By Jamie Turner, Founder, 60 Second Marketer

There are several things to keep in mind when using QR codes for marketing purposes. Here are the best practices used by some of the world’s largest brands:

  • Provide clear instructions. Just because you’re familiar with QR codes doesn’t mean everybody is. Help your visitors along by providing them with a line of copy that explains what QR codes are and how to use them.
  • Drive visitors through to mobile-optimized web pages. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies drive people through to regular web pages that are hard to read. Remember, a good QR code experience equals return visits, which is what you’re looking for.
  • Run your QR code promotion in an area that gets good cell phone coverage. It’s frustrating to your customers if they try to scan a code that’s placed in an area with bad cell coverage. Fortunately, bad cell phone coverage is getting increasingly rare, but watch out for subway stations and buildings with signal-proof walls.
  • Add value for your customer. The best QR code promotions give people something extra for their trouble. Sometimes, as in the case of the Neanderthal Exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, it’s an enhanced user experience. Other times, it’s something as simple as a discount code or special coupon. The key is to reward them for their trouble.
  • Track your results. Not every QR code generator includes a tracking mechanism, but the best paid options do. If you’re interested in tracking the results of your campaign, it’s worth the investment. After all, what’s the point of running a QR code campaign if you can’t tell how many people scanned the code and how well the campaign worked?
  • Conduct A/B split tests. When you run a QR code promotion, you’ll often be driving visitors through to a mobile landing page. Why not test two different landing pages to see which one converts the best? Once you have a winner, use that landing page as your control and see if you can beat the results with alternate landing pages.
  • Keep your QR code campaigns updated. One of the advantages of QR codes is that the landing pages can be updated on a regular basis. So, for example, if a grocery store has an in-store QR code that says, “Scan here to get this week’s discount,” the grocery store can change the landing page every week to keep the promotion fresh. The in-store QR code stays the same, only the landing page changes.
  • Test before you deploy. Test your QR code off the final proof of the printed materials you’re deploying. There’s nothing worse than sending out thousands of posters with QR codes only to find the wrong QR code was used.

As with all mobile marketing techniques, your QR code campaign will work best if it’s integrated with other marketing programs. Try to resist the temptation to run your QR code promotion in isolation. Instead, run it in tandem with your other campaigns. If you do so, you’ll find your results will be much healthier.

The Future of QR Codes. Will QR codes be around forever? Nope. Will they be around for many years? Maybe. They’re a terrific, fun tool that can be used to differentiate your brand, but new technologies like Near Field Communications and Google Goggles will probably replace QR codes within a few years.

Near Field Communication technology will allow businesses to connect with consumers using wireless communications. As a result, consumers will simply wave their phones in front of in-store posters or other media that have an NFC transmitter embedded into the advertisement.

And Google recently worked with Buick, Disney, Diageo, T-Mobile and Delta Airlines to create marketing materials that leveraged their Google Goggles technology. Users simply opened Google from their iPhone or Android devices and snapped a photograph of the ad. Google Goggles scanned the ads and drove consumers through to web pages that matched the content of the ads. In effect, it was as though the ad was a huge QR code that didn’t require special software to be installed to read it.

Does this mean QR codes aren’t worth the trouble? I’m not necessarily saying that. In fact, for the time being, QR codes are great tools. But within a few years, we expect QR codes to be replaced by NFC technology and by tools like Google Googles.

Until then, use them as much as you can – they’re a great way to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Posted by Jamie Turner, Founder of the 60 Second Marketer and co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile.He is also a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.