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QR codes – The Next Big Step in Digital Marketing

8 Jun

By Tim Busbey, owner, Addison’s Compass Public Relations

In marketing, as in life, the only constant is change. Thanks to the constant technological advances our society produces, there is an endless array of new tools that we as marketers have at our disposal. In the last half decade, we’ve seen Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, text messaging and location-based apps flourish and grow as avenues for businesses to market their products. One avenue that has grown in popularity in other countries but has been slow to catch on here in America is Quick Response codes, also known as QR codes.

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode, (pictured at left), similar to the barcodes businesses use to track their inventory and price their products. However, QR codes have one big advantage over a barcode – the amount of information they can hold. Regular barcodes are linear one-dimensional codes that can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, while QR codes are two-dimensional matrix codes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters. That means you can embed numbers AND words into QR codes. This is a huge advantage and makes QR codes a powerful tool for small businesses. Businesses can use QR codes to promote coupons, special offers or discounts. They can also use them to build a mobile list of subscribers or to direct people to their website, online video or Facebook Fan page. The possibilities for using QR codes to market your business are nearly unlimited.

How do QR codes work?

First, a business owner goes to one of the many web sites that are called QR code generators. At these web sites, you can enter in the information that you want included in your QR code. Your QR code can be used to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the telephone’s browser. Once you enter the information, the QR code generator will then create a QR code which you can download and use wherever you want. Most businesses use them in print advertisements, flyers or signs. You also can use them on business cards, brochures, product tags, menus or receipts.

There are many sites online that will allow you to create QR codes. Just do a search for “QR code generator” and browse through the results to find one that works for you and your needs.

Smartphone owners can download an app which allows them to scan the QR codes in your advertisement. Once scanned, the information you put in the QR code will be on the user’s phone. With more than one-third of cell phone users now carrying smartphones, QR codes can be a powerful tool for any business.

Example of QR codes

Here is one example of an ad containing a QR code from the July 2011 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. This ad for DERMAdoctor KP Duty. Scanning the QR code from the lower right corner of this ad will take the user to a web page where they can instantly order the product. Once there, even if they don’t want to order the product, they can easily follow links to get more information about the product or other similar products.

Benefits to using QR codes.

1) Tracking. When you use a QR code, intricate details on each access of your QR code can be compiled. Some QR code generating sites offer analytics to let you track usage of your code. There are both free and paid options depending on the site you use. This gives you valuable information about who is interested in your product – information that can be used to refine your message and methods. Be sure to explore the options each site offers when choosing a QR code generator. Another way to track QR code usage is to use the QR code to lead people to a website. Your current analytics will allow you to keep track of the number of people who visit the URL you embed in the QR code.

2) Save money. One of the biggest disadvantages to any form of print marketing is the cost. Billboards and brochures can be cost-prohibitive, especially for small businesses. However, most businesses already have a website. With a QR code on a flyer or a small newspaper ad, you can embed a link to a webpage or a downloadable ebook/brochure. That way, people can still receive the information about your business without you incurring the cost of printing. Also, if some information in the brochure or book needs to change, you can easily make the change online without having to reprint hundreds or thousands of copies.

3) Ease of storage/transportation. If someone likes or wants to keep some information about your business, instead of finding a pen and paper, all they have to do is use their smartphone to scan the QR code. The information from the code will be saved on their phone if they want to retrieve it again later or share it with someone else.

4) Build customer excitement. People are curious. People who know what QR codes are will want to know what information you have stored in your company’s QR code. They can quickly and easily scan your code and find out more information about your business or find a special offer or coupon you may offer exclusively through the QR code.

No matter what kind of business you have, there are many ways to utilize QR codes to help grow your business. At Addison’s Compass Public Relations, we can offer assistance to any business needing consultation to get started using QR codes. We can help you create promotional ideas and content that will engage your customers. If you are local to us in Ohio, we do house (business) calls too! Scan our QR code at the left to visit our website.

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Beginning foursquare: Build a Village and Keep them Coming

24 May

by Erin Al-Mehairi, owner, Addison’s Compass Public Relations

A common joust in our household between Tim and I is this: “Darn it! You stole my ‘Mayorship’ again!” I just love getting an email in the morning that reads “Sorry, but Tim Busbey is now Mayor of (any given place), but a few more check-ins and you could be on top again!”

What is foursquare exactly?

Light-hearted fun or not at home, the application foursquare already has grown to more than 6.5 million users. Anyone with GPS-enabled mobile devices can “check-in” at venues by running an app on their phone and choosing from a list of venues that the application locates nearby (or add one in if it is not already in the list). Each check-in awards the user points, can make them a “Mayor,” and assist them in working toward “badges.” Users can choose to have their check-ins posted to their Twitter and Facebook accounts so their friends can see where they are, have been, what venues they like, and even get tips for certain locations. If a person frequents an establishment often enough they will become “Mayor” or oust someone who is a current “Mayor.”

Register Your Business and Offer Specials!

As a business owner, you want to make sure you register your business on foursquare. Users can “check-in” at your business, whether you are registered or not, giving you free advertising. However, having a registered business is more advantageous because it allows you to interact with your customer base.

For instance, you can monitor the reactions and tips posted about your business. You are able to offer coupons to anyone who checks-in and you can offer royal deals to those who frequent enough to be your “Mayor,” which we recommend doing since they are your best customers!

Examples of How to Offer Specials on foursquare

It doesn’t matter what size your business is, you can attract new customers or reward loyal ones by offering these foursquare specials – mobile coupons, prizes or discounts – to users when they check-in at or near your venue. Everyone likes a deal right? Why not reward your most loyal customers or get more traffic on a slow day?

1.) Offer 25 percent off a meal, a BOGO (buy one get one) coffee, or maybe even roll out the red carpet (literally) once your “Mayor” steps in the door. Specials can be tailored to fit the needs of your business.

2.) Just like reward programs offered across the nation utilizing a reward card, you can use the same concept for your loyal customers who use foursqare. For example, check-in 10 times, get a free product, gift, or prize at your 11th visit.

3.) Use it to increase traffic on a slow day by offering a buy one, get one half-off lunch special for one day only, or between certain hours. Offer happy hour or early dinner deals on certain days for those that check-in at certain times.

For instance, near where we live in Ashland, Ohio, where small business abounds, College Hills Honda in Wooster, Ohio gives a free Honda hat to you on your third check-in. Harry and David chain store at the Lodi Outlet Mall in Burbank, Ohio (near Lodi and Wooster) offers $10 off your purchase $50 with foursquare check-in (for which if you show retailer, they will put in a code at check-out). Also at the Lodi Outlet Mall they give a special exclusively for foursquare users: a free lunch at Steam Cafe for every 10th check-in and for the “Mayor,” a free Lodi Station Outlets hoodie and a FREE lunch at Steam Cafe.

What foursquare Customers Can Do for You with Social Media

They can offer much more in return to you as their check-ins post to their followers on Facebook and Twitter, as well as to their friends on foursqare, giving you a wealth of free advertising and testimonials. If they have their foursquare set-up to post to social media (they can post all or choose which), their check-ins, Mayorships, and badges will post each time to Facebook and Twitter alerting even more people to your business. If they leave a great tip about your business, even better! Monitor your Twitter stream for your brand or business, and send a tweet to those who have their foursquare use sent out into Twitterverse. I loved when I became Mayor of my local Drug Mart one day and the Drug Mart Twitter account thanked me for my patronage and started to follow me!

Free Venue Statistics

Having a registered business also allows you to also use the merchant tool called venue stats. foursquare offers these free of charge to registered businesses and the stats will give you a great deal of information on your visitors, including what time of day they most generally arrived, a break-down by gender, and even which portion of your visitors’ check-ins were posted to Facebook and Twitter! This is a great tool to use after launching a special to see what kind of activity and return you received.

Need Assistance?

There is a lot more to using this marketing tool than you may think that can be quite good for your business as the world turns more to online marketing, mobile use, and digital media. At Addison’s Compass Public Relations, we can offer assistance to any business needing consultation to get set-up on foursquare, or would like to have the set-up done for them and/or managed as well. If you are local to us in Ohio, we do house (business) calls too!

You can find both Tim and I on foursquare as avid users and would be happy to be your friend on foursquare and frequent your business!