Three QR Code Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Not everyone agrees about whether or not QR codes are an effective marketing tool for small businesses. Some think you’re crazy not to try them; others think they’re frivolous and that your time and money would be better spent on other forms of marketing. Personally, I think they’re kind of neat, but if they’re not executed correctly they can be a colossal waste of time — for you and your customers.

There are plenty of ways that QR code campaigns can go wrong. If you plan to try them out for your small business, the trick is to avoid some common pitfalls.

Mistake #1: Businesses Don’t Get Expert Advice First.

There are websites out there that will generate a QR code for you for free, and that’s great. But creating the actual code is just one small part of the marketing campaign. If that code isn’t backed by an honest-to-god marketing strategy, it’s probably not going to deliver the goods.

In other words, don’t just set up a QR code that takes people to your website. Have something for them to do when they get there. Define a clear objective such as having visitors sign up for your newsletter or accessing a discount code.

Mistake#2:  Destination URLs Aren’t Mobile Friendly.

You’d be surprised how frequently businesses forget that QR codes are designed for scanners on mobile devices. If your users are led to a non-mobile page at any point in the process, you’ve failed. Harsh? Maybe, but that’s reality.

That means if users complete a mobile-friendly registration page but are returned to a non-mobile friendly page upon completion, you’ve done something terribly wrong. Never forget your audience and their needs when planning a QR code campaign.

Mistake #3: Placing QR Codes in Ridiculous Places.

Have you seen or There are dozens of examples of what I’m talking about. QR code on the second story of a building? QR code on a billboard? QR code on the back of a moving vehicle? Probably not the most effective choices.

I’ve seen some good examples of QR code placement, too, though. I love the idea of a QR code on the table tent card at my favorite restaurant. (It’s actually a cool distraction to take my mind off of how hungry I am.) Basically, I like to see a well-planned QR code anywhere I have to wait: the bus stop, the doctor’s office, and the checkout line all work for me.

I think QR codes have potential, but like anything else they need to be used with purpose.  Don’t set them up just because they’re novel or fun. Use them with intent and track the results of your campaign like you would any other marketing campaign. The QR code’s greatest potential lies in its ability to help you drive consumer interaction and engagement around your company, your product, or your brand.

Have you tried using QR codes for your small business?
What do you think: yea or nay?

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Emily Suess
Emily Suess is a full-time technical marketing writer in the software industry and a part-time freelance copywriter. To learn more about marketing your small business online, check out her copywriting blog, Say It With Me.


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  1. I actually never thought QR codes would catch on but with the increase in smart phones it is way quicker than having someone type in a url in their phone and has turned into a great idea. I think point #2 is one of the most important. People need to recognize that the use case for QR codes is for mobile devices and that if they are going to use them the destination needs to be mobile friendly.

    I recently saw an interesting use case at a conference where they used QR codes to check people into the sessions. It was sort of the reverse where each person had their own code but it made it super easy to know who attended and have them emailed surveys and materials afterward. I’ve also seen donation slips where individuals had a unique QR code that took them to their own personalized form on the website to donate.

    I have seen interesting/poor uses (on a billboard) but it did catch my attention at least. (I never did have the opportunity to see where it took you because I was driving…)

    • Chris, I absolutely love the idea of using a QR code to check in conference attendees! I think personalized donation codes are also clever. Kind of turns the idea of the QR code around and makes it truly convenient. Thanks for your comment, I’m going to tuck these ideas away for future use.

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