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HomeOntraport for marketingForms > Updating existing records with forms
Home > Forms  >  Updating existing records with forms
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Attention: this video showcases a feature that has since been updated. Please check out the support article.
Updating existing records with forms
Learn how to update an existing contact record using forms. Avoid creating duplicate records and manual work.
You'll learn:
  • How to collect new information from contacts without asking them for their email address again (using PURLs) 
  • What to do if you want your customers to update their email addresses 
  • How to get Ontraport to merge new email addresses with old contact records 
  • How to get unique fields onto your forms (and hide them from users)
Instructor
Sam Flegal
Updating existing records with forms
Learn how to update an existing contact record using forms. Avoid creating duplicate records and manual work.
You'll learn:
  • How to collect new information from contacts without asking them for their email address again (using PURLs) 
  • What to do if you want your customers to update their email addresses 
  • How to get Ontraport to merge new email addresses with old contact records 
  • How to get unique fields onto your forms (and hide them from users)
Course Instructor
Sam Flegal
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Transcript
In this video, I’ll show you how to update an existing contact record using forms.
 
Your contacts will likely fill out more than one form at some point: an order form, a survey, an event registration form or something else. And this is a great way to get more information about your contacts.
 
Ontraport automatically merges records when visitors fill out multiple forms using the same email address but creates a new record whenever there’s a new email address. Getting a bunch of duplicate records in your account makes it impossible to track your contacts or know where your buyers came from, and it's easy to make mistakes with your follow-up when you've got more than one record for someone.
 
So, it’s important to get each form fill-out merged with existing records whenever possible. I’ll show you how to use Ontraport’s different tools for this job. 
 
Let’s get started!
 
There are two ways we can identify contacts in Ontraport. Both require using Ontraport Forms, which have a bunch of fancy technology to help you identify your visitors.
 
Let’s dive into two scenarios where Ontraport merges your contacts.
 
Scenario number one: You're sending people you already know to a form to get new information about them. Maybe you want their mailing address so you can send them something. Maybe you just want to better understand their problems so you can market to them more effectively. 
 
So, you don’t want to ask them for their email address again because that’s weird; you already know who the person is! And if they were to use a different one they’d mess up your database.
 
So, don’t ask.
 
Ontraport has a feature called PURLs, or personal URLs, which ident ify each contact from the link you send them. If a contact fills out a form on a PURL page, you’ll know who they are — since that’s their personal page — and Ontraport will add the new information to their existing record.
 
Sending a contact to a PURL is super simple. In fact, any Ontraport Page URL can be a PURL. If you're sending an email, all you have to do is use the Ontraport Page dropdown when you create a link to your page, here. 
 
And that’s all there is to it!
 
But you wouldn't want to do this on your main lead generation pages. This strategy is really useful when you know only existing contacts are going to see your form. Just remember not to put an email address field on your form, and we'll take care of it automatically from there.
 
But, what if you want your customers to update their email address? Let’s tackle that second scenario now.
 
If you send customers to a page that asks them to update their email address, the previous method won’t work.
 
If you put an email address field on your form and visitors give you a new email address — even if it’s on a PURL — Ontraport will assume it’s a different person. 
 
There's another feature called “Overwrite email address merge with cookie data.” If someone is visiting a PURL or they have an Ontraport tracking cookie on their browser, we’ll know who the person is. 
 
You can check this box in advanced form settings, and we'll update their email address instead of creating an entirely new record. Basically, this setting tells us, "Don’t use the email address to identify a unique contact. Instead, look at the ID in the cookie to see who this person is and merge their new information with their existing record."   
 
Last note for the geeks out there. Ontraport will actually merge records using any unique field it finds on the form. Email address is just one unique field. 
 
There’s another one built into the system called “Unique ID.” 
 
You can also create your own unique field by simply checking the “this field is unique” box when you create a custom field.
 
One way to use a different unique field value to merge contacts is to put the value in the link you email customers using a merge field. For example, if your domain is “myawesomesalespage.com,” you could add a unique identifier that looks like this. 
 
This is called a URL variable. When your email or SMS is sent, Ontraport will merge each contact’s unique ID into that URL. So it'll come out like this. 
 
Once they land on the page, the contact's unique ID is up there in the browser bar. 
 
You need to get it into the form so when the visitor submits the form, the system can use that information to merge the form submission with their existing record.
 
Ontraport Pages to the rescue! Pages has a fancy feature that can automatically grab any URL variables in the page URL and merge them onto the page. It'll do this wherever it sees a merge field that matches the URL variable.
 
So, for example, when someone visits an Ontraport page at this address, your page will perform a little magic: Wherever you have the unique ID merge field on your page — which just matches the variable name in the URL, in this case [uniqueid] — it will pop in “12345” in there for you. 
 
Why is this useful? It'll all come together with one last step.
 
You know how to use unique fields to merge records, and you know how to get unique fields into the URL, so now you’ve got one more thing to do. You need to get your unique field into your form!
 
You’ll do that by using the prefill feature on the form fields. You put the merge field that matches the URL variable into the prefill so that when the form is filled out, the records will merge. But, we don't want our users to see this magic happening on their forms.
 
So, you do this with a hidden field instead! Then your visitor never sees it and can’t mess with it.
 
Go to the hidden fields on your form, under “Form Settings.” Add “Unique ID” as a hidden field. Next, add the URL variable name you used in your link as a merge field here. In our example, I used [uniqueid] so I’ll put that here. 
 
For the geeky among you, you're probably already imagining all the ways this feature will make your life easier. If I've lost you, it’s okay. You probably don't need this feature yet, but now you know it's there if you need it down the road.
 
Either way, you've got lots of tools in your toolbelt to make sure you don't accidentally get a bunch of duplicate records in your database. And that's good.
 
Now that you know how to update your existing records, the future is a bright, clean CRM. 
 
If you want to learn how to configure conditional redirects, check out our “Conditional redirects” video.
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