Month: September 2011

What are QR Codes and how are Marketers Using Them?

The term “QR codes” is popping up everywhere so we thought we would give our readers some insight on what they are and some of the slightly crazy, but clever ways businesses are using them.

QR codes (or Quick Response Codes) are two-dimensional codes that can hold thousands of characters of information. Though they look like standard bar codes, they are actually quite different. QR codes can store much more data including url links, location information, and text.

Basically, a QR code can store any information you add to it. Once a mobile device takes a picture of the code, the information will be automatically transmitted to the device. The transmitted information can include contact details about a business, personal details, movie previews, or any other type of media related content.

Have you seen any QR codes?

If you look around on some store windows and advertisements, you may spot one. They hail from Japan where they are very popular. They are just catching on in the US and are slowly gaining popularity.

QR codes are easy to create. Here is one I created for this website. When you take a picture of it with your mobile device, it should direct you to www.site-reference.com. (You must install a QR code reader on your device in order to scan the code – see below)

With your QR codes you can also link to any type of digital media and utilize phone functions such as email, instant messaging and SMS.

Besides url’s you can also include text along with your links. In this QR code, I listed my contact information. When you scan it, you should see my information and it will ask if you want to save it on your device.

QR Code Readers

To scan a QR Code, you must install an application on your mobile device. Here are the recommended applications:

iPhone – i-nigma (A reader that also allows you to create your own QR Codes)

iPhone and iPad – Qrafter – This application is the first to be designed specifically for the iPad.

Android – Barcode Scanner is widely used for the Android mobile devices. I used this application to scan the above codes to verify if they were correct.

How do you create a QR Code?

There are many websites that will allow you to easily create a QR Code. You can either type “QR Code Generator” into a web browser or use these recommended sites:

Kaywa – Kaywa was designed by Datamatrix. I used this website to create the QR codes above. It took me all of 10 seconds. You can use Kaywa to generate QR codes that link to a website or web page, a text, or SMS.

Kerem Erkan – This site will allow you to customize your codes. It offers more in-depth options and more creativity.

QR Code Uses

The uses for QR codes are endless, especially for marketing purposes. Consider these possibilities:

1. Facebook – You can direct customers to a page which leads them to “Like” your fan page or follow you on Twitter. With Facebook “Like” generating QR codes created from sites like Likify, you can create a custom page that includes the option to “Like” your fan page. You can also direct people to your Facebook welcome page.

2. Blogs – Direct customers or prospects to a specific blog post.

3. Element of surprise – Use QR codes to hide information that can only be revealed by scanning the code.

4. Articles, ebooks, videos. – You can direct scanners to any type of related content with QR codes.

5. Custom landing pages

6. Business cards

7. Directions to your business

8. Mp3 audio downloads

9. Customer reviews

10. Email subscriber page

10. Contests

11. Product Demonstrations

There are thousands of creative uses for QR codes. Take a look at how some of these businesses used them:

1. Business Cards

2. Creative Product Use

3. Billboard Advertising

4. Pepsi Bottle

5. Belt Buckle

Marketing Tips:

Before you start marketing with QR codes, there are a few things you should know:

Create mobile pages – Remember that QR codes are used with mobile devices. Whenever you are sending people to a website, ensure that it is a mobile-friendly site.

Track use with link shorteners – If you are using QR codes to generate leads and sales, it is paramount that you separate each code and create specific url’s for each marketing strategy so it is easy to track which ones are working. You can use bit.ly or goo.gl to track each individual link. These services also allow you to automatically create QR codes from your shortened links.

Test on all platforms – Once you generate your code, test it with multiple readers and devices to ensure it works correctly.

For more marketing tips, see 5 Steps to a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign

Have you used QR codes in your business?

By Jenna Scaglione

Growth of tech spending to slow next year, Forrester says

Despite the dour global economic situation, the tech market will see strong growth in 2011, according to Forrester. However, that growth will slow to 5.5 percent in 2012 economic crisis in Europe.

Despite the worsening global economic environment, IT spending in the United States and around the world will continue to be relatively strong through the end of 2011, while slowing although still growing next year, according to analysts at Forrester Research.

Forrester analysts in July were preparing to release their second-half IT projections, but put those on hold to see how certain global issues played out, in particular the debt ceiling debate in the United States and the ongoing economic crisis in Europe.

With a better idea of the direction of those and other issues, Forrester analysts said Sept. 20 that worldwide IT spending will increase 11.5 percent in 2011. While it will slow in 2012, there still will be 5.5 percent grow, they said.

In the United States, the difficult economic climate won’t really hit the IT market until the fourth quarter and going into 2012, Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels said in a blog post Sept. 20. A number of factors—from the slowing gross domestic product numbers to the contentious debt ceiling debate to the stalling job numbers—have conspired to hamper any economic recovery.

“Still, the first two quarters saw strong tech market growth, and the economic weakness that surfaced in July and August won’t be enough to cause any slowing in tech growth until Q4 2011,” Bartels wrote. “While the risk of renewed recession has certainly increased, we think that the most likely scenario is very low, but still positive, economic growth.”

The situation in Europe is more difficult, he said. A number of countries—particularly Greece, but also Italy, Portugal and Spain—are dealing with high debt and low growth, as well as what Bartels called “structural rigidities,” all of which could have a domino effect on banks, which could trigger another financial crisis similar to what hit in 2008 after Lehman Brothers folded.

“The only good news for the tech market in this dire picture is that the heavily indebted countries are relatively small parts of the European tech market, where the healthier economies of the Nordics, the UK, Germany, France, Benelux, Austria and Switzerland are also much bigger buyers of tech goods and services,” Bartels wrote.

Given that, growth in Europe in 2012 will be 4.3 percent, less than Forrester’s earlier projection of 6.8 percent.

In contrast to what will happen in the United States and Europe, emerging markets such as Latin America, and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (EEMEA) will see double-digit growth, he said. EEMEA will be buoyed by high prices of oil and natural resources this year and next, while Latin America will benefit from its natural resources and manufacturing exports. The weak U.S. dollar also will benefit Canada, Western and Central Europe, and Asia Pacific, according to Forrester. However, Asia Pacific could see slower growth in 2011 due to the fallout from the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March. That said, there will be a strong recovery-related rebound in growth in 2012.

Worldwide, all tech categories will see double-digit growth in 2011, but slower growth next year, according to Forrester.

“Software and computer equipment will have the highest growth in 2011, both with 11.9 percent increases,” Bartels wrote.

In 2012, as all sectors slow, IT consulting and systems integration will have the strongest growth of 6.6 percent, fueled by the need for implementation projects from the strong software sales in 2011. Communications equipment will see the least growth in 2012, at about 4.7 percent, he said.

 By: Jeffrey Burt

How is the Internet Changing Sales? It’s too Soon to Tell

If you think you know how the Internet is changing your sales process, you’re probably wrong.

For example, numerous pundits have pointed out that “customers are more informed” because of the Internet, and have used that “fact” to build a case for shifting sales resources from outbound to inbound. However, while it’s true that customers have information at their fingertips, the Internet creates other conditions that make outbound sales even more important.

For example, the pressure of globalization (which is fueled by the Internet) has created a hyper-competitive environment for everybody. As a result, many customers don’t have the time to do their own job, let alone learn about your product category.

It’s ludicrous to believe that customers will have the time to become subject matter experts on everything  they buy, which is why there’s still plenty of demand for outbound sales.

Now, that’s just one example.  The truth is that we still don’t know what changes the Internet will wreak, and we won’t really know for at least a decade… or longer.

To understand why, you need to understand how corporate cultures absorb new technology.  While there’s been plenty written on this subject, it’s fair to say that the process can be broken up into three distinct phases in terms of how the technology is viewed and used.

  • PHASE #1: ADOPTION. While the technology is being adopted, it is used in a manner that’s compatible with whatever technology is already familiar. The telephone, for instance, was originally seen as a more convenient form of telegraphy.  If an executive wanted to send a message to another executive, he would give the message to a clerk, who would call a clerk at the other company, who would write down the message, and then hand-carry it to the recipient.
  • PHASE #2: INTEGRATION. After the technology has been fully adopted, people begin experimenting with the tool in new ways. In the case of the telephone, it took several decades for businesses to figure out how to use it in new and different ways: negotiating, telesales, closing verbal contracts, and so forth.   all the other elements of 20th century business telecommunications.
  • PHASE #3: INVISIBILITY. When the potentialities of a certain technology have been completely fulfilled, it becomes “invisible” — an assumed part of every business environment.  The telephone slipped into that state in the 1940s and has remained so (with a few changes, like teleconferencing) ever since.

A similar transformation took place with the personal computer. During Phase #1, the PC was widely viewed as a cheaper version of a word-processor. While it was capable of calculations (via spreadsheets), many executives considered it more a device intended for a secretary than for an executive.  Even today there are CEOs inside highly traditional companies who believe that a PC on the desk demeans the status of a top executive. However, with the exception of these few holdouts, the PC is now in Phase #3, Everyone in the business world knows what a PC can do and there are unlikely to be many surprises.

The Internet is just entering Phase #2.  For example, many corporate websites are simple “brochure-ware” – collections of data that previously would have been presented in hard-copy format.  Many e-commerce sites are little more than online versions of mail-order catalogs, with the same presentation and same methods of ordering.  In these cases, the Internet is still being used in exactly the same way as the old hard-copy technologies of the past.

As Phase #2 continues to unfold, businesses are learning to use the Internet in ways that are quite different than their pre-Internet counterparts. For example, Internet-connected tablets, and interactive apps, are quite different, in terms of usage patterns and application, than their hard-copy analogs, or indeed of their PC/browser analogs.  Social networking, too, is something quite new and companies are still struggling to understand what role it should play.

In other words, you can expect nearly every aspect of your sales process to change in a variety of small and large ways.  Furthermore, that process will accelerate as further technological advances inject even more innovation into an already rapidly evolving environment. As wild as the ride has been so far, what’s going to take place over the next ten years will be even more dramatic, as corporate culture and sales organizations adapt.

Relative to this, I suppose I should mention that I’m currently working on a book entitled “The End of Sales As We Know It” with Howard Stevens, the CEO of Chally, which deals with these change.

If you’re interested (and you ought to be), there’s an early chapter that you can download as a special report. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be available, so you may want to download it now for future reading. HERE IS THE LINK.

I truly believe that the chapter/special report contains information that’s essential to anybody who plans on being in sales over the next ten years. It goes considerably deeper into the subject matter than is possible in a blog, and because Howard is involved, it based on some pretty hefty research.


The Internet: Then and Now

When AOL.com ruled the Earth

Today, let’s take a trip down Internet memory lane – to a time when “Google” most likely brought thoughts of something dirty, and Chrome was simply one of the color choices for your Windows 98 windows.

OnlineUniversity.net brings us this infographic that charts the changes that the Internet has made in the last 15 years – from the top visited sites in 1996 vs. the top visited sites in 2011, as well as the differences in how things looked just a decade and a half ago.

And let me tell you, things look a whole lot better nowadays.

Fun little facts from the infographic: Would you have guessed that internet usage per American has increased 54-fold since 1996? Back then, can you believe that prodigy.com was visited by 18% of all internet users? Did you even know that Travelocity is that old?

Check out the full thing below. It’s probably the first time you’ve seen Netscape Navigator in quite awhile.

Post By Josh Wolford

Planning Your Small Business Video

Most small business owners barely have time to manage their social media presence and conventional marketing. Suddenly, video seems to be taking over, and every business must have videos to share on their own website and YouTube.com.

Making videos can sound expensive and daunting, but the process can be much easier – and cheaper than you think – if you assess the project properly.

1. First of all, does video make sense for your business?

You probably don’t need to make a video for your company unless you sell a product that’s complex or difficult to explain.

For example, if you sell socks, you really don’t need a video to explain what socks are, or demonstrate how they’re worn or explain why you’d want socks. Unless your socks are very upscale and you really feel the sheen of the yarn and beauty of the designs won’t show up well in still photos on your website, I
wouldn’t likely recommend you bother with video.

“Helpful Tip: Assess your current marketing efforts. If you have plenty of business coming in, and your site is working well for you, hold off on video until you’re ready to kick your marketing up a notch.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

*What information is difficult for your customers to get from your website and other marketing materials?
*What questions do they have when they call or email your company?
*What could move someone from not understanding your company or products to engaging your company in a deal, or buying your products?

If you feel there’s nothing that really can be explained better in video than in pictures and text, stop reading right now, and go focus your time on making your current marketing efforts more effective.

Okay, so you’ve read all this, and you still feel that video would help you explain your product, service or process to your potential customers. Here’s the process to follow.

2. Figure out where your video should go on your site, and what you want people to do once they’ve seen it.

“Helpful Tip: Consult your web designer to make sure it’s possible to add video where you want it. Pull in your marketing advisors and whoever is going to edit your video now, before you start creating it. Make sure you’re on the right path.

Great, now you know where the video will be placed, who it’s for, and what you want them to do once they’ve seen it. Now for the actual creation process.

3. Write out what you need your customers to take away from the video.

“Helpful Tip: Written language is very different from verbal language. Read your script aloud — with someone else is best — and rewrite any parts that are too long or awkward to say.”

This can be forging a more personal connection to your business, understanding a process more clearly or actually buying your product. Translate that message into a few sentences.

This will be your voiceover.

4. Choose the visuals that will convey your message.

Maybe it’s just you sitting at your desk in the office, talking to the viewer as if they were sitting right in front of you. Maybe it’s taking apart a piece of equipment by hand, and pointing to the individual components. Maybe you’re going to demonstrate the many ways your product can be used.

Try to imagine the finished video, and match the visuals to the voiceover. This process is called “storyboarding” in professional video and filmmaking circles. Some of your visuals may communicate just fine without a verbal explanation. If they do, great – you don’t need to force it. Make sure the sequence of images will make sense when they’re presented to the viewer in real time.

5. Decide if music would add to your video.

Music can be nice, but don’t let it be so distracting that people will want to mute it. And please be respectful of copyrights. Using copyrighted music is a quick path to getting your video removed from a site like YouTube. There’s plenty of free stock music out there – check out sites like Rumblefish. You can even use the free tools at Aviary.com to create your own video soundtrack.

A full presentation means visuals, a voiceover and music. But you don’t have to do it all. Just do what makes the most sense for the placement on your site, for your audience and, most importantly, for the desired result – getting someone to learn more, share with friends or pull out their credít card. A demo of how to screw in a light bulb doesn’t really need music or voiceover, right? You could get away with a simple caption.

6. Who is actually going to shoot the video? What format? Do I need a studio?

The ideal person to shoot your video is someone who knows their way around a camera and editing software. It’s also important for that person to understand what resolution and size the video must be for your site and purpose.

Lots of people successfully create video just using a basic camera and a tripod, and experimenting with lighting. You may even be able to do a single, well-practiced take….and in that case, you don’t even need an editor.

If you do need an editor, expect to pay about $50 per hour for someone to pull it together for you. Be prepared – it can take a lot longer to edit a video than to shoot one. Your editor should be able to give you a digital copy of your video, exported to the proper resolution for your site or YouTube – wherever you plan to display it. You may be able to find someone good on Craigslist or Mandy.com or ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations.

You may need an experienced professional or video studio if you plan to do animated effects, or if you’re going to work with multiple actors, sets or locations. This will probably cost you a good couple thousand dollars or more.

7. Promote your video.

Video shot, edited and placed on your site! Now it’s time to share it in your newsletters and link to it from your company’s Facebook page, Twitter account and other social-networking presences. Ask your staff to blog about it and share it with their own social circles. Be sure you mention your video at in-person gatherings and use it during sales calls and presentations.

“Helpful Tip: Give your video a title that includes the important keywords that are relevant to its content. You do want it to show up in Web searches for those keywords…after all, you want lots of people to see it, and videos are an increasingly important part of search results.

Tracking is really important. You need to know how many times your video is viewed, and whether people are responding to it as you hoped or expected. Tracking will help you determine whether video makes sense for your business. Sites like YouTube provide you a fair amount of detail. You can use Google Analytics to track views of the video on your site, how people get to it, and what they do once they’ve seen it.

Now you know a lot more about what it takes to create a marketing video. If it was all too much for you and your company to handle, consider calling in some help to assist you with creating the concept, production or marketing the video….or all three.

Good luck!