Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting Publicly Embarrassed? There’s an App for That – Fun with QR Code Marketing

If you’ve ever taken public transportation, especially the Green Line in Boston, then you know there are a lot of “interesting” people you have the opportunity to interact with. What you don’t know, however, is that I’ve been one of those people. You know, the ones people stare at wondering what the they’re doing? Oh yeah, that was me. And a QR Code is to blame. After my experience on the T (more to come on that later), I needed to do some extra research on the guilty party.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that smart devices, particularly smartphones, are poised to take over the world – sorry Pinky, maybe you should have bought an iPhone to get the job done. These powerful devices are changing everything about B2C marketing and communication. Marketers are having a field day, with mobile marketing budgets expected to soar in 2012. There’s still a lot of valid skepticism, however, for QR codes. There are kinks to work out and innovations to be made. But the benefits can certainly be worth it, especially for those really innovative companies who come up with creative campaigns to drive this interaction and increase purchase potential. For those ready and creative enough for this, I recommend keeping the following tips in mind:

1) Offer an incentive. But make it clear what the value is. It’s not likely that I’ll pull out my QR Code app to scan something if you don’t tell me what I’m getting out of it. “Scan this to win a prize!” I’m curious, but not curious enough to be motivated to action. Try something like, “Scan here for 15% off your next purchase.” Now that interests me.

2) Keep it simple, interesting. Motivating users to scan the code is only half the battle. Have the scan take them to a mobile-friendly website that does two important things:

a) Brings them immediate value, like a discount code or entry into a contest.

b) Prompts them to do something else, like downloading an app or signing up for a rewards card, email or newsletter distribution list. They’re already there, keep the relationship going.

3) Measure, measure, measure. Like any good campaign, set goals and determine how you want to measure the success. Determine the number of scans, the number of purchases from the scan (if applicable), how many people signed up or downloaded something else, etc.

4) Be where your audience is. Here, we come back to my traumatizing T example on the Green Line. A lot can be said about location-based marketing. So when I was at the T and saw the QR code for having your groceries delivered to your home, I was impressed. Who needs groceries delivered? People in the city, who may not drive as much or have cars. Who takes the T? Those same people. While this scenario didn’t actually apply to me, I love a good marketing campaign, so I pulled out my iPhone and tried to scan the code…that was on the other side of the tracks. It wasn’t possible to get over there; it was just a wall with ads. I got as close to the yellow line as I could…then I got closer to the edge. Before I realized it, I was leaning so far over the edge that I was nearly falling, and then as I slipped a little, I jumped back in fear, combining it with a frightened yelp! I looked around to 30 or so commuters staring at me with odd looks of judgment. I was that girl. So when thinking about location, don’t just concentrate on where your consumers are, remember that if they have to scan something, they need to be able to get close enough to do so.

Before any of this can happen, however, the mobile marketing community needs to come together and help promote this so that people are downloading the scanning apps. Maybe the iPhone 8 or something will have it built in, but right now there’s an issue of consumer adoption. ScanLife, one of the scanning apps, did a cool campaign in December, where every scan – no matter what brand – entered you into a contest for an iPad. This could have encouraged users to scan more for this purpose, but as they were doing so they would realize the value and keep on scanning even after the campaign. Unfortunately, it wasn’t heavily promoted, but the idea was there and maybe set the stage for additional campaigns. By the way, if you’re looking for a QR Code app, ScanLife is the one I recommend. Easy to use, free, fast and it keeps a database of scan history in case you want to scan now and peruse later.

For the consumers out there, I’d say mass adoption is still a few years out, but I don’t think it’s a passing fad. For the marketers out there, especially for start-ups or those with a low-budget, I say get on board. A QR code campaign is inexpensive, simple and easy to measure through analytics. Get moving marketers…literally, I’m saying you need to go mobile.

Drop a line in the comments if you’ve seen or done any really cool QR code campaigns, we’re all ears.

This post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Above Average Marketing at Not Your Average Joe's

As someone who's passionate about social branding, PR and marketing, I pay a lot of attention to tactics and campaigns of the brands I interact with in my daily life. Sometimes, I just like a brand for the good old fashioned reasons - good quality, good service and brings value to my life. So when a brand goes above and beyond all that, I'm very impressed. Here, I'd like to talk about a company I interact with that I feel deserves some attention - outside of the usual people I talk about, like Starbucks and Apple. Don't be alarmed by the brief and sudden change, but I'm stepping outside the world of technology here. - gasp!

Anyone who's spent a brief amount of time with me knows that I'm a foodie. I'm not picky about it, I love all kinds - seafood, bar food, Mexican, Indian, Thai, Japanese - I'll try any dish once, and I usually go back for more. Though I like to cook, I'm a sucker for a killer appetizer and glass of wine with a clean, friendly atmosphere out at a restaurant or bar. NYAJ's does this insanely well. Most of the time, I try to support my friendly locals over chain restaurants, but NYAJ's stole my heart - and my paycheck a lot of the time. See, the Beverly NYAJ's and I are neighbors, directly across the street from one another. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the area, but I keep going back here for more. Why? Outstanding service. Incredible appetizers. Reasonably-priced drinks. Perfect atmosphere - not too loud, and not too quiet - essential for date night, catching up with a few friends or bringing a crowd for a celebration. Since this isn't a food blog, however, I'll focus in on the service aspects and treating customers right. Though I do encourage you to give the Ahi Tuna appetizer a whirl.

I've never once had poor service here. That's not to say mistakes haven't been made. Sure, one time I ordered a goat-cheese stuffed chicken which didn't have goat cheese. The waitress handled a disappointed customer exactly how she should, with an apology, a smile and offered to remedy the situation however I, the customer, thought was best. Within minutes after she brought me the goat cheese I asked for, a manager came by to apologize and make sure the situation was handled. That's the thing though, a manager coming by isn't out of the ordinary at NYAJ's. One always comes by to check in when I dine there. And when they ask how everything is, I my reply is always, "Excellent."

NYAJ's isn't just asking to ask, they actually cares about customer satisfaction. While ordering mimosas for brunch this past weekend, the waitress looked a bit surprised. Turns out that they don't get a lot of mimosa requests there. After we had a chance to enjoy a few sips, she came back to check in.

"Are they alright? We don't get a log of requests, so if she (the bartender) can make them differently for you, let me know," the waitress told us. We let her know they were great, but it was good to know she cared that they actually made the drink to the customer's liking.

But NYAJ's doesn't stop there - "Joe" wants to know all about your visit. So at the end of the meal, your waitress brings an iPod Touch to your table, loaded with a customer feedback survey. Quick and easy, I'm always happy to fill it out and let "Joe" know that my food and service were excellent. Oh, did I also mention that they always ask if you've been there before, and newcomers receive a nice little discount? So if you haven't been there, that's your reason to go.

Let's not forget to mention Joe's email marketing. Not spam, but a nice weekly reminder about menu changes, specials, tastings and events. And Joe is supportive of the local community as well, offering a 15 percent discount for anyone who brings a ticket stub from the local performance theatre. So after date night at A Christmas Carol at North Shore Music Theatre, it only made sense to enjoy a meal and drinks at NYAJ's. But that's not all, each NYAJ's locations serves a different local nonprofit. Every Tuesday evening, those nonprofit organizations get 15 percent of all purchases made by its supporters at that location. Nice cause-related marketing, Joe.

What They Could Do Better.
Taking it all in, I'm hands down a fan of this place and I'll keep going back. Here's a few things I do think they could do a bit better, from a marketing perspective, because I won't attempt to criticize their delicious menu.
  • Rewards Program: I live across the street, and I'm already signed up for marketing emails. I'm sure I'm not the only local who's signed up for emails. Why not show us how much you value our continued patronage, and offer us a discount. Maybe a Joe's BFFs card for those of us who keep coming back, and want to know we're valued.
  • Foursquare: I may not be the mayor of NYAJ's right now, but you can bet I would be if they offered a free appetizer to the mayor. Or how about a 10 percent discount for checking in? Maybe swapping those two ideas? There are a lot of ways to do this, and I think that Joe's has the social know-how and clientele to pull it off. Sel de la Terre in Boston, Mass. offers free Pomme Frites for checking in. As a result, when I'm in between a few different places for lunch, I always choose there. It's an incentive, a nice reward for the social-savvy customer who shares their dining habits with friends.
Wrapping up, I've got to recommend the place. For the picky eaters, for kids, or for those who enjoy good old-fashioned burgers, go ahead and give it a shot. Maybe it's not for everyone, but I think they're doing things right, and they value their clientele. Other restaurants, especially chains, could learn a lot from NYAJ's, in my humble opinion. That's my food-based PR thought for the day.