QR (quick response) codes are two-dimensional barcodes scanned by smartphones to take the viewer to a web page, online form, video, and anything else marketers can come up with – taking offline information and connecting it to the online world.

The QR phenomenon began in Asia and has been a popular advertising tool for 10+ years in South Korea and Japan. It has gained popularity in the US with the rise of smartphone use (more like obsession) and the development of their camera capabilities.

B2B marketers don’t exactly use QR codes as B2C marketers do.

There might not be a physical product, like a soft drink bottle, gift card, or a bucket of fried chicken to slap that code on to, but this simple and interactive tool still engages business consumers.

As the rate of cell phone ownership continues to increase, QR codes probably aren’t just another tech fad. So, be sure your QR code, wherever it is, is prefaced with a call to action. Tell the reader what page they’ll be taken to once they’ve scanned the image and then take them to that page!

Including a QR code on your business cards helps keep them streamlined (name, title, company) while giving recipients access to a more robust profile.  For example, you can link the code to your LinkedIn account, or company website.  As marketers, many of us go to trade shows to make business connections, market our company, and, let’s face it, collect free swag. QR codes can be stamped on any tschotske (koozies, stress balls, T-shirts) and connect to an online form where visitors can check in at the show, sign up for a raffle or request more information.

They are also a great starting point to qualify potential leads.

Be brave, and try something new. For example, include a QR code on all displays and on the backs of the shirts employees wear at the show, visitors can scan their backs, go to your company website and learn about your company at their own pace.  Not only does this drive traffic to your site, but is a great conversation starter.

Include a QR code in post-event emails to attendees. While the email will thank them for coming, the code can take them to an outline of speakers and their talking points. This serves as a great content refresher and recipients can share it to, increase the buzz around your next event.

Codes don’t always have to direct back to your homepage. In fact, the more specific the destination the better. Try linking the QR code back to:

It may seem obvious, but make sure that the page readers are taken to is optimized for mobile devices. How annoying to scan a QR code to be directed to microscopic print or an error message.

And lastly, the information they download should be simple and to the point. No one has the patience or the eyesight to read the marketing version of War and Peace on a five inch screen.