This article about what these little codes and tags can do, who is already using them successfully, and how you can leverage this handy little app in your own multichannel campaigns originally appeared in the November/December 2011 of Advancing Philanthropy.
QR Codes: A Tool for Multi-Channel Campaigns
By Stacy Dyer
Quick Response (QR) codes – those two-dimensional matrix bar codes designed to be read by smartphones – are growing in ubiquity. You see them more and more in magazine ads and catalogs, directing consumers to pull out their mobile devices and click. QR codes have incredible possibilities for nonprofit marketers who want to take advantage of the emotional connection and immediacy generated by their causes.
What Can QR Codes Do?
Enabling your audience with QR codes gives them the ability to immediately take an action. QR codes can be created to prompt a phone call, send a text message, or click a hyperlink.
Think of the power of being able to link your supporters directly to your donation form, rather than your home page. QR codes can help eliminate disconnect between exposure to your message and the action you want your audience to take.
Donation forms are only one example. Advocacy institutions can create a QR code embedded with a phone number to call a local politician’s office. As part of green initiatives, museums, like the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Penn., use QR codes to direct visitors to more information about artists or exhibits online rather than distribute brochures (The Handheld Guide: Experimenting with Mobile Technology in Museums http://www.technologyinthearts.org/?p=1511).
Foundations organizing races, golf tournaments, or other events can collect registrations or sign up volunteers by directing supporters directly to a form on their website that has been optimized for mobile viewing. By combining the power of QR codes and customized web content, the options for implementation are limited only by your creativity.
Who Uses QR Codes?
QR codes naturally target a younger, more affluent crowd. Tech-savvy Millennials and GenXers will be the most likely audience to scan and click first, but anyone with the ability to download an application, or “app,” on their phone can join the fun.
To increase the consumption of your mobile content, be sure to let folks know the benefits of scanning the code and what they can expect to find on the other end of the link. Offer exclusive content or discounts on services or admission. Depending on your audience, you may also want include instructions for downloading the app using their mobile phone.
While baby boomers aren’t as likely to use them, displaying QR codes is unlikely to put off more mature supporters—they will simply ignore them. With the opportunity to reach new audiences and capitalize on emotional, “in-the-moment” giving, there is nothing to lose by incorporating them into your strategy.
How Can You Use QR Codes?
First, create an emotional connection with your audience. The best time to do that is when they feel the height of that emotion—when they are at your event, in your museum, or reading your publication. “Wait,” you say, “that doesn’t have anything to do with technology!” You are right. This is something successful fundraisers are already doing. QR codes are simply another tool to remove barriers and encourage supporters to act.
Remember to consider the medium with which your audience will be consuming your content: a mobile phone. Optimize your landing pages for mobile viewing. Point QR codes directly to a donation form that has been optimized for mobile viewing and has been tested with the web browsers used by those mobile devices. Create customized, abbreviated forms that require minimal typing and are easy to view and understand.
Direct mail remains the cornerstone of many annual campaigns, yet online giving continues growing year after year. QR codes offer the perfect bridge to combine multi-channel marketing efforts. They are not the most graphically attractive, but they are not expensive to implement either. By bridging the gap between offline and online engagement, this new technology gives fundraisers a powerful new tool.
In a recent Idealware article, Henry Quinn, marketing manager at L.L. Bean reminds us, “Implementing QR codes across your marketing efforts is a tactic, not a strategy.” No matter how hot or trendy the new widget, the tool itself does not complete the job. However, with the right tools, getting the job done can be easier, more efficient, and more effective.