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QR Codes Best Practices: How To Do Them Right…and Wrong

Dear Olga: What’s the best way for a small business to use QR Codes?
~ Kim G.,  Communications Manager in Burbank, CA

Not sure if I want this kind of "call to action"!

There’s a perception that QR codes are dead, but with companies like Scan boasting 25 million downloads, it’s clear that people are still busily snapping away.  I don’t know if QR codes are a fad but, for now at least, they’re still the best “shortcut” out there.  It’s not a question of a huge response.  If you got one sale from a catalog page with a QR code, it would be worth it.

There are several ways in which I see them being useful…


  • RSVPs for Events
  • Item Detail and Order Pages
  • Facebook Check-ins
  • Add Contacts from Business Cards
  • Link to Twitter Follows or Facebook Likes
  • Virtual Real Estate Tours
  • Recipes and Food Pairings
  • Free Gift with Purchase
  • Links to Videos

Curiosity is a powerful driver, but smart marketers know not to make QR Codes into a scavenger hunt. The viewer shouldn’t be wondering, “What is this all about?” Instead, she should be thinking, “What else do you have for me?” The number one question you have to ask is, “What is the value-add for the user?”  Are you making someone’s life easier, more convenient, or giving them an offer that they can’t refuse?

The four key things to remember are…

1.)    Understand what you’re trying to accomplish.
2.)    Make the call to action really clear, and tell the user what they’ll get.
3.)    Make it easy for the user to figure out how to use the QR code.  (“Get your scanner now by going to the App store or")
4.)    Lead the user to a destination that’s mobile-friendly.

Of course, there are lots of ways to do QR Codes wrong.  I’ve come up with a list of 10 missteps.

1.)    Not having the URL appear right below the QR Code.
2.)    Not being clear about what the code is for or where it goes.
3.)    Not having any value on the other end.
4.)    Simply linking to the company’s main homepage.
5.)    Not linking through to a mobile-friendly site.
6.)    Making the code too small.(uh, but maybe not this big!)

7.)    Putting the code in an area that’s difficult to scan.

wow, lets violate 7,8,&9!

8.)    Putting it on something that’s moving all the time (like a bus).
9.)    Placing codes in  locations where you can’t get a mobile signal (e.g. underground)
10.) Having a broken link.

So, tell me, when was the last time you used a QR Code?  What was your experience like?

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