QR codes and Microsoft Tags are now part of mainstream popular culture. The simple 2-D bar code links the printed world to the digital world. Smartphone users scan the printed barcode and they are directed to a landing page where the user can learn more about a business or product. Businesses are using QR codes to literally put more information in the customer’s hand quickly.
QR codes will get another boost this month when the US Postal Service offers a special 3% discount for any letters or flats if they include the QR code. The promotion runs through August. Businesses will be using the QR codes to link to online content, special offers, and contests.
According to postal officials, it is hoped that the promotion will highlight the potential for mobile marketing technology and help get a better response rate for direct mail campaigns. It also hopes to attract the younger generation to mail and help the USPS build its mail volume.
The 3% discount will apply to items in both First Class Mail and Standard Class Mail, sent using a permit imprint payment method. To qualify, mailers must display the mobile barcodes either outside or within all mail pieces in a mailing. The barcodes must “market, promote, or educate” mail recipients rather than just be for internal tracking purposes.
How Smart is Your Phone?
Studies say that smartphone use is growing. Last year’s research by The Nielsen Company reported 30% of phone users used a smartphone and 40% of new phones purchased were smartphones.
Hopefully, printers will use the USPS sale to promote the use of QR codes to their customers. It seems that QR codes are popping up all around us. Most magazines and newspapers now include QR codes. Most major retailers include QR codes in their stores for information or special discounts. Just last week I was in Home Depot and could scan a QR code to get more information about the flowers I was thinking about planting in my yard.
What excites me about QR codes is that they give a customer a reason to throw out his current printed inventory of marketing material and print new ones that contain QR codes. A print salesperson should be able to convince anyone selling products and services to include QR codes on their printed material and push more information to the customer by linking with the Internet.
An easy link for QR codes and print is YouTube.com videos. Many companies already have videos about themselves and their products and services online. Adding a QR code to link the printed material to the video is simple. YouTube videos can be very impressive on a smartphone screen.
It takes printed material with QR codes to drive “eyes” to the Internet. When you review your customer’s videos on YouTube.com, you will see a View Report under the video. It is surprising how few views some videos have received. The customer just posted the video with a hope of someone seeing it. With QR codes, viewers can be directed to the site and the number of views can be increased.
Printers who are out making calls on prospects can give the new customer an excuse to leave their current printer by suggesting QR codes. The QR codes add value to the printed piece. Almost every business has a website, YouTube video, blog, or tweets. A QR code can get a business more fans and followers.
Printers need to start using QR codes to promote their own business. This will give the sales staff examples to show customers and help create a buzz about the service. It is still new enough that customers will want to talk to you about them and find out what the benefits will be for their business. Most businesses now have a lot of money invested in websites and other online information and QR codes can help them build the audiences for those sites.
And don’t expect the QR code vs. Microsoft Tag battle to be settled anytime soon. Both 2D barcodes will be vying for consumers’ attention. My advice is to use both of the codes if there is a question. Most smartphones support both QR code and Microsoft Tag readers and there is no additional cost to the consumer. The only thing you give up is a little real estate on the printed piece.
Things You Want to Know
With all the talk about social media and websites, it is easy to forget that desktop publishing software continues to advance. QuarkXpress is now available in version 9 and InDesign and its bundled Creative Suite are now in version 5.5. Most of the enhancements are for ease-of-use and integration into e-publishing and other media sources.
Today’s prepress designer now must deal with other media besides paper. What is being designed for print also is finding its way to the Internet on websites, on iPads, smartphones, and more. Quark and Adobe recognize the changing role and are adding tools to make the transition easier.
Printers need to also recognize that their customers are designing publications for other media. Most customers face the same issues they did when trying to design something to print. They don’t know the basics about communicating visually and need a printer’s help to make the piece pleasing.
The customer probably isn’t thinking about a printer when they attempt to create an e-pub or electronic newsletter. It will be up to the printer to tell the customer that they can help them with these types of publications too. Some printers are creating packages now that include both a printed piece and an electronic form of any publication. Flipbook technology is allowing printers to take the same publication and turn it into a piece to put on the customer’s website.
Printers need to take a look at the upgraded Adobe and Quark products. The features that have been added to the software could open doors to new revenue from existing customers. Download demos of the new versions of the software from www.adobe.com and www.quark.com.
Pennywise, Pound Foolish
In recent months, I have found a number of printers who are still using Adobe Pagemaker as their page layout program of choice. For anyone who still uses Pagemaker, my strong suggestion is to upgrade to either Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress. The productivity and flexibility that you get with the newer software will more than pay any upgrade costs. I also believe that most output problems you may be experiencing will also disappear as you move to the modern software. The last Pagemaker version was release in 2004 and has since been replaced by InDesign.
A printer doesn’t have to have the latest software in the shop to be profitable, but you do need to use software that is considered the standard in the industry. Most customers now use InDesign, Quark, and Microsoft Publisher to create files. Then they usually convert them to PDF files when they submit them to the printer. Most available prepress and design people are using the newer software.
File Recovery Tip
Your stomach usually drops when you get the message that an InDesign file is corrupted and can’t be opened. Your first thoughts are “Do I have a backup of the earlier version?” and “Can I still make the deadline?” Here is a reminder that Markzware, the makers of Flightcheck preflighting software, also offer a service to fix corrupted InDesign files. The company has experts on staff who may be able to recover the file and save you some time and money. If you need more information about the service, just contact www.markzware.com.
Find PDF Answers
Bookmark your Web browser to Planet PDF’s site http://qa.planetpdf.com/. The site answers questions about PDF files and how to perform certain tasks, how to fix problems, and even which tools your peers recommend for your PDF-related projects. According to the creators, the primary goal behind the Planet PDF Q&A platform is to get the best possible answers to every answerable PDF question out there.