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Custom fields for email templates

In our most-recent update, we've added the ability for you to create custom fields for your properties.  Custom fields are pieces of text that help your email templates say different things for different properties.

For instance, you may want your email templates to show your VRBO and FlipKey links for whatever property is being discussed in the email, which means that your email template needs to be different for each property.  Custom fields let you do that.

Setting up your custom fields

First, you have to define a global list of fields your properties will use.  Look at the My Account dropdown menu for a new option called "Custom Fields" and drill in.

custom fields in account dropdown

The overview page is similar to what you see throughout the system - a basic list with add, update and delete buttons.

custom fields overview

Click the "Add Custom Field" button and an entry form will show with a several fields.

custom fields add or edit form

The Code field is a short (8 characters or less) recognizable rubric while the Name field is a longer description.  For a VRBO link, you might set the Code field to something like "VRBO" or "VRBOLINK" and then set the Name field to "The VRBO link for this property".  The Code field does not allow spaces or special characters, and the system will force it to upper-case upon saving.

You'll notice that there's an option for using a rich text editor.  Rich text editors are input boxes that give you the ability to select fonts, colors, formatting and a lot more.  Technically, this is known as "HTML editing" but many people refer to it simply as rich text.  Want to enter hyperlinks or special-looking text for the custom field?  Select the rich text option, and you'll be able to do that.

Open one of your properties and click on the new Custom Fields tab.  You'll see all the custom fields you've defined without any values.

custom fields in property pages

Click the "Set Value Now" button next to a field and a form will open so you can enter the value you want to use.  If the field uses the rich text option, you'll see that type of editor to work with.  Otherwise, you'll see a plain text box.

custom fields property entry form

Using custom fields in email templates

Now that you've defined your custom fields and filled in values for each property, it's time to make use of them in email templates.

Open an email template - any template - and click on the field selector to see the available fields.  Down in the Property Fields section, you'll notice that your new fields are showing.  Insert one of your custom fields just as you would any other global system field.

custom fields in email template field selector

You may notice that each custom field shows a prefix of "PX" in front of the code.  We do this to ensure that there are no collisions between the codes you enter and the codes that are already in use by the global system fields.  For instance, if you entered "PNAME" as a code for one of your custom fields, that would conflict with the PNAME that is used globally.  To avoid that, your "PNAME" custom field is turned into "PXNAME" when selecting from the editor.

After updating your email template, click the Preview button to see how the template looks with your property values showing.

custom fields in email template editor

custom fields in email template preview

At the top of the preview form, you'll notice that a new property selector is showing.  This allows you to preview the email against different properties to see how all of your custom fields perform.

There are several moving parts to the custom field process, so make sure to test everything before finishing.  In the future, we may add custom fields for other entity types such as bookings or quotes.  If you have ideas about that or feedback on what we've done here, please let us know.  We love to know what users think!

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12 Comments (add yours)

Jun 5, 13
12:05 am
Glenn Moore says:

I really hope you add custom fields for a booking because that is where my particular need lies the most. I have a unique lock code for each booking I take and it would be great to include that in outgoing messages regarding bookings.

The custom fields per property are nice, but if others are like me and only have one property, it doesn't really provide much.

Glenn

Jun 5, 13
7:30 am
Michelle J says:

Hi Glenn,

Thanks for your feedback. We've seen a lot of use so far from multi-property owners, but I see your point about needing to store things per booking.

We have a lot more updates coming to email including custom/scheduled sending which I know you're looking forward to.

Later today, I'll talk with the dev team about how difficult it would be to wire in custom fields for bookings. The major infrastructure has been laid so it may be fairly simple to flip it on for bookings.

-Michelle

Jun 5, 13
8:12 pm
cp9293 says:

Hi Michelle,

It would be great to have an ATTACHMENT included in these custom Fields, or somewhere else. This would be great for Welcome Packets!

Is that a possibility some time soon?

Claudia

Jun 7, 13
9:43 am
Michelle J says:

You're absolutely right. That's one of two things we'd like to include in the upcoming email changes. The other one is the ability to have multiple TO, CC and BCC fields. However, both of these things are not immediate priority given the other things we're working on.

However, you could right now get around that by using a link. Basically, you could host your Welcome Packet as a public file on a link and then put it in the body of the email. That is actually better for email delivery since some email systems demote emails w/ attachments as spam.

To do that, host your Welcome Packet on a public location. For instance, use Dropbox or a service like that so that you get a link like so:

http://somedomainname.com/my-welcome-packet/blah/blah

And then in the body of your OwnerRez emails, you would reference that link and tell them to click and download it.

You could both (a) do that immediately and (b) make sure your emails aren't flagged as spam as much. I'm not saying that any attachment is seen as spam - that obviously isn't true - but attachments do tend to hurt deliverability over all, sometimes just because of their extra size alone.

Hope this helps,

-Michelle

Jun 11, 13
11:05 pm
Glenn Moore says:

That is a great idea for attachments - especially the drop box part! I had never even thought of that!

The crummy template system I am using now (...only thing keeping me going is the anticipation of improved email delivery options - with custom fields at the booking level;-) ....) does not allow use of attachments. Now I think i have a bit of an improvement on a so-so temp solution to get me by for the time being.

Glenn

Jun 11, 13
11:09 pm
Glenn Moore says:

Sorry, I should clarify that the crummy template system I am using is NOT OwnerRez. Your email templates, although very limited is great! It is a third party template system I use to try and fill in the blanks in my emails where OwnerRez stops. It is hard to find a good one that doesn't do mass emails, but does CRM type emails.

Glenn

Jun 13, 13
11:07 pm
Sam Westcott says:

FYI - custom fields can now be used for bookings, Glenn. That went out in tonight's release with a bunch of other things. ~Sam

Jun 19, 13
1:12 am
Glenn Moore says:

That is awesome. I have already started to use the fields to store lockcode information and other stuff. Once the email system is enhanced with workflow rules on events and dates related to the booking, then life will be even better. This is a damn fine site - I consider myself lucky to find it!

Jun 19, 13
1:30 am
Marinas Edge says:

Curious how you are saving lock code information?

Jun 19, 13
7:25 am
Sam Westcott says:

@Glenn: Custom email scheduling is THE NEXT thing to go out. We've been working on the design for awhile but we are actively preparing the (first pass beta) version of it for the next update. Maybe not this Friday, but definitely by next. ~Sam

Jun 19, 13
9:03 am
cp9293 says:

Do you need us to test it for you?? Let us know. :)

Claudia

Jun 19, 13
10:09 am
Marinas Edge says:

Sam, this is the big one!! I'm excited to have it all automatic!! You guys are great at making things simple.

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We are an online booking service for vacation rental property that helps managers and owners save time, create quotes and bookings faster, look professional and keep detailed records without needing an accountant or staff.