Right code for marketing? Develop strategy first

Valerie Stow, an internet marketing specialist with RSW Partners in Grand Junction, helps clients incorporate quick response codes into their marketing efforts. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Businesses enjoy more ways nearly every day to promote their products and services and connect with customers.

But it’s important to put marketing strategies in place before using emerging techniques, not after the fact. The increasing popularity of quick response codes offers a good example, said Valerie Stow, an internet marketing specialist with RSW Partners in Grand Junction. “People are jumping on the band wagon before they have a plan in place.”

Quick response codes — QR codes for short — are those funny looking boxes that appear more and more frequently in print ads and on product packaging and signs. When scanned by a cell phone or other mobile device equipped with the right software, the two-dimensional bar codes provide a text message or contact information or direct a person to a Web site. While QR codes first were developed in Japan in the 1990s, they’ve since gained more widespread use in marketing. That includes the Grand Valley, said Stow, who works for a marketing and business consulting firm. “It’s just starting to catch on more in Grand Junction.”

Scan This QR Code

Stow said QR codes offer nearly unlimited potential for marketing businesses, but must be used correctly to realize that potential. “There are a lot of people missing the boat on this.”

The most common mistake, she said, is to use QR codes to direct potential customers to a static Web page they’re unlikely to spend much time reviewing. “You’re not ending up anywhere useful.”

To take full advantage of QR codes, Stow said business owners and managers should first develop a strategy to accomplish marketing goals. The first step in that process, she said, is to determine what must be accomplished, whether it’s driving brand loyalty, generating leads, obtaining contact information or promoting sales.

One good use of QR codes, she said, is to create a “buzz” about a business by offering special information to those who scan the codes, whether its information about new products or services or discount offers.

It’s possible to generate leads and obtain contact information by directing customers to an e-mail address where they can enter a drawing or sign up for a newsletter, Stow said.

Still another good use of QR codes is to offer coupons either to promote the sales of overstocked items or entice loyal customers to come back sooner rather than later. Customers become “brand champions” in sharing those coupons with others, she said.

QR codes can be printed on business cards to provide contact information in a digital format so recipients don’t have to type that information into their electronic devices.

For a more creative promotion, Stow said QR codes could be posted in a succession of locations to create a kind of scavenger hunt. Each code could offer clues about finding the next code with prizes or special offers for participants who find the last code.

The important thing to remember in using QR codes is to offer customers important information in a way that’s quick and easy to access, she said. “Don’t make them work for that information.”

Since most people scan QR codes with cell phones and other mobile devices, any Web site to which they’re directed should be set up for such devices, she added.

“There’s just lots of potential with it. But if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to do it right.”