Advertising ⊚ Branding ⊚ Communications

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QR Marketing

Using QR Codes for Your Business: 3 Things You Need to Know

The use of QR codes is a popular way for small businesses and retailers to promote themselves and attract customers. A study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies revealed that nearly one in five consumers who scanned a QR code made a purchase after scanning. Clearly, it suggests that this medium can lead to a high ROI. But to get to that ROI with a successful QR code campaign, you’ll need to ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Does your audience use QR codes? The success of any marketing campaign depends in part on connecting the right medium with the right audience. First, your audience must rely heavily on smart phones. They should also know what a QR code is and how to use one. If your target audience is unfamiliar with QR codes, you may need to educate them or provide them with links to free QR code scanning software.

2. Can you optimize your QR code to display correctly on a variety of mobile devices? If consumers can’t easily access and scan your QR codes, they won’t use them. That’s why your QR code software must be able to optimize your mobile Web pages for a variety of browsers and platforms. With pbSmart Codes you can easily create a mobile page for your code.

3. Where can you place your QR codes so they get noticed? If you know where to find your customers, you can create a QR code campaign that gets in front of them. Here are just a few of the places where you can place QR codes:

  • Posters
  • Signs in your shop window
  • Yard signs
  • Direct mail pieces
  • Emails
  • Web pages
  • Social networking pages

Just remember to test your QR code before you launch your campaign. This will let you know if your technology is working properly and if your message is generating a response before you spend the money on an ad and print thousands of direct mail pieces.

Decoding QR Codes: How To Format Data for QR Code Generators

Without question, QR codes play an important role in the current advertising and marketing environment. In fact, a recent smartphone user study conducted by Baltimore’s MGH uncovered several interesting QR code statistics. Among those statistics, we learned that 72% of smartphone users are more likely to recall an advertisement with a QR code. This tells us that QR codes, at least for now, get the attention of consumers and get a lot of use.

If so many consumers recognize and use QR codes, it is time to employ standard practices for QR codes. Generators may use several different methods to encode, or store data in a QR code. Some of these encoding methods are more standardized than others. We researched Google’s standard format suggestions and have provided a simplified version of that list in this post. We arranged the list by data type (i.e. URL, email address, telephone number, contact information, SMS, MMS, location data and more).

If you’re attaching the following data type to a QR code, you should encode the data using the corresponding data format:

Data Type Data Format
Website URL (include the “http://” so it recognizes the data as a website URL)
Pre-populated email address mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (include “mailto” so it recognizes the data as an email address)
Pre-Populated Telephone Number +16365553344 (URI should include the country code to support users outside the country of origin)
Contact Information LastName,FirstName;ADR:(insert address), (second address line), City, ST (Insert 5-digit zip code);TEL:+16365553344;EMAIL:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;;

DO NOT use parenthesis or line breaks in code.

*For QR Codes, the MECARD standard format shown above is more standard than vCard standard format

Pre-populated SMS Message sms:number:subject
Pre-populated MMS Message mms:number:subject
Map or Location Coordinates latitude, longitude, altitude in meters (a minus sign denotes a South latitude and a West longitude)

code for Google offices: 40.71872,-73.98905, 100

Android Market URI for Android Devices For a QR code you must replace all punctuation with code. For example,

market://search?q=pub:”Search Query” becomes:


YouTube Video youtube://ID (may work on iPhone, untested, unreleased, not standardized)
iCal Appointment BEGIN:VEVENT
SUMMARY:Test Meeting
(untested, unreleased, not standardized)

Users respond more favorably to QR codes that scan allowing a preview of the final destination. For example, the user views the URL before going directly to the website. Or the telephone URI code prompts the user to hit dial instead of automatically dialing for them. If you select a generator, develop a generator or develop a bar code scanner, incorporate these standard usability features.

9 QR Code Data Types

QR codes can contain many different types of information. Instead of telling you different uses for them, I'm going to tell you what they're capable of and let your creative mind do the rest. Instead of telling you how to paint, I'm going to tell you the colors. You'll be able to see the endless possibilities by the end of this post.

A QR code is a type of barcode that can store different types of data. Different app readers on smartphones are then able to act and read this data. Think of it as an alternative way of getting data into your phone (as opposed to typing it in manually). Here are some of the possibilities (Learn more about what QR codes are here).

1. Contact information

QR codes can contain contact information so someone can easily scan a QR code, view your contact details, and add you on their phone. You can input your name, phone number, e-mail, address, website, memo, and more. I've commonly seen these used on business cards, for instance. You give someone a business card, they see a QR code on the back, scan it with their phone, and easily add your contact info to their phone.

2. Calendar event

If you have an event you want to promote, you can create a QR code containing info for that event. QR codes containing event info can contain event title, start and end date/time, time zone, location, and description. This could work well on an event flyer or possibly even on a website promoting.

3. E-mail address

Nice and simply, eh? A QR code can contain your e-mail address so someone can scan the code, see your e-mail, and then open an e-mail on their phones. If your call to action is mostly to have someone e-mail you, this would be great.

4. Phone number

Maybe e-mail isn't immediate enough and you want someone to call. Link them up to a phone number.

5. Geo location.

If you have an event you want to promote, you might want to stick a QR code linking someone to a Google Maps location. This will allow someone to scan your QR code and get directions so they don't have to manually type in an address. Although some may prefer to type it in, it doesn't hurt to give them another option.

6. SMS

QR codes can populate a text message with a number and message. You can have your QR code send you a text saying, "Tell me more about XYZ," for instance. This is great when paired with text message marketing. Using Duffled (not an affiliate), for $35/month, you can have a do-it-yourself text messaging platform to try out text message marketing.

7. Text

You can also just have a sentence or a paragraph of text. This could be fun for having some type of QR code based game where you can leave hints in QR codes.

8. Wifi network

Do you hate telling someone a long WEP wireless key that's a pain to type out on a mobile phone? Set it up so someone can scan a QR code and automatically configure wifi on their phones.

9. URL

Don't think little of this 3-letter data type. This is where the possibilities become endless. You can use a link that takes someone to your Facebook fan page or Twitter profile. You can also link someone to a YouTube video. Or maybe you want someone to pay for something via PayPal.

Did I mention all of these services have mobile-friendly versions of their website? That is, if you link someone to your Twitter page they'll be redirected to a version that's built specifically for their smartphone? Don't forget to make sure the link goes to a website that's optimized for mobile devices.


If you want to learn about different ways to use QR codes, check out one of our most popular blog posts: 27 Ways to Use QR Codes. Also make sure you're following our recommended best practices.

You can use our QR code generator to generate QR codes for any of the above data types. A short URL is

Did this post inspire any new creative ideas? I'd love to hear them!

7 QR Code Best Practices

QR codes are cutting edge, hip, and the new way to engage with the consumer. But what's the right way to use them? What are best practices? I want to share what ours are in hopes of more people executing better QR code campaigns and projects. Keep these 7 rules in mind when utilizing QR codes to enhance your business.

Not sure what a QR code is? Read this blog post. Or, get inspired on different ways to use them.

1. Keep QR Code Size Large

QR codes can be printed in many different sizes. Ranges vary from business cards to giant billboards. Keep in mind, the more content that is contained inside the QR code, the more complicated the QR code will be. The more complicated the QR code, the harder it will be for smartphones to read.

If your QR code links to contact info, only put what's absolutely necessary. If your QR code links to a website, make sure the URL is as short as possible. eg. I wouldn't use - that's too long. Use, it'll be simple, the URL will be short, and it's trackable. Read more on how to do this.

2. Implement Twitter/Facebook Share Icons

If you're creating something awesome, you should make it easy to spread. The goal should be to make something engaging and to create a unique experience that people will want to share. Seth Godin might say to do something remarkable. Make sure that the Twitter/Facebook share icons are the mobile-friendly share icons. This will ensure that your users have the best experience.

3. Set-up Tracking

Since you can, why not set up tracking. You want to know how many people scanned your code. However, don't measure your success solely based off the numbers. Keep in mind, the people that know about QR codes are likely early adopters and/or up-to-date in tech. They are also likely to have an audience on Twitter and Facebook. If you give them something valuable to share, they might spread it. People spread awesome, as Scott Stratten often says.

4. Have a Call to Action

This may sound simple, but it must be said. Don't just slap a QR code somewhere. Put a message next to the barcode that tells someone why they should scan it. Give them a reason to pull out their phone. Maybe offer a free song, a link to a video or commercial, or maybe a coupon. Right now, everyone might scan QR codes because they're curious what it contains. In time, when more and more of them start invading the US, people will want a reason. Give it to them.

5. Link to Something That Stays Around

So you print a QR code on a sign inside your store or you put it on a flyer. A few weeks pass by and that code is no longer relevant. So you kill the page it used to link to or you replace it with something else (that doesn't match up with whatever it was originally scanned on). Why? Just because your print campaign is dead, doesn't mean that the story won't live on. If you do a great job, people will want to share their experience. This could be through Facebook, a photo on Flickr, or maybe even a video. Allow the story and functionality to live on.

6. Make the Landing Page Mobile-Friendly

QR codes are great, but they are only the door to more engaging content (eg. a website). It's important to make sure that the landing page of the QR code is mobile-friendly. That is, it's optimized for smartphones. Images, navigation, content, and video should all be optimized for the small screen and mobile broadband constraints. Optimized content you could link to includes Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, to name a few. This is our specialty. We'll be blogging more about what goes into a mobile website soon.

7. Be Creative

At the end of the day, be creative. QR codes are cutting edge. Create an experience that your guests will never forget. Show them how cool their smartphone is and what else they can do with it. Empower them. There is something psychologically noteworthy when someone is able to scan something on their personal device and then walk away with it. Encourage this engagement. It will set you apart.

Did I leave something out? Would love your thoughts!

QR Codes for Marketing: Everything You Need to Know

WTH!?  QR Codes?  Are QR Codes really viable for marketing? Wait a minute, I’m not Gucci, Ford or some other big brand… Indeed, you may not be a big brand–I would argue, as I have done for several clients, QR Codes are not just for the big boys.  A good understanding of your customer and how QR Codes can be used can help you make the decision to QR or not to QR.

What is a QR Code

"Wikipedia tells us a QR Code is, “a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.”

Blah, blah, blah… A QR Code is a scannable/readable barcode that allows you to share text, data or a URL with people. Anyone with a smart phone (Android, iPhone, etc) and a QR Code reader can play along.

A QR Code can be almost anywhere, Calvin Klein replaced their racy billboard ads with a “Get It Uncensored” strategy, Best Buy used QR Codes to enhance shopping, and Mashable has featured 5 Creative Uses for QR Codes.

You basically only need 3 key elements for QR Code marketing:

  1. Customers with a smart phone and QR Code reader,
  2. Free or paid application to create QR Codes, and
  3. A compelling reason/place for QR Codes to be used that your customers (or potentials) will recognize and be willing to scan.  (This is the critical element.)

QR Codes from a Users Perspective

QR Code readers do not come pre-installed on smart phones and it is likely the majority of your audience, at this point in the game, will not recognize or feel compelled to participate in the QR Code party.  That said, QR Code scanning is increasing, particularly among the Gen Y, affluent or techie markets.

Adoption of QR Codes is soon to spread with big brands, major retailers and even the government starting to use QR Codes. Smart phone sales have far out-paced stupid phones (non-smart), while iPhone and Android markets have matured significantly.  Needless to say, there are a ton of respectable drivers behind adoption of QR Codes.

Popular QR Code applications include QR Droid (for Android phones) and Neo Reader (for iPhones).  There are also several brands and websites installing QR Code readers as part of their own application, like TriOut (check out Wayne Sutton’s excellent post on their latest iPhone application which includes a QR Code reader.)

QR Codes from a Business Perspective

As a business, you’re probably thinking this is way out of your technical scope.  You’re wrong.  That’s the beauty of QR Codes, they are relatively easy, free and painless to create.  Seriously, the harder part is figuring out if and how to implement them.  Creation is the easy part.

My favorite QR Code creation tool is, which includes analytics into every free account so you can easily track if anyone is even scanning your pretty little codes.  Your QR Code analytics will tell you how often they were scanned, from what devices (Android versus iPhone) and user location.  You can even brand them with color to match your website, printing, etc.

QR Codes from a Marketing Perspective

Now comes the real dilemma, if and when to use QR Codes for your “not-a-big-brand” business.  Rather than go down a long list of do’s and don’ts, I thought it would be more helpful to showcase the many ways my clients and others are using QR Codes in their marketing, with some helpful hints.

Offline Marketing

Back of business cards: Many of my solopreneur, consulting and speaking clients are using QR Codes on the back of their business cards (in addition to a URL) to direct offline contacts to their website or free-no-strings report/whitepaper/offer (PDF).  Scans have been far higher than expected and many have increased their offline to online engagement as a result.

Presentation materials: A great addition (and easy to add) to any presentation materials you are distributing to clients, groups, and audiences that links them to additional resources and information about you, your services, or educational materials.

In-store locations: Windows, menus and other places to promote a special discount for their current/next visit.

Packaging and labels: I have a luxury brand, strategic consulting client that is including QR Codes on product boxes for each seasonal line (Spring, Summer & Fall) that will direct consumers to a branded content video featuring fashion tips/advice for that particular item.

Online Marketing

Digital publishing: A current strategic consulting client, digital publishing company, is including QR Codes that link directly to sample chapter downloads and additional branded content (video from author, etc) to promote sales of the book.

Real estate: A current strategic consulting client, real estate broker, has included QR Codes on all home promotional items (on-location and online) that include a branded video showing of the house, complete with show schedule and broker contact information.

QR Code Possibilities

What you need to remember, and this holds true for everything you do in marketing–focus on your customers and potentials.  Every marketing tool may not be worth your time to implement.  The same holds true for QR Codes.  Let this help guide you:

Does my audience fit into the Android, iPhone user category? If so, are they likely to adopt QR Codes now or in the future?

How do QR Codes make sense for my business? At what touchpoint do they make sense?  To collect leads?  To enhance the experience of current customers?  To offer discounts, promotions or special offers?  To offer additional content, guidance, education?  Just for fun?

What is my plan to test QR Codes in my business? What is my goal?  What am I offering or creating the QR Code to do?  How will I promote the QR Code?  How does the QR Code tie into the rest of my marketing?  How will I track success or failure?

Onward and upward!

Update ;)

@SocialQRCode, after seeing this post on Twitter, sent a note about their FREE service… looks very promising, especially for small business.  Features include generating QR Codes for Facebook “Likes”, tweets, share YouTube content and more.  I’m testing it out next week…. keep you posted!

Also forgot to mention, Google’s URL Shortener, automatically generates a QR Code for every link you shorten–quick and easy way to create a QR Code with click-through/scan tracking.  No other features, as of yet, but worth a look if you’re already in Google.

Just this morning, Small Business Trends, has posted a great article, QR Codes, Barcodes and RFID: What’s the Difference? Great information to understand where QR Codes fit into the mobile/scannable technology bucket :D

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