Winning Combo: QR Codes and Direct Mail

Quick Response codes can be scanned with a SmartPhone to display text, take the user to a website, or dial a phone number. They represent a revolution in direct response advertising and yet another way that marketers are breaking down the barrier between a company and its prospects or clients. In fact, according to ScanLife, the prevalence of Quick Response codes as an advertising medium increased by 700 percent in 2010. And they’re even more popular this year.

5 tips for using QR codes effectively

QR codes are a marketing tool that you shouldn’t ignore. Yet it would be a mistake to use Quick Response codes just because they’re cool. Follow the 5 tips we’ve outlined here to ensure that when you use QR codes in your direct mail, you’re doing so purposefully – and effectively.

1. Where you’re going matters. A great map isn’t much good without a great destination. You can use QR codes to display text – a coupon code, perhaps (see our Quick Response code below). You can use them to display your phone number (again, breaking the barrier between your targets and their response). Or – most popularly – use them to take people to your website (or a targeted micro version of it).

If you use the Quick Response code to take people to your website, think about what device they’ll be using when they visit your site – likely the same SmartPhone they used to scan the code. It isn’t really necessary to have a sophisticated mobile website, as long as your site is designed to display well on a SmartPhone (most new website platforms do this automatically).

Better yet, consider creating a mobile-friendly microsite that you use just for people responding to your QR code. The beauty of Quick Response codes is how they let you specifically target your offer and the messaging associated with it.

2. It’s all about your audience. Even among SmartPhone users, in America at least, Quick Response codes are still foreign – so give your mail recipients a bit of help on how to use the QR code (a “Scan me with your SmartPhone barcode reader” can suffice – you might also offer suggestions on where to get the code reader, like the Droid Market or iPhone App store).

3. Integrate the Quick Response code into your offer. We talk a lot here about the importance of a great offer. Direct response marketing (which includes, of course, direct mail) is all about enticing your target to action – and what better way to do that with a can’t be refused offer. As you design your Quick Response code campaign, think about what you’re offering, and about what you’re getting. Send a postcard with a QR code inviting prospects to sign up to join your special discount club – they get special discounts, and you get their e-mail address and phone number (two more ways you can communicate with them).

4. Use QR codes to integrate your direct mail and online marketing efforts. Quick Response codes are a brilliant way to connect your offline marketing efforts with your online marketing efforts. When mail recipients scan the QR code, take them to a microsite that allows them to sign up for special deals and useful information; you can even offer recipients the option to sign up for mail, e-mail or SMS-based messages – so you’re really communicating with your targets the way they want to be communicated with.

5. Be purposeful. Sometimes new trends in marketing (or anything else) are simply flash-in-the-pan fads that suck up marketing resources that should be going to tried-and-true channels. Not so with QR codes; the fact is that SmartPhones have revolutionized our lives, and will continue to do so – mobile marketing is not a fad, it’s the wave of the future (integrated with other channels, like direct mail, of course).

QR codes and Direct Mail

The process of creating a mail piece with a Quick Response code is essentially the same as creating any other piece, with the added step (during the design phase) of including a high-resolution QR code. There are some great QR code generators online; here are just a few options:

Kaywa – the simplest Quick Response code generator, it allows you to generate a QR code for a URL or phone number, or about a paragraph worth of text (see our example below).

iCandy – a bit more sophisticated than Kaywa, iCandy allows you to track scans. If you’re serious about integrating Quick Response codes into your marketing efforts, measurement is key.

Once you’ve designed your mailer with the QR code included, TEST, TEST, TEST!

Make sure that it can be read by a variety of different Smartphones.