How and Why to Use QR Codes in Your Small Business Marketing Mix

qrcodeFrom billboards to business cards, they’re popping up everywhere—those black-and-white squares that look like a poor excuse for ‘60s Op Art. But don’t write them off as a passing fad.

QR codes, or “quick response” codes, are a free and easy way for you to connect with your customers and deliver a wealth of helpful information and purchase incentives via smartphone downloads.

As smartphones become increasingly popular among mobile phone users of all ages—according to, nearly two-thirds of young adult mobile users age 25-34 own smartphones, and useage is steadily increasing across all age groups—QR codes are expected to transform the way we target and share all kinds of content-rich information.

An Express Bridge Between Print and Dynamic Electronic Media
Created more than 25 years ago by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave to manage inventory, QR codes provide an express bridge between print and other strictly visual formats to electronic, multi-media, interactive content.

Just as one-dimensional barcodes store price information for rapid checkout, QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that store large amounts of multi-media data for quick retrieval. Smartphone users simply scan the QR code, which links them to your targeted online information.

Here’s just a sampling of how to use QR codes:

Link to a Call-to-action
Whatever print media you use, be it ads, billboards, flyers, brochures or a simple business card, include a QR code that drives the user to interact with your business online. The key here is to have a solid strategy behind your link.

Don’t just send a user to your homepage. Make sure you’re providing valuable information that encourages the user to take action—visit your store to redeem an electronic coupon, buy a ticket, make a reservation, donate to your charity, take a survey that will enrich your market research, “like” your Facebook fan page to get advanced notice of weekly specials. This is also a great way to build your list of qualified contacts.

Provide Enhanced Content for Purchasing Decisions
QR codes enable you to link to all the details that you don’t have room for in a promotion designed for skimming or that people won’t want to read all at once. For example:

  • Save paper on print catalogues by adding a QR code to each item that links to product details as well as an order form.
  • For commuters stuck in traffic, link the branding on your truck to your About page or Services page, including a contact form for more information.
  • Link from an ad to the most recent copy of your e-newsletter, with an opt-in form.
  • Use signage to link to details about real estate listings or new product arrivals.
  • Enable customers to scan price information as they walk through your store for comparison shopping; better yet, give them a link to online review sites.

Share On-the-spot, Useful Content for Reference Now or Later
The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. How about these, for starters?

  • Bus stop signs that link to schedules and updates on any current delays
  • Museum placards that link to detailed background on an object’s creator, origin and historic context, for rapid research
  • I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) keychain tags or wristbands that link to your emergency contact info and list of medications
  • Prescription labels that link to information about medicinal side effects
  • Business signs that link to Google maps and information about nearby parking
  • Business cards that link to vCards, which automatically sync to online address books
  • Subway placards promoting higher ed degrees that link to requirements or course catalogues

How to Create a QR Code
There are a range of free QR code generators on the Internet that you can find with a simple search. Bear in mind that the more data you want to store, the more detailed the QR code will be. And the more detailed the black-and-white square, the larger the visual needs to be in order to be scanned properly.

If you’re linking to a long url, use a link-shortening services such as or, and paste the resulting link into a QR code generator. Recommended QR code generators include Kaywa and, for custom color and format, Kerem Erkan. Look for features that enable you to track traffic and analyze your campaign’s success.

If you hate the idea of putting a boring black-and-white QR code on your creative material, work with a good graphic designer who understands the technical ins and outs of creating custom QR codes.

Educate Your Potential Customer with Great QR Code Content
QR codes are still in their infancy in this country. According to a recent article in USA Today, the vast majority of mobile phone consumers still don’t even know what a QR code is. But those who use them, love them—provided they link to thoughtful information with clear value-added for the consumer.

So as you integrate QR codes into your marketing mix, be sure you have a valid strategy and don’t waste your customer’s time with a link to a dead-end webpage. Since all QR codes look alike to the untrained eye, be sure to contextualize yours so the user understands why it’s worth scanning. Remember that you can update your online information on a web page without changing your QR code to extend the shelf life of print collateral.

Before you start, know your target market: Survey what percent are smartphone users to be sure that QR codes are worth the effort. As with any new Internet marketing tool, sound market research, quality content and strategy are keys to success.


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One Response to “How and Why to Use QR Codes in Your Small Business Marketing Mix”

  1. Vlad says:

    QR codes can help you promote your business. You can code any information you want including contact info,your business locations, email addresses, YouTube videos and so on. I implement this cool feature in my apps using snappii technology. They are really helpful if you need a mobile app but don’t have programming skills at all.

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