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The Power of QR codes for small business

Updated on November 24, 2016

QR code in action

This QR code when scanned will take you directly to another Hub Pages article written about additional small business marketing know how  by this same author.
This QR code when scanned will take you directly to another Hub Pages article written about additional small business marketing know how by this same author. | Source

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a picture made up of tiny squares that, when scanned with a mobile device equipped with a scanner application, will send instructions to your device to complete an action. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response. A QR code is like a Barcode but because of the configuration of the tiny squares can communicate on a much larger scale.

What instructions can a QR code send to your mobile device?

Once a QR is decoded by your scanner application, it will do one of three different actions:

  1. Translate the code into text. No internet connection required.
  2. Direct your browser to an internet landing spot. Internet connection required.
  3. Take command your of your mobile device to start another process. Dependant on the instructions, Internet connection may or may not be required.

To further understand what each of these three actions mean, we will look at them individually, keeping in mind that this list is not exhaustive but will demonstrate the possibilities.

No Internet Needed

Here is an example of a text imbedded code.  In this example, when scanned, will give you John 3:16 translated into Spanish.  A great use of this would be to use a QR code to translate a set of instructions from English into another language
Here is an example of a text imbedded code. In this example, when scanned, will give you John 3:16 translated into Spanish. A great use of this would be to use a QR code to translate a set of instructions from English into another language | Source

1. Translate code into text

Simply put, when the scanner reads the QR code, it unscrambles a message and converts it into a readable form. No internet or phone service is required for this operation making it an ideal method of providing instant information. To the right is an example where I made a QR code from a Bible passage. When this code is scanned, it is a translated verse from English to Spanish. In terms of marketing, this would be an example where a you would scan the QR code placed on sales literature and it in turn would convert the information into another language. Other applications could be using a QR code to provide a recipe or code in a marketing treasure hunt. I used this approach for a multi-participant store approach. Each store had a QR code clue...the successful winner visited all of the stores until they solved a puzzle. The winner received a gift card to any of the participating stores.

Hub Pages Facebook Direct Connect

Here is a "juiced" up QR code that when scanned will take you directly to Hub Pages Face Book.  Creating QR codes is easy and can be crafted to take you to any internet web site, blog, or even a specific Hub Page article like this one.
Here is a "juiced" up QR code that when scanned will take you directly to Hub Pages Face Book. Creating QR codes is easy and can be crafted to take you to any internet web site, blog, or even a specific Hub Page article like this one. | Source

2. Direct your browser

When a scanned QR code that is designed to interface directly with the internet, it will simply connect using your browser to a web address by bypassing the steps normally required to get to the same place. Basically, it operates like a shortcut with no typing or manually opening of your browser.

  • YouTube Video: useful for how-to videos directly on packaging, or a music video that could be watched and placed in print media like a magazine or advertisement.
  • Facebook: connect directly to a personal or business Facebook page. The same could be applied to any social media landing spot.
  • Twitter Follow: just like Facebook, connect directly to a Twitter account. Especially useful in building a business or non- profit follower base.
  • Goggle Maps: a great approach to getting people from point A to point B on the spot. Using a QR with a map interface will not only provide instant directions from the point of scan, but will also capture when, where, and what was used to get the information.
  • LinkedIn Profile: this is an “instant” way of connecting with and building networking associates. By placing a QR code on a business card or product brochure, your future contact base can grow even when there is no direct contact.
  • ITunes Link: this is a popular way to hook potential buyers especially for bands and clubs. For example, in an establishment that has a jukebox, a QR placard with “free” downloads of an artist is a useful and inexpensive way of marketing.
  • Website, Blog, or article direct connects: unlimited as the number of URLs available. Using a QR code will give direct access to any landing point you choose without the need for a redirect.
  • Instant Coupons: creating a web based coupon or discount only accessible through a QR code can be used to create a marketing approach that will not only enable a customer to lock in to a special offer, but will also capture information that can be used for future marketing strategies.
  • Product Reviews: consumers are very savvy and want to know more information or the experience from previous purchasers. Just like connecting directly to a website, blog, or article, a dedicated product review can be placed at their fingertips without further research.

Scan me direct

Depending on the scanner application you are using, when an email QR code is configured for email, it will automatically open your email and pre address in one step.  This code if scanned will open up an email and allow you to contact me directly.
Depending on the scanner application you are using, when an email QR code is configured for email, it will automatically open your email and pre address in one step. This code if scanned will open up an email and allow you to contact me directly. | Source

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3. Command your mobile device

A QR code can operate like a “smart” switch. When scanned, it will turn “on” another application in your device and then feed that application with information or further instructions. For example, a QR code could be formatted to direct your phone to instantly dial a phone number or send a preformatted text message.

  • Scan to Pay: enabled direct payment platforms can be automatically utilized for instant scan and pay. An example of this would be a QR code that is placed on a product or service card that reads: “Pay with Paypal”.
  • Place a Call: a QR code that is designed to access your phone can import contact information and automatically populate an address book and allow you to make a phone call directly with a simple touch of “send”.
  • Send an Email: designing a QR code that opens a preaddressed email address and filled in subject line, when scanned will automatically open your email and allow you to respond.
  • Tweet: just like making a call or sending an email, a properly designed QR code will activate the users text messaging service and allow them to tweet directly to the twitter account of your choosing.
  • GPS: for mobile device with GPS applications, scanning a QR code that is imbedded with destination coordinates will configure your GPS with update routes. An interesting approach to using this is a GeoCache with a QRcode that provided the next location for treasure hunting.
  • Skype Username: instantly connecting with another Skype user saves opening your account and inputting addresses.
  • WiFi pass code connect: Scanning a QR code that is designed to provide access to locked-out connections provides a track able security level and gives real time data to the originator. This allows the owner of a WiFi network to change the code as often as desired.

Glad to meet you!

Hi there and welcome to a little bit of the crazy inside my head!
Hi there and welcome to a little bit of the crazy inside my head! | Source

About the Author

Joel has a unique passion for Small Retail Business Marketing and has developed campaigns that have proven successful for over 30 years. Driving traffic and concentrating on methods that encourage growth by crafting new approaches to enhancing customer service and satisfaction has been his stock in trade. Joel works as an independent retail consultant and values the relationships he has established by helping small businesses become leaders in local commerce. Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments below.

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    • doris and me profile image

      Mohammad Tanvir Ibne Amin 2 years ago from Dhaka

      hey joe!!!it's a very informative hub....great work..

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Joel, Yes I know there is a wide range of QR code readers. I've tested a few myself.

      The problem is that there is non included by default in smartphones and telling people to install an app to read the code doesn't work.

      Nevertheless, I'm using it on few websites and also on the back of my business card.

      As Heidi said, businesses are using the codes less and less in their advertising, so the public is not aware of what they are. I'm hoping this will turn around in time.

      It's just a matter of companies using QR codes more often again, if they ever do give it another try. What you are doing with educating people will help. By the way, I also tweeted about you last week and HubPages retweeted it. Hope it brings more traffic your way.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hey Joel! I have been a QR code fan for quite a while (even wrote a short book on using them with promos).

      Have to agree with Glenn. When I've used them on signs and such at events, I've often had to explain what they are and how to use them with a smartphone. It was pretty bad a few years ago, but seems to be a little better now that more and more people (especially of the Boomer generation) are ditching their feature phones for smartphones. Sadly, I'm also seeing businesses using them less and less because of these reasons. They got tired of trying to explain the QR thing and gave up. Truly unfortunate.

      Anyway, great hub. Voted up, useful and interesting. Also sharing on Twitter. Cheers!

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image
      Author

      Joel Diffendarfer 2 years ago from Ft Collins, Colorado

      Glenn, again, you are right on the money! There is a wide range of free QR code readers that work well for different platforms. I have tested many and am currrently narrowing down the list. The reader I am considering as my top pick also has features that could end up making it the best on the market to date. It not only reads any form of imbeded code used in marketing, but also does background research on the item scanned. For example, if you scan a QR code or Barcode, it will automatically search the world for the same item, provide reviews, and tell you the best place and best price to buy it.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      After reading your other hub on QR codes I had started using it to direct readers to my author site where I index my hubs by category.

      The problem I'm noticing is that few people know they can get a free QR scanner app for their iPhone or other smartphone. But I'm sure this will change over time as QR codes are used more prominently in magazines and products to provide more info for interested readers.