QR Codes -- you’ve likely seen these around lately: a black and white pixelated square on the packaging of some product, along with instructions to read the code with your smart phone. Sounds a little mysterious, doesn’t it?
Those little squares are called QR Codes (QR means "quick response"). I've seen them in more and more places lately: in magazines, on ads in my mailbox, and even on a strawberry carton in the grocery store!
Did you know that handmade sellers can use these QR Codes too? Read on for some ideas to use this fun marketing tool!
First, some FAQs about QR Codes:
What are QR Codes?
QR Codes are two-dimensional bar codes that, once scanned by a smart phone camera, automatically send the phone user to a website URL or even a phone number!
Why should I create a QR code for my handmade business?
A QR code is another marketing tool that handmade sellers can use to attract customers to their online venues (an Etsy shop, a Facebook page, a company website, etc.). Since QR Codes are most often found in offline places, this is just another way to draw customers to your online presence.
Who will be able to read my QR code?
Anyone with a smart phone camera who has downloaded a free QR Code reader will be able to access your code. The person simply (1) opens the code reader application, (2) aims the phone’s camera at the code, (3) snaps a picture, and (4) is taken automatically to the URL that you pre-determined when you created the code.
Where can I (or my customers) get a QR Code reader/scanner for my smart phone?
You can find a comprehensive list of code readers here:
I use the QR Code Scanner Pro for my BlackBerry. It’s free and easy to use!
How do I make a QR Code for my handmade business?
Just do an Internet search for "create a QR Code," and you'll find lots of options. One that I've used is the QR Code Generator from Kaywa. The service is completely free, and it will create your very own QR Code in seconds!
* Please note that according to the Kaywa site, this code generator is not to be used for commercial purposes. Another site that you might consider is uQR.me, which has different pricing plans (including a free plan!).
What URL should I attach to my QR Code?
The sky is the limit, but I would suggest sending customers to a URL that will provide some value to them. Here are just a few suggestions:
* your Facebook page
* your Twitter feed
* a popular post on your blog
* a free e-book that you have created about your niche
* a welcome video
* the sign-up page for your e-newsletter
* a coupon code for a purchase in your online shop
The easiest way to create these exclusive pages with dynamite content is to develop pages on your blog that only those who read the code will see. These pages should not be accessible from the main page of your site. This makes them exclusive to just those who read the QR code!
Can I customize my QR Code to make it reflect my brand (or am I stuck with a plain black and white code)?
Yes! You can pay to have a company customize the code for you, or you can try it yourself with software like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
Just remember that the black part of the code must remain dark, and the white part of the code (the background) must remain a light color, preferably white. Also be sure to leave some white space around the edges of the code when you display it. This makes it easier for the smart phone to read the code correctly. You can add design elements (text, symbols, etc.) in the white spaces, though.
One thing to note here is that people are becoming accustomed to seeing those black and white codes everywhere, so if you get too creative with your code design, customers might not realize that it is a QR Code. I would suggest adding custom designs sparingly.
Where should I display my QR Code?
At a Craft Fair
Think of a creative way to display your QR Code at your booth. Do you give away samples? Use a QR code on the packaging!
On your business card
If you use the MOO company to design and print your business cards, you can use the back of the cards too! Keep your current business card information on the front and then include your QR Code (plus instructions on how to use it) on the back!
On a T-shirt (that you wear or give away)
You could put your company logo on the front of the shirt and the QR Code on the back (or vice versa). OR, if you create a custom QR Code that includes your business branding in the code itself, you could just put the custom code on the T-shirt! How fun is that? (This idea would work for tote bags or other products too!)
On your shipping labels
If you create custom shipping labels for your business (which I highly recommend), you could include your QR code on those labels. That package will be seen by several people as it makes its way to your customer, and you never know who might read the code to learn more about your business!
On postcards or other direct mailings
If you do any direct mailing of postcards, catalogs, etc., you could use your QR Code there. Be sure that the URL where the code leads the customer applies in some way to the piece of mail.
In your brick and mortar shop (if applicable)
There are so many creative ways to do this, but here’s one suggestion: you could display your QR Code in the shop window or on the front door. Customers walking by could read the code to receive a special coupon code (an additional 10% off, for example) on any purchases in the shop that day! That would be an incentive for a customer to come inside and shop!
photo credit: nick365
How can I track stats for my QR Code?
Some websites that create QR Codes for you have stat-tracking capabilities, but some of these charge a fee. I have found a free way, though! Here’s how:
1. Copy and paste the URL of the page where you want to send your customers into Bitly to get a shorter (trackable) link. You’ll need a free Bitly account.
2. Create a QR Code for your business. Copy and paste the bit.ly link that you just created into the URL field of the code generator.
3. Once a person views your code and visits your URL, Bitly will track how many times the URL is visited, along with what country the person is from.
Another way to track your QR Codes is to send customers to a page that lists a special coupon code for their next purchase. You could track how many times that coupon code has been used.
Why do I need a QR Code for my handmade business now?
Because QR Codes are still somewhat new, people are curious about them. More and more people are buying smart phones, and they love to try out new phone features. Jump on the bandwagon while this idea is still fresh!
As a magnet to your online venues
If a customer is already in your online shop and you want to encourage him/her to visit another one of your online venues (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.), you could create a code just for that venue -- just be sure to have some amazing content waiting for them when they arrive! Give them access to something special (a coupon, a free report, a welcome video) - not just the generic front page of your site.
As the 5thphoto spot in your Etsy listings
For example, if you have a handbag listing in your Etsy shop, you could create a QR Code that sends the customer to a video showing how the bag was made or even a testimonial page if you have listed and sold that style before. Upload the QR Code as the fifth product photo.
Caution: An explanation should accompany your code (at least for now)
Since QR Codes are still relatively new (and some people have no idea what they are - especially those without smart phones), you’ll need to provide a brief explanation with your QR Codes:
1. Let customers know that they will need a code reader on their smart phone.
2. Let customers know where the code will lead them. Build excitement!
For example, “Snap this code with your smart phone camera (code reader needed) to receive a free scoop of ice cream.”
As we wrap things up, here are a few helpful tips to make your QR Code campaign(s) worthwhile:
1. QR Codes should send customers to laser-focused landing pages that provide value. Make it worth their while to scan your code!
2. The URL where the QR Code leads your customers should be optimized for the mobile Web, since that is how they will view the page.
3. Bottom line: your QR Code should lead customers into a stronger relationship with your business. Make the destination an exclusive gift for those who read your code -- something that not everybody gets to see!
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What are your thoughts about QR Codes? Have you seen them in marketing materials? Do you think they would be a good addition to your marketing toolbox?
Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments.
Additional reading (some great tips here!):
QR Code Tips
13 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes for Marketing