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QR Codes: How to Get More From Using a Quick Response Code

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QR codes (or Quick Response codes) are those little boxes that look like warped chess boards that have popped up everywhere from print mailers and business cards to even bus stops. These bar codes on steroids allow businesses to take their advertising and make it immediately actionable.

As a business, you can create a free QR code at a site like www.qrstuff.com (whose site I liked so much, I decided to take them on as a client -- full disclosure). To get started using a QR code, you just need to decide what you want your code to send a customer to. Will it be a special video or discount, your contact information or some other benefit like a special coupon?

But if you want to truly get the most out of QR codes, here are four ways that you can do more to engage your customers.

Here are a few tips to follow to make the most out of using QR codes for your business:

Have a mobile site: If you are sending your customer to your website, make sure that it is mobile-enabled. Remember, the only way to scan a QR code is with a smart phone, which means that your code will be read with that same smart phone. If your site is not mobile-friendly, you may end up frustrating instead of engaging your target customer.

Have a worthwhile customer benefit: Scanning a QR code requires extra effort by the customer. They need to take out their phone, launch the app and possibly click a link. If you are going to have your customer go through all of that, make it worth their while. Give them a benefit. You can save them time with downloadable contact information on your business card so that they don't have to enter it by hand, give them access to a special offer or send them to a coupon or discount. Just make sure to give them something worth the time that they are spending, or else you will not only disappoint your customer, but you will also send a message that QR code scanning isn't worthwhile.

Have fun with the design: Your QR code doesn't need to be just black and white. QRStuff.com allows you to pick a color of your choice. If you want something even fancier, amp your code up with multiple colors and a picture. Below is an example that Chicago-based digital agency Dashal created for me and WGNTV in Chicago for one of my appearances with their colors and logo (which you can scan for a free marketing and PR ebook).

2011-12-27-wgn_qr_code.jpg

Put it somewhere unexpected and helpful: Flex your creative muscle when it comes to placing your QR code. If you are a restaurant, have a code in your store window that takes passers-by to your hours of operation and menu. I've seen real estate agents put codes on the side of a home for sale that takes you directly to the home's sales listing. The possibilities are almost endless; however, perhaps don't put one on the side of your car like I saw a few weeks back. You don't want your customers running through traffic trying to scan the code!