Maybe you’ve come across one of these “new bar code things” on an advertisement, brochure or business card. You may have even heard of QR codes but didn’t connect the dots between the term and what you’ve been seeing. If you’re still figuring out what QR codes are and why they matter, then “connecting the dots” is a good place to start — it’s fundamental to how QR codes work, too.

“QR” stands for “Quick Response.” The pixilated-looking dots that make up a QR code are scanned by a mobile device equipped with a camera and a code-reader application, such as a smartphone or a tablet computer. This unlocks the content stored in the code, which, when used in marketing, is often a URL that leads to a Web page. QR codes are a natural fit for mobile devices because these devices typically come equipped with cameras, provide access to code-reader software and include Internet applications.

The technology is still relatively new to B2B marketing, but awareness will likely increase as mobile devices continue to gain popularity. In the meantime, remedying some common misuses of QR codes will help encourage their longer-term adoption and give B2B marketers a useful tool in the process.

Don’t blame the tool

Understanding that QR codes are indeed a tool — and not some magical marcomm elixir — is especially important. Many uses of QR codes seem focused on associating the company or product with this emerging technology and show little concern for the user’s experience when the code is accessed. The QR code experience should not only be rewarding to the user, but be unique to how users consume content on mobile devices.

Working from that basic understanding, here are five recommendations that will help B2B marketers use QR codes to greater success:

1. Use compatible codes – Not all QR codes are created equal. Microsoft’s Tag codes require a separate code-reader application, an annoyance for mobile device users who prefer fewer, multifunctional applications. Marketers are better off sticking with the traditional QR code format that is compatible with most code-reader applications.

2.Focus your message – The top two B2B marketing messages are “product” and “company,” but what, specifically, do you want to say about your product or company? Linking a QR code to your company home page provides more information than can be easily viewed on most mobile devices. Using a more specific message will make it easier to share your content in a less-cluttered setting.

3. Enhance or extend your message – Linking to repetitive content provides little value. A QR code should enhance or extend what you’ve just shown on paper. Video can take a message shared in pictures and words and show how it works in a live setting. Providing more detailed product information can be helpful when targeting highly technical audiences, such as engineers.

4. Optimize content – Creating a mobile-optimized website to link your QR code to is one of the best ways to ensure your content is easy to see and navigate on a mobile device. Video is a convenient alternative because many devices come equipped with a YouTube application and video software.

5. Explain your offer – Early in their inception, part of the fun in scanning a QR code was to see where it takes you. However, as more and more QR codes lead to undesirable destinations, that novelty is starting wear off. Tell your audience where your code will lead them, and they’ll be more likely to scan your QR offer.

In fact, scan a few for yourself if you are just starting to consider using QR codes in a marketing program. You will likely recognize some of the do’s and don’ts identified here, and you may find other helpful ideas that you can utilize as well.

Go all in

For QR codes to bring value to B2B audiences, marketers must create a user-friendly experience. Using compatible code formats and optimizing messages and content are critical for meeting the demands of a tech-savvy audience. As more marketers use QR codes well, these little squares will become more valuable to B2B audiences.