You may have started to notice those square dotted symbols in magazine ads and on posters, then asked yourself what they are, only to be told the equally baffling answer…they are QR Codes.

So what are QR Codes?

A QR Code is a two dimensional bar code that contains data to connect your real world customers to the digital online world.

Using a smartphone such as an iPhone or Android device you simply scan the QR Code using a QR code Reader app which will then take you to a website, a map address, load an email address or add contact details to your mobile phone.

QR stands for Quick Response and is a fast and easy way to connect your customers to the information they need…wherever they happen to be.

QR Codes for Small Business

For small businesses, QR Codes have opened up a wealth of new marketing opportunities which seem to be passing the major corporations by. QR Codes are free to create and can be tracked so you know just how many people are scanning your code and viewing your information. This means you can quantify the number of responses to your advertising and work out your ads ROI.

So how can a small business use QR Codes? Grab your smartphone, because here’s a few examples:

  • link to a mobile website
    By linking to a mobile optimised website you have the opportunity to give your visitor the information they need at the click of a button, right at the very moment they need it. This is extremely powerful and is best explained with a quick example. An electrician puts a sticker containing a QR code on the customers fusebox. One day, the customer comes home and discovers there is a power cut. They can simply scan the QR Code at the fusebox, check if the electician does emergency callouts and then tap a link to dial his phone number!
  • Coupons
    Discount coupons using QR Codes are a great way to give customers an incentive to visit your business during the quiet times such as just after Christmas and the New Year or perhaps that slow period in the early evening between the lunchtime rush and the night owls. For businesses such as restaurants, it is common for QR Codes to link directly to the coupon rather than to the home page of the website. But there’s another ‘bonus’ reason to use a QR Code. See, most reader apps will store the QR Code, giving the customer access to repeat offers, boosting their overall lifetime value to your business.
  • Enhanced Product Info
    If you run a retail store, you could provide QR Codes next to products that link to a mobile optimised web page containing more information about the product. Include an image of the product, a brief description and possibly the product specifications and people can scan now, then compare later without the pressure of a salesperson breathing down their neck.
  • Recipes or tutorials
    QR Codes are a great way to link people to information. If you run a grocery store, why not set up QR Codes to link to recipes that contain a list of ingredients they can buy from your store. If you sell products you can link the QR Code to tutorials that show viewers how to use the product.
  • Estate Agent Boards
    Estate Agents are slowly catching on to the benefits of QR codes. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many using them to their best just yet. Many Estate Agents are printing QR Codes onto the property sheet in their showroom window, which often link to a website giving more information about the listing. However, many of the sites I have seen are NOT optimised for mobile, meaning that the poor viewer has to scroll around the page to find the information they are looking for. QR Codes are also ideal for placing on the advertising board outside the property too!

More ideas

Creating a QR Code

Creating QR Codes for your business is both free and easy and as always, there are a number of ways to do it depending on what you intend to use the code for. Here’s a few of my favourite methods:

  • Bit.ly
    The Bit.ly service is actually a URL shortener with a QR Code creator built in. This is especially useful if you have a website that produces the long and ugly web page addresses typical of shopping cart databases. Using Bitly you can reduce the long URL to a much shorter one simply by pasting the original into the box provided. A shortened Bitly URL is then created with the corresponding QR Code at the side. Simply download the image and you are free to use it in your own marketing material. By adding a plus sign + to the end of the Bitly URL you can see the click through statistics over time as well as important data such as country location and referrer. There’s much more to Bitly so I suggest you take a look at the Bit.ly website when you have time.
  • Your Own Website
    There are a number of integrated software solutions that run on your own web server and many include sophisticated tracking built into the system. One such solution for servers running PHP is by Ventipix and comes in an advanced paid for solution as well as a free option that offers slightly less functionality. Visit http://www.ventipix.com/ for more info.
  • QR Code software
    While the two web solutions above offer pretty much everything you would need, the resulting QR Code image is quite small. Fine for a business card or small flyer perhaps but not good enough for say, the graphic on the side of your van. For this, you need an image that is substantially larger! This is where a little piece of software such as Quick QR comes in handy. It has been created to produce QR Codes to any size you may desire as well as the option to change the colours to blend in with your current requirements. It runs on PCs and can be downloaded here. One word of caution – the first time you use it, there’s a chance your firewall or antivirus software will complain. Don’t worry, it is totally clean, it’s just that it has never run on your computer before. If you are still concerned, simply use one of the other options mentioned above.

Quick QR Code Creator Tutorial

Conclusions

Overall, QR Codes are a great, free way to pull your real world customers into your online website where you can inform, educate or sell them on doing business with you. Don’t miss the boat, do it NOW!