Posts Tagged ‘science of FREE’

Whats the deal with QR Codes?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By now you have probably been exposed to the latest in marketing technology although you might not have been aware of what you were seeing. What am I talking about, you ask? Well, have you seen this strange black and white squares that have been popping up at the grocery store, on cutting edge marketing materials and sometimes even on TV recently? I thought so.

What are they you ask? They are known as QR Codes or Quick Response Codes. And those seemingly innocuous squares carry hidden meaning to those in-the-know and anyone with a smart phone can become part of the “in” crowd with the click of a camera shutter.

********* Warning useless digression approaching **********

To the uninitiated they are simply the next generation of bar code but to really understand how they developed and how they can help you, we need to get Mr. Peabody to fire up the Way-back Machine (and leave Sherman behind this time).

The concept behind the QR Code actually originated back in the 90’s and at that time special information was being encoded using a somewhat standard product bar codes but it required a special device called a CueCat to access the special information. This was problematic because the CueCat had to be attached to your computer to work and at that time your average home computer was somewhat less than mobile. So what did you have to do? You had to buy products (sometimes they were even used in magazine ads), bring them to your computer and make a concerted effort to find the Easter egg (if it eggisted at all). The devices were even given away in some places in order to promote the use of this new marketing technology. Needless to say, I am probably the only one left that remembers them because they were such a dismal failure. Another product of technology not being able to keep up with itself.

Fast forward to present day where everyone you meet has a smart phone that is 10x more powerful than the Gargoyle you were attaching your CueCat to back in the day (which was a Wednesday as I recall). Not only that but you would be hard pressed to find a regular cell phone that did not have a built-in camera now. Finally technology has caught up to the brilliant idea.

Digression complete, you may now return to your regularly scheduled posting

So how can you make the most of this technology that has finally come into its own? Well, as is usual with most really broad questions, it all depends. Everyone can make use of these lovely little squares of wonder, you just have to decide what you want to do. Unlike the CueCat enabled codes of the past, QR codes can reveal much more than just a URL. With a QR Code you can encode:

  1. A URL. This is the most common use. Whether for a website proper, a product micro site or a social media page you can get users looking at what you have to offer right from their phone anywhere and anytime they encounter your square of destiny.
  2. A secret message. Yep, the next generation of invisible ink is here and there are no special pens required. Send a special message for people “In the Know”, provide a special offer for those with the ability to find it or maybe pass on a special code to accessing special content about your products or services.
  3. An SMS. Yes, you heard me right. you can encode a phone number and message into your magic block so that you no longer have to say “Text 2323 to 900-555-1212” to get your special prize. People can just point and click their way to entering your contest.
  4. A Phone Number. Most smart phones are designed to turn any number that even remotely resembles a phone number into a link that can be dialed with the single click. This type of QR Code take it one step further and does not require that you even have the number. Just scan to get the number and click to connect. Now THAT is Quick Response.
  5. Your Contact Info. The easiest way to get your contact info to a prospect. They scan the code and a new contact is automatically setup with your Name, Address, Phone and Email. What could be easier. These are great for business cards. Who needs a special card scanner when a quick click with your phone does it all and allows you to call NOW, not in 3 days when you get around to scanning the card back at the office.
  6. An Email. Depending on how their phone functions, you can even queue up an email with a click that will populate the email address it is going to, the subject line and the body. The best email based contest entry vehicle even. People walking by your both at a trade show and click to enter rather than stopping to fill out a form that you might not be able to read anyway.
  7. Your Geographical Information. Map it, Baby! Can you imagine having your office location encoded so that with a click it opens up a smart phone mapping program and plants a flag at your location so that it is quick and easy for people to get to you?

So, I guess now the question becomes not “How can I use it?”, but “How Can I get my own code?”. Well, that is easy too. There are a number of places online that will allow you generate your own codes for FREE. You just put in the info you want encoded, click a button and presto your code appears ready for download in a format that can be used in print or on the web. In fact you can even find one right here. Just look at the resources menu above and click the “QR Code Generator” link – or anywhere it is linked (like here) in the body if you are super lazy.

So what are you waiting for an engraved invitation? The only limitation for using QR Codes is your own imagination. So get out there and get your own magic square now!


Zen and the The Art of FREE in Social Media

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Giving out “Freebies” to potential customers is nothing new in marketing. From the sausage lady at the grocery store to the guy at the trade show throwing t-shirts to anyone he can see, businesses have been using the art of the FREE Gift as a means to a sales end. Social media is no different. One of the best ways to attract new leads is by giving people a reason to want to get to know you. If you offer something of value at no charge and without expectation, you can begin to develop a following of people with similar interests and some of those interests may be you.

Harnessing the power of this age-old technique sounds easy but there are some things that you need to know before you put your offer out there.

  1. Create a Welcoming Environment
    Before you even consider a giveaway you need to do a little housekeeping because the real trick to this ancient art is retention. You can entice just about anyone with a free giveaway but you want to make sure that after the luster of the FREE gift has worn off, the recipients of your generous gift want to stick around. Making sure that your website is pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate will instill a level of comfort in your giftees to be and if you top that comfort off with appealing content you will be well on your way to reaching that “sticky” goal.
  2. Make it Useful
    Making sure that your FREE gift is useful is another way to keep people coming back for more. Don’t just put something out there, slap an interesting title on it and “Dup” people into cluttering their hard drives with a bunch of specially packaged uselessness. If you are looking for more than just the fly-by-night internet surfer who thinks anything free is where to be, make sure that what you offer can have real use made of it. I am not saying that you won’t get those types of people showing up with their hand out as soon as they hear you are giving something away, because you will. But making something useful helps ensure that you will attract more serious people who will be more likely to stick around after the giveaway is over.
  3. Provide Quality
    Just because it is FREE does not mean it should be “cheap”. Make sure that what you offer has value. Offer something that people would be willing to pay for if you were not giving it away. Offering this type of premium product for FREE will serve to enhance the value of your other content and if people like what they see, they will be inclined to come back for more and then you will have them. At that point you will either be able to sell them on your other offerings or make use of them as evangelists for your brand.
  4. Offer Value
    I know what you are thinking, this is free, how much more value do I need to give them, right? Well, value means more than just cost. If you are offering a product, it should not be on an “As Is” basis. Be willing to offer some level of support for the product, after all this kind of customer interaction is exactly what you were looking for when you got into social media in the first place. Taking the time to answer simple questions or help people with bugs will go along way toward solidifying them as a potential customer, product evangelist or at very least a valuable marketing resource that you can go to when developing new products or services to offer in the global marketplace.
  5. No Strings
    Many offers out there require people to jump through hoops in order to get the FREE product but in my experience, this often has the opposite effect. You will either end up with people giving you fake information or they will take one look at the requirements and leave, never to return again. Now it is not uncommon to have people register on a mailing list in order to get the FREEBIE because in these cases, building a list is the whole reason for the offer as well as the basis for the interaction you seek. The best option when possible is to give away your FREEBIE with no strings attached, but if you are going to require anything for people to get their free gift, make it as simple as possible. Name and Email address should be more than enough (and for those of you truly in the global marketplace, country might also be a good item to capture). The bottom line is, the fewer restrictions that are placed as obstacles in the way of your intended audience the better.

With these little nuggets of wisdom in mind, go forth and create the perfect FREE item that will help you build your audience. And as you establish your following you can begin developing new ways to maximize the results for your social media objectives .