You are here

End Note

Engage Prospective Students With QR Codes

A marketer's perspective on how (and why) to incorporate them into a campaign
University Business, Oct 2011

These days, most students are never more than an arm's reach away from their mobile phones. They live, eat, and even sleep near their phones, and increasingly, many of these devices are smartphones. A study from IDC Research 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 that 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, 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 a smartphone, he or she would be immediately directed to online content hosted by your college or 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 an integrated marketing campaign 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. Information might include:

  • Virtual campus tours
  • Application forms
  • Student testimonials
  • Financial aid procedures
  • Event details
  • A Facebook page
  • Contacts for additional resources

QR codes could also be used in a marketing campaign 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 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 person. QR codes can be embedded with PURLs, linking to personalized microsites for every prospective student on a direct mailing list.

QR codes provide an immediate call to action that bridges the physical world with the virtual one.

Once on the microsite, prospective students can select university programs of interest and request more information. The online interaction can be tracked, making it easier to measure in terms of campaign ROI. Colleges can make it easy for prospects to share this content and expand its reach by including links to social media platforms.

Intelligent Mail Tracking

QR codes also provide useful metrics for tracking campaigns. Staff can analyze which are being scanned the most, and in which geographical areas, to determine what materials work best. Back-end reporting becomes even more useful when a recipient interacts with a microsite. Also, 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.QR code

The advantages of enhancing marketing materials with QR codes are many. They offer a 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, an Illinois-based integrated direct marketing solutions firm. He can be reached at