Apr 9, 2010

Fun with QR codes and email

qr-code-monkeywrench-smallTwo things we noticed all over this year’s SXSW were: 1) Unicorns, and 2) QR codes.

For those of you who don’t know, QR codes are like UPC codes, but on steroids (learn more). 

Google has been experimenting with QR codes by linking them to Google Maps listings, and you’ll notice people posting their QR codes on their Yelp listings lately too. Supposedly, Facebook is even tinkering with giving people QR codes for their profiles.

Reading this TC article about Google’s QR codes got us thinking about how a store owner could use them to get mobile-savvy customers (pretty much everyone now?) to subscribe to their email marketing lists.

Here’s one way you could use them, but I’m sure you can think of more…

1) Go to your MailChimp account, and find the URL for your signup form. For example, the URL for my own signup form is here.

2) Now I’ll take that URL, and generate a QR code. There are lots of free services out there that’ll generate the code.

My lazy Googling took me to kaywa:


Next, you just plug in your signup form’s URL, hit "generate," and you’ve got your QR code image.

3) Now, you can print your image, and hang it on your door.

I actually took mine and sprinkled some monkey on it (obviously):


before posting to our door:


I figure putting it way down in the corner will make it more noticeable, since we’re all sick of ads pointed directly at our face.

You might customize your sign with details about the list. "Sign up for weekly e-coupons" or "get our monthly-ish newsletter" or "get event updates."

Now what?

Anyone with an iPhone, Android or whatever smart phone with a QR scanner app can now subscribe to my email list.

On my iPhone, I’ve downloaded an app called Quickmark:


Yes, I realize all my other apps are kids games. Leave me alone.

When I scan that code, it recognizes that it’s a URL:


which is clickable, and takes me to my email signup form:


Now that you have an idea of how this can work, you can do unique stuff, like:

  • Setup a special list, just for people who subscribed via QR code. You know they’re probably early adopters (for now), so maybe you should customize your list’s welcome email to include something very unique to them. Maybe even another QR code?
  • Maybe you want to just subscribe people to your master list, but track the fact that they subscribed via QR code. If you have a "how’d you hear about us?" field, maybe you can use this tutorial to pre-fill that field with "cool sticker on door"
  • You could subscribe people to a fun autoresponder sequence, where they get some random trivia about your business, or tips/advice from your employees, every couple weeks. Advice: if you’re going to automate emails, make sure you tell people on the print out. Like, "Get our secret weekly specials"
  • Add a giant QR code to the last slide of your powerpoint presentations (you’ll get some subscribers, but more importantly, look super nerdy-cool)

Note that the kaywa site has other options you can play with. For example, you don’t have to make the QR code point to a URL or signup form. You can make it output text, too (up to 250 chars). Maybe you can come up with a secret passphrase that gives people a discount at the register?


QR codes aren’t totally mainstream yet, so they’re kinda secret and exclusive. After I posted our little door sign, I got to work writing this blog post. A few minutes into it, one of my co-workers knocked on my door, iPhone in hand, talking about how cool it was. Take advantage of this mystery while it lasts! I’m sure you can come up with more creative plays on QR codes than me. If so, be nice and share in the comments below!