Don’t Neglect Old for New

My QR Code with my contact info

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, so my desk has become something of a dumping ground, with files, receipts, and other paperwork tossed on at random. This morning I decided to tackle the pile prior to diving into my workday, and so I started sorting through everything. Among other things, I found a number of business cards from people I’d met through the last month. I looked through each one, sorting out who I needed to follow up with, etc.

One business card stood out though. It had someone’s name, and a QR code. Nothing else. Now if you’re not familiar with with a QR code is, it’s a square code that you can scan with the barcode reader of a mobile phone. Once it’s scanned, it typically will take you to a mobile web page with more information. It’s a pretty cool technology (if fact, we’re seeing it a lot with real estate, which I think is a GREAT use.)

But it my opinion, this business card failed. Why? Because when I found it on my desk, it didn’t give me the information I needed without me having to take another step I didn’t have time for in that moment. So what did I do? I tossed the card.

And there’s a lesson here. Yes, technology is cool. There are some pretty neat things you can do to further engage people, and market your business. But don’t completely neglect what’s worked in the past in order to jump on the “new” ship. A paper business card needs to give more than a QR code, because it’s not a digital medium. It can service the digital user, sure. But it also needs to service the person reading the card in the moment.

Don’t get so wrapped up in new technology that you forget that not every customer wants to interact with you in that way. You must evaluate all the options you have at your disposal, so you reach as vast an audience as possible. That’s what truly brings success.

Your thoughts?

17 Responses to Don’t Neglect Old for New
  1. Bernice Caruth
    June 19, 2011 | 10:58 pm

    I had never heard of a QR code before, so thanks for that information. The QR code reminds me of reading a newspaper article so that ends with “for further information go to” I bought the newspaper to read a complete article, not have to go to another source for the rest of the info. Irritating. I love technology but haven’t made it the whole part of the business. Snail mail and the phone are still important for follow-up.

  2. Rae
    June 17, 2011 | 12:03 pm

    I had to laugh as I read this. I love using new technology but live in a very rural area in which less than half of my customers even use email. It would be death to my business to have just a QR code or even just a website or email address. As a matter of fact, that’s one of my husband’s pet peeves–businesses that only provide a website as a means of contact. So, even older “new technology” should be combined with a phone number.

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 17, 2011 | 12:11 pm

      Absolutely Rae. We don’t want to sacrifice customers who communicate in different ways for the sake of “new.” We’re in an interesting period right now, with such huge generational shifts in the way we communicate. It’s important for all of us to communicate in many ways, in order to reach the broadest customer base.

  3. Joyce Holthaus
    June 17, 2011 | 8:35 am

    Great article Jen! Your article affirms the point that while technology is great there is still value to the personal touch. I wonder how differently you would have remembered this person if their card had a personal photo…that may have sparked the connection you had made when you received the card! Always appreciate your insights.

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 17, 2011 | 9:39 am

      I’m a big believer in the photo on the business card. We are such a face-centered business. What better way to help people remember you when they have a sea of cards? Thanks for commenting Joyce!

  4. Betsy
    June 16, 2011 | 3:08 pm

    My initial thought would be that the card owner only wanted to do business with those who had smartphones or the technology to scan QR codes–that could cut out a huge portion of the market and it could be a form of the “prejudging” that we have been coached to never do.

    I do like the concept of a QR code on a business card but in addition to the regular info like Name, company, contact info, etc.

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2011 | 4:24 pm

      I agree with you Betsy! Thanks for commenting.

  5. Lori Sauerwein
    June 16, 2011 | 11:38 am

    It sounds like the card owner forgot the first rule of marketing — Understand your audience. If he’d thought about who would be receiving his card, how they’d be using it and what he wanted to communicate, I’m sure he (or she) would have made different choices.

    Thanks for the reminder, Jen!

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2011 | 11:45 am

      Good point Lori! It’s always important to put yourself in the mindset of your audience, no matter what you hand out!

  6. Annie
    June 16, 2011 | 11:36 am

    How topical! I actually received a business card with a QR code just last night. I immediately scanned the code to see what the code would reveal. It did provide his info on the front. But, I’ll admit, even if it hadn’t, I probably would have done what I think this person was trying to do, and scan it to see what it’s all about. By providing just a breadcrumb, they might get someone like me to seek more info.

    Perhaps this individual’s strategy worked exactly as s/he intended. I know more than a handful of marketers who are seeking a very specific type of client. S/he is sending a clear message that s/he is comfortable taking a risk and being edgy. Perhaps s/he wants to weed out some folks who would disagree with the risky approach. If this was part of the goal, then the strategy was a success. If not, it was a clear failure. My point is that this is neither a good or bad approach to marketing one’s personal brand, because each individual’s personal brand is unique.

    Sure, the approach wouldn’t work with everyone. But then again, what marketing strategy works with every target audience? If there was one approach that worked universally, we marketers would surely be out of a job.

    And we would have nothing to blog about!

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2011 | 11:54 am

      Very good points Annie! Perhaps this was what the person intended. But what’s funny is that I have no problem with QR codes. I use them regularly. I may very well have been in his target market. But the issue was, without any context and without a lot of extra time, I couldn’t make the decision as to whether or not to engage further. Your business card has to work for you beyond the 3 seconds someone remembers meeting you. Case in point, I met this individual a couple of weeks ago. Clearly they wanted follow up, as they provided a card. I just think he could have accomplished his purpose of reaching a specific market and still provided context.

      However I agree it’s good blog fodder! 🙂

  7. Sheri Bambrough
    June 16, 2011 | 10:37 am

    I agree. I can see where there are benefits for a QR code on a business card, but to use it in place of standard business card information is definitely a waste in money and a lost resource. The QR code should look like an added graphic to standard information to be useful to those who want more information about the person or company than standard business card details. Also, it is only going to be used by those who know what the code is; who have the phone/program to scan; and who WANT to go that extra step to do business or get to know the person/company.

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2011 | 10:41 am

      Exactly Sheri! People need context. We can’t get so wrapped up in our technology that we forget to give the right information at the right time. It’s all about what works in that moment.

  8. NooraK
    June 16, 2011 | 10:32 am

    My first reaction was that if you were in the tech industry, working for, say, Apple in product development or something, it’d be fine. But I would then expect that person to have separate cards for people he meets outside of his high-tech circle.

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2011 | 10:37 am

      But here’s the thing. I work in the tech industry. I’m probably his target market. But without context, I have no idea what the value of this contact is. Why make someone work so hard when one more line of text would provide context?

  9. Linda Burt
    June 16, 2011 | 9:42 am

    Spot on as usual. Although I have yet to actually see one of these codes. I could see how not having the info at your ready would be a toss in the trash for me too! Life is busy, sometimes too busy and having to search for info is annoying. Like not having a signature line on emails. With websites! Ugh!
    Thanks for sharing! Missed you too!

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2011 | 10:39 am

      Thanks for the comment Linda! Yes, we always have to provide context, even in a visually connected world. Otherwise I don’t know the value of the extra effort. It’s important!

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