In this course, I’m going to break down what custom objects are, why you need them and how to set up and manage them.
Along the way, I’ll show you lots of examples to help you understand how they work with Ontraport’s Dynamic CMS and the central role they play in managing your data — and eventually, building web applications.
So, let’s start with the basics: What is a custom object?
It’s really simple — Custom Objects are just a new table in a database, kind of like a new tab in a spreadsheet.
They’re used for storing data — and you can store just about any kind of data you can imagine. You could store information about projects, bids, products, content, surveys, teachers, students, photos, files, really anything.
Now, you can do this in a spreadsheet too, with fields across the top row, and then a row for each record you want to store. But when you do it in Ontraport, you get a bunch of added benefits.
For instance, every object in Ontraport comes with the same tools you get when you use contacts — things like automations, forms, groups, messages and more.
Like a spreadsheet, you can add, remove and organize the fields that make up your custom object. Whenever you want to save a new bit of information, you must first create a new field where you can store it.
In your Ontraport account, there’s an object called Contacts, which you can customize to fit your needs.
You can see how the Contacts collection tab kind of looks like a spreadsheet, where each row is a person and along the top, you have some of the fields for your objects.
So, let’s say you want to use custom objects to store your contacts’ hair color, because maybe you’re weird like that. You’d make a new field called “Hair Color.” Now all the records have that field, and you can start filling out this field for each contact on your list.
But if you want to store information that’s not about your contacts, it won’t make sense to put it in the same record as your contacts. So you’ll want to create a new object to store different kinds of information.
Maybe you’re a veterinarian and you want to store information about each customer’s pets, like their names and birthdays and what types of animal they are — dog, cat, goldfish, horse — you get the idea.
Or maybe you run a school and you want to keep information about both your students and their parents.
Or you’re a doctor, and you want to get rid of paper forms, so you start keeping track of your detailed appointment notes electronically.
In all of these cases, you’ll want to create new objects to store the information about your pets and students and patients.
So let’s go back to that veterinarian example. If you’re a vet, you’d create a new object to store information about pets. That object would have fields like “Pet Name,” “Type,” “Breed,” “Color” and so on. And, just like your contacts, you’d create a new record for each pet.
But wait a minute here. You may be thinking, “Why should I go through the trouble of creating an entirely new object when I could just as easily create a few new fields in my contact records for things like ‘Pet Name’ and ‘Pet Type’?”
And that’s a great question. Let’s think that through, because the problems you’re going to run into are exactly why the custom objects feature exists.
It turns out that there are basically two reasons why your ill-fated plan of adding new fields for pet info to your contact records doesn’t work well at all.
The first problem is, what happens when someone has more than one pet? You can’t put two pet names in one field; it makes no sense.
But you could create more fields, right? Create “Pet 1 Name,” “Pet 1 Type” and then add “Pet 2 Name” and “Pet 2 Type” and so on.
That might work sort of okay for a second.
But if you have a crazy bird lady who has 47 birds, you’d need 47 fields to add to your contact records, just to store their names.
But not only do each of the birds have names, they each also have birthdays and species types and weights and heights and color and on and on.
You’d actually need 47 fields for each of these things I just listed. That’s already hundreds of fields, and we haven’t even thought about taking notes for each vet visit! And God forbid if one lays an egg!
You can see that this can become a disorganized mess really quickly.
There’s also a second problem, and it’s a big one.
The second problem comes up when you want to do something with all this data you’re storing.
So what might we do with all this data about crazy bird lady’s birds?
I don’t know much about birds, but they probably need a check up every once in a while. Maybe you want to send Bird Mom a reminder about an upcoming appointment. Or maybe it’s more serious — maybe there’s a bird flu in town that affects only raptors. It’s going to be important for you, the vet, to pull up that list of bird clients, and let each raptor’s owner know.
Now if you’re storing information about students, you’ll want to be able to do things like see a list of kids who have birthdays this month. Or maybe you want to quickly send out permission slips to the parents of each 8th grade student.
The problem is that when you have fields for “Pet 15 Type” and “Pet 16 Type”and “Pet 17 Type” or “Kid 3 Birthday” and “Kid 4 Birthday” etc., all jumbled together, it’s next to impossible to search and sort that data in useful ways.
If you’re a serious business owner and intend to use your data to improve your business and the experiences you deliver to customers, messy data simply will not do.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to keep it all organized and beautiful that makes perfect sense. It puts all your data and the power of automation at your fingertips — the answer is custom objects.
Going back to the pets example, you’ll create new record types for your pets.
Each pet will have its own record, with a name field all its own. It will have a “Pet Type” field and a “Species” field and all the appointment history and notes about that particular pet.
The other super powerful feature of custom objects is that you can relate records to each other, helping you keep track of things in ways where spreadsheets may fail.
For example, your pets can be related to your contacts. So, in your pet record, there will be a field called “Owner” that will have crazy bird lady’s name in it, so you know which birds are hers.
And if you went to the contact record for crazy bird lady, you’d see a list of all 47 of her birds. You could sort them or click on them to see the details. It’s beautiful.
So if you want to alert any bird moms about the raptor flu, you’ll just go to the bird object, make a new group of birds where “Species is equal to Raptor,” and voila! You have your list.
In just a few clicks, you can email the owners of all these raptors with a warning to keep their birds inside until the flu passes.
In the next section of this course, I’ll show you how you can create a customer portal where crazy bird lady can log in and view all the records for her birds, see which ones are supposed to be taking what medications, when their next appointments are and so on.
Now you can see why it’s important to use custom objects when you want to store records that may be related to but are different than your contacts.
Your account also comes with some additional objects that you can turn on with a click in the administration section, such as Deals and Companies. These are useful for B2B sales teams who want to keep track of all their contacts who work for the same company, or of several deals with the same contact that may be in different stages of your pipeline.
Of course, you can create your own custom objects from scratch, and that’s what this course is all about. I’ll show you more on that later.
But first, it’s important to understand how objects can be related to each other, and why. This is a key part of the setup process, which I’ll cover in the next video.
Let’s get to it!