Funny boxes have been appearing everywhere: on ads, direct mail pieces, billboards, and I’ve even seen them on t-shirts. You may have also seen them on your boarding pass the last time you traveled by airplane.
Those boxes are called “QR codes,” and many of you may already know about them and might even be using them. Or perhaps you just know that QR codes can be read by smart phones, but maybe you don’t know much more about them. You should, because they could turn out to be useful for your business.
QR stands for Quick Response. The boxes are similar to the bar codes you see on most products that encode information the cashier scans when you check out of a store. But QR codes go way beyond simple bar codes; they’re super matrix two-dimensional bar codes. That means they can hold much more information. A simple bar code holds only 20 numeric characters, but a QR code can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters.
The other major difference is that unlike bar codes that can only be read by industrial scanning devices, a QR code can be read by any smart phone or other mobile device that has downloaded the appropriate app. And the apps are free and widely available.
Plus, the software to create the codes (a QR code generator) is also free, and widely available. It would be inexpensive and fairly easy to get set up and could be a useful marketing tool.
Put It on Your Business Card
This is one of the simplest, but most effective uses of this technology. You can put a QR code on your business card that contains all the information that’s printed on your card. Your prospect can immediately scan the code with his smart phone, and all the information is automatically placed on his phone, with no keying necessary.
That means no lost cards, no typos, and no “I’ll do it later.” The process is immediate. And if part of the information is your web address, the person could select it and be taken directly to your site. Or, with your email, twitter, or text messaging address now programmed into his phone, he could easily get in touch with you.
This would work great for anyone who has a booth at a tradeshow or convention.
Put a Coupon or Other Information in Your Ad or Direct Mail Piece
Let’s say you have a postcard, sales letter, or a print ad in the newspaper, in the yellow pages, on a billboard – wherever. Add a QR code with a coupon for some special offer. The person could download it and have an immediate call to action.
Or use the QR code to provide directions to your business. Or a link to your web site. Or information about your products. If you run a restaurant, use it to present your menu, or daily specials. One of the benefits is that the code stays the same, but you can change the information the code leads to any time you want. So you can keep updating your menu, your offer, or anything else. The possibilities are endless.
Provide Additional Information or Get Information
You can put a QR code on a product that will enable your customer to download installation instructions, usage instructions, recipes, or information about related products. Or the QR code can lead to online forms where your customer provides contact information, fills out warranty information, provides feedback and testimonials, or can request information on other products of interest.
Your QR code could lead to MP3 downloads or videos, so, your ad can invite people to find out more about your product immediately. Your prospects scan the code and go directly to a video where you tell about the advantages of what you have to offer, or give a demonstration of how to use your product. It’s a great way to grab people’s interest. They’ll be intrigued and impressed by your ability to take advantage of the latest technology.
QR codes have been around for awhile and think their usage will continue to grow. They’re a popular technology, and since the QR code generators and the apps to read the codes are free, it won’t cost much to start experimenting with them.
Now for the big question … Should you be using QR Codes in your direct mail piece?
In my opinion, I’d only use them for a regional business where you are making a special offer to get prospects into your store or to call about a specific service.
If you are trying to directly sell a specific product (information, supplement, face glop, etc.) or trying to get someone into your online sales funnel (opt-in, video sales letter, etc.), then I would not use a QR Code. I think it would distract from the main purpose of the sales letter or postcard.