How to get the best out of QR codes in your B2B marketing

For a short time, the QR code was the poster child of marketing. While the frenzy of discussion about them disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, QR codes still have their uses in moving prospects from offline communications to online engagement.

If you are considering using a QR code in your marketing, make sure you bear the following in mind:

1. Is there a reason for this QR code to exist?

For a short period of time, QR codes were being used anywhere possible. But, as with all marketing innovations, overuse erodes the value over time. QR codes should only be applied where they provide your prospect with a beneficial move from offline to online communications. We personally don’t feel that contact details on the reverse of a business card offer enough benefit, but enabling a prospect to complete a form and take advantage of an offer does.

Outsourced marketing QR code

QR code example: Scan this (or click) and sign up for our monthly newsletter

2. QR codes should appear in printed or offline media only

QR codes by definition are to be scanned, usually by a mobile device, and are designed to shortcut tedious URL or data entry into said smart device. Therefore, if the viewer is already on their computer or using their mobile device and can click a button or a hyperlink, there is no need for them to scan a QR code. Putting QR codes in online communication will, 99.9 per cent of the time, make you look silly – this post is in the 0.1%.

3. But your prospect must be online

While you QR code must not appear in online media, if you prospect doesn’t have an internet connection at a time when they should scan your QR code, how can they. The classic example of this slip up was the posters featuring QR codes on the London Underground – before Wi-Fi was available.

4. Time, place, privacy and security must be right

When was the last time your saw someone in the UK stand in the middle of the street and scan a QR on the side of a bus or building, or even on a poster? Never, right? We neither. We assume this is predominantly because humans are an intrinsically private race. Scanning a code on the street, we think, invites people to judge us based on what we are scanning. Sure, there are exceptions, but you are probably not interested in marketing to this minority.

In addition to giving your prospect privacy, you must also offer them security. Since it is possible for QR codes to be used maliciously, your prospect needs to feel secure when then scan. The next point also helps with this.

So, only use QR codes when you can plan the situation and environment in which the viewer will see it. If they don’t feel comfortable scanning the code, the QR code will be a failure.

5. Explain what will happen when they scan

QR codes with out explanations are scary. Make sure you tell your prospect, next to your QR code, exactly why they should scan it and what will happen. Take a leaf out of your landing page optimisation best practice and specific, positive, action oriented words. Something like ‘scan this to enter our competition for a chance to win and iPad’ would be good.

6. Connect to a mobile-friendly web page

While the web rendering capabilities of mobile devices are improving all the time, their screens are still small and mobile-ready (or responsive) websites are preferred by mobile users. Since QR codes, in marketing, are intended to be scanned by mobile devices, the link you embed must link to a mobile friendly page.

The scale of your application or campaign may not warrant the development of a completely bespoke landing page but you must at least test your landing page for mobile device compatibility. If your prospect can not properly interact with your landing page on a mobile device, the QR code was wasted.

7. Tag your URLs

QR codes are very scalable and can contain hundreds of characters of information within a square inch. You should therefore always tag your URLs, using the Google URL builder for example, so that traffic generated by your QR code and be separated out and analysed in Google Analytics.

For guidance on using Google’s URL builder read our post on improving advertising ROI using link tagging – while written from the perspective of online advertising ROI, the method for building tagged URL’s applies directly to QR code use.

8. Choose a reliable QR code generator and always test

A short while back we tested a host of free QR code generators with a bunch of popular iPhone QR code scanner apps. We were surprised that not all combinations worked with some QR codes being misinterpreted when scanned. The most reliable generator, that worked across all apps tested was Quickmark.

This was not a rigorous, scientific test, but it produced a result that we have, so far, been able to rely upon. Always test your QR code with an appropriate selection of readers before pulling the trigger on your campaign.

In case you are interested, the QR code reader that we ended up preferring after these tests was Qrafter by QRFreedom. We like the fact that Qrafter enables you to save QR codes for later and so on.

Put it all together

So your campaign meets the requirements of all 8 points above? Then you should have a good shot at successfully using a QR code to improve campaign performance. As mentioned earlier, it really comes down to doing everything you can to maximise the benefit for your prospect over other methods of taking the action you require.

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