How to Use QR Codes for Direct Mail Marketing in 2019

Filed in Marketing Ideas on February 5, 2019 by

Technology has brought tons of great advancements to marketing, and not just on the digital side. To wit: QR codes, an exciting print marketing tool that can help you combine your print and digital campaigns with one seamless step.

QR codes aren’t new technology, but their use as a key feature in U.S. print marketing materials is pretty recent. Over the past few years, they’ve become increasingly more popular as brands seek efficient ways to merge their print and digital marketing efforts, and today, they’re a relatively common aspect of successful campaigns. But what are QR codes, how do they work, and how can you make them work for you? Let’s dig in.

What Is a QR code?

clear business card with QR code

To understand how a QR code can boost your print campaign, you need to start with the basics.

Look at the image above. See that black and white square on the left-hand side of the card filled with some smaller squares, dots, and lines? That’s the QR code, a unique barcode that leads to a pre-designated URL. To get there, someone just has to scan the QR code with their smartphone’s camera, provided they have a free QR code reader app already installed. You can use the QR code to direct to your website, coupons, or a personalized URL, or to trigger a phone call, email, or other means of contact (more on all of those later).

The beauty of QR codes is in their simplicity. While it’s not necessarily difficult to manually type out a URL, it’s still an extra step that some consumers may not take on their own. By providing easy access to the digital component of your print campaign, you make it more likely that someone will follow through. And better yet? You can track those follow-throughs as a way to better understand your response and conversion rates.

Okay, but how does a QR code actually work?

There’s nothing sci-fi about QR codes, even though it may seem pretty crazy that a bunch of markings can somehow turn into something as clear and identifiable as a URL. QR codes work much the same as the traditional bar codes that you see at places like the grocery store, but instead of translating into a price they translate into a webpage.

The language of the URL—which a smartphone reads as either binary, alphanumerical, numerical, or in Kanji (a Japanese writing system composed of Chinese characters)—is hidden in data encoded on to the image of the QR code. Taken together, those squares, dots, and lines easily turn into simple English once a smartphone scans them—a process that only takes about a second.

If you’re stumbling to get your head around the technical definition of what a QR code is, don’t worry about it. For our purposes, it’s just enough to know that QR codes provide a simple way to take your leads from your print content to your digital content, and that they are inherently customizable and trackable.

How to use a QR code in a marketing campaign

QR codes are easy to add to your print materials, and can direct those who scan them to a wide variety of actions and locations.

Here are just some of the things that a QR code can do to benefit your marketing efforts:

  • Take someone to your website or a specific landing page, including a personalized URL
  • Take someone to a promotion and/or coupon
  • Take someone to one of your brand’s social media pages
  • Dial a phone number
  • Send a text message or email
  • Bring up your company’s location on an online map
  • Take someone to a video
  • Take someone to your resume or portfolio

Where your QR code leads is up to you. Typically, you’ll want to choose a destination that fits well within the context or your campaign and the print material itself. For example, if your QR code is printed on a business card, you may want it to lead somewhere general, like your website, portfolio, or office location on a map.

If you use a QR code on a piece of promotional direct mail, the destination may be a coupon or a personalized URL. You can even put QR codes on your products that direct to your complete product line or a discount for a future purchase.

There are very few limits to how creative you can get with your use of QR codes, but there are some guidelines to keep in mind.

Get it the right size. Your QR code shouldn’t be too big or too small on the page, nor should it be obscured by text or images (though thanks to something called Reed-Solomon correction codes, smartphone cameras can filter out some erroneous symbols to read the correct code—just don’t bank on this without verifying your code works on your own end first).

Offer guidance to your audience. Guide people on how and why to use the code. You don’t have to give a deep explainer on the topic, but QR codes aren’t quite as ubiquitous yet in the U.S. as they are in other countries, and your audience may need some guidance. Something simple like “Scan this code to access your 10% off coupon” should suffice, though if you think more direction is warranted then you should provide it.

Have your destination page be mobile-optimized. You don’t want someone to follow through on scanning the code only to exit the destination once they get there.

QR Codes and Personalized URLs

One great feature of a QR code is that they serve as bridges to bring leads to personalized, trackable URLs.

So what is a personalized URL? Usually shortened simply to PURL, a personalized URL is a unique web address created for a specific lead. If your lead is named “Jane Doe,” for example, the PURL you create would be something like “”. When Jane scans the QR code, she’ll be brought to a page created just for her, an action you can track on your end. In addition to knowing when Jane visits the page, you can also monitor her behavior once she gets there, and use the knowledge you gain about her response to market to her specific needs.

Learn more about the best ways to implement a PURL into your campaign at the link.

Wrapping up: The Benefits of QR Codes for Marketers

There are plenty of reasons to incorporate a QR code into your next marketing campaign. In addition to serving as quick links between your print and digital materials, QR codes present other benefits that help you meet your objectives and keep your budget in check. Here are just a few of them:

They’re cost effective. You can create and customize a QR code for free online, which then just needs to be placed as an image on the print materials you create.

They’re convenient for leads. QR codes remove some of the effort that’s necessary for leads to follow through, and make it easy for them to get to webpages, promotions, or wherever else you want to take them.  

They’re quantifiable. Use your QR codes to measure response rates, conversion rates, lead behavior, and more.

Want to get started with QR codes but aren’t sure where to start? We can help! Call us at 800-930-6040 to get started with QR codes today, or get in touch and talk to a print expert for any of your other print marketing needs.

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