QR codes might be the most under-utilized—and misunderstood—of the digital marketing tools. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find just as many blogs and articles in praise of the codes as you will those who disparage and vilify these speckled tools.
Yet I’m pro-QR code. When used thoughtfully and strategically, QR codes can help extend your reach, drive traffic to your social networking profiles and/or website and boost your sales. Consider this perspective from Mashable, which proclaims that QR codes tie real-world marketing initiatives to the mobile web. And that’s exactly what they do. Apply a QR code to a piece of print advertising, a direct mail supplement or a storefront, to name a few, and you provide consumers with a gateway into a digital portal that can offer them any number of resources: contact information, product details, a virtual store, catalogs, instructional videos—the possibilities are nearly endless!
And contrary to some belief, the use of QR codes is on the rise. Consider this recent study completed by Forrester Research, which says more people are using QR codes this year than last—five percent compared to one percent, in fact. In case you’re curious, Android owners are the biggest QR code users, according to a study synopsis published on PR Newser.
Like other digital marketing tools, QR codes earn a negative reputation when they’re not used properly. You can’t just apply a code to a print or other source and expect to reap a steady flow of traffic and sales. Just as you create a social media strategy and think through other digital marketing initiatives, a QR code marketing campaign requires planning, preparation and monitoring. If you’re interested in launching a QR code-based campaign for your business or brand, consider the following steps for a successful experience.
How To Create A Successful QR Code Campaign
1) Plan and define. When you began using Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site, you created a plan first, right? After all, you don’t want to simply launch your brand into the social space without defining your goals and objectives. The same is true for QR codes. As you begin your campaign, carefully think through the purpose of the code by considering these questions:
- What is the code’s purpose?
- What is the code connected to? Are you featuring a single product or item? Do you want to showcase an entire product line or brand?
- Do you want to get consumer information such as an email address through the code?
2) Create a call to action. Consider your QR code as yet another gateway to your web presence. Perhaps you want to create an incentive, such as a certain discount or reduced price when consumers scan the code. If you opt to incentivize the experience, make sure you clearly explain the incentive in the literature that accompanies or displays the QR code.
3) Consider the user experience. QR codes may be small, but their design and interface is no less important than your website. Many QR codes don’t work because they’re not able to be scanned, or are placed in a poor locale (like a billboard) that doesn’t encourage prolonged interaction—or any interaction, for that matter.
Design options exist if you’d like to create something that’s more colorful and eye-catching than the traditional black and white code. A number of free tools exist, too, to help you generate your own QR code. Again, keep the user in mind—don’t create a code that’s so complicated it won’t scan. Sure, it might be pretty—but if it doesn’t work properly, it’s useless.
Think about what’s on the other side of your QR code, too. It’s best to send users to a landing page or mobile version of your site. Are those materials well designed and up to par? I’m a stickler for user experience, so ensuring that each step of the process is thoughtfully created will translate into positive results from your target audience—and the higher likelihood that your QR code will continue to deliver results over a long-term period.
4) Measurement. Just as you monitor analytics from your Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or website, you’ll want to keep an eye on user statistics throughout the life of your QR code campaign. Try not to get bogged down in daily scans and other smaller numbers. Instead, focus on a longer-term period to ensure that your QR code continues to drive engagement. If you notice 0 scans, or a sharp decline in activity, you may want to implement additional testing of your code—and its related collateral—to ensure that everything is working properly.
If you’re considering a QR code campaign as a long-term option, keep the content in mind. Your actual code doesn’t necessarily need to change, but you’ll want to periodically update the content that’s received once someone scans the code, especially if you’re targeting repeat visitors. In this way, QR codes are similar to blogs. You wouldn’t expect someone to continue to visit your blog if you don’t post any new updates. The same goes for QR codes. Rotating a fresh supply of content will encourage people to scan your code more than once, increasing the chance that they’ll become a long-term customer—and even a brand ambassador.
5) Be creative! As you create and fine-tune your QR code campaign, don’t be afraid to be creative! Consider some of these ideas from Fast Company magazine, including a scavenger hunt, storefront displays, laptop stickers and T-shirts. Let’s say you own a gallery. You could create QR codes that would be displayed by each piece of art, giving gallery visitors a digital gateway through which they can purchase the piece, learn more about the artist and see other work, too. The great thing about QR codes is that they’re tiny but powerful—you can pack a lot of information into the site that’s connected to the code, giving users a rich, informative experience that inspires them to learn, connect and buy.
With a little pre-planning and ongoing diligence, there’s no reason that you can’t create a successful QR code campaign for your brand, business or product. With mobile marketing increasingly on the rise, QR codes are a great way to tap into a flourishing smartphone and tablet market.
Have you used a QR code campaign? I’d love to hear about your experience so far. And if you’re going to modify your campaign based on the aforementioned tips, I’d love to hear about that, too.