Okay, I know what you’re thinking. The last thing you need is another new high-tech doodad to figure out. Fortunately, quick response (QR) codes aren’t all that complicated, and the payoff for putting these handy (and free!) devices to work for your business could be powerful indeed.
Actually, QR codes aren’t all that new —just new to catch on in the U.S. They’ve been common in Europe, Japan and elsewhere for a while. A QR code is like a barcode on steroids. It’s a scanable, computer-generated code that can contain all kinds of different information that you specify, such as text, images, a web link, email address, contact information, a menu, Facebook link, coupons, specials or any kind of promotion. Best of all, you can easily create QR codes yourself for free online in seconds (see BizBest’s top picks for where to do this below).
The scanning device used to read the code is a simple smart phone that most of your customers already have. Most newer phones come with a QR code reader; older devices can use a free download.
QR codes have literally thousands of possible uses, and innovative business owners are coming up with new ones all the time (we list more in “tips” below). But one of the biggest is using QR codes in printed materials – including print ads in newspapers, yellow pages, magazines, posters, postcards, direct mail, and even flyers. Putting a QR code into a print ad is like turning it into a live link. Biz owners are putting QR codes on everything from business cards, receipts, invoices and newsletters, to coffee mugs, t-shirts, billboards and window signage. (The QR code on this page contains BizBest’s web address. When someone scans it on a smart phone they’ll be brought here.)
QR code usage is skyrocketing. Big companies use them, and so do solo business owners and freelancers. The technology is free, and the cost to put QR codes into use is a pittance. Small and local businesses and professionals of all types are turning to QR codes, including real estate agents, spas, salons, fitness centers, bars, dry cleaners, dentists, retail stores, restaurants, coffee houses, jewelers, attorneys, car dealers, auto repair shops, wedding planners, print shops, venues, grocery stores, wine shops, and dozens more.
A critical advantage that QR codes hold over barcodes is their ability to hold vastly more information. Thus, QR codes are far more versatile. You can, for example, create a code that will automatically dial your business phone number, point to your new video, event calendar or location details, deliver a product booklet, and much more. Best Buy now puts QR codes on information tags attached to the products it carries. A customer can scan the code and be instantly directed to online reviews or other info.
Enterprising local businesses are putting QR codes on “Closed” signs they hang in a door or window. Customers scanning it can see a message from the business owner, be directed to a website or online store, or be given a way to leave a message or send an email. Before long, a growing segment of customers will expect QR codes, and businesses that don’t have them will be left behind.
QR code tips, tactics and uses:
- Put only valuable, useful information on the QR code. Anything less will be a turnoff to customers.
- Since people scan QR codes on a mobile device, any websites you send them too must be mobile friendly.
- Use QR codes on “For Sale” signs, packages, clothing tags, fliers, in bar restrooms (for taxi service, for example), bumper stickers, promotional items, trade show booths, wrapping paper, paper coffee cups, window decals, business cards. Just use your imagination.
Where to Create QR Codes: Below are BizBest’s top picks of services where you can generate free QR codes. Some offer custom QR code designs that add colors and graphics to the codes themselves to make them more interesting and fun. Not all QR code generators support the same types of information, so keep looking if you don’t immediately see what you need.
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.