The Quirky QR Codes

High-Tech Ways to Wow Your Clients

By Darren Buford
[What's on the Web]

It’s likely that you’ve come across these funny-looking splotches of black and white dots in magazine ads and editorial, in business flyers and postcards, and on storefronts. Originally created in 1994 for use in the Japanese automobile industry as a way to track parts, QR codes (“quick response” codes) are two-dimensional bar codes that can be read by smartphones and tablet scanners. Using these devices’ built-in cameras, scanners interpret the codes and perform actions, like opening a website or calling a phone number. (Many Android, Nokia, and Blackberry devices come with QR code readers installed; iPhone and iPad 2 users can download free scanners from the Apple App Store.)

Businesses big and small have adopted QR codes into their marketing materials because the codes are cheap to create, offer customers a means to access and record a company’s information, and provide basic analytics for business owners (e.g., the number of people who scanned the link and the location of scans).

Within the past 12 months, the use of QR codes has exploded in the United States. For instance, Starbucks recently began distributing bookmarks with QR codes that, when scanned, take customers to a poll where they can vote for their favorite coffee blends. 

QR Codes & You

Your business may not be the size of Starbucks, but there are some simple ways to incorporate these bar codes into your practice.

• Attach a QR code to your marketing materials: brochures, posters, business cards, etc.

• Once scanned, the bar code can take your clients to a coupon, “bonus time” added on to a massage session, a link to your homepage (you have a website, right?), a description of the modalities you offer, or a video demonstrating some of your techniques.

While there are a number of vendors who offer QR code generators, some of which offer design options and complex analytics of your clients, let’s focus on some of the free options available on the web.

Vendors like Google (, Microsoft (, Bitly (, and Kaywa ( are good places to start, and the creation process is relatively easy.

1. Visit one of these sites and enter the URL, text, or phone number you want to convert.

2. It’s normal for these sites to have a URL shortener (a program that shortens the length of an overly long web address and makes a clean code). Vendors offer shorteners because the smaller the URL, the easier it is for QR scanners to read your bar code.

3. After you’ve shortened your URL, your QR code will then appear, or there will be a button to click to generate your bar code.

4. Once visible, copy the image of the QR code and place it on whatever item(s) you’d like to print or create.

Best Practices

Whenever using a QR code,
remember to:

• Include the actual URL near the bar code (and an explanation of what this code links to), so those without the ability to scan the code can access the information, too.

• Test all QR codes with multiple readers and devices.

• Make codes at least 1” x 1”— larger is better.

• Provide a sufficient “quiet zone” (1⁄8 inch of white space) around the bar code.

• Avoid using codes on highly reflective surfaces, as scanners have trouble reading them.

Finally, give clients a reason to scan your bar code. Offer something interesting or out of the ordinary. This ensures that the next time they see a QR code from you, they’ll think of your former offering and be more likely to scan your new bar code as well.