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Using QR codes for small business marketing

Seven years ago, entrepreneur Rico Elmore was on vacation when he failed to find a pair of sunglasses that would fit on his not-so-small noggin. Elmore’s hefty head experience left him with an ah-ha moment, and today he is the proud proprietor of Fatheadz Eyewear, a company that makes oversize sunglasses and extra wide eyewear for folks with large heads.

Always looking for ways to innovate, Elmore has recently been using mobile marketing and in particular QR codes to engage customers in making a once-boring piece of print an interactive experience.

QR codes (Quick Response Codes) are commonly aimed at mobile phone users. If you have a camera equipped phone with a QR code reader application, this will scan the image of the QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the telephone’s browser.

“In early 2011, I was flipping through an outdoor retailer trade publication when I saw a QR code in the magazine,” says Elmore. “I thought it was very cool and decided to look into how we might start using them in our marketing.”

Within 60 days, Fatheadz had integrated the use of QR codes into its campaign involving the ongoing sponsorship of racecar drivers.

“For all of our sponsored drivers, we give them a ‘Hero’ card they can autograph and give out to their fans,” says Elmore. “We put a QR code on the back, and when the fan scans it on their mobile device, up pops our web page.”

Once on the website, fans can see information about their favorite racecar driver, including which sunglasses they wear — and buy them. Elmore says the QR code campaign has increased web traffic by 10 percent.

What’s next? Elmore says he plans to increase the use of QR codes to prospective retailers by printing them on business cards and other marketing collateral and then linking them to product videos on his site.

Dan Hollings, an expert on mobile marketing, says that video is one of the most effective uses of QR codes.

“The key is to create a short video (under three minutes) about your product or service or some useful information relating to your product or service,” says Hollings. “Then post the video on your website, YouTube and Facebook and link a QR code to it that brings the visitor to the video. It’s as simple as that.”

Even though QR codes are relatively simple to set up and use, many small businesses don’t know where to begin. To start, check out Qr.net and createandtrack.com, just two of the hundreds of sites that offer QR code creation.

Once you’ve created a code, Hollings says you can then easily link it to a video, your website or a podcast. Once you know where you want to send your potential clients, the next step is to promote it. Publish your QR code on your business cards, flyers, DVDs, brochures, mailers, signage, or any other material you give to potential clients. Hollings says he’s even seen them placed on coffee mugs as a giveaway at conferences.

Still feeling a bit shy about bringing QR codes into your marketing mix? Get your feet wet by using one yourself. Now that you know what to look for, you’ll see them everywhere. So download a QR reader on your smartphone and scan away. Who knows, you might just end up with a pair of your favorite racecar driver’s sunglasses.

Has your small business been doing anything with QR Codes or other forms of mobile marketing? We would love to hear your comments.

Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today’s media landscape — social and otherwise.

 

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24 comments

Kaleb
17 August 2011 #

Hi Karen – nice and timely post.

I’m working on a comms plan for a client of ours and we are looking to use QR codes as an added benefit for the consumer.

However one of my major concerns regarding the use of QR codes is that poor strategy (i.e. the result gives the consumer no added benefit) could mean we will never see their true potential.

In saying that, I think in time RFID and NFC will take their place.

You can view my post here if interested: http://marque.co.nz/qr_code_marketing

One other thing – the qr code on the post is from the back of my business card. Being a branding and design company we tweaked the design a little. When scanned my details are loaded into the users phone. Nice and easy way to share details.

Cheers

Kaleb

Ric
17 August 2011 #

It’s so awesome to see these taking off now in NZ. Before I joined the epic accountancy firm that is DJCA (www.djca.co.nz), I ran a small marketing business and loved QR codes. I even still own qrcodes.co.nz which is just a free whitepaper on how to use them in business.
Great Blog, thanks

Blair Hughson
17 August 2011 #

They’re definitely pretty nifty. I see Tone magazine has started putting them on ads and articles in recent issues.

Still lots of people who don’t know what they are though, so I’ve found they’re really only good if you’re targeting a geeky market. No doubt this will change in time.

Karen Leland
17 August 2011 #

Ric and Blair,

Thanks for your comments. I think we are only just beginning to the use of QR codes in marketing for small businesses.

Blair Hughson
17 August 2011 #

Agreed… you’ve inspired me to start using them more… hence the new gravatar!

Vincent Casalaina
18 August 2011 #

I just finished a video for the Laser sailboat. Based on this post, I was able to talk to them about adding QR codes attached to POP and product brochures. Thanks!

Nigel
18 August 2011 #

Hi Karen – this is an interesting idea.

Do you have any information on who uses QR codes – from the reading side, as opposed to the businesses. What proportion of the population, male/female, age, socio-economic group, seniority at work etc? That would be really interesting!

Karen Leland
18 August 2011 #

Vincent;

That is great. Congratulations on taking this and using it right away. I need to follow your example :-) Cobblers shoes and all that.

Aaron Green
18 August 2011 #

Hi Karen, We’ve been using these for some time on our print ads and its a fantastic way of measuring who’s looking at them. (scroll down to bottom of our article here to see them http://www.behance.net/gallery/Choosing-Project-Management-Software-for-Creatives/1821427 ) Check out the amazing Hyundai Ad here though http://www.simplyzesty.com/technology/7-videos-showing-innovative-uses-of-qr-codes-in-marketing/ – impressive…

Karen Leland
18 August 2011 #

Nigel;

Good question. Here is a link to some of the latest research about how consumers are using QR codes. http://www.onlinemarketing-trends.com/2011/04/smartphone-users-increasingly-using-qr.html

Interesting to note that most are using to get a coupon, discount or deal or access info – better than 50%. Hope this answers your question.

Jerry Zhao
18 August 2011 #

Thanks Karen, just tried out my first QR code! so easy!

Just one question, can I change the information behind the QR code once it has been generated? For example, if I created a QR code for my business address, what can I do if later I moved to a new address?

Karen Leland
18 August 2011 #

Jerry;

I’m a really good marketing consultant but I’m not the world’s best techie :-)
However I believe that the QR code since it goes directly to what you send it to, any changes to the landing page will be reflected. Think what happens when you change a page on your website. Your URL stays the same but when people put it in, the new page on your website pops up. That being said, I’m not a technical expert on this, so you may want to check with smarter technological minds than mind. All good questions.

Chuck Rowland
18 August 2011 #

Re Nigel’s comment on QR code useage data – I think everyone will find this information interesting as the implication is that QR Code use is really picking up and mostly by the Ladies. The title sort of gives it away.
http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/02/09/mobio-reports-qr-code-use-has-exploded-by-1200-percent/

Hopefully the target of the QR code provides a useful experience to the mobile user and not just to a regular website.

Here in the backwoods of Nova Scotia I think that QR useage is still some way off. I am however trying hard to get Local Business owners to see the potential.

Chuck Rowland
18 August 2011 #

Re Jerry’s comment on address change. If the QR code is directing to a url then just change the information at the url. The target address stays the same. If you have used a Vcard or Mecard QR code then you have given yourself an excuse to contact all your contacts to advise them of a new QR code. The same with a Location QR code it is constructed specifically for that address.

Hope this helps.

Jerry Zhao
18 August 2011 #

Thanks Karen and Chuck.

I am going to create a mobile version of page for my QR code. Will print it on my new business card! Oh yeah!

Chuck Rowland
19 August 2011 #

@Jerry, The problem with producing a mobile version of an existing web page is that there are so many different mobile device types that the coding required for the website can be very complex. As a QR code is stand alone – you direct traffic to wherever you want – then using a mobile site provider that is configured for all mobile device types makes sense.

Have a look at a web page from my regular site that is “mobile optimized” – can be viewed easily on a mobile device. There is a QR code that takes scanners to a specific page but it is also part of a stand alone mobile website. It will still look good on any mobile device. Hit the home – little house – button and it takes you to the menu for the site. Really cool.

There is some simple html code that will redirect mobile device users directly to a mobile website when accessing your regular website with a mobile device.

http://www.chucksinternetmarketingservices.com/mobile-seo.html

If you need any assistance just ask.

Jerry Zhao
19 August 2011 #

Thanks Chuck, it looks great!

Kent accountants
21 August 2011 #

QR codes like lots of technology will take time to be full accepted. Some businesses sectors like accountancy will be slow on the uptake.

Karen Leland
21 August 2011 #

Just wanted to say how much I appreciate everyone contributing web sites, info and the like to help deepen our understanding of the topic. I think QR codes are a great low hanging fruit of marketing that we should all be using. Note to self, add them to my next printing of biz cards.

Surgy
22 August 2011 #

To be honest, reading all of this makes me feel a bit overwhelmed. I checked out the “download a QR reader…” site but does anyone have recommendations as to which are better than others??

Ric
22 August 2011 #

Hi Surgy.
Depends on what u have. I always used kawya. They’re much of a muchness. iPhones have heaps of options. Hope this helps

Stephen Mann
18 December 2011 #

Hi Karen, would you please allow me to link to this post?

Regards,

Steve

pat mulligan
15 May 2012 #

very nice artical. We have a patent on placing decals on the banner space of eyewear. We use these spaces to design custom event promotion decals. With in this process we will add in QR scanner code so that businesses can hand the decals out at events or have them as part of eyewear already. These QR decals could have business info, athelet info or stats or just use it for a quick contest and placed on the eyewear per event..

Brennan
6 July 2012 #

Couple things. I may need a pair of Fathead sunglasses and I love using QR codes on everything. We currently use and recommend them on biz cards for some quick smartphone website lovin’. Also, a real estate firm in my office building has them wrapped on their cars, so that’s taking it to whole different level. One thing though: How slow are they going on the highway so that someone can scan that thing? Ha! Of course I’m kidding…the other person just has to speed up.

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