If they were uncertain at first, over the past decade or so, marketers have come to embrace the Internet. Not that they had much choice. In the blink of an eye, wwwDOT this or that was everywhere. And, if marketers know one thing – it’s you’ve got to be where
the market is or no one will see your message. Soon after, when email, websites and banner ads had become de rigueur for marketers, as technology is prone to do, the Web took another giant leap forward with the advent of social media. In a few scant years, these things called
Facebook and Twitter came to rule the online world with hundreds of millions of subscribers logged into their accounts for hours on end every day. Savvy marketers knew they needed a piece of that action and companies like HubSpot, began to lead the way showing businesses how to leverage social media and, in the process, redefine how effective marketing is done. The shift away from outbound, or push, marketing was on and the path forward to inbound marketing, where your customers seek out your brand online and do the heavy lifting of spreading the message to their friends for you via these social networks, was underway. There was one fly in that Internet ointment, however. The online world is a virtual one while the physical world remains firmly planted in real life. The challenge for marketers ever since then has been how to connect those two worlds—real and virtual. Now, the solution has arrived in the form of a QR code. Some thought these codes were just a crossword puzzle design gone wrong; others likened them to a postage stamp designed by someone under the influence of one controlled substance or another. In truth, they are neither. They are your opportunity to bridge the chasm between your online presence and your real-world presence. They are one more tool in your marketing arsenal, one more channel to enable you to reach your customers and tell your story while connecting them to your brand in ways never before possible. Most notably, this is while they are on the go, out and about and carrying a smartphone that lets you put your message literally in the palms of your prospects’ and customers’ hands.

A Quick Response (QR) is a two-dimensional bar code which presents as a series of squares within squares. Capturing information horizontally and vertically, which allows more information to be captured and conveyed, QR codes can be scanned by the cameras built into every smartphone that comes off the assembly line today. The 1994 brainchild of Denso, a subsidiary of the Japanese carmaker, Toyota,
QR codes were originally designed for tracking parts in automobile manufacturing, but they have been an integral part of the Japanese consumer landscape for more than a decade. Scan the QR code on a product and the image will redirect a smartphone’s Web browser to the destination of the code producer’s choice—a Web page with a discount coupon, a video or access to in-depth information where consumers can connect with your brand. If you haven’t yet seen one in store, you might have seen one on your airplane boarding pass. They look like tiny crossword puzzles without the numbers in the corner of the square. If you haven’t come across one, you will soon. Businesses, including heavyweight manufacturers like GM and Post Cereals, retailers like Macy’s, Target and Best Buy, and fashion house Ralph Lauren, are all incorporating the funny looking, square-shaped matrixes into their marketing mix. And, even if you haven’t yet scanned a QR code, multiple market research surveys show that about one-third of U.S. consumers already have.

You can create your own QR code for free via several websites. You provide the destination URL and the website converts it and delivers a QR image file you can download.
You can then place that QR image anywhere you like—on your Facebook page or attached to your email signature, or you can incorporate as part of a print file. Companies are placing them on everything from a sticker on a piece of fruit in the grocery store to billboards in
Times Square. Some of the QR code-generating sites are Qurify, Kaywa, Scanbuy, QR Stuff and Delivr. Google’s URL Shortener can also create a QR code from a shortened link.
For mobile phone users, iPhones offer a downloadable app from the iTunes store. BlackBerry, Android and other mobile phone platform users can download an app from Scan Life.

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