Using QR Codes for the Local Franchise Business

Two years ago, there was lot of buzz about Taco Bell's QR Code promotion with MTV. This is often pointed out as a great example of a fast food or franchise business using QR Codes but my impression is that most franchise owners are local business people and the Taco Bell-MTV promotion is a better example of two national brands teaming up on a national campaign.

I thought that their use of QR Codes was inspired and this campaign will do a lot to help make the general public familiar with QR Codes but it doesn't do much to show franchise owners what they can do on the local level. If at this point you are not familiar with QR Codes please read some of my blogs on QR Codes.

Even though many franchise owners may own more than one franchise location in reality they are local business people who depend upon local customers and repeat customers for their business. There may be many marketing mistakes franchise owners make because they do not think of themselves as local business owners. QR Codes is a tool to help correct that. In fact almost anything a local business can do with a QR Code a franchise business can do

In spite of examples of large companies such as Taco Bell using QR Codes they really are custom made for small businesses. The biggest advantage is that they are very inexpensive to generate. There are a number of free and low cost QR Code Generators for marketing as well as platforms where you can build a QR Code campaign and a mobile website such as Linkblots.com. Of course there are plenty of agencies, such as Image Media Partners, that offer low cost solutions for QR Code campaigns.

3 Basic Uses for QR Codes

1. Bridge to the online world: Since a QR Code can be printed on anything that can be printed on it is the perfect tool to bring your customer from the physical world to the online world. If your business already has any type of online presence, a website that you control, a Facebook page or even a Google Places or Yelp listing you can use a QR Code to connect to it. This may be something as simple as scanning the code to "Like" your Facebook page or connecting to a more robust mobile micro-website.

2. Promotions: Unlike printed coupons QR Codes, if used properly, don't expire because the code brings the user to a mobile website that can be updated with new information. For example if Monday's coupon is a free coke and Tuesday's coupon is an early bird special you can update the coupon and continue to use the same QR Code. La Croissanterie, a French fast-food outlet, is using QR Codes as part of their loyalty program. A Mexican restaurant chain owner in Michigan used QR Codes to promote his third outlet opening in Ann Arbor. He included the QR Codes in ads on posters and newspapers around the University of Michigan and got about four thousand scans.

3. Information: QR Codes would be too limiting if the only thing they did was make it easier to "Like" your Facebook page or pass as a fancy high-tech coupon. Even though in a recent study by MGH Modern Marketing 87% of the respondents who were interested in QR Codes said they would scan a code to get a coupon, 63% said they would scan the code to get more information, 53% said they would sign up to a mailing list to receive more information and 60% said they would scan the code to make a purchase. People are looking for information as well as deals. One cool thing Taco Bell is doing with their QR Codes is linking to a Taco Bell mobile site that not only has specials but a store locator, menus and nutritional and allergy information. What information would be helpful to your customers? Do you have a mailing list? Use the QR Code to sign them up.

Basic QR Code Guidelines

There are only a few rules, or rather, best practices you should pay attention to.

  1. Specific Destination: Any time you have a link it should be to a specific page for a specific action. Don't send people to Facebook send them to your Facebook page. Don't send people to your home page send them to a specific landing page optimized for a mobile phone.
  2. Optimize for Mobile: 99% of all users will scan your QR Code with a mobile phone (OK I made up that number but who carries their desktop to a restaurant?) Your destination page needs to be set up for mobile phones. Facebook already is but if you send them someplace else make sure they can read your page on a smart phone.
  3. Keep the URL Short: The longer the URL the more complex the code will become. Keep things simple and use a URL shortener. If you make a unique code on a site like bit.ly.com you can keep track of the traffic. An added plus for bit.ly is that when you ad .qr to the end of any bit.ly URL it will generate a QR Code.

More QR Code Ideas

If you have not already come up with a list of uses for QR Codes here are a few suggests.

Where to send people who scan your QR Code:

· Mobile website

· Google Places or Yelp listing

· Menu

· Store Locator

· Facebook

· Coupon

· Sign up mail list

· Helpful information:

o Nutritional info

o Tax Tips

o Corporate site

o vacation destinations

· Slide show of home, cars, pizzas, shoes or whatever you are selling

· Video of your business or product

· Micro-payments

· E-commerce site

· Your phone number

· Contact information

· Information about product

· Charity you support

Where to print QR Codes:

· Business card

· Poster

· Front door (link to Foursqure)

· Google Places

· Menu

· Billboard

· Real Estate signs

· Newspaper or Magazine Ad

· T-shirt

· Little League Uniform

· Coupons

· On food

· Product packaging and labels

· Laptop stickers

· Table Tents

· Tattoos

· Catalogs

· Flyers

· Pizza boxes

Just about any place where you connect to your customers and would like to bring them into the online world is a good place to put a QR Code and any place on line that you can offer value to your customer is a great place to link a QR Code. The most effective way to scan a QR Code is with a smartphone. Many detractors will point out that currently only 35% of North Americans have a smartphone but market penetration will surpass 50% by the end of the year and it is expected to grow. My advice is to get a bit ahead of the curve and be ready. QR codes can easily fit into most marketing plans and it will pay dividends. A quick side note to local printing franchise owners, if your customers are not already asking you to print QR Codes they soon will be as the owners of Sir Speedy found out.

For more information about QR Codes and how to use them you can download this QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet or visit the QR Code Resourcepage on our website. I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences or questions concerning QR Codes in the comments section.

Timothy Lorang is the founder and Executive Partner for Image Media Partners, an online and social media marketing and consulting agency based in Seattle, Washington. Partner Views Blog covers many of the aspects of online, social media and QR Code marketing. Image Media Partners offers low cost solutions for those needing assistance for their QR Code Campaigns and a free QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet download.

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