If you are looking for a way to boost your engagement with customers and prospects, consider QR (Quick Response) codes. QR codes – black and white pixelated squares – are appearing everywhere these days to provide consumers with additional information about products, services or special events. For example, a QR code on a print ad in a magazine or in a brochure can take a consumer to a new product landing page. Many people are placing QR codes on their business cards that include all their contact information for easy downloading to an address book.

Essentially QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes. Since they can be read horizontally or vertically, they can include much more data than a standard bar code. I chuckle, though, as I think they look like psychological ink blot tests.

Today, millions of consumers have turned their smartphone cameras into portable scanners thanks to new apps.  A study by Comscore indicates that in June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile device.

There are literally hundreds of ways small business owners can use a QR code for marketing. The key is to provide content – whether text, video, podcast or photos – that makes the experience worthwhile.  Educational information can be valuable, but you also may want to consider a special promotion, discount, or a free trial to make the experience actionable.

Here are some suggested ways to use QR codes for marketing:

To ensure you get the most from your QR code, here are some useful reminders provided by contributor Leah Goodman on Marketing Land.

  • Optimize for mobile. Don’t send people to a website that isn’t optimized for mobile with a QR code!
  • Use QR codes only in locations where they can easily and safely be scanned.
  • Make sure there is WiFi or 3G access in the place where the code is placed.
  • The QR code should be big enough and clear enough for even  lower-quality phones to scan.
  • Clearly indicate which types of mobile devices (Android or iPhone) can use the QR code

Have you used a QR code in your marketing efforts?  What type of campaign did you run?