28 Dec 2011

Getting Scannable: Practical QR Code Marketing Ideas

No one will deny, QR Code Marketing is the new mobile marketing trend for both large brands and small businesses alike. QR codes have a unique ability to break the barrier between offline campaigns and online marketing efforts in real time.  They’re also appealing because of their low cost of implementation. It also seems like your imagination is the limit when it comes to thinking up new and fresh ways to use QR codes.

Have you been thinking about using QR codes as another traffic source? Here are some tips on what’s involved and what your options and opportunities are.


Before You Even Start, Is your Site Optimized for Mobile?

This is an “Is QR code marketing right for you tip”. Your site needs to be ready to support a promotion before you start one. If your styles break when your site is viewed on a mobile device, then that’s a big problem. Make sure to address these types of issues before you launch any kind of QR Code campaign. I know the more enlightened audience here is probably saying “Duh!” to themselves but you’d be surprised, it happens…even to the best of us.


Styling Your QR Codes

I don’t want to hate on the black and white checker box but, it’s not pretty. And you don’t want the QR code to stand out like a sore thumb on your poster or catalog etc. You have several options when it comes to making your QR Codes a little sexier.

  • You can change its color and you can soften edges.
  • By tweaking some of the settings (change correction rate to 30%) when you generate your QR code, you can get it to work when up to 30% of the code is corrupted.
  • You can manipulate your QR codes and add images inside of them. Keep in mind though, adding 30% correction rate will make your QR code more noisy, since there will be a lot of redundancy in the image i.e. more dots in the QR code.

If you’re still curious you can check out some pimp’d out QR codes here.


You Have Options When it Comes to QR Codes

Most of us have only so far been exposed to the traditional QR code: the little back box with the 80’s TV static in it. Even when you style it up, it’s still “ehhhhh” at best. Enter: Microsoft Tag (MS Tag). It is far more customizable in terms of design and feel. Keep in mind though; there are some important differences to note between QR Codes and MS Tags.

One of the biggest differences is that QR codes are open source and MS Tags are proprietary technology. This is important because you can create regular QR codes anywhere but you can only create MS tags using Microsoft’s software. I thought this was important to mention. I’m an open source girl; I can’t be the only one out there.

Another area where the two codes are different is in their ‘scan share’ or adoption rate. I had trouble finding clear data for this because QR code companies and Microsoft are both reticent to share it. It does seem that MS Tags are performing better in the magazine industry and QR codes are dominating the space in most other areas.

The biggest question on most people’s mind is cost. Both QR codes and MS tags are free at this time. According to Microsoft, they say they will give a two year advanced notice before charging for the service.


Test Your QR Code on Multiple Readers

It would be really unfortunate if you went to launch your campaign only to find out that the QR codes on those new 5,000 ads do not work! ::shudder:: Don’t play yourself, make sure to test your QR code on multiple readers before anything goes to print. Also, keep in mind that when it comes to QR codes, bigger is better. Furthermore, be weary of highly reflective surfaces like laminates, because they may interfere when people try to scan the tag.


Know Your Audience

I think this is important for two reasons. Should you do a QR code campaign? If the smart phone adoption rate for your target audience is low, then perhaps a QR code campaign isn’t going to be your strongest effort.

Knowing your audience is also a factor when it comes to deciding on if you should include language that gives some kind of instruction about how to use the QR code.  According to Tim Donnelly of Inc. Magazine, “Some experts recommend including a small icon or text instruction in your ad campaign to let people know how to use the tag.”


Have Clear Objectives & Calls to Action for Your Campaign

Have a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish with your QR code marketing campaign.

  • A basic goal might be to ‘get more impressions to onsite product pages from print catalogs’ or ‘get more Facebook likes’. Although this is a new traffic source, the same rules apply as when you’re trying to set up a campaign for any other traffic source to your site or social media profiles.
  • With that in mind, it is key to have a distinct call to action for your campaign. According to Ed Jordan, CEO of JAGTAG “lots of campaigns fail because there’s a call to action, and the call to action is poor.” This is not surprising because many campaigns just add QR codes to their posters or other print ads and do not offer any kind of incentive to pull your phone out of your pocket and scan.
  • Getting customers to scan is the same as any conversion action, there has to be something in it for the potential visitor. Some popular examples are ‘enter our contest’, ‘get coupon here’ ‘take our virtual tour’, ‘ view product details’ and many more.

Also, make sure that the call to action is something that moves the needle for your objective for the campaign.


Track Your Campaign

One of the truly beautiful things about online marketing in general, is that you can track anything and everything. QR codes are no exception. The down and dirty way to track QR code analytics is to track basic data such as the number of scans by using codes generated with the bit.ly URL shortener. For those of you seeking a more comprehensive solution, you can use a QR code management system which will give you richer data. New code management solutions are coming out every day, and there are no third party comparisons discussing the relative benefit of them. So I suggest just exploring your options and finding what the best fit is for you, given the size and scope of your campaign.


…I Can’t Do a Whole Post Without Talking Search at All…

When I found out about QR codes my first thought was, what a great way to get +1’s, likes, and tweets! YUM. Although, going into this is a touch off topic for this post, I can’t lie, my second thought when I started thinking more about QR codes was to leverage offline advertising and include it on a poster. Something like ‘ scan this code to enter a contest to win _____.’ Once they scan, visitors would be sent to a fan page and shown a FB fangate to ‘like’ our page to enter the contest, or a page to tweet X to get Y for free, etc, etc.

Overall, my impression was that this is a great way to use offline to boost your online community, It allows you to really build a profile of your customers and keep them floating in your network with the potential of getting future conversions. Oh and most importantly – for search purposes at least – you can use QR codes like this to boost social indicators from Facebook, Twitter, and Google + in search engines.

The future is freakin’ cool =)


Additional Resources