QR code: to use or not to use? That is the question.

QR codes have been kicking around for a while. One of my colleagues interestingly choseto describe it as “another example of nice idea from a tech perspective, but not that useful in reality”.

QR codes have attracted controversies and support alike. Jon Barocas in his article “Why QR codes won’t last” on @mashable, describes how Mobile Visual Search (MVS) will displace QR codes and the security risks of QR codes. In this post, I am not trying to add to the controversies or support.

Personally, I believe QR codes like any other technology, will ultimately be displaced by new innovations. Keeping pace with new innovations, technological or otherwise, has always been one of the key challenges for marketeers.

I also believe that the real challenge though, is to use available tools in an innovative way to deliver great experience which will ultimately decide success vs failure of a marketing initiative. And the same applies here to QR codes.

Yes, QR codes involve that bit of extra effort by the user to fire up an App. But time and again, it has been proven, make it worth their while and they will do it! As long user effort involved feels like it is a part of their journey rather than a hurdle to overcome to get to what they want.

Tesco reinvented Grocery shopping in Korea with its Virtual Stores, and QR codes play an integral part its success.

Next time your stick a QR code up somewhere, here are a few things to think about:

  • What does the end to end journey look like, is it consistent?
  • Is there a quicker alternative which is cheaper (less effort) for the user? Sometimes its better to stick up a short url which a user can type into their mobile browser. Its quicker than firing up a QR code reader app, scanning the QR code, and then waiting for browser redirect.
  • Does your QR code link to a mobile friendly browser page? When was the last time you scanned a QR code on a laptop or desktop?!!

QR codes provide a great way of connecting your physical and digital world, of course MVS is an equally compelling alternative. But MVS is still developing, QR code is a cheap and easy alternative.

To use or not to use? Well, that depends on where, when and how. Sticking a QR code into a banner ad on the train station, does not make it any more likely someone will visit your site than putting a URL on it. The key is to flip and think from the user experience point of view and what you are going to achieve by incorporating QR codes.

Do you know of other examples of how QR codes have been used in a seamless way like the Tesco virtual stores in Korea? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Events? Community vs. Commercial

Love them or hate them, events are part of marketing. We organise and attend lots of different events: conferences, seminars, PR launches, networking dinners, customer lunches, hospitality events and everything else, from a sales kick off to a president’s club trip. So, when I attend an event that is a cut above all the others, it makes me stop and think.

I’ve just come back from three days at SQLBits in London. It’s not a commercial event, set up to make lots of money. Nor is it a huge trade show. It’s a community event. It is organised, funded and run by the SQL Server community. It has an event committee of dedicated SQL Server geeks (I hope they don’t mind me calling them that), and a massive team of ‘helpers’. Both committee members and helpers give their time for free, there is no financial incentive.

The committee members all have ‘day jobs’, so organising an event such as SQLBits takes up evenings and weekends. They have regular multi-hour conference calls to make decisions and get things done. And, for each of them, there are lots of sleepless nights to get everything organised. They are perfectionists and they care. They really care about the delegates, the speakers, the sponsors and that everyone gets ‘value’ from attending. The committee regularly reminds delegates to visit the exhibitors, if only to ask ‘what do you do?’ There’s emphasis placed on the importance of sponsors to support the running of the event.

Delegates, speakers and sponsors come to SQLBits events from all over the world. Attendees come to hear about use cases, problem solving, new developments and best practice with SQL Server and various tools that work with it.

Fifteen breakout rooms, an exhibition hall, a black tie event, a pub night and keynotes make up the (jam-packed) conference agenda. But that doesn’t tell you much about the atmosphere, the quality of the presentations, the speakers and their passion for what they do. Nor does it do justice for how well the event runs, or how well respected it is by the community. You only have to check #SQLBits on Twitter before, during and after the event to see that there’s a unique buzz about it and the people who participate in it.

For me as a marketer, what makes it particularly stand out is that the organisers work with the sponsors to make sure they are happy and that they are getting value for money. Year after year, sponsors keep coming back. The opportunity for them to network, be part of a community and to build relationships is what draws them in. It’s not about showing the number of leads collected at the event, nor about categorising them into A, B, or C leads. It is about relationships. Pure and simple.

There’s no event management company. There’s no head of marketing. There is a community of people dedicated to learning, problem solving, sharing and understanding as much as they can. And it works. It just works.

Hello Marketing World!

There’s no doubt that the world of marketing is changing. Those of us who have been around the industry for a few years know that marketing buzz is now around marketing automation, social media and ROI. Long gone are the days where marketing was about ‘simple’ things, such as promotion, brand and getting a name out there.

With this blog, we’ll be posting about our experiences marketing in today’s social media-savvy, budget-conscious, content-rich, lead generating environment. We intend to share best practice, examples of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and we’ll ask for your feedback on what we see in our day-to-day marketing lives.

Feel free to comment. Say hello. Let us know what your views and experiences are.