The reason your healthcare marketing material probably doesn’t have a QR (Quick Response) code is not because it’s new—it’s not. Individual vegetables at the supermarket now have a UPC or optical, machine-readable barcode. What’s more, the two-dimensional (2-D) or QR code technology has been around for nearly 20 years. (Did you know that QR Code™ is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated?)
What IS new—well, relatively new—in healthcare marketing and advertising is that smartphones have become mainstream, and the enabling technology puts a bar code reader in everyone’s pocket.
Virtually all smartphones and other mobile devices, including the camera-equipped iPad 2, can now read QR tags and immediately connect the mobile user to custom information. Your smartphone may need an app, but that brings us to another thing we like. It’s free.
Mobile device apps for QR codes are typically free and easy to use; some are built-in. With little more than a quick download all the major smartphone operating systems, including Android, iOS and RIM, enable QR generation (create a code) and decoding (reading).
It’s the convenience factor that appeals to many users, especially the tech-enabled individuals who are seldom without a phone or other mobile device in their hands. The scan is an immediate link, phone connection or download.
QR codes can link the user to a website, blog, YouTube/video or subject-specific literature for “more information.” In healthcare marketing and advertising, a physician practice, hospital, medical group or health system or facility can use QR codes on:
* Brochures, flyers, newsletters
* Print advertising (newspapers, magazines, direct mail)
* Online ads
* Community event display tables (health fair, chamber functions)
* Email (signature block), business cards, name tags
* Journal and publication articles
* Billboards, inside signs
* Custom logo adaptations
* T-shirts, clothing (OK…not too often, but it works)
The “quick response” can be a link to survey or polling page, detailed product or service specifications, to initiate immediate contact (via email or phone), for a find-a-doctor directory and/or for in-depth materials such as healthy living recommendations, medical product data, enewsletter sign-up, links to social media, a special report, PDF bonus document or white paper.
So, now what QR codes are fast becoming ubiquitous, are you using them? Here are six things to consider about QR:
1. QR is an emerging strategy. In spite of the past year’s rapid adoption curve, using QR codes in healthcare marketing and advertising is still “emerging.” It’s open territory for inventive new uses, but detailed historic data is hard to find.
2. It’s immediate and direct. Marketing people love the direct-to-one nature of the tool. People scanning a QR code are proactively requesting information. It indicates a degree of interest and is a further opportunity to convince, but there’s no assurance they will “buy.”
3. Check the demographic fit. Know your audience because the track record isn’t too deep with QR. Look for opportunities where your message is going to be a good match with the user audience (with smartphones). One recent source is ScanLife Mobile Barcode Trend Report (December 2010).
4. Be prepared to handle immediate response. There’s no guarantee about response rates, but if you use a QR code, the implied promise is, well…a “quick response.” Don’t offer a special report that’s not finished, or link to a phone connection that no one answers.
5. Extra bells and whistles may have a fee. Online services and apps create and read codes, usually for free. But additional services such as tracking and analytic dashboards are often in the premium version.
6. Make it trackable. And track response. You may want the “premium” features in order to adequately track performance. Creating the QR code is the easy part. Having a data dashboard, analytics/metrics system or other productivity tools provide insight about the effectiveness.
There’s additional background about QR Codes in the business world in this CNN summary. And if you’d like a free consultation about healthcare marketing resources, scan this.