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Stop Sending Me Junk Mail: Bonus Information

Well, if you’re reading this, the QR code technology must have worked. That’s no real surprise, I suppose, but now that you’re here—and before I get to the extension of my QP column—let me ask you a question: How would you rate the “reading experience” so far on your smart phone?

In marketing terms, I created some momentum by getting you to take a next step, from the printed page to this electronic page, but will I lose that momentum due to the limitations of the small screen? That definitely happened when I took the next step from the real estate agent’s postcard to her Web page via the QR code, and also through the text messaging option. (I sent the text and received an almost immediate reply, with a tinyurl link that took me to the same webpage as the QR code.)

The problem was in navigating around what was essentially an 8.5x11" image on a small screen. One solution would have been a Web page optimized for mobile devices. Another might simply have been a smaller landing page containing only text and links to other images. Both of those are things that a progressive printer/marketing services provider could have suggested, created, and charged for!

Would the real estate agent have taken on that “additional” cost? OK, maybe not, but every sale doesn’t have to be the “top of the line” option. Part of the pathway to success as an MSP is to establish your credibility, and one of the most powerful ways to accomplish that is to be able to say: “There are several ways we can approach this!”

Approach What?

That raises another important issue. What was the goal of this marketing program in the first place? As I wrote in the printed part of this column, I think the real estate agent’s objective was to stimulate listings, and that’s a completely different objective than “to create awareness” or “to generate referrals” or “to sell this particular house.” If you don’t understand the objective, you probably can’t suggest an appropriate marketing plan!

Here is something else to consider, and it’s something that I’ve written before: This was not a QR code campaign—nor was it a direct mail program, a postcard project, or a cross-media campaign. The right terminology is marketing program. As it happens, this particular marketing program includes printing and QR codes and other cross-media elements. It’s all about marketing, though! The objective drives the program, not the technology. In other words, you don’t include QR codes in the program just because you have the technology. You only include them if they’ll help you reach the objective!

In many cases, in fact, a “low technology” approach might even be a better choice. Let’s think some more about the overall objectives of the customer. And please note that now I want to talk about objectives (plural). Because in addition to generating listings through the direct mail component of the program, the agent also stands to make some money by selling the house!

So what sort of media would be appropriate to place at the house itself? At one end of the technology spectrum, the agent could place a quantity of “data sheets” at the house, possibly in a plastic sleeve attached to the “For Sale” sign. That’s been a fairly common practice in residential real estate for many years. At the other end of the spectrum, he/she could place a QR code on the sign itself. As a marketing services provider, which of those would you suggest?

I would probably suggest both! The “old technology” would place the desired information in the hands of the “shopper,” using paper and ink or toner. The “new technology” would provide another option for a more sophisticated potential buyer. But consider this, if you have the printed sell sheet, do you even need the QR code? Does it really add anything to the likelihood of success or is it just showing off?

I think it could add quite a lot to the likelihood of success, but not if all it does is take the shopper to a digital version of the same exact sell sheet. Think about the situation where the shopper is outside of the house, but curious about what’s inside—and that’s exactly the situation that plays out many times every day in America as real estate salespeople drive shoppers around through neighborhoods or as shoppers drive themselves around. The sell sheet is very good at one thing, but only pretty good at another thing. It’s very good at presenting data—number of rooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, school info, tax info, etc. It’s only pretty good at presenting visual images of the inside of the house—because they have to be small images! A QR code, though, could lead to a landing page like I described earlier, listing data and containing links to other images.

You’ve probably printed sell sheets for real estate agents before. Take a look at some of your samples, or at the digital files you printed from. Now take a look at your smartphone. On a printed sell sheet, you could probably fit four to six very small images of interior rooms. Using your smartphone, you could view any number of significantly larger images. Part of the point of all of this is that, if you’re going to use the technology, really use the technology!

Expanding the Database

Let’s go back to the postcard that started all of this. It contained variable data and possibly variable images. (Wait! As you may remember, I hate those terms, so let me start again.)

Let’s go back to the postcard that started all of this. It included several elements of personalization. So obviously, the real estate agent knows the names and addresses of the people who will receive the postcard. What else does she know about them and, more importantly, what else would she like to know? Those are questions I would be asking during the development stage of the marketing program, and with the expectation that she’d like to know a lot more—for example, age, number of children, age of children, earnings range, net worth range, and other factors that might indicate a want or need to sell the current house and maybe even buy another one—I would suggest building a data collection device into the program, along with an incentive to take the next step.

“What are homes selling for in your area? Go to and enter code 3E942XXXXX. Get the details on this home (the home in the photo) and register to win a free iPad!”

Will the chance to win an iPad increase the response rate? Probably. Will that make it worth an “additional” $500-$600 to a realtor? Possibly. I’ve had lots of conversations with my clients and their clients about the mathematical parameters of a marketing investment. I have rarely been able to quote concrete numbers—if you do this, you’ll get 4% response, if you only do that, you’ll only get 2% response—but I have always been able to come up with reasonable projections.

And one more thing, they have always been trackable/measurable projections. I recognize that you’re probably not a marketing expert right now, but you can learn a lot simply by tracking results. If you like the results, you can probably recommend the same program—or similar program elements—again. If you don’t like the results, you can probably learn from your mistakes and improve your performance the next time around.

Final Thoughts

OK, that’s about it for today, but I want to close with a question and a few final thoughts. First the question, was this a good application for a QR code, or were we just showing off?

There’s a lot of excitement in the printing industry about QR codes, and they definitely represent a cool capability/technology. But don’t build them into every “postcard project” just because they’re cool and because you can. A marketing services provider’s core product is a Marketing Program, designed to achieve the MSP’s customer’s goals and objectives.

Many printers have complained over the years about graphic artists and designers who design for their own portfolio, not for the customer’s needs. Let’s not be guilty of the same sort of crime!