Making Sure Your QR Code Is Scanned

All You Need to Know About What is a QR Code and How Does It Work?
January 4, 2021
  • Telling people about your QR Code 
  • Improving the chances your QR Code is scanned
  • Giving people good reasons to keep on scanning 

The goal of this book is to show you how to use QR Codes for marketing and make them a successful, permanent part of your marketing plan. I want to make sure you and I are clear on our terms. 

QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes that link the offline world with digital content. The things you do to get and keep stakeholders is called marketing. The specific tactics you adopt to realize your marketing objectives are part of your marketing plan. 

In this chapter, I show you how to promote your QR Code with stakeholders, how to increase the odds they’ll scan it and, finally, how to add value with your QR Code so that, after someone’s scanned it, they’re happy they did. 

Spreading the Word on your QR Code 

Your first challenge is getting people to take notice of your QR Code. Believe it or not, you could start with a QR Code itself. That’s the logic behind some of the huge QR Codes you see in places such as Times Square. They get people to take notice by making the code so big and omnipresent that people are sure to talk and ask questions about it. 

I’m not suggesting you find a billboard space in Times Square. but a large QR Code at the entrance to your office or your reception area may be just what you need (see Figure 5-1). 

Figure 5-1: This QR Code says it all: “Scan me!” 

Here are nine more ideas for promoting your QR Code: 

Put a code at the bottom of your e-mail signature.  

Someone is bound to ask, “What the heck is that?” 

Give some instructions.  

Explain what a QR Code is and how to scan one in your blog, website, and e-mail news- letter. Take responsibility for educating your audience on what the codes are and how to use them. 

Use them in your advertising.  

Put QR Codes in all your advertisements so people get used to seeing them connected with your organization. 

Include a QR Code on your business card (see Figure 5-2).  

You can link it to your phone number, your Linkedin page, a video, a newspaper story profiling you, or your involvement in a recent project. 

Ordering QR Codes in bulk 

After reading this book and creating and using R Codes, you may decide you really like QR Codes – a lot. You don’t want just one QR Code; you want hundreds of them! 

Infatuation may not be your only motivation. Maybe you’re planning a conference and want QR Codes on attendees’ name tags so you can track attendance to different breakout sessions. Attendees can also scan them to swap contact information. 

The good news is that you can process all these QR Codes in bulk, one of the QR Code generator services I recommend in Chapter 3, is just one company that can process hundreds of QR Codes at once. For most services, this involves uploading a simple Excel file or other data file, to their site. Be aware that many sites charge a fee for processing QR Codes in bulk. 

However, if you want to generate a bunch of QR Codes for free and you don’t mind inputting the data, try the bulk generator at You simply enter the data for as many QR Codes as you like – each on a new line – and click the Submit Query button. You can download all the codes you created into a zip file for easy use. 

Figure 5-2: Business cards are a popular place for QR Codes. 

Train everyone on your team to talk about QR Codes with everyone they meet.  

Remember, talk is cheap. They should know how to scan and use one too. 

Affix QR Codes to all the products in your store.  

Over time, give each code a personalized link to interesting and useful content. 

Add QR Codes to your presentation and slides.  

Regardless of your speaking topic, take a moment to explain what they are and how to scan them. 

Give QR Codes a prominent place at your events.  

Include them on table signs, drink coasters, place set- tings, and even napkins. 

Spread the word.  

Tell the real busybodies in your neighborhood about QR Codes – they’ll be sure to tell everyone. 

Making lt Easy for People to Scan Your QR Code 

A key part in getting someone to do anything is not giving him or her an excuse to say no. If you pitch a potential client and he’s really interested, but you never call him back or return his messages, you’re just giving the prospect an excuse to say no and buy from someone else. 

The same applies to QR Codes. You have to make scanning and using QR Codes just as easy as possible. This is especially true given that a study in 2011 reported that three of ten consumers don’t understand QR Codes. You and I have our work cut out for us. 

The following sections give some of the reasons why people may say no to QR Codes and what you can do to turn that no into a yes. 

 They don’t know what that funny-tooking, black-and- white square is 

People are asking what that funny-looking, black-and-white square is a lot because they’re seeing them everywhere, usually with little or no explanation of what to do with them. Here’s how you can introduce QR Codes to people who aren’t familiar with them: 

Share some details.  

Include text near the code that tells people (as shown in Figure 5-3) what the QR Code can deliver when they scan it. Here’s an example of the text that might accompany a QR Code in your marketing materials: “For our weekly specials, visit our website or scan this QR Code with your mobile device.” 

People are more likely to try QR codes or anything for that matter – when they’re instructed on how to do it and are clear on what they’ll get in return. 

Figure 5-3: This QR Code shows and tells. 

Think about placement.  

Large QR Codes on billboards get people thinking, “Where will it take me if I scan it?” But if surprise isn’t your angle, put QR Codes in places where people can connect the dots on what they link to. A QR Code ona takeout menu will probably link to an online menu or app. It makes sense, right? There’s a good case to be made for putting QR Codes in predict- able spots where people will connect the dots – literally and figuratively – and use them. See Figure 5-4 for an example of a simple and clever placement of a QR Code. 

Address performance anxiety head-on.  

People like to try new things, but not when they may come off looking like a fool. Put QR Codes in a practical place and not somewhere where bystanders will question a person’s sanity. OR Codes on register signs may seem like a good idea, but not when people have to put on a show for everyone behind them to download the reader, scan the code, and so on. People don’t want to look foolish if they can’t figure it out, so instead they don’t try. You can still have OR Codes in the checkout line, but how about toward the back of the line so shoppers can try it while they’re waiting? 

Figure 5-4: Hmmm. I get the sense that this QR Code is where I could get a question answered. 

Give people a good reason to scan.  

Refer to the end of Chapter 4, where I list the main reasons people scan QR Codes now and what they plan to scan them for tomor- row and after. A recently launched website focused on poking fun at QR code failures shares many examples of QR Codes that just aren’t scan worthy. Scan the QR code in the left margin to visit this site. 

Give people another option.  

The important thing about any kind of marketing is that it accomplishes your goals. The QR Code is just a tool, and sometimes it may not be the right one or you may need to use it with something else to get the job done. That’s why many good QR Code marketing campaigns give users an alternative to scanning, such as a URL or text code. A wise man once said that people don’t want a drill, they want a hole. Give people what they want. 

They don’t know how to scan then 

Many people are curious about QR Codes and want to use them, but they just don’t know how. And, unfortunately, they’re not getting a lot of help. Here’s how you can change that. 

Direct people to a reader.  

Most QR Codes have a short message underneath them, like this one: “Visit your app store to download a QR reader.” Until QR Codes become well known and native to mobile devices, you’ll need to tell people how to unlock the content. 

Educate frontline staff.  

If someone asks, your staff needs to know what a QR Code is, what its value to the user, and how to scan it. If employees can’t tell people why and how they should scan a QR Code, you’re missing a powerful opportunity to woo potential adopters. 

Scan the QR Code in the left margin and read an excellent ase study about specialty earphone maker Etymotic. They realized the competitive-edge QR Codes delivered and made staff training a top priority. 

The QR Code doesn’t work 

The last thing you want is someone scanning your QR Code and then being disappointed when it doesn’t work. In addition to the best practices I outline in Chapter3 for creating QR Codes, follow these three tips: 

Make sure your QR Codes are at least one-by-one inch.  

Some older mobile devices can’t read codes smaller than this. 

Make sure to use a URL shortener.  

If you embed a long URL on your QR Code, you’ll increase the chance that the code will be “too busy” and won’t scan. Shortening the URL produces a cleaner code that’s easily read. Three popular URL shorteners are,, and Bitly. 

Make sure your QR Code has a quiet zone.  

This is the white area around the actual code that separates the code from what’s around it (shown in Figure 5-5). 

If you’re using one of the QR Code generators I recommended in Chapter 3, the QR Code you create will come with a 4mm border that you shouldn’t block or reduce. Every QR Code is unique piece of digital art. Don’t ruin it by removing the frame. 

Figure 5-5: Note the white area around the actual code. It’s called the quiet zone. 

Adding Value with QR Codes 

The question is whether QR Codes are the right tool for the job. Do they get the job done? Do they add value to the project? Ask yourself these two questions before embarking on any marketing campaign that involves QR Codes: 

Here are a few more suggestions: 

The code should do one thing.  

This point seems easy because creating a QR Code requires you enter one data point (a URL, phone number, map, YouTube video, and so on). But are you really directing the user to one thing? Using a QR Code to open a website is one thing, but not if it takes the user to a page with too many options. You might be better off directing them to a certain page on your website. If you run an auto dealership and your QR Code dials a phone number, where does it go – sales, parts, service? Drill down to that one thing you want your QR Code to accomplish. 

Consider the context.  

If you want to use your QR Code to give your customers a coupon for apples, where should you place the QR Code – at the apple bin in the aisles or at the register? In the aisles is probably a better option, because the line at the register is generally hectic, and the shopper may have forgotten what the QR Code is for. Context matters. Strive to think like your audience. 

Be relevant.  

Lately, whenever I get a phone book delivered to my house, I notice the cover often has a QR Code on it so I can download the phone book app on my mobile device (see Figure 5-6). This is smart, because I’m usually halfway to the recycling barrel when I see it. The phone book company is trying to connect with mobile- savvy customers who will quickly dispose of the paper phone book but may want a mobile option. The QR Code delivers a viable alternative that I might not have considered if I hadn’t seen it. 

Figure 5-6: The OR Code on this phone book opens a mobile app. 

Move the user down the funnel.  

You know what they say: “If you’re not closing, you’re in customer service, not sales.” Your QR Code should move your customer closer to buying. If I run a wine company and I put QR Codes on my wine bottles, what should they link to? My website? Or would I be better off linking it to customer reviews of my wines? Or how about a pairing of the wine with recipes? Which one is more likely to close the sale? Fortunately, you can track each strategy and see which QR Code is most effective in moving the consumer to buy. 

Enhance the experience.  

This suggestion is my most important takeaway on using QR Codes. The code should do something different, something that the thing it’s on can’t do. Give it a real purpose. For example, if you put a QR Code on your resume that links to a PDF version of your resume, that’s a terrible waste of a QR Code. The person has your resume. They probably don’t need a version of it on their phone. Instead, use the QR Code to link users to your recommendations on Linkedln. Or how about a QR Code that opens a YouTube video of you giving a speech on a topic of interest to a potential employer? 

QR Codes require the same forethought and discretion that PowerPoint demands. Just as you use visuals to complement your spoken message and not just repeat yourself, use your QR Code to communicate something that can’t be said. 

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