Even those of you that aren’t particularly fond of technology have probably noticed the sudden appearance of strange looking “bar codes” all over the place from labels on your weekly shopping, to adverts in magazines, and possibly even on shops or items of special interest around your town or city. But what are they, are they useful, and should your business have one? This article aims to answer some of these questions and help you get the best out of your QR code.

What is a QR code?

A QR code (or Quick Response code as it is known in full) is the trademarked name for a 2D code that was first designed and developed for use in the automotive industry.  It is a square block made up of many smaller black blocks on a white background, and it was invented by Toyota in 1994 to enable them to track their vehicles during the manufacturing process as large amounts of data can be stored “in” the QR code, and can be accessed quickly.

They have been adopted by many industries now and can be seen in most places, the “boom” really took off when smart phones became more wide spread as QR codes give a quick, easy way to engage a customer with a wide variety of media content, from a link to your website or latest promotion, to a video on Youtube, or linking to your facebook or Twitter.

Many business people are even starting to include QR codes on their business cards and even large companies like Mercia, a provider of training and support for accountants are using them to help promote their services and events.

Are they useful?

As explained above, the whole reason QR codes were developed was to give the ability to get information quickly, and if used correctly they can be a very valuable tool in your marketing arsenal. They are quick to set up, and there is nothing to prevent you creating multiple QR’s so that you can have one for each of your promotions.

If you use a URL shortening tool (for instance you register an account with tiny.url, or Bit.ly, or any of the other tools out there) then you can track using the programs dashboard the number of “hits” or “visitors” that each campaign generates allowing you to determine which advertising works best for you as well as opening up a whole realm of possible advertising that you had never considered before…

You can also use QR codes on your literature for any events you are holding and use the code to have the map embedded so they can have detailed directions the event.

Should my business have one?

To be honest, the answer to that depends on what sort of business you have, and who your potential client base is. QR codes have the potential to be useful for most businesses, whether B2B or B2C, and certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as just a “gimmick”.

You can incorporate them into your company stationary and have them contain a link to your website, blog or special offers. You could put them on the sides of your vehicle so that people who are interested in your service/product have a quick easy way to access the data, scanning a QR is so much easier then trying to keep up with a moving vehicle long enough to write down a phone number or website address.

Only you can decide how much use they will be to you personally, but in this age of speed, where people want information at their fingertips, QR codes are a good way to deliver that.

How do I get a QR code?

If you have decided that your company could make use of a QR code, the next step is to get yourself the code. There are many free QR code generators out there, simply go to the search engine of your choice and type in “Free QR code Generators” to find one.

Other things to think about

Once you have generated your code (remember to use an URL shortening service if you want to track your visitors) it is well worth checking it works properly and that the data you retrieve from it is what you intended, you can do this simply by scanning it with your smartphone or installing a piece of software that will allow your webcam to read QR codes.

Make sure you promote your QR code, if it provides access to a special offer, or exclusive content, mention that. It is also worth having simple instructions nearby for your clients/users as although there are many QR codes around, some people may not be familiar with them and need some guidance on how to use them to start off with.

Be sure to analyze the results when the campaign has finished to see how much use the QR has been for you, you aren’t likely to get an over night success with it, as with all “new” technologies, people have to learn how to use them, but as with most technology, the more it is used, the more familiar people will become with it and the greater the opportunity you will have to engage with your users.