Introducing QR Codes

QR Codes and pURLs are great ways to marry print and online/interactive marketing efforts. But, just what are they?

This is a QR Code (Quick Response Code):

“A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.” – Wikipedia

Basically, it is a funky looking barcode that mobile phones with cameras and smartphones can read. The QR Code then leads the user to a mobile website or stores data onto their phone (most likely contact information).

QR Codes are rising in popularity in marketing and networking. Google has created Favorite Places – a way for businesses and consumers to connect by using QR Codes. Businesses can link the QR Code to their Google Business Page and consumers benefit from following the link by receiving information, reviews and possibly special promotions.

How can you use QR Codes?

  1. Organizers at South by Southwest (a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that attracts over 10,000 attendees), took advantage of QR Codes to help attendees network with each other.

“When you meet someone at an event, let them scan your badge with their smart phone, and they will automatically be following you on [the conference’s social network] my.SXSW, where they can message you or access your contact information. Hopefully, this will cut down on the paper footprint of SXSW by reducing the need for business cards.”

– Fast Company
  1. QR Codes can also be printed on signage and t-shirts for your annual event to give attendees information about the various features of your event or area points of interest.
  2. QR Codes can motivate an otherwise passive reader to take immediate action- make a purchase, register for an event, or take a survey. Placing a QR Code on a direct mail piece or program guide gives the consumer immediate online access to what you’re promoting – getting them one step closer to action. Also, you can track and analyze the results of this by checking your website’s analytics.
  3. Have fun by creating a QR Code scavenger hunt contest throughout the venue, conference location or exhibit hall.

How to create a QR Code?

A quick Google Search for “QR code generator” will give you plenty of options for services that create QR Codes. QR Stuff takes it a step further and offers printing of your QR Code onto shirts, labels and stickers.

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Direct mail is not dead and social media is not the king

A recent study found that about 80% of consumers rely on multiple marketing channels when making a purchasing decision. Yet, many associations have come to rely solely on a single-channel approach. Just like a monotone speaker loses the attention of his audience, mono-channel marketing prevents your members from connecting with your message.The more you diversify your communication channel with your consumer, the better the impact.

Cross media marketing hits people from all sensory perspectives, and is more successful because it connects with members of varying learning styles. Some may be more likely to remember the information in a video, others from a letter, and still others from an online conversation.

We’re going to take a quick lesson in using social networking as a marketing tool and then discuss how to integrate it with other marketing channels.

How to use social networking


One of the biggest mistakes organizations make about social networking is jumping in with both feet before taking a look at what they are really jumping into. Just like we wouldn’t ask you to read our newsletters without first doing research to determine interesting topics, you will be wasting your members’ time if you don’t first listen to their needs.

Ask your members how they use social networking and what they enjoy about it. Also, use search features on Twitter, Facebook, Google’s Blog Search, Whos Talkin ( and Social Mention ( to gather information on what people are saying about your organization and industry.


Set goals on what you hope to achieve through social networking. Some may be more vague, like increase brand awareness, but be sure to set some goals that you can measure (e.g. increases in web traffic).


Target your community based on demographics, but also based on their interests and passions.


Develop a social media strategy. You’re strategy should include all of the background information in the above steps, plus information on who is executing the plan, what support other staff members should provide, brand values and messages to be conveyed, and a schedule for evaluating success.


Share valuable content. And please remember, we mean content that your audience finds valuable – not strictly what you think is important.

Be Real

People are not flocking to Facebook and Twitter to have conversations with robots. These sites are popular because we get to connect with human beings, so be real and use a human voice. Show empathy, humor, surprise….you know, emotions.

Oh, and measure!

How will you know if its working? You’ve got to measure and check in on ROI.

Three stages of social networking

When looking around at successful, struggling and failing social media efforts, we’ve discovered there are three stages of a social networking campaign: Inform, Drive, and Engage.

Stage 1: Inform

The inform stage is as clear as it sounds. You are simply informing your audience that you have various social networking accounts. This can be done by placing the links and icons on other pieces of communications like direct mail, the website, and email signatures. You are not yet asking members to follow, just letting them know you are there.

This is not a long-term strategy for success because you are likely still doing a lot of listening and not having any conversations in these channels, but it is a great place to start. To start to see value, you will need to move to the next stage, Drive.

3 ways to move from Inform to Drive:
  1. Join in on conversations you stumbled upon while conducting searches.
  2. Implement tactics developed after asking members how they use social networking and what they like about it.
  3. Develop a list of reasons for why members should follow you. Replace the links and icons you’ve been using on email signatures and the website with these “calls to action”.
Here are some examples:
  • “Follow us on Twitter for latest info & contests”
  • “Join our discussions on LinkedIn for great (free!) advice from industry leaders”
  • “Share our mission with your friends by following us on Facebook”

Stage 2: Drive

At this stage you’ve identified why your social media efforts are valuable to your members and you’re ready to get more followers. Your tweets, Facebook postings and LinkedIn updates continue to be very informative – who you are, what you are about and why you are in this social space. There may be an occasional conversation with followers.

To transform your social media efforts into an effective part of your marketing strategy, you must move on to the next stage, Engage.

3 ways to move from Drive to Engage:
  1. Promote information your followers share through RTs and link sharing.
  2. Join in on conversations your members are having in these channels.
  3. Adopt trends you see other successful social media users implementing (i.e. hash-tags, videos, news aggregators, trendy topics, etc).

Stage 3: Engage.

At this stage the organization is having open conversations with members through social media channels. The dialog is active and interesting to members. Not only are they responding to your Tweets and updates, but they are sharing them with their friends. Members who love social media will begin to use these channels as their primary source of communicating with you and getting information about events.

In this final stage, you will constantly be researching, connecting, embracing your brand, developing contests/promotions, building excitement and hopefully sharing content that will become viral.

Whatever stage you are at, you must integrate!

Social media is a hot topic these days. Partly because it is the new thing, and partly because companies are hoping a combination of social media and email marketing will eliminate the costs of printing.

People have been saying that direct mail is going to die because of social media. But, the same thing was said when we started using the telephone for mass communication, and the television, and email. While it has morphed, direct mail it is not yet dead.

Food for thought: The average consumer receives 14-15 emails from brands each day (which few people open up). The same consumers receive 16 pieces of advertising per week received via mail. This gives direct mail one advantage over email marketing.

However, to be truly successful at social networking and get worthwhile results, you must integrate it into your entire marketing and communications plan.

Integrating can be as simple as driving members to your social media channels with “calls to action” placed on email signatures and direct mail pieces. You can also integrate by tweeting or posting a LinkedIn Update about a direct mail piece or email newsletter that members are about to receive. (Many companies do something similar by emailing customers to keep an eye out for coupons in their mailbox.)

However, true integration (and marketing success) will occur when you leverage the best of all your marketing channels. By being in conversation with members through social networking you can receive real time feedback. Even the most avid social media user still prefers to have certain kinds of information collected in an email document, printed piece or an easy-to-access website.

2 ways to try cross media marketing:

Before, during and after your annual event, use social networking to ask members how they want to receive certain kinds of information. Is it helpful to be mailed a program guide, or would you rather be able to access that from the website?

Increase your effectiveness by giving members a multi-sensory experience when sending them marketing messages.

Use a Quick Response Code (QR Code) or Personalized URL (pURL) to lead a potential attendee to a website with a video, inspiring text and images, links to social media channels and a form to sign up for the email newsletter.

Direct mail is not dead and social media is not the king. Instead, they are both respectable components of a complete cross media marketing plan.

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