Are QR codes just a fad — or on their way into the mainstream? How can you use them to turn that glance from a prospect into meaningful engagement at your next trade show, conference, and other face-to-face event and move them down your sales pipeline?
Here are my suggestions for both event organizers and exhibitors, plus some links to more resources. And the offer to help you move in this direction, of course.
What are QR codes?
Just a brief explanation, if you have never seen a QR code, or have seen them but don’t know how they work.
QR stands for Quick Response. It’s a kind of bar code, similar to the ones used for SKUs on retail products, but able to carry more information. What makes them quick is that someone with a smart phone just takes a picture, which an application on the phone translates into some kind of action, usually taking them somewhere on the Internet.
Typically the application brings up the URL of a landing page with anything from a poll to a coupon to a white paper to a video.
How Might It Work for You As a Tradeshow Exhibitor?
The most basic advice for exhibitors is that you want as much interaction with your tradeshow booth visitor as possible. Factors which impact interactivity include how many people are staffing your booth, your pre-show marketing, your in-booth promotional activities, the complexity of your offer, and the length of your sales cycle — plus who your target audience is.
QR codes will not replace the primacy of human-to-human contact.
They can supplement it by allowing you to create additional targeted touch points. You get a prospect to move themselves from a glance to a more engaged interaction, which you have devised for them.
How QR Codes Are Being Used Now
- Retailers are moving people from advertisements to micro sites for specific offers or to sign-up for more information on items of interest.
- Manufacturers use codes to serve up a specific page for instructions based on their particular purchase.
- Starbucks has created an essentially two-way application, where people add money to an account which is deducted when a barista scans the customer’s personal QR code on their phone.
How Can Event Organizers Use QR/2D Codes?
- Invitations. The first obvious application has been to include QR codes in printed invites, so potential attendees get to information quickly and can register right then and there, or easily get back to the sign-in location.
- Registrations/Check-ins. A second use, still taking hold, is to speed up in-person event registration and check-in lines by including QR codes on confirmation sheets attendees print and bring with them
- Name Tags. Add codes to name tags so that not just exhibitors can scan attendee name tags, but attendees can share contact information amongst themselves easily.
- Sponsor Call-outs. Provide as a benefit for sponsors — in show materials, on websites and as a special mark within their event display area. Use in event journals or show listings to provide a map to the sponsor’s location or special offers they are providing.
- Temporary Tattoo/Icebreakers. Lara McCulloch-Carter mentions several more options in her in her Ready2Spark blog entry on Event Planners and QR codes (see link below). I liked her suggestion to use codes as temporary tattoos, with 2 people sharing 1 code, so that finding each other works as an icebreaker in large events.
How Can Tradeshow Exhibitors or Event Sponsors Use Codes?
You can use QR codes in easily integrated ways, including your pre-show marketing, at-show promotional activities, post show follow-up, and even booth graphic design to help you deepen your connection and keep it moving forward.
- Event Landing Page. Have at least one QR code that leads to a particular landing page for each event, allowing you to hone offers and help you track results by campaign. Note that you can keep updating information after the event to keep the interaction going.
- Incorporate in your Graphic Design. You can integrate a QR tag within your major graphic display to carry a major message or simplify getting information to people unlikely to pickup and carry printed materials back to the office or home.
- Multiple Products or Services? Even better — especially if you have multiple products or services which you are highlighting or demonstrating — have a separate code at each kiosk or as a standalone display, with a unique QR code for each specific item.
- Pre-show Campaign with PURL Driving Customization. Include a barcode on your preshow postcard or e-mail which drives a prospect to a PURL (private landing page), where they enter their interests, create their own code, and then, at your exhibit — your booth staff only needs to scan that code in order to direct them to the correct person to talk to, or a specialized demonstration or other personalized attention.
- Personalized Rewards. Especially in the case where you want to drive a prime prospect to their PURL and get them to your booth — promise and give them a great gift.
- Marketing Collateral. Include a QR code on your business cards or sell sheets
- Build Buzz with Wearable Codes. Wear your code — or better yet, let your prospects wear it on a brightly colored giveaway such as a shirt or cap or button — with a great tagline to catch interest and make others want to scan it and get one of their own.
- Social Media. Offer a way that attendees can “like” your FB page or sign up for Twitter feeds or otherwise connect via social media sites.
- Convenient Gifts. Offer prizes which will be sent to the office instead of having to lug back from event, based on tiering of gift, of course.
- Activities. Set up treasure hunt or other interactgive game, possibly with your marketing or channel partners at show.
- Promotional items. Get your message back to the office with a QR code, which is especially important if you do not have direct contact with the decision-maker.
- Make Them the Star. Take a video or picture of a prospect, maybe with a celebrity, and post it to a PURL which will be accessible using their scan. Of course this needs to be after they have participated in a presentation or demonstration, or otherwise qualified themselves or you may be over run with non-qualified participants.
- Beyond the Booth. Does the show offer opportunities for hall banners or floor space for use for advertisements? Post a QR code which will lure them in.
- Be Helpful. Don’t assume everyone has a QR reader or smartphone. Be sure to include information on how to download a reader for those who have smartphones, and post website URLs for those who do not.
- Be Visible. If you can, send them to a .mobi site or, at a minimum, a page friendly to phones! Be wary of Flash, large documents, and awkward placement on the page as these can negatively impact your results. And needless to say, there must be cell phones reception.
- Be interesting. Don’t forget to include specfic benefits and acall to action.
- Test! Use a/b testing and don’t forget to make sure your code works as planned, using a range of QR code readers.
Wave of the Future? Or a Fad?
QR codes have been around since the mid-1990s but their use was limited while phone cameras and technology caught up with them.
How far they go now, as smartphones become more ubiquitous, is anybody’s guess. I believe there is such potential to create interactions which empower the prospect and allow for smart marketing, that their use should be explored, and not just by the “big kahunas” but also smaller, nimbler exhibitors and event planners who want to step ahead of the curve.
Need Help Implementing QR Codes at Tradeshows and Events?
Feel free to shoot questions my way.
Imprinted Originals can help with design and production of booths, displays, accessories and promotional products which carry and utilize QR / 2D codes.
We also partner with experienced event planners, marketing and branding gurus, and printing, direct marketing and fulfillment resources with customization experience that I can recommend.
Lara McCulloch-Carter’s Ready2Spark blog: QR Codes for Event Planners — many additional event-oriented ideas