Curious about QR codes? Get ready for them to rock your marketing world.
QR scanning is a new way that your audience wants to interact with you, and it’s time to jump in—14 million mobile users in the U.S. scanned a QR code last month, and that number is only going to explode. In fact, here in the U.S., we are late to this party—in Japan scanning QR codes is just a part of life.
Personally, I’m totally enchanted with the possibilities of QR codes. Borderline obsessed with them, actually. So let’s dig in to your burning marketing questions like….WHAT are QR codes exactly? WHO should use them and WHY? WHERE can they be used? WHEN would they be used? And HOW do you use them?
Who: Every marketer.
You might hear the term “QR code” and think it has nothing to do with you. But no matter what or how you market, QR codes matter. In a big way. QR codes are a fantastic way to engage with your audience at trade shows, in any printed material (ads, direct mail, brochures, business cards, product literature, etc), in PDFs, on your product packaging, in your stores. Anytime, anywhere, QR codes will connect you with your audience in an immediate, tangible way.
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So whether you are a brand marketer, social marketer, direct marketer, mobile marketer, email marketer or anything in between, QR codes are on your rapidly approaching near-term horizon.
What: Little ‘bar code’ type things on everything you produce.
I like to think of a QR code as a direct link between offline and online. A QR code looks sort of like a square bar code that is readable by smartphones.They can be placed on any physical item (even a PDF, which I guess technically isn’t a physical item). When a QR code is present, a person with a phone equipped with a camera and a reader (like most smart phones) can scan the QR code to display text or contact information, go to a web page, transfer a vcard, etc.
Why: An immediate, trackable, easy way to connect with your audience ‘in the moment’.
If you haven’t drunk (drank?) the QR code kool-aid yet, it probably doesn’t sound very exciting to have little bar codes all over your stuff.
Yes, that’s a QR code on a boat hull. For real. But QR scanning is on the rise. Look around and you’ll probably find them in every nook and cranny—even on boat hulls! QR codes provide a phenomenal way for your audience to engage with you in a direct manner from offline to online.
With QR codes you have a simple, relevant direct response mechanism that is entirely trackable and measurable. It gives your audience—the people interacting with your product, driving by your storefront, getting your direct mail–with an instant, and easy way to engage with you (yes, people actually like scanning QR codes!).
Scanning a QR code is almost no work for the user—it’s simply great way to take a step towards engagement with your brand while ‘on the go’.
Where: Everywhere a person interacts with your brand, your store, your product.
Anywhere, and everywhere. Instead of waiting for the coming explosion of QR codes, you have the opportunity to be at the front of the pack.
Here are just a few examples of how you might use QR codes—these are the tip of the iceberg:
- You are a boat manufacturer. When people step on your demonstration boat, they can scan a QR code that opens a virtual video tour highlighting key USPs and features of the boat as the prospective customer walks around on board. A constant call to action on the video tour gives the user an option to have a brochure emailed to them, or have a sales person contact them.
- You are a B2B marketer. You have whitepapers, product brochures and more. Each of your PDFs, and printed items, can have a QR code on them. When a person scans the QR code, it can take them to a message-specific landing page, just for that collateral, which gives the visitor the option to request more information via email, get in touch with sales, or subscribe to your newsletter.
- You are a drapes and blind company. In your print ad you place an ad-specific QR code with a special offer as the call to action. The people who scans the QR code go to a landing page where they can take an advantage of a special offer when they book an in-home consultation.
- You are exhibiting at a trade show. You run a QR code promo—visitors to the booth who scan the code and complete brief questionnaire are entered into a contest. Instead of just standard ‘badge’ scans, you can collect additional profile information on visitors.
- Your product package insert has a QR code for the customer to get package instructions and warranty information. Customers scan, complete a short form to get the instructions. You have turned an anonymous customer into a new, known, registered user. Upsell, cross-sell and nurture them to your heart’s content.
When: Now. Run, don’t walk, to implement QR codes.
It may seem like integrating QR codes into your marketing is optional or on the distant horizon, but your audience is already scanning QR codes and starting to get used to interacting with brands in this way.
So, the time is now. According to this site (with a nice info graphic too!), QR code scanning increased over 4500% between Q1 2010 to Q1 2011.
How: Generate a code, put it on your stuff, have it link to a targeted landing page.
Getting started with QR codes is not as hard as you think.
It’s pretty easy to set up a QR code and place them on your stuff. Assuming you have a landing page management platform (ah hem….like LiveBall!), getting trackable, targeted pages created should be pretty straightforward. Don’t make QR codes and their landing pages become a mountain for your marketing team. Just generate the code, put it on your stuff (ideally different codes for different stuff), and create matched landing pages with your actionable content. Bam! You’re a QR marketer, just like that. A good technical primer for marketers is this one from Angie Schottmuller on Search Engine Watch, 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes.
I’m not quite ready to recommend a QR code generator, but I will say we’ve used Google’s and so far we are happy. I expect we’ll be trying some other services in the future as well.
So, go get ‘em! You can do it. For marketers, QR codes represents one of the most exciting developments for engaging your audience in a new, relevant, interactive manner.
I’ll post some QR code examples from around town and from ion’s own marketing soon. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you are using QR codes.
I’ll leave you with a quote from a recent ComScore press release:
“QR codes demonstrate just one of the ways in which mobile marketing can effectively be integrated into existing media and marketing campaigns to help reach desired consumer segments,” said Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile. “For marketers, understanding which consumer segments scan QR codes, the source and location of these scans, and the resulting information delivered, is crucial in developing and deploying campaigns that successfully utilize QR codes to further brand engagement.”