is on the right. Finally, the help text is what pops up when the user hovers over the form or the label. If you go back to that Jalopnik subscription form you'll see that the UI Label is "Your Zip or Postal Code" and that the help text is "please tell us your five digit zip or postal code"
Save the field and you're back at that original screen.
For the "gender" field the process is similar, but the type of the field should be changed to one of the "Choice" options. When choice is selected the screen expands and you can now define the options to be presented. The "Choice" value is what the user sees; the "Database Value" is what is stored in the database. So the choices might be "Male" for the choice, "M" for the database value, and (similarly) "Female" and "F" respectively. Switching between the different choice options changes the preview so you can decide which one works best for you and your subscribers.
Now to defining "ID" which is going to be used to sync FeedBlitz with your database. The ID field should be text, not required and (crucially) hidden - it should NOT appear on the subscription form, as it's entirely an internal field for our own use. It should probably have a blank default too. The values for this field can be added manually or via import later.
Ordering and editing the fields
Now there are several fields defined. You can use the arrows to move them up and down, delete them, or edit them. If you delete a custom field you also lose all the subscriber data it holds, so do this early if you must (or export first). Once a field has been defined, you can't change it's type: a choice field is always going to be a choice field (but you can add or remove choices).
The end result
Once done, go to your site and start the subscription process (good to know that you don't need to change the subscription form on your site at all when you add custom fields; FeedBlitz takes care of it all for you when the subscriber gets there). And so you'll be collecting useful data from your new subscribers. Moreover, if you use "common" field names (such as FirstName, LastName, City, Address, State, Zip, Country, Gender), FeedBlitz will try and pre-populate the data from what it already knows about the subscriber in order to expedite completing the form, reducing the risk that the subscriber will bail on the form before completing it.
But what about my existing subscribers?
You can import data if you already have it in a different system, such as your personal email address book (we'll cover how to do that in a later tutorial). But defining custom fields also builds a standalone form which you can then invite existing subscribers to complete to help build out your database. On the custom fields management page you reach from the Newsletter Center the "Subscriber Update Form" link will enable once you have fields defined. You can use that link to have subscribers build out your subscriber database for you.
Next Up: Analytics
So now you know how to define your custom data collection and get the data in to FeedBlitz ... next up, how to get it out again.