Although they used to be largely irrelevant and ignored in marketing, QR codes are making a comeback. QR stands for ‘quick response,’ because that’s the goal of these funky-looking squares—to give users a speedy way to find a website.
If you look hard enough, you’ll start noticing these QR codes on just about everything—from cereal boxes to restaurant menus. Most smartphones are able to scan these codes and automatically redirect users to a specific URL. While reading these codes used to require specific apps, that ability is now directly built-in to most device cameras.
Essentially, these codes are a bridge between the physical and digital spaces. They allow for digital marketing to happen in physical spaces. But what does this mean for your church? Here are a few ideas for beginning to use QR codes to bolster your online reach.
Why are QR codes useful?
QR codes are an effective way to modernize your church brand. They allow you to get more out of your traditional and print marketing pieces. That’s because they use people’s smartphones to unlock more information by directing them to specific websites.
These codes were originally created back in 1994 by a Japanese firm to track automobiles during the manufacturing process. They quickly realized the wider uses for these convenient symbols, but it wasn’t until the ubiquity of the smartphone that QR codes reached their full potential.
People often compare QR codes to product bar codes, which makes sense. However, QR codes are more valuable because they can be more flexibly customized, and they hold more information. Bar codes usually only contain product data, but QR codes hold more relevant information to church goers.
How to create QR codes
Developing a sophisticated design like a QR code sounds like it might be complicated. But it honestly couldn’t be easier. There are quite a few free online resources that allow you to generate customized QR code designs in a matter of seconds.
All you need to do is provide a valid URL and the website will do the rest. However, you can also spend time customizing the layout, colors, and even embed your logo to up your game.
In some cases, QR codes can be used to do more than send people to a website. They can also generate a text message, subscribe people to an email list, or share contact information.
6 places to include QR codes
1. Weekly bulletin
Many churches pack their print worship bulletins with baffling amounts of information. QR codes offer a better solution to limit that content overload. Instead of including all of the text within the print piece, write a one-sentence teaser followed by a QR code to find out more on your website.
2. Invite postcards
Postcards and other printed handouts are popular ways to encourage church members to invite friends and neighbors to weekly worship. But there’s only so much you can fit onto a postcard. Consider adding a QR code that directs people to a specific landing page for new visitors. Remember that each QR code is an opportunity to direct people to a relevant place online.
3. Wall flyers
Cork bulletin boards are still a mainstay in many churches, offering a consistent place to advertise for upcoming sermon series and mission trips. A QR code at the bottom of each of these flyers gives church members the opportunity to actually remember the details of these events. They can navigate to an applicable page to register.
QR codes don’t just work on print materials; they can work on digital screens, too. If your church has large screens for worship or mounted TVs in the lobby, QR codes are a good option for promoting events and volunteer opportunities. Just remember, if you’re displaying these on a rotating slide deck, make the code big enough to be seen and pause long enough to allow people to scan.
5. Volunteer t-shirts
Does your church have consistent t-shirts that all volunteers wear? This might be your chance to promote the church website. Your volunteers would likely prefer that these codes be printed small and on the back of the shirts. They aren’t the most stylish things, but they could potentially be a conversation starter.
6. Giveaway swag
Plenty of churches offer free giveaway items to new visitors—mugs, water bottles, or t-shirts. This is your church’s chance to show your appreciation and be remembered by these guests. The swag might also be a place to sneak in a helpful QR code to the church’s website. Perhaps the bottom of the mug or bottle might be a good location so that it actually gets used.
3 QR code pro tips
1. Creating custom graphics
The normal QR code looks like a black and white square maze—plenty of meaningless blocks. The placement of these squares has meaning when scanned by a smartphone, but not to the human eye. Thankfully, there are ways to design these codes to be more appealing to look at.
Many of the online QR code generators allow users to add different patterns, colors, or designs. Sometimes those customizations are free; sometimes they require having a premium account. But you should be able to do enough to make your QR codes stand out.
One trick you can try is adding a part of your church logo or icon into the mix. This helps the design unique to your church and is a subtle way to reinforce your brand.
2. Tracking links
Before inputting the URL into the QR code, consider putting some tracking information on the link. This is especially important if you’re directing people back to your church’s website.
Use Google UTM tracking codes to specify that website visitors are coming from a QR code. You can even specify where the QR code is located—like within the church bulletin or a specific poster.
This information will appear under the Campaigns section on Google Analytics. It’ll show you how many people came from those sources and what they did on your website.
3. Dynamic QR codes
One downside to creating a QR code is that it’s fairly static. Once you print one on a t-shirt or poster, you won’t be able to change the URL where it sends people. At least that’s true in most cases.
There are premium features on several of the QR code websites that allow you to update the information in the QR code in real time. These are called dynamic QR codes. They give you more flexibility and control over what you create.
How do you use QR codes at your church?