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As our obsession with speed and convenience continues to be a pervasive motivator in our culture, our demand for instant access to the resources and services we’re interested in will be on the forefront for any savvy entrepreneur.

Well, in 2011 and the coming years, a simple little black and white graphic featuring a funny jigsaw puzzle like maze called a “QR Code” is fast becoming new media’s latest tool for interactivity between customers and entrepreneurs.

What the heck is a QR Code?

QR (short for Quick Response) codes are a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) designed to be read by smartphones.

Using your smart phone take a phone of this QR code to "Like Us" on Facebook

The system was initially developed for the purpose of tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing. As of 2011, QR codes are used in a much broader context. Businesses large and small are rapidly integrating this high-tech form of marketing into their businesses, allowing them to track their promotions in real time.

Many of these applications are targeted toward mobile-phone users (via mobile tagging). Basically, your camera-enabled mobile phone reads the QR code when you take a photograph of it. Customers can easily download a free QR Code reader for their particular mobile device. (See Our Guide of Reader Applications for your particular smart phone below)

Why you want to pay attention to this technology:

As we charge full steam ahead into what many new media experts refer to as “Web 2.0″, our business-related decisions on the Internet will continue to become increasingly more personal — like communicating with a friend.

What this means for you and the future of your mobile food business is that marketing on the Internet will continue to be more about personal likes and dislikes, and that your customers will likely remain loyal to businesses they have good relationships with.

Marketing today has become increasingly social, meaning that we’re referencing our personal contacts as a integral part of our purchasing decisions. Your customers are looking to not only engage with you, but with other “like minded” people on a personal level. In my opinion, nothing is as personal (from a technology point of view) than your telephone. So with that said, our reliance on smart phones will continue to be on the forefront of this personalization movement.

Imagine having the ability to communicate with your customers in real time, informing them of your location, alerting them of a change in your schedule, when you’ve sold out of an item or added something new. For example, recently I received an instant twitter notification from a food truck I follow requesting my input on new item added to their menu.

Keeping that in mind, the liklihood of my either showing up to purchase that sandwich (or at the very least share it with my friends and followers in the social media space) dramatically increases.

Keep this in mind: Ease + Quick Response = $$ in the bank!

Smart phones like Apple iPhone, Android or Blackberry featured above enabled with a free QR Code reader has not only made it easy, but also quite engaging for consumers to explore new resources on the web instantly.
What this means to you and your bottom line is not only can you engage with your customers in real time (with instant text messages), but you can educate them on your services via their smart phones.

Where to find free QR code readers for your smart phone :

Blackberry
QR Code Scanner Pro – http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/13962
Beetagg – http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/5781
ScanLife Barcode Reader – http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/1102

Android
Quick Mark – https://market.android.com/details?id=tw.com.quickmark&hl=en
QR Droid – https://market.android.com/details?id=la.droid.qr&feature=search_result

iPhone
- http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/qr-reader-for-iphone/id368494609?mt=8
- http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software/quickmark/

Here are five ways you can use quick response codes to establish and build connection with your customers:

Print them on post cards or business cards

1. Print them on your postcards and/or business cards. Give these to every customer after they place an order at your booth or window. Make sure you encourage customers to use the code immediately by letting them know they will receive a special discount or a free menu item (for example) a free side order, free desert, second item for free with a regular purchase. You get the idea.

2. Use them to launch a frequent diners program. Using the business card model from tip #1, print the QR code on your business cards. Customers can snap the code with their mobile device and be instantly taken to a mobile-enabled opt-in page where they enter their first name and email address or mobile number.

After they enter their contact info via their mobile device, you can respond with an instant coupon by email or text for a free menu item (or pre-set percentage off an order of $15 dollars or more for example).

Check out how we use them on our Twitter page. You can easily do the same.

3. Integrate them into your Twitter background page. No other social media platform in my opinion has been embraced or gained as much traction with the mobile food community than Twitter. Chances are that your customers are already on these powerful platforms, so why not make it easy for current and new followers to find you?

Either you or your graphics person can easily easily place a QR Code graphic on your twitter background page. Click here to see an example. Better still scan the code to the right with your smart phone be taken there.

4. Publish them on the side of your mobile truck or food cart. Customers can scan them while they’re waiting in line for their order or when they spot you on the road as you’re driving traffic between locations. Imagine the number of new followers you’ll get instantly to your Twitter or Facebook pages, in addition to all the new subscribers to your blog’s mailing list. That’s what I call marketing on demand. To locate vehicle wrap suppliers in your area, just type “vehicle wraps + the name of your city” into google search and see what comes up.

Yes, even on chocolate!

5. Feature them on your products. For example, have them printed on t-shirts for your counter staff. Print up stickers or rubber stamps and place them on your to-go bags. One company will even create chocolate candy with your QR (quick response code) directly printed on it. (See the resources below)

For additional ideas on various ways you can use QR codes in your marketing, your concession stand or mobile food truck, go visit the websites listed below in the resources section below.

Want to try your hand at making your first QR code? It’s simple. Just go to http://delivr.com and enter the URL of your website, blog or Twitter or Facebook page or where ever you want to direct your people and press go.

Your QR code will be generated instantly and ready for download in seconds.  Yes, it’s that simple!

Additional Resources:

Services That Will Print QR Codes On Products For You
http://www.qrstuff.com/generate.tshirt
http://www.qrchocolates.com/

Vehicle Wrap Service
http://skinzwraps.com

If this article has inspired you to try your hand at using QR Codes and mobile marketing in your concession stand or mobile food truck please share your story or idea with us in the comments below.

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About the Author

Rodney Washington is a Creative Marketing Strategist who helps creative service professionals gain attention and increase sales. His goal in life: to end the famine that plagues starving artists across the country. Rodney is a contributing writer to art and lifestyle blogs and has written two books.