Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @MattSMansfield. Matt Mansfield is the Head Tour Guide at Matt About Business where he helps entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies use the web to manage and market their business by connecting online strategies and tactics with real-world results.
Small Biz Lady: What is a QR code?
Matt Mansfield: QR (stands for “quick response”) codes look like black (most often) squares with squiggly lines running through them.
The truth is that a QR code is really a type of bar code that was initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing. They were actually used for quite some time before some clever folks began to realize that QR codes could be used to link the online world with the real world in a way that is unique, fun and very, very useful.
You see, once a customer installs a free app (on their iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.), QR codes can be read by their mobile phone. Each code contains a hyperlink that takes them to a spot online, whether a plain web page or a special mobile-web page. QR codes are printed hyperlinks that actually work in the real world.
Small Biz Lady: What is the key benefit of using QR codes?
Matt Mansfield: The key benefit of QR codes is their ability to drive immediate action. For example, you can use QR codes to bring key information and marketing messages to customers when and where they are ready to take action. You can also enable customers to take action on the spot by making it possible to follow you on Twitter, “Like” you on Facebook and even buy your products and services.
Small Biz Lady: Are QR codes here to stay?
Matt Mansfield: One of the first questions I get asked about QR codes is if they are a passing fad or here to stay. Honestly, the jury is still out on that question with strong arguments on both sides of the fence. As with all new methods and tools, the approach I recommend is to evaluate whether your own business would benefit from its use.
One good point on the “Using QR codes” side is that it doesn’t cost much in either time or money to take them for a test drive so, if you believe they fit, you should go for it!
Small Biz Lady: What types of businesses benefit most from using QR codes?
Matt Mansfield: While any type of business can benefit from using QR codes, the type that benefit the most are ones that are offline. That’s because QR codes exist in the “Real World”, the place where customers live and interact with offline businesses. By using QR codes, an offline business is bringing the virtual world into the real world by presenting information and enabling functionality that up to now only existed online. That’s a powerful ability.
Small Biz Lady: What types of information can I provide using QR codes?
Matt Mansfield: The sky’s the limit when it comes to the information you can provide via QR codes. Some examples include:
- Nutritional information and recipes on menus;
- Price and product comparisons to help customers choose the correct item;
- Home tours and local demographics; and
- Much more!
Any information that helps a customer make the decision to take action is fair game here.
Small Biz Lady: What kind of marketing messages can I give at the point-of-sale?
Matt Mansfield: When it comes to marketing messages, the sky’s the limit here as well. Some ideas:
A branding story, perhaps even a video, of:
- How a product was made from beginning to end (great for handmade and “green” products);
- About your company philosophy (where that differentiates you from competitors); or
- How a product came to be — a product back-story (e.g. “I needed a better mousetrap, so I built one! Now you can have it, too!”).
- Special offers:
- Scan and get a coupon to use right away;
Remember, you want the customer to take action right now so make your message compelling!
Small Biz Lady: What actions can I enable when a customer scans a QR code?
Matt Mansfield: You can enable many actions for a customer to take after they scan your QR code and get taken to the online landing page or mobile site. As I mentioned earlier, you can ask customers to follow you on Twitter and to “Like” your Facebook page. You can also give directions to your location using the GPS on their phone and include ways for them to pay for your products and services. This is where the rubber meets the road with QR codes — getting your customers to take action.
Small Biz Lady: Can I collect customer information then a customer scans one of my QR codes?
Matt Mansfield: Scanning a QR code does not have to be a one-way transaction where the customer gets information and special offers and you get nothing. As mentioned above, you can enable your customer to take different actions, many of which enable you to capture customer information.
For example, you can collect an e-mail address before they have a coupon e-mailed to them for use on today’s purchase (they just show the coupon e-mail to the cashier).
Small Biz Lady: Where can I put QR codes so that customers can find them to scan?
Matt Mansfield: Where you put your QR code should be driven by where your customers hang out and can go hand-in-hand with the advertising that you already do.
For example, if you advertise in newspapers and magazines, include your QR code in those ads. If you send direct mail, assure your QR code is printed somewhere on each mailing. You can even use QR codes on your website — customers can simply scan them from the screen.
You can also display your QR code in many other places and this is where you can really get creative. Here are a few ideas:
Print up a poster to hang in your window and inside your location that invites folks to either follow you on Twitter or “Like” you on Facebook by scanning the code:
- If your local laws allow, make up a template that allows you to spray paint your QR code on a sidewalk; and
- Print your QR codes on t-shirts, hats and shopping bags with the slogan, “Ask me the way to <insert your business name>!” – when they scan the code, they get directions to your location based on their GPS location!
Small Biz Lady: Can I track the results of QR code marketing?
Matt Mansfield: A key part of any marketing campaign is the ability to track how effective it was at producing results. In that regard, I’m happy to report that yes, you can also track your QR code campaigns. Aside from tracking how many customers scanned a particular QR code, you can also track if they took action and what actions they took. If you create similar QR codes with separate landing pages for each campaign, you can also track which venue (where the QR code was displayed) drove the most customers to action.
Small Biz Lady: Do you have any tips for using QR codes?
Matt Mansfield: Since QR codes are still relatively new for most folks, consider adding an explanation anywhere you use one. You don’t have to go into detail, but instead of just putting a QR code on your marketing material, you may want to state in writing something such as this: “Scan this QR code with your phone for more information/for the recipe/to buy this now”. Another important point is to keep the landing page or mobile site simple; do not give too many options at once or your customers may not take any!
The actions a customer takes (e.g. following you on Twitter, submitting their e-mail to get a coupon that they then use, etc.) should be the ones for which you created this campaign in the first place. The more of your customers who take those actions, the more successful your campaign will be.
So remember, if you are not clear on what actions you really want your customer to take, or provide too many, they will not be clear either and your campaign will not be successful.
Small Biz Lady: How can I get started using QR codes?
Matt Mansfield: I just wrote a post on this a couple of weeks ago: Matt About Friday: The “How to Make and Use a QR Code” Edition. In that post, I presented a walkthrough of my current favorite solution, pbSmart Codes.
There are lots of reasons why this is my favorite solution right now, but its best feature is the way it walks you through creating, implementing and tracking a QR code marketing campaign without requiring any technical or design skills whatsoever. Another standout feature is its mobile page creation feature, something I’ve not seen elsewhere to date.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)