10 Easy Ways to Use QR Codes to Market Your Business

QR Codes Have you ever heard of a QR code or Microsoft Tag? If those terms sound like a foreign language, you're not alone. While major brands like Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble and Macy's have embraced them in recent marketing campaigns, the average small business owner may not know that QR codes can drive customers to their products and services.

Although they've have been around since the early '90s, QR codes didn't become popular in the United States until recently. QR or Quick Response codes are 2-dimensional bar codes, similar to those found on price tags at clothing stores. A Microsoft Tag works just like a QR code, but can only be scanned with a Microsoft Tag Reader. Using a code reader available on a smartphone, potential customers can scan your QR code and see where it takes them. Major brands are using QR codes to take customers to discounts, freebies and special promotions.

"QR codes have helped us introduce our company to an entirely new customer base," said Amy Bergeron, director of marketing at the Kursch Group, a commercial real estate company in Victorville, Calif. "We've put QR codes in storefronts of properties we are marketing. Now when potential buyers scan the QR codes with their smart phones, it takes them to a website that is set to showcase a particular location. They can see pictures of the property, get details such as square footage and price, and contact a Realtor, all without having to make a phone call or search the Internet."

While QR codes and Microsoft Tags can be used to educate potential customers about a product or service, they can also be used to reward them for their interest in your brand. Major corporations like Best Buy, Starbucks and Nike are using QR codes to cultivate new customers and thank existing ones that have been loyal to the respective brand.

"We're seeing marketers using QR codes to create buzz and get consumers excited about their brands," said Matthias Galica, a founder and CEO of ShareSquare, a platform that allows anyone to create, share and market QR codes. "QR codes have been around for a long time and are in use around the world, but in the U.S., they've taken off because now there is an installation base. As long as you have a smart phone, you can install a QR code reader. That has caused an explosion in their popularity and use over the past few years."

So how can you use QR codes and Microsoft Tags in your business? Here are 10 strategies to get you started.

1. Give them a discount. When customers scan your code, reward them with a coupon for a 20% discount off their next purchase.

2. Give them a daily deal. Encourage customers to scan the same QR code every day for a week, to get a daily deal good for discounts, freebies and other rewards. This will create constant buzz about your product or service and keep your customers coming back.

3. Give them a freebie. When customers scan your QR code, give them something free like a product sample or a 2-for-1 deal.

4. Reward them for taking action. Use QR codes to build your Facebook fan page or e-mail newsletter list. When customers scan your QR code, take them to a website where they can sign up for your e-mail newsletter or like your Facebook page. Once they complete the call to action, send them an e-mail with a discount, freebie or special promotion.

5.Give them a free download. If you use e-books to market your business, use QR codes to distribute them. When customers scan the code, give them a free e-book download and the opportunity to sign-up to receive future special promotions from your company.

6. Give them a free tickets. If you use event marketing to promote your business, use QR codes to hand out free tickets. When the code is scanned, make sure it leads to a website where potential customers can download their free tickets.

7. Give them exclusive access. QR codes can be used to give potential and existing customers exclusive VIP access to events, sales and special promotions. When the code is scanned ensure that it leads to a website, video, text message or phone number that will allow customers to enjoy their exclusive access.

8. Give them a heads up. If you want to pique a customer's interest in a specific product or service that you're planning to offer on sale, use QR codes and tags to tell them about it in advance. Place a QR code on your printed marketing materials that leads to a website where customers can get details about the sale and even pre-order.

9. Give them an invitation. Use QR codes or tags in your event marketing to invite potential customers to events. If you're having a launch party for a new product, create a QR code that leads to the event invite and a way for customers to RSVP.

10. Give them some help. Use QR codes or tags to give customers more information about your product or service. Put a QR code or Microsoft Tag on your website, printed marketing materials or promotion items that leads to an FAQ web page where customers can get answers to their questions via email or live chat.

Additional Tips:

  • Educate your customers about QR codes and how they can use them to get access to discounts, special offers and other promotions that will save them money on your product or service.
  • Show your customers where they can download QR code readers for iPhone, Android and Blackberry to unlock your company's QR codes.
  • Place links to popular code readers on your marketing materials to make it easy for customers to unlock your QR codes.
  • Use one of these five free tools to generate QR codes for your business:

ShareSquare – http://www.GetShareSquare.com

Bitly – www.bitly.com

BeQRious - http://www.beqrious.com/

Maestro - http://www.sparqcode.com/static/maestro

Delivr - http://delivr.com/

Tasha Cunningham is a tech columnist for the Miami Herald newspaper, where she writes BizBytes 101, a bi-monthly column about PR, social media and technology trends for business owners. She has been featured on The Today Show, on CNN, and in the New York Times, among other media outlets. Read her blog on Red Room.

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