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Getting started with QR codes

July 18, 2011

You have likely seen square bar codes appearing on ads, catalogs and magazines everywhere. But what are they and what purpose do they serve?

They are called QR codes, or quick response codes. A QR code is a two-dimensional code that can be read with a QR bar code reader or application on your mobile device. Each QR code is unique and can be driven to any digital information you want, like a URL, contact information or other data.

QR codes are helping bridge the gap between the print and digital marketing by providing a quick way to immediately engage people with your company. People are busy and most of us have very short attention spans. This means we have to capture and engage with people in the moment with relevant information.

QR codes present a lot of opportunity for accounting firms due to their versatility and tracking capabilities. If you want to explore QR codes, here is how to get started.

1.    Decide where you want to place the QR code. This is usually placed on print materials, like your business card, marketing materials, advertisements, trade show materials or mailed lead generation or drip marketing campaign materials.

2.    Decide what action you want your visitor to take. Using a QR codes allows you to drive people to do something, so you have to decide what you want that action to be. It could be as simple as downloading your contact information, liking your Facebook page or downloading a document.

3.    Craft your message. Your message or the content you are sharing should be relevant to the materials the QR code is being placed on. For example, if you’re running a campaign promoting experience in health care, consider creating a landing page that communicates your depth of experience and offers up a free white paper on the hot topic of the moment that the visitor can download.

Looking for more practical marketing ideas to grow your business? Scan this on your mobile phone with QR code reader, like i-nigma.

4.    Generate your QR code. QR codes are easy to create and most sites don’t charge for creating codes. My personal favorite is I-nigma. They have a free tool that allows you to generate your QR code quickly. They also have tracking capabilities.

5.    Market your QR code. Once you have generated you code, you will need to market it by placing it on relevant materials. Be creative with where you place your code, keeping in mind that you want people to take action.

6.    Track your success. Depending on what action you are trying to drive, you will likely want to track your progress. Make sure that the QR code generator you choose to use has analytics if that is important to you.

Sarah Johnson is the Chief Growth Strategist with Inovautus Consulting, a firm that works with CPA, Law and professional service firms to help them grow more effectively, and author of Practical Ideas for Growth, a blog dedicated to growing professional firms. Her counsel and strategies have helped move firms to the next level in their marketing and sales efforts. Connect with Sarah at 773-634-9902,, or


Comments (5)
Totally agree with Sarah on needing the QRs to be dynamic AKA recyclable. I have my recyclable QR that I got from a website called and printed it on my business cards and I have another one for my presentation pamphlets which I link to other reports. I can change what does QRs are linked to as many times as I want and NEVER have to reprint my pamphlet or my business cards.
Posted by QRfan | Tuesday, July 19 2011 at 5:50PM ET
Allan- Thank you for adding your insights. I agree completely that crafting your message correctly is very important. Dynamic QR codes will absolutely give you more flexibility.
Posted by Sarah j | Tuesday, July 19 2011 at 3:25PM ET
Swright- I am happy to help clarify. The overarching purpose is to help drive engagement with a brand (or company). In todays environment capturing attention is tough to do. QR codes can help you drive engagement by giving an individual and easy and quick way to engage with your company in the moment from a mobile device. The beauty about QR codes is that they can be accessed using a smart phone or camera phone as long as you have the app. That means instant engagement. Here are just some ways I could see an accounting firm using a QR code: sharing virtual contact info on a business card (download the info instantly into your phone- eliminate manual entry); lead generation campaign (drive a prospect to a specialized landing page); use at a tradeshow to drive a visitor to targeted information.

As far as how they work- they are comprised of linear black lines and white spaces (aka barcode). The barcode is encoded with the data you choose to associate with it. (text, url or other data) When a user scans the barcode they will then see the information its encoded with.
Posted by Sarah j | Tuesday, July 19 2011 at 3:22PM ET
Interesting, but of two questiosn posed in the opening paragraph, I could not find the real [useful?] answer to "what purpose do they serve?" Yes, there is the discussion that they should, to paraphrase, guide the vistor's actions. However, that is far past the more basic question- what do they do and how do they work? I'm not tech savvy, and perhaps that is why I am stil at a loss as to what QRs do and how to use them, whether in an accounting firm or in any other application.
Posted by swright | Tuesday, July 19 2011 at 11:25AM ET
Hi Sarah,
While I agree with almost everything I believe you missed a couple key points.

1. Sending QR codes to anything other than mobile optimized content is a no-no. Mobile screens are tiny, and most traditional websites, Linkedin and Facebook included, are not generally formatted for viewing on a mobile device. Give the scanners a rewarding experience by sending them to content they can easily view.

2. While it is VERY important to craft your message correctly, it is equally important to have the ability to change that message if it's wrong, outdated, or ineffectual. By using a dynamic QR code you can modify your message at any time without having to recreate/reprint the actual QR code.

Allan Tone
QR Code Pros
Posted by AllanTone | Monday, July 18 2011 at 9:44PM ET
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