QR Codes: What Are They and Will They Take Hold in B2B Marketing?

Have you seen them?  These funny-looking things that resemble a crossword puzzle on some sort of hallucinogenic?  They’re called QR (quick response) Codes and they are two-dimensional barcodes.  Originally developed by Toyota back in the ‘90s for parts inventory and logistical purposes, they are now being used as a marketing tool in the B2B world.  Their 2D format allows these quirky codes to store more information than conventional barcodes, which opens the door to a broad range of potential uses, particularly when targeting smart phone users.  

Rather than getting into the details of how they work here, I thought I’d focus more on what we can do with them.  Quite simply, mobile phone users with the appropriate barcode scanner application can “read” the QR Code to display text, contact info, open a web page or download a file without having to type a URL.  For more info on what they are and how they work, here’s a Wikilink.

Before you start integrating QR Codes into your promotional campaigns, you’ll need to be able to generate them. There are any number of QR Code generators available (e.g., Google, bit.ly, Jumpscan) that will get you started.  Once you have them, here are six quick ways you can use them to target mobile users and help bridge the gap between your offline and online marketing campaigns.

Generate leads from print ads

Some of you are probably too young to remember the days when it was relatively easy to measure the ROI of print media; when a single print ad in a trade publication could generate hundreds of leads via reader-response (or “bingo”) cards.  Today, many B2B marketers have greatly reduced or eliminate their print programs because they no longer generate any sort of measurable activity.  Well QR Codes could change this.  Use them to route readers to anything from a product brochure or sample to a case study or demo video and maybe you can capture a few leads along the way. 

Get more from your business card

There are all kinds of options for using QR codes on a business card, including something as simple as providing your contact information electronically so recipients can add it to their address book.  Another option would be to link your card to your LinkedIn profile or, if you have one, your blog.  Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, you could link it to a greeting video where you introduce yourself and place a face with your name.  Have fun with it!

Bring greater depth to your printed brochures and catalogs

Keep your printed collateral up-to-date and make it more interactive by linking your brochures and catalogs to relevant case studies, white papers, installation guides and/or specification tools.

Enhance your direct mail efforts

We recently talked about how direct mail generated a tremendous response rate for a recent product launch we conducted for a client.  In fact, we’re seeing a real resurgence of direct mail as more and more people turn away from e-mail due to oversaturation.  Adding a QR Code to your mailers can help you tailor your message and offers to different target groups, or you can test different offer strategies within a single group of recipients.

Trade show signage

Adding QR Codes to your trade show displays not only lets you provide prospects with additional content, it could also help you communicate with them further during (and after) the show.  Bring them to your Twitter or Facebook page to receive additional updates and offers throughout the show.  Give them ways to win prizes and reasons to return to your booth!  And don’t limit it to your booth graphics and signage; use the codes in any directory ads you run and on-site promotional flyers.

Update your avatar

We all tend to use a headshot or company logo for our social media avatars.  Why not try using a QR Code instead?  Try not to be overly self-promotional when doing this, but if something works with a QR Code on your business card, try it here too.

These are just a few quick ideas for quick response codes.  Like anything new, only time will tell if these funny-looking things have real staying power, but in the meantime they could pay some real dividends by bringing additional utility and ROI to some of your marcom efforts.  Plus, they’re kind of fun!



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