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Using QR codes to move down the sales funnel November 8, 2011

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Marketing and PR.
Tags: , , ,

QR codes: You’ve no doubt seen these on transit advertising and magazine ads — even on your fruit from the grocery store. They’re all the rage in marketing circles at the moment. But that isn’t to say that they’re a passing fad. The idea they represent is here to stay.

Originally called Quick Response codes, they’re a type of matrix bar code that was developed for the automotive industry back in the ’90s. But now, marketers have discovered that they’re handy for giving traditionally one-way or static mediums — like billboards or product packaging — an opportunity to become interactive and engaging with the widespread use of smartphone apps like QR Reader for iPhone.

Sure, QR codes are shiny and new. But there’s a real opportunity to use these to create more touch-points and give people the single piece of information that they at that stage will use to move them further into the sales funnel. But used incorrectly, they’ll just lead to burnout. It’s not about slapping a sticker with a QR code on every piece of collateral or signage you have and expecting success; it’s where the code leads the person, what that webpage says or does, and how it helps engage them or move them toward taking action. They need to be actionable, contextual and relevant to where the consumer is at that moment in the purchase cycle.

A great example of this was when I was at a Halloween store a few weeks ago. My kids were looking at a mask that, when released from its packaging and worn, would become animated some way. But it wouldn’t work in the store, in its packaging. So what did the mask’s marketers do? They included a QR code on the packaging. When we scanned it, it sent us to a video of the mask in action. Scary! But excellently done. If we had been in the market for such a mask, this would have definitely moved us closer to purchase.

Notice that the QR code didn’t send us to the mask manufacturer’s home page. It didn’t send us to an online store. Neither of these would have moved us down the sales funnel the way sending us to a video demonstration did. The key here is sending your audience to a webpage specifically built for this purpose — without requiring the consumer to write down or remember or copy the URL — or giving them whatever content is most appropriate for where they’re at in the sales cycle.

Now, what if you’re a B2B organization and you’re not selling masks, fruit, or other consumer products? You can still use QR codes in several ways. For instance:


  • Include in presentations for people to find more information on a particular subject; this is often more useful than providing a URL
  • Flyers and/or schedule printouts, again for more information or for special pricing, promotions, videos,  surveys, etc., or to lead to a mobile app
  • Name badges
  • Event exhibitors can use them when providing more information
  • Promotions: Use them for the “around the world” promotions or QR scavenger hunt promotion
  • Audience feedback/questions during live events
  • Put them on event swag
  • Put them on temporary adhesive stickers and affix them to banners and more for instant information

Static advertising

  • Again, as long as this is relevant to where people are in the purchase cycle; or, to engage an audience further. Contests and promotions, or ways to supply feedback, are excellent for this use


  • For hardcopy publications, print them on the covers or on stickers affixed to the covers. This way, no matter how the recipient gets the publication there is a way to engage them and drive traffic to your website. The great thing about this is, the web page it leads to can always be updated, no matter how things may change with time or circumstance (if there is a new edition, for example, or a related publication subsequently published)
  • I scanned a bottle of wine recently, where the label included a QR code. It led to a review by Wine Spectator on that wine. Brilliant! Think of doing the same thing with a publication. Talk about moving someone toward a purchase!

These are just a few of my ideas. What are yours?


Mad Skills February 3, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Marketing and PR.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

In marketing, is it better to have agency experience or corporate experience?

I was forced to examine this today when I received feedback from a corporate hiring manager who had concerns about my agency-only experience. Frankly, the feedback took me aback somewhat; the conventional wisdom is that agency marketers can transition with relative ease into corporate marketing, but it doesn’t always translate well the other way around.

After reading a few blogs and soliciting feedback from other marketers, I have to conclude that the conventional logic still holds water: An agency background is usually valuable to both sides of the fence.

In an agency, marketing and PR professionals quickly learn the essential skills of their trade: versatility, fast and succinct writing, breaking complex concepts down into digestible bites, strategy, good pitching, team management, and expertise in a variety of technologies and techniques as they scramble to address various clients’ needs. Because agencies are the industry workhorses who for the most part labor behind the scenes of a company, they are held liable for any missteps but work to make their client marketers shine. The work is hard, deadline-driven and often done with limited access to the real client-side decision makers.

Agencies will rarely consider those with corporate-only experience for this reason. Some — though certainly not all! — are simply glorified liaisons between the executive team and their agencies. The best corporate marketers partner heavily with their agencies. And almost all rely heavily on their agencies to strategize, message and implement their programs. Call a corporate marketer and they’re likely to be in a meeting, albeit an important meeting. Call an agency marketer? They’re scrambling to hit a deadline to produce something — a marketing plan, a budget, a set of messaging, a piece of collateral, a media hit — the corporate marketer will present in that meeting.

This may be a bit harsh, but at every agency in which I’ve worked, corporate candidates have been almost uniformly passed over in favor of those with agency experience; and when they haven’t, they have had difficulty within the fast-paced, results-oriented agency setting.

I’d take it a step further and say that every public relations and marketing professional should include some agency experience in his or her career. There’s nowhere else where you can work with a variety of companies and industries, learn so quickly the skills needed to do the job… and get such unmatched experience.

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