From the September 2011 issue of our newsletter, Let's Grow. For a FREE subscription, CLICK HERE.

A Brief Overview of Marketing With QR Codes

No doubt about it, smartphones are turning marketing on its head. Mobile adoption is moving so rapidly that by 2014 -- three short years from now -- mobile Internet use is projected to surpass desktop Internet use.

While mobile commerce and apps can take considerable time and expense to implement, there's one mobile marketing technique that every company can use right away, and for free: QR codes. Short for Quick Response codes, these square bar codes take smartphone owners to web sites by scanning instead of typing, making mobile surfing simple. So simple, in fact, that QR scanning has grown by a stunning 4,549% in first quarter 2011 vs. first quarter 2010.

Despite the growing popularity of QR codes, many marketers are using them badly -- confusing or annoying customers in the process. Here's a short list of best practices to help you avoid those pitfalls:

Explain how to use them. Despite the increased use of QR codes, not everyone understands what they are or how to use them. Saying "scan this with your smartphone," and, if space allows, telling readers how to download a free QR code reader will help educate your audience. In addition, provide the destination URL for readers who can't scan the code, or choose not to.

Tell users what they'll find. Don't just tell users to scan your QR code -- tell them why they should. Does it lead to customer reviews that will help them make a buying decision? A video with planting instructions? A coupon with a special offer? Let them know what's in it for them!

Lead to a mobile-friendly site. Nothing is more frustrating than to scan a QR code and land at a web site with type too small to read, navigational buttons too tiny to press, or a screen too wide to view without scrolling. If you're asking prospects to visit your site on their smartphone, make sure it's mobile-friendly.

Think beyond your home page. Your home page is almost never the best landing page for a QR code. Home pages tend to be multi-purpose tables of contents, a stopping point on the way to something else. QR codes need to deliver more targeted content, or you'll only annoy your prospect. According to a recent survey by Vision Critical, the most common uses of QR codes are:

  • Delivering discounts or coupons (53%)
  • Accessing additional information (52%)
  • Entering a sweepstakes (33%)
  • Signing up to receive more information (26%)
  • Accessing a video (24%)
  • Making a purchase (23%)
  • Interacting with social media (23%)

Use your QR code to take customers to a special offer ... a newsletter signup page ... a Facebook promotion ... an instructional video ... or to place a customer service call ... and you'll provide value they'll appreciate. QR codes can be used not only in ads and catalogs, but on products, packaging, labels and more.

Work out the kinks. Before publishing your QR code, be sure to test it on different types of smartphones with different types of QR code readers.

Using a URL shortening service, such as bitly is advisable for long URLs. The longer the URL, the more complex the QR code. The more complex the QR code, the higher the chance that some smartphones may have difficulty scanning it.

For the technical details of generating and using QR codes, have a look at these two excellent articles: Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes and 5 Steps to a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign. Then think about what content your customers might appreciate having delivered by means of a QR code, and dive right in!

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Helpful Articles

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