Case Study: Case of Pricing QR Codes

I was afraid it would be torture for you to read one more article on QR codes, however, my March survey of 124 printers on pricing QR Codes showed a lot of us don’t really know their potential. Fact is, 8% said, “Huh, what’s a QR code?” So, I first need to deal with some basics and then get to pricing. So, if you know the basics, drop down to the pricing section.

My results: 50% of us charge for QR code creation in some manner; 25% do not charge, rather throw the service in with the job; 17% will someday charge, but haven’t figured out how much yet; and, again, 8% said, “Huh, what’s a QR code?”

QR Code Essentials

A QR code is short for Quick Response and it’s a matrix barcode. It operates like the bar codes printed on everything we buy that tell the cash register what to charge. But instead of being short and long in shape and full of lines, the QR code is square and full of squiggly shapes. The QR code is “read” with a smartphone and an app (smartphone application program). You do have one don’t you? The user takes a picture via the app and it fires up your phone’s Web browser and takes you to the website (landing page) encoded in the QR code. It can do other things, but this is the big use.

Microsoft Tags is a similar, but different product with some betterments. So whatever you read about QR codes may be applied to Tags.


What Does the Customer Use It For?

A QR Code on a real estate brochure could take you to a 360 degree video tour of that house. A code on equipment could take you to the equipment’s maintenance manual in PDF format. A QR Code in a restaurant ad could take you to a full menu and perhaps allow you to make reservations.

So, the function of a QR code is to get the reader (you) from here to there (landing page). Hmm…sounds like something our customers should know about. And I think a lot of printers still don’t know about them or they are waiting for their customers to ask for them.


How Do You Create a QR Code?

Google “create QR Code” and you will get a quarter million hits. Go to one of the many free QR Code generator websites and make one. It’s easy right? Now, this “free and easy” concept is why many printers don’t charge to make them (28%). However, from the responses, I guess most don’t really know their value.

There are different kinds of QR codes which have different properties. For instance, is the QR code the customer generated for free designed for offset or digital? There’s a difference in resolution. Additionally, these free codes are almost always universally static meaning they are not trackable or redirectable.

So, how do you make a trackable and redirectable QR Code? You subscribe to a website service that allows you to do it. That’s typical, although you can do tracking via some URL shortener sites like You can also use Google Analytics if you have access to the target URL.

Okay, let’s review. A static QR Code takes you from your smartphone to a landing page. A trackable QR Code adds to that in that it has a method to tell the customer how many times someone actually used it. And a redirectable QR Code allows the landing page to be changed at the will of the customer without changing the QR image.

Why does the customer need these features? It depends. Trackable is universally important in marketing, so practically every QR code you do for a commercial client should be trackable. At the very minimum, the customer should be made aware that exists and be given a choice.

After all, the definition of a professional is that we know more about the customer’s needs than they do. You don’t specify to a doctor the kind of medicine you need. The doctor diagnoses first. Of course, lots of printers insist that the customer tell them exactly what to do and they will do it. And if they do it wrong, they will do it over without charge. Not an enlightened sales plan, but rampant many places.

So this brings me to the many responses I received to the effect that, “I’ve never had a request for a QR code, so I don’t know how to price them. But if I ever get a request, I will figure something out.”

Hmm…QR codes are something the customers need to know about because it could make them more money. So, shouldn’t we be seeking them out to tell them, or should we wait until someone asks? I’m all about seeking.


Pricing QR Codes

In pricing QR codes, it is usually not the price itself that is at issue. It is whether the seller can differentiate and justify the price that is the issue. No one knowingly pays more than they have to unless they feel it is worth it. Another way of saying that is: if all things are equal, then the lowest price wins. So, never ever allow all things to be equal.

But doesn’t the lowest price win anyway? No. That’s stinking thinking and is why so many printers are poor. It’s too much to explain here so see my 18-minute video at on the Role Price Plays in Our Success. And the answer is, “Yes, we can sell for more.”

Here are customer questions you might use, taken from my QR code report.

• “Was this code generated for digital or print?” If the customer doesn’t know, then perhaps you should generate it for them since there are size and resolution issues.

• “Yes, we charge $xx for the creation of a static QR code. We’re careful to create the proper code—for print or digital—as there are resolution differences. And we include testing in this charge. We test during creation (pre-press) as well as during proofing and production. Not only that, our testing includes three types of smartphones: iPhone, Blackberry, and an Android. So, yes, we should charge for the creation of a static QR code. Or we can go ahead and use your copy. Which would you prefer?”

• “May I recommend using a trackable QR code? We can create one for $xx and that includes 60 days of tracking reports.”

So, with an appropriate justification, one can and should charge for QR codes. Either that or use what the customer provides.


How Much?

So, how much? Should we average the charge of all printers, many of whom don’t know the difference between static and trackable? Should we include those who don’t know about the codes at all? I used the 50% of printers who do charge for a static QR code and found that the charges ranged from $5 to $500 (with landing page construction). So what should you charge? That’s the difference between a survey and a price advisory service.

I recommend you charge from $15 to $36 for a static QR code, with a typical price being $25. The $15 price would be in a lower cost area, $36 in a higher cost area, and $25 for the broad middle cost area.

Now, if you’d like to know my recommended charges for trackable and redirectable QR codes, including monthly monitoring as well as other insights on justifying charges, please check out the report How to Price QR Codes at It is available for $75. If you would like to receive reports like these without cost, go to, join my panel, and participate in the studies. In addition, subscribers to any of my Crouser Price Guides receive copies of all reports at no additional charge. Got a pricing question? Message and I’ll try to give you an answer.


Tom Crouser is author of the newly released Digital Printing Price Guide as well as the Crouser Guide to Small Press Printing ( He’s located at Crouser & Associates, Inc., 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304-965-7100. Follow Tom’s Small Business, Schmizness column on Facebook at, friend him on Facebook, link into him on LinkedIn, and follow his tweets at