What’s the Future for QR Codes?

QR codes, short for quick response codes (those funky squares of seemingly random blank and white areas) are popping up in more places, some of which are unexpected, such as headstones.

They have many uses, but a common one is in marketing, allowing people with smartphones to scan it and be whisked to a website.

With increased usage, does this suggest a growing trend or merely something trendy?

I think QR codes are more novelty than practical.

I remember a time when it seemed every TV ad ended with a website address. That didn’t last long — and I don’t think QR codes will either.

How Fast Should You Move To HTML5?

If you have a website, and who doesn’t nowadays, you fit in one of three categories:

      1) You use a hosted service that does all the behind-the-scenes technical stuff for you.
      2) You pay someone else to take care of it.
      3) You or an in-house team handles it.

You may also know that HTML5 is the new thing for websites. If you’re in the first two categories, that’s really all you need to know. If you’re in the third category you should track this carefully.

Web browsers handle HTML5 with varying degrees of effectiveness. Therefore, just because a new feature is part of HTML5, it’s unwise to use it before the browsers can actually handle it.

To find what each browser offers, check out html5test.com. It tells which HTML5 features work for your browser and provides a compliance score, based on a 500-point scale. The results are eye opening:

      Chrome 22 leads the pack with 437 points
      Safari 6: 376 points
      Firefox 15: 346 points
      Internet Explorer v9: 138 points

Older versions have lower scores and therefore lower levels of HTML5 compatibility.

The key point is, don’t implement a new HTML5 feature until all the major browsers support it and most users have switched to that version.

Why is an HTML5 post on a blog about publishing? Quite simply because “publishers are becoming developers.” And that’s another thing for us to contemplate.

Three Reactions to Economic Conditions

As businesses ponder future economic conditions and how it will affect sales and their bottom line, there are three ways to respond:

  1. Hunker down and hope tomorrow will be better.
  2. Take a deep breath and maintain business as usual.
  3. Increase marketing and promotional efforts to increase sales now and fill the sales funnel with prospects for later.

The first response is a quick path to disaster.

The second option, while a viable consideration, may not be the best one.

It’s the third possibility, however, that holds the most promise for the present and the most potential for the future.

Progressive business owners and managers will pursue the third choice. As they do, they will zoom past their competition while they hunker down or hold their breath.

How Customer Service Can Take the Pressure Off of Marketing

Although the precise multiple varies with who’s doing the telling, the truth is it’s many times more costly to obtain a new customer than keep an existing one.

The sad reality is, no one at the giant mega-corporations gets this — or at least their actions belie that they do.

For years, I’ve been trying to get a less outrageous rate from my local phone company, practically begging them to give me a reason to stick around. Now I have a viable alternative, so I switched providers, and cancelled service.

For the first time in 24 years they ask me, “What can we do to keep you as a customer?” Sorry, too late.

A week later I receive an email message from them. It seems I’ve been pre-approved for a special rate, one they wouldn’t consider giving me as a customer, but will if I’m a prospect. They offer to sell me phone, Internet, and satellite for about what they were charging for just phone and Internet before.

If existing customers were treated with a bit more respect, the marketing folks wouldn’t be under as much pressure to regain the revenue lost from defecting customers. But instead, they do things backwards, treating customers with disregard and prospects with sweet deals.

Measuring Marketing Effectiveness

There’s an alarming trend among marketing folks, especially those focused on e-marketing. Their perspective is if marketing can’t be measured, then it’s not viable. This is incorrect; some marketing results simply cannot be tracked.

Consider print marketing. You can’t count the number of impressions, clicks, or conversions. You have no way of knowing how many eyeballs saw an ad, how many positive, subconscious imprints were made, or the degree to which a brand was reinforced with each view.

The reality is, every time someone sees your ad in print, the status of your brand is elevated in their mind and your organization is held in higher esteem. This makes prospects more likely to click and to buy when they see you online. And this increases the likelihood they’ll answer your salesperson’s call and ultimately buy your products or services when they have a need.

Without the support of print media advertising, the salesperson’s job becomes more difficult and their sales will be lower. Just because it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of certain marketing, doesn’t mean it should be skipped. Doing so puts an organization’s future at risk.

Why Agents Should Stop Selling and Start Serving

I needed to order some ink cartridges for my printer — the kind I can only buy directly from the vendor. There was a problem with the website, so I picked up the phone to place my order.

I told the agent I wanted to order two black ink cartridges.

Not surprisingly, she suggested I buy a package that included two color cartridges as well. “No thank you, just black.”

Upon discovering the age of my printer, she tried to sell me a new printer. “No thank you — I just need ink.”

When I acknowledged that I own several computers from her company, she asked if they were working okay and did I… “No I just want to buy ink.”

Then she offered me a special price on anti-virus software for only…, “No, I only want ink!”

Next, she inquired if I was interested in a maintenance plan to… “NO, just ink!”

Perhaps she was supposed to try to upsell me five times or maybe she was on commission. I don’t know, but I do know the call took twice as long as it needed to, I became irritated, and the likelihood of me buying another printer from them is highly unlikely.

AIM is Dead: Considerations of a Product Life Cycle

The headline on Gizmodo reads, “AIM Is (Unofficially) Dead.”

This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve not heard anyone talking about AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) for years, and it’s been even longer since I used it. (Which isn’t surprising given that I never liked AIM in the first place.)

The technology of publishing used to be simple: a printing press. Now we have a plethora of publishing technologies, first to aid in the production of the printed page, but more recently — and importantly — to facilitate digital publishing, in all manner of manifestations online as well as mobile.

Just as AIM had its life cycle — birth, growing up, peaking, maturing, and now fading — so too will each of publishing’s technologies do the same. What is important today will someday become a non-issue. And if we blink or are not willing to change, we could easily miss the transition from one technology to the next — and we would do so at our own peril.

I assume that it was Twitter that caused AIM’s demise. That raises the question of how much life does Twitter have left — and what will be its cause of death?

What’s the Future for US Mail Delivery?

The future of mail delivery in the United States is murky. This gives magazine publishers and direct mail marketers much to be concerned about, including increased deliver times and costs, fewer options, and overall more uncertainty. Consider that:

  • Currently the number of distribution centers are being slashed. This will increase efficiency but also add one day to most deliveries.
  • Routes will be lengthened. This means that mail will arrive later. Currently our Monday mail often arrives after the business day is over. And if there’s a snowstorm it may not be until after 8 or 9 pm. If our carrier is given an additional 10 or 20% stops to make, how much more will mail be delayed?
  • Saturday mail delivery may be stopped altogether. This will mean more mail needing to be delivered on Monday with even later delivery times. Plus if Monday happens to be a holiday, then there will be even greater pent-up volume for Tuesday. Remember that mail will still be entering the mail stream over the weekend, it’s just that it will have no place to go.
  • Some post offices are being closed and more will likely be closed. That means more time and costs will be incurred when you need to go to the post office.
  • Rates will need to be increased, but no one knows how much.

The wise mailers are already looking for options and contingencies. Unfortunately, this will serve to remove even more mail from the system — and less volume is exactly what the US Post Office doesn’t need.

RIP Maghound: A Great Idea with One Problem

I’ve been a big fan of the “magazine membership services” website Maghound. With Maghound you select which magazines you wish to receive each month, are charged a fixed monthly fee, and they handle everything else. As a nice side-effect, the publisher doesn’t harass you with endless premature renewal notices or other annoying mailings.

Although I loved the service, there was one wrinkle. The model was built on the assumption of a monthly publication schedule, but few magazines come out monthly any more. Instead of simply charging less for those months, Maghound’s solution was a “substitute list,” which would provide a backup magazine when your preferred one was taking the month off.

Despite this small annoyance, I was greatly dismayed when Maghound emailed me the beginning of February to tell me they were shutting down the service, effective April 30.

Frustrated that I would need to resume interacting with individual publishers and endure their incessant mailings, I happily discovered that Amazon has a comparable magazine service. Interestingly, they handle theirs by the year, not the month.

So I am all set up with Amazon as my new magazine subscription provider, but I will miss Maghound, a great idea that didn’t quite work out.

Do You Really Need a QR Code?

Even if you don’t know what they are, you’ve no doubt seen quick response (QR) codes in print advertising and other places. QR codes are the next iteration of bar codes and look like a small white square that is populated with a seemingly random group of interconnected tiny black squares and rectangles.

Take a picture of the QR code with a properly equipped smart phone and you will have quick access to a website giving more information about the ad’s content.

But there is a problem with QR codes: consumer usage is low. According to a Forrester Research study, in a three-month window in 2011, only five percent of those surveyed scanned even one QR code. That’s not five percent for every code, but five percent of all codes combined. Hence, the reasonable assumption could be made that some codes are seldom or even never scanned at all.

The reasons are many: Some people don’t know what QR codes are. Others are confused in how to use them. A third group lacks the needed technology (be it the smart phone or the requisite app), but most just ignore them.

Add to this that the Web page the QR code lands on is often not optimized for mobile devices.

Although QR code usage is sure to grow in the future as these problems are addressed and overcome, there certainly doesn’t seem to be an imperative need to include them in your ads today — but just don’t dismiss them forever.