Burner fields on a Marketo form

A Marketo field for every occasion

Not applicable

Chicken or fish?

It’s as if every program or event has some random, custom field requirement. Dietary restrictions at an event, questions for a webinar, or a time slot for an in-person consultation. Fields aren’t exactly hard to create in Marketo, but they live on forever once they’re created, and can lead to a ton of confusion later. Avoid the temptation to add new fields in every scenario. There’s a much better way to deal with this, and I’ll show you how.

Instead of creating a new field for every random request, create a small handful of temporary “burner fields” that you can use over and over again. Just remember these aren’t to be used for data you want to hold on to. Nothing critical like contact info, lead profile info, etc. Just single or temporary-use data.

In fact, for truly temporary data, it’s a bad idea to keep this sort of data around permanently – if you ever run a similar program again in the future, you run the risk of referencing old data in the new program. Not to mention it creates a complete mess when trying to find the proper fields to use.

To start, you’ll want to create at least one string field, but you may want a few of these. Give it distinct names like Temporary Text Field 1, Temporary Text Field 2, etc.

Burner fields on a Marketo form

Add your temporary field to a form – here’s an example of a multi-location event registration form.

Once you add one of these fields to a form, you’ll need a way to record the temporary value, and then clear the field so it can be used again later.

Set up a smart campaign that triggers when your form is submitted (this may already exist for something like an event registration action), with specific actions for dealing with the value just stored in your burner field. And your method here may vary a bit depending on the data you’re capturing.

For example, if you’re running a multi-location roadshow, and you want to use one registration form for the entire series, you might want to use your temporary field to display a selection of all the events in the series.

In the smart campaign that triggers on the form submission, use the value in that field to add the lead to the appropriate sub-program, or static list.

Then, follow up with a data value change of the temporary field, and set a new value of “NULL”. This will clear the field of it’s value for that particular lead.

Temporary fields in a Marketo smart campaign

Here’s the same roadshow example on the smart campaign. Marketo sorts through the temporary field values, assigns to the proper program, and then clears the value out.

Alternatively, if the data is something more open-ended like dietary restrictions or webinar questions, consider setting up an email alert that fires when the form is submitted, which will essentially stamp that value in an email for future reference, even if it no longer exists on the lead. If email alerts won’t work, you could also opt to add all the leads to a static list, and subscribe to it. Then set a timed smart campaign to clear out the field of any values after your event or whenever the data will be used.

Now you have a field for every occasion, and you’ll probably discover new use cases for them all the time. If you ever have concerns about the use of a field overlapping across programs, you just add another temporary field, or better yet, assign your burner fields by use case or region to avoid any accidental crossover.

This post originally appeared on www.jeffrshearer.com

Level 10

this is ingenious and I wish I would've thought of it first.

Level 10

Hi Jeff,

Another use case for this idea:


Not applicable

We do this and it works well, although I would suggest you create all the fields as string. You can always change the field type in the form if you want it to be boolean, picklist etc.

Level 10



Not applicable

Good point! A boolean-specific field really only limits the use of the field. I'll add a quick edit to this. Thanks!

Level 2

I'm so glad you posted this! We do something very similar, and I have often wondered how other people handle this. We can have around 6-8 events happening at the same time, with possible cross-over of attendees, and we have identified 5 fields of misc. info we need for each event (Are you coming to event,? what session will you attend?, are you bringing guests?, how many guests?, and what are the guests' names?). I use the custom tab on the lead records to keep all of the misc. fields together:

Event Fields.jpg

I assign each event program to one of the four sets of fields based on geography, but instead of clearing out the data immediately, I keep it in the fields for the duration of the event. Our events run seasonally, so after a season, I run a smart campaign to clear out all event fields.

To keep track of what event programs are assigned to what set of fields, I keep a spreadsheet that I also update with dates for when I last cleared the data.

event assignments.jpg

Keeping a spreadsheet isn't ideal, but I haven't found a better way to keep myself from going crazy trying to remember what event uses what fields. I like the idea of running a smart campaign to clear the data so I don't have to remember to do that though, and will be exploring some of your ideas once this season wraps up!

Not applicable

Thanks for sharing Katie, this is a really interesting spin on maintaining the data. I like it!

Level 6 - Champion Alumni

Great method, we do something similar, I inherited a lot of Marketo fields we no longer use, so I use several of them to store temporary data

Level 6

We did this a couple months ago and have three fields for each field type. For example: Field Capture Boolean 1, Field Capture Boolean 2, Field Capture Boolean 3, Text Capture 1, Text Capture 2, Text Capture 3, etc. We then reset the field after an event is over (we don't always ask the same questions for each event registration, so we can't do what Katie does).

When someone responds to an event, I receive an alert email with all the fields filled out in the body of the email so we can go back and reference it later if needed. These emails are automatically filtered and marked as "read", but they are in my account if we need to reference them later.

That being said, the idea that Greg posted above would be incredibly useful and I really hope that Marketo implements it sooner rather than later.

Level 1

I took a similar approach when building in my previous role and it helps ENORMOUSLY. IT was curious and asked why I had these "random" fields and I was like, "Those aren't random, they are MY PRECIOUS. No touch!"