Guest post: The QR Code Is 2011's Must-Have Event Marketing Tool

This is a guest post Upasna Gautam, Digital Marketing Consultant at Magic Logix, a digital interactive marketing agency specializing in customized website design, website development, SEO and online marketing. Upasna previously shared her expert tips on crafting the perfect email pitch, the marketing power of a blog, and optimizing your Facebook business page. Here she writes about making the most of QR codes in your event marketing—a hot topic in the year to come.

2011 will be (and already is) much more about uber-sophisticated gadgetry to push promotional campaigns. There will always be a place for the traditional t-shirts, hats, bag, coffee mugs, and products more commonly associated with promotional marketing, as studies have proven these products are still highly effective. However, smart and creative marketing firms will do more than slap logos on stuff – as is a brand’s target customer, successful event marketing has become too high-tech to take just a single channel approach. So, which approach should you apply? The new answer to this old question: The QR code.

As smartphones and smartphone applications continue to increase in usage, everyone from small businesses to international corporations are investing a lot more interest in QR code integration into their marketing strategy. With just about half the population carrying around a smartphone, not to mention Nielsen’s prediction that smartphones will be the dominant device by the end of 2011, it’s worth it to give this new toy a try.

Before getting into the “how”, here’s the “what”: A QR, or Quick Response, code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background, and the encoded information can be text, URL or other data. QR codes present a valuable method of adding web based content (basically any URL) to real-world messages, objects or locations. This tool provides an excellent means for multi-faceted campaigns to push a digital offer and drive brand engagement, ultimately leading to increased website and social media interaction via a mobile platform.

The novelty here is the way phones are able to scan and “click” to access the content, so it’s inherently tied to smartphone usage. Any user with a smartphone will need to do a one-time download of a free application which makes use of the phone’s camera, and then you’re good to go.

As far QR Code implementation goes, your options are virtually endless – in Japan, QR codes have been tagged onto heads of lettuce that direct you to information on when and where the produce is grown. However, since most of us are still beginners, here are some practical but impactful tips to keep in mind when QR coding your event marketing efforts:

1. Include your QR code on all of your event’s printed marketing material. This is extremely convenient for those who are on the go and can simply scan the code from their cell phone to be directed to the event registration page.

2. Add call-to-actions near the QR code. Be sure to give your attendees a compelling reason to scan the code (“Scan to win a free iPad”), otherwise why should they bother? Ensure your call to action is valuable, exclusive and aligned with your event (don’t offer a free Windows 7 smartphone at an Apple-focused event).

3. Make networking easier Business cards will become obsolete in the near future; they are annoying to carry around, require you to write on them to ensure you remember who gave you the card, and then once you get back to your office, you have to re-key all the information. This hassle can easily be avoided by adding a QR code to your registration badge. This way, attendees can simply scan their contact’s QR code with their cell phone and download their contact information.

4. Link event attendees to how-to videos, detailed instructions, assessment surveys or feedback forms.

5. Use your QR code to link to a special thank-you page and sign-up form for a newsletter, or to your Facebook Business Page.

The common theme here is that QR codes can be created with pretty much any information a company wants to share with its target audience. The prime opportunity presents itself when you are able to engage with your event attendees while they are physically interacting via QR codes. This could be at a networking mixer, a trade show, a large-scale conference, or after the event is over. Making the experience simple, engaging and advantageous is essential. As the general public begins to interact and become familiar with this emerging medium, QR codes will be the most convenient bridge between the physical and digital world.