This April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. All month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always smart to go Back to Basics with Inman.

If you’re a real estate agent, lender or any professional whose business depends on engaging and maintaining customers, you may already have discovered the wonders of customized QR codes. If not, let me (re)introduce what has become an essential part of my marketing, engaging and retaining customers. 

QR codes, short for Quick Response, were developed in the mid-1990s by Toyota to track parts and product assembly. Since then, at pace with the evolution and proliferation of smartphones, they have provided a highly adaptable and completely customizable personal barcode technology that creates a widely recognizable graphic you can embed with a link to any URL.

Unlike in the past when an app was required to scan a QR, current smartphones can automatically scan QRs without an app. One of my favorite things about them is that QR codes are trackable, so they provide total numbers of people who scan them, as well as each subsequent click and view by the user.

COVID-19’s impact has boosted the appeal of QR codes because they’re “touchless” and truly convenient. So, what Zoom has become for office meetings, these link-bearing graphics are doing for marketing materials and client engagement.

The tip of the iceberg: A QR code capability overview

I began using QR codes some years ago as a real estate agent in the West Texas town of El Paso. I now share my experience with agents, title companies, lenders and other industry leaders all over the country as a marketing technical director with WEST, a Williston Financial Group company.

You’re probably already thinking of ways to use them in your business, but here are a few of the things I linked QR codes to:

  • A PDF file such as a buyer or seller questionnaire, flyer or move-in estimate
  • A website (i.e. a splash page to promote an open house and then on cards inside the open house to things like a video describing outstanding upgrades, neighborhood highlights or my lender partner) 
  • A simple v-card to download your contact info with one click
  • A text message, email or telephone dialer queued up to contact me; I often asked them to scan it while we were talking so I could add them to my database for follow-up. (And keep in mind, you can pre-populate the text) 
  • A video file introducing myself or the origin story of my company (you can easily redirect it and regularly update it with a major new listing, some local information or other items to keep it current)
  • My Wi-Fi access info for anyone in your waiting area to scan and log in without having to drop what you’re doing to help them connect 
  • Prompts to follow my social media accounts or open a micro-site 
  • An FAQ flyer or video (for an easy way to stop and divert those frequent general information questions.

I could go on, but you’re probably already thinking of a plethora of ways you can implement this in your business. 

How to create your own QR codes

There are many QR code generators, and most have a free version and a paid version. I typically use Flow Code because of its ease of use and diversity of design options and functionality preferences. Another popular option is QR Code Monkey or Canva. Each has many super simple options and lets you create about a dozen custom codes to use immediately. 

In FlowCode you can add your logo, customize the color, make it circular, and more, including changing the barcode to stars, hearts, thumbs-up and several other options.

Their tracking features are really robust, too. On their dashboard, you name the code, pick how many destinations you want, though I still keep it to one to avoid overcomplicating by directing the link to multiple places. Then just paste in the link to your document, YouTube video, Google page, Facebook, text, email, Wi-Fi — whatever — save it and your QR Code is ready to go. 

Download it and do whatever you want with it.

You can always go in and edit your QR code’s link. So feel free to print a code on the back of your business card or save it as a favorite image on your cellphone. You’ll be able to update the link to another address any time you want, for instance, to link to a video instead of a PDF, or a new website, etc.

Be sure to make your QR code stand out wherever you print or place it in a marketing piece, a sign on your desk or a business card. Make the benefit of what they’re going to do very clear. If it’s a giveaway, make sure they know to “Scan this to enter my giveaway” or whatever it might be. 

A boost to your review and testimonial generation 

As I wrote about in a previous Inman article, reviews really are the future currency of our businesses. With a QR code to facilitate a client going directly to your specific review pages (be it Google, Facebook, Zillow, or another site), you’re sure to have more clients leaving reviews and testimonials. 

The best time to ask for reviews is closing time, when they’re the most positive, most happy and most relieved. Have that QR code on your phone, and flash it to them right at the closing table. Why not get it done right then and there? There’s a good chance they’re going to open it up and leave a quick review for you. 

After these record-breaking years, we are missing the boat if we’re not gathering as many reviews as possible. Although this incredible market won’t last forever, your reviews will.

Sam Trimble is a marketing and technology director at WEST, a Williston Financial Group company, in El Paso, Texas. Connect with him on Instagram or Facebook

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