Your 'Code' to Mobile Marketing Success

Many younger buyers today practically live on their smartphones. QR Codes are one way you can get their attention, and their business.

December 1, 2010

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a crop of young, willing, and able future buyers who seem to have their heads buried in their smartphones. Their phone is their world, but they prefer texting to talking. How can you get their interest — and their business?

QR Codes to the Rescue

QR (Quick Response) codes were invented in Japan by a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp. to help identify car parts. Once people recognized their flexibility of encoding links to the Web, they took off in Japan and other East Asian countries. (This is perhaps unsurprising, as mobile Web access is much more common in that part of the world than in the United States.) In fact, you will find QR codes plastered on billboards, signs, storefronts, and just about any place you look in all the major Japanese cities.

Think of the QR code as a two-dimensional barcode that can contain many different kinds of information and present that information in many different ways. QR codes can be read instantly from any number of free smartphone apps. The opportunities for real estate marketing are nearly endless since one of the main uses of QR Codes is to embed URLs that when scanned will take the phone user to wherever the URL was pointing (i.e. your Web site, listing detail information, etc.) They effectively turn anything they are printed on into an active and track-able hyperlink.

You can start your search for free QR code reader apps for your smartphone (by smartphone type) at these places:

There really are only two issues to consider when incorporating QR codes into your marketing:

  1. How to create them
  2. Where to place them for maximum exposure and impact.

Create QR Codes Instantly, for Free

If you do a Google search on “QR code generators,” you’ll find dozens of sites that will create them for you at no cost. My favorite is a site called BeeTagg QR Generator, which allows you to create any number of QR codes in different formats for free.

When you first land on this page, you can enter the URL of the page you want your code to go to and choose the type of code it generates. (Make sure you have the QR Code icon selected and uncheck “Optimize size.”) Then just hit the “Go” button, and you will instantly see your code with download options like this:

Now, this next part is very important. Of the six different download options shown, there are only two you will typically work with. Select Gif if you plan on placing the code on a Web page or e-mail, and Eps if you plan on using it in print.

GIF images are the smallest file sizes for this kind of image and are ideal for placement in Web pages. However, they are not good for print or other media because they don’t scale well. That is, they get blurry or pixelated if you try to blow them up beyond their original size and will become unreadable by the smartphone apps. The EPS file format is ideal for print media because it can scale to any size (including 16-foot billboards) without any loss of fidelity.

Where to Use QR Codes for Maximum Impact

In addition to placing a page-specific QR code on every page of your Web site, you can incorporate them into your marketing in many innovative ways. Here are just some ideas that came out of a recent brainstorming exercise for QR code use:

  • Put them on your sign riders pointing to your Web site with the details for that listing. (Note: Make sure the QR code on the sign rider is at least 10” x 10” so it can be scanned from the comfort of a prospect’s car.)
  • Publish a print ad with a QR code pointing to a YouTube video of you walking through your latest listing.
  • Put a QR code decal on your car that points to your Web site, or better yet, an irresistible offer on your Web site. (Again, make sure it is at least 10” x 10” so it can be scanned easily by other drivers.)
  • If it is winter, develop a QR code on the sign rider and link it to photos or a video of the house when the landscaping is in full bloom during spring or summer.
  • Sponsor a local team and put the QR code pointing to your Web site on their uniforms.
  • Give away T-shirts with QR codes on them that point to your site.
  • If you send out calendars each year, put a QR code pointing to your Web site on every page.
  • Conduct a QR code open-house “scavenger hunt.” Put a code in print or Web ad for a series of open houses where the code on each home maps you to the next one. Participants have to read them all to get to the prize at the final house — a great idea for a broker open tour.
  • Put a QR code pointing to your Web site on the back of your business card.

QR Code Best Practices

Now before you go all-out with QR codes and start plastering them on every available surface (digital or otherwise), here are some best practices that will help you get the most out of these little boxes:

  • Tell them what it is: Since QR codes are still very leading-edge in this country, it may be a good idea to provide additional info that explains to less technology-capable consumers just what they are. Here’s an example of what shows up on every page of my Web sites that include QR codes:

  • Just click on the link in the image above and see how it takes you to a page that fully explains what QR codes are and their benefits to the consumer.
  • Point to something worthwhile: Make sure that whatever your QR code points to provides real value to the consumer. Ideally, the landing page has a specific call to action and lead-capture mechanism.
  • Make sure your QR codes are readable: Make them big enough for the context they will be used. This means about 175 pixels x 175 pixels for Web pages and e-mail, 10” x 10” for outdoor use (sign riders and car decals), and huge for billboards. Test them on your own to ensure they work correctly.
  • Track your QR code traffic: You can easily track site traffic generated by visitors scanning QR codes. If you are using a basic Web analytics program, such as Google Analytics, it’s easy to track QR code traffic by adding a bit of text after the URL you’re pointing to before generating the code. Here’s an example:

  • The highlighted part of the URL was added before generating the code, and will separate the traffic coming in from that source. Your analytics package will show any traffic specifically coming from people scanning the QR codes in your print ads. There is nothing magic or special about the text that comes after “/?source=”; you can make it anything you want — just make sure there are no spaces and that it effectively describes where the code was embedded.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Is this thing really necessary for my business?” If you want to be a leader in your market and really catch the attention and business of up-and-coming buyers, then yes, it is.

Implementing QR codes is not about being a geek. It’s about staying up on things that matter to your customers and serving them in the way they expect. That’s more than a good technology or marketing strategy — it’s good business.

GEEK TIP: Here’s a quick shortcut you can use to place a QR code on any page of your Web site (with the code pointing to that page) just by including the following Javascript in your HTML code where you want the QR code to show up on the page:

<script id="qr_code" src="”; type="text/javascript</script>

The resulting QR code will point to the page it’s on. Unless you are comfortable working with HTML code, it’s probably better to give this to your Web designer to implement.

NOTE: Mr. Internet®, RUSSER Communications, its staff, and officers receive no compensation whatsoever from any third-party vendors (unless he/they are directly involved with the creation and/or improvement of a vendor service or product), and make no recommendations as to the suitability of the products or services mentioned in this article. Always thoroughly investigate any product or service before trying or purchasing it.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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