After a few years of buzz in mobile marketing circles, QR – or “quick response” – codes are finally starting to pop up in the United States, thanks in large part to the proliferation of smart phones.

While they’re still not exactly mainstream, QR codes are appearing in major print publications and plastered on storefronts and buildings. At this rate, it won’t be long before most people can immediately recognize and use QR codes. So how can small businesses take advantage of this emerging technology?

Turn Foot Traffic Into Web Traffic

The most obvious use of QR codes is to drive real-world customers to your company’s Web presence. This is nice and all, but simply sending people to your site’s homepage isn’t always going to be particularly useful. Instead, send them to a specific destination on your site. For example, build a simple, mobile-friendly customer survey. Enter people who fill it out into some kind of giveaway and (transparently) collect their email addresses for future marketing messages.

Build Up Social Media Followers

Rather than sending users to your own site, why not connect them with your social media profiles? Sending them to your Facebook page or Twitter stream will give them the opportunity to ‘like’ or follow your brand and continue to receive updates long after they’ve walked out the door. It’s now even possible to encode a QR code to automatically ‘like’ a brand on Facebook.

Business Cards

As we discussed a few months back, including a QR code on one’s business card can be one way to drag that die-hard relic of last century into this one. As long as business cards still exist in paper format, we might as well put them to some good use in the digital space. Embed a link to your company’s Web site or social media presence in a QR code might not flood your site with traffic, but it can help reinforce those real-world connections you make.

Print Advertising

Yes, print advertising. Newspapers and magazines aren’t dead yet, and many advertisers are finding that using QR codes in ads are a good way to bridge the gap between print and online. Unlike other print ads, those containing QR codes can be measured for their effectiveness. This option may not make sense for every type of business, but local service-based companies and others many find it beneficial in some markets.

Scavenger Hunts and Other Games

There are plentyofexamples of scavenger hunts and similar real-world games that have been played using QR codes. In a nutshell, the organizer places a series of printed QR codes throughout a physical space and offers participants prizes – either digital or physical – for finding them. Small, local businesses can easily adopt this model for promotional purposes. Even if it doesn’t directly generate any revenue, it can get people engaged with your brand.

Have you used QR codes in any interesting ways for business? Let us know in the comments.

john paul titlow