Engage Prospective Students with QR Codes

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Engage Prospective Students with QR Codes

These days, most students are never more than an arm’s reach away from their mobile phone. They live, eat and even sleep near their phone, and increasingly many of these devices are smartphones. A study from research firm IDC found the worldwide mobile phone market grew nearly 20 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2011 fueled by high smartphone growth. Clearly, there is a growing opportunity to engage high school prospects via their mobile devices. Incorporating mobile into your integrated marketing campaigns may be easier than you think. There is a hot trend today in direct marketing that can help you with that challenge—Quick Response (QR) codes. They are showing up in a number of places, including magazines, billboards, business cards, product labels, and in-store displays. Mobio Identity Systems Inc., a mobile payments company, has reported QR code use in the last six months of 2010 increased 1,200 percent across North America.

QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that when scanned by a mobile device such as a smartphone can instantly link users from printed material to online content. A QR code can be printed on a direct mail piece sent to prospective students or on a brochure at a recruiting event, and when a recipient scans the code with their smartphone they will be immediately directed to online content hosted by your university. In this way, QR codes enhance already powerful printed marketing materials with an interactive mobile response—an immediate call-to-action that bridges the physical world with the virtual one. Providing on-the-spot access to online resources can help make your integrated marketing extremely effective. You can provide immediate access to all sorts of additional information of interest to future students, who are used to finding what they need to know on demand including:

•    Virtual campus tours
•    Application forms
•    Student testimonials
•    Financial aid information
•    Event details
•    Facebook page
•    Contact information for additional resources

And the benefit of QR codes goes beyond prospective students. They can be used in your school’s marketing campaigns to reach alumni to offer university news, upcoming event information or donation forms. In these targeted audiences, the codes may be new to them, so making the codes prominent and offering brief directions on how to scan them is a good practice.

Get personal with QR Codes
For direct mail campaigns, personalization has been a successful tactic used by marketers over the last few years to engage recipients. QR codes can be used in conjunction with personalized URLs (PURLs). A PURL is a unique Web address made for an individual that takes a user to an online microsite where the content can be customized for that user. QR codes can be embedded with PURLs, linking to personalized microsites for every prospective student on a direct mailing list. Once on the microsite, the prospective students can select what university programs they are most interested in and request more information be mailed to him or her. The online interaction can be tracked, making it easier to measure in terms of campaign ROI. Universities and colleges can make it easy for prospects to share this content by including links to social media platforms, thereby potentially reaching more students.

Intelligent mail tracking
QR codes also provide useful metrics for tracking campaigns. Staff can analyze which QR codes are being scanned the most, and in which geographical area they are being scanned in, to determine what materials are working the best. And the back-end reporting becomes even more useful when a recipient interacts with a microsite. Additionally, by utilizing advanced mail tracking available through the United States Postal Service, the progress of a mailing through the postal system can be determined and an email or mobile text message can be sent to prospects before their initial mail package arrives, building anticipation and urging them to look in their mailbox.

The advantages of enhancing your marketing materials with QR codes are many. They offer your targeted audience an immediate call to action at the moment of their interest and remove many of the usual barriers of response. They make it easy for your prospects to get additional information on your university, and help you track their online interactions. Most importantly, they leverage mobile technology that is increasingly in the hands of almost everyone, reaching students and alumni where they are most likely to immediately engage.

David Henkel is president of Johnson and Quin, located in Niles, Illinois. Johnson & Quin is a national leader in integrated direct marketing solutions. He can be reached at dhenkel@J-QUIN.com.

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