How To- Use QR Codes In Marketing

QR Codes... Great For Business

QR codes are turning up everywhere these days – on buses, magazines, television, billboards and recently- cupcakes.  If you aren't using them in your marketing campaigns yet, this tutorial is for you! It will give you the basics, along with some fresh & affordable ideas to help you promote your business.

What is it? A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of matrix barcode (two-dimensional code) that has become widely used in marketing, entertainment and in-store labeling.  This also known as mobile tagging because smartphones can be used to read the codes.

Why use QR codes in your marketing? According to research, 14 million U.S. mobile phone users scanned QR or barcodes last June alone.  The majority of users were between the ages of 25 and 44 and the highest percentage of users were in the $100k+ income level.  That seems like a pretty good reason, and QR codes can be readily integrated into your current business marketing practices to bring your online content to a mobile audience in real time. Side note- I recently attended a concert and noticed a prominent local business had a banner hanging in the stadium listing their website and phone number.  Great visibility but I couldn’t help but think of the missed opportunity- 18,000 people wondering around and statistically, the majority probably had a smart phone in their pocket!

Who's using them?  As much as QR codes are on the rise, many small to mid-size businesses seem reluctant to incorporate them into their marketing. One of the largest barriers preventing people from using QR codes is simply lack of awareness of the technology.

How do you create a QR code?  You'll find tons of sites online offering free QR code generators with a quick Google search. They are very simple to use, just make sure you test your code before introducing it to the general public.  Many sites offer additional services like tracking and analytics but that's unnecessary if you use a site like bitly, where you can shorten, customize and track your links for free.

5 Tips To Using QR Codes

1. Be Everywhere

QR codes should be incorporated into all digital and traditional media so the consumer has 360-degree exposure to the mobile marketing campaign. Here are a few ways that you can use QR codes to spruce up your marketing strategies:

  • On business cards: A fast and simple way to use QR codes for your own professional purposes is to place them on business cards. Generate a barcode that directs scanners to your business Facebook Page or your website to help new contacts find you or your business faster.
  • On marketing materials: You’ve got fliers, brochures, programs, handouts and a myriad of other materials in your media kit- maybe even water bottles. Add QR codes to direct viewers to a particular offer, video, get them to follow you on Facebook/Twitter, or point them to a mobile-friendly landing page (no flash!) that promotes a new campaign. 
  • In storefront / sales office windows:  Place QR code in your window. You can use this code to encourage Foursquare checkins or point scanners to a special offer on your Facebook page or website.
  • Outdoor advertising: Billboards, signs, posters & banners.
  • T-shirts: A pretty good conversation starter and way to promote your business. Although this could work for anyone, recently we put them on band t-shirts and the members wore them with a link to their new single...

2. Provide Useful and Valuable Incentives 

If you really want people to pay attention to your QR codes, make them good for something fun. Why not reward those who scan it with 10% off or a free gift with purchase? Give them something small to thank them for their patronage. Simply create a custom QR code for the freebie you want to offer. You could even get creative and hide the QR code offers online, like on your Facebook page or website, or somewhere inside your store or sales office.

Need some ideas?

  • Enter a contest to win
  • Freebies
  • Deliver a discount coupon
  • Take a virtual tour
  • Demonstrate a new product or service with video 
  • Download a free mp3
  • Give VIP access

3. Enhance Your Branding 

What’s black & white and square all over?  Not necessarily QR codes! Lately we’ve have requests for customized QR codes incorporating logos, brand colors and even a team mascot.  In addition to driving traffic and helping with brand loyalty, QR codes can go a long way in enhancing brand recognition.  (Here's a fitting QR code from HBO's True Blood series and one we did for our client that owns a dog grooming shop.)

4. Think Outside The Box 

As part of an integrated ad campaign, Calvin Klein placed huge QR codes around Manhattan and Los Angeles. Labelled as “GET IT UNCENSORED”, the codes gave consumers access to a video created specifically for mobile, and centered around their latest introduction, Calvin Klein Jeans X.  Once played, they could then share the code with their friends via Facebook & Twitter, introducing a viral aspect of the campaign. From a consumers’ perspective, the ease of interaction is huge advantage, allowing them to engage instantly. As for Calvin Klein, the analytics made available through the QR code mechanism enabled them to capture valuable data and measure statistics around the volume and nature of the consumer’s interactions.

5. Practice Makes Perfect 

These best practices will maximize your success with QR codes:

  • Test your QR codes with multiple readers and devices- iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
  • Use link shorteners to create clean codes ( shortens links & tracks traffic).
  • Make your codes at least 1″ x 1″- larger is better.
  • Avoid using codes on highly reflective surfaces.
  • Use a quality QR code generator.

A couple of notes about this article- I discovered even one of my technologically savvy friends was a bit confused about QR codes so feel free to reach out if you need a helping hand. Also, the QR codes shown here were enhanced by designers; QR generators provide very little customization options.  Remember, the most important thing is to make sure your QR code works.  After one unsuccessful scan, the consumer won't be trying again... Best of luck!  Let us know how QR codes work for you...

Joyce Skarka