QR Codes: Bridging Your Printed Mail Piece to a Donor’s Digital World

QR Codes: Bridging Your Printed Mail Piece to a Donor’s Digital World


Back in February, my colleague posted a blog titled “Direct Mail and Millennials: The Perfect Match?” After reading through it, it opened my eyes quite a bit provided some inspiration for this piece.

There has been an assumption that older generations prefer a physical mail piece for news and updates, while younger generations prefer email or social media for communication. I was surprised to see that millennials are opening mail. Is it because it’s something new or don’t see as often? Has email become too overwhelming? Is it something that can held onto in a world that becomes a little more virtual every day?

Those of us who are “Generation Y” or earlier probably remember the daily ritual of emptying our mailboxes filled with advertisements, bills, magazines, catalogs, solicitations and cards or letters from family. Receiving these pieces of mail required a physical response; you either opened it, remove the contents and read it or toss it in your garbage (we didn’t have recycle bins back then).

With the dawn of email, marketers moved their focus from mailboxes to inboxes with electronic marketing becoming an important source of communication. Please don’t misunderstand, mail is still a vital part of our world and I’m certain we all check our mailboxes every day, but the volume of mail received has declined, while the type of mail feels less diverse.

With many companies, organizations and individuals redirecting resources to e-mail and internet marketing, budget lines for paper, printing and postage were lessened. Direct mail didn’t end, but its presence decreased as electronic communication appeared to be a more cost effective alternative.

Even with spam filters becoming more advanced, it never feels like our inboxes are getting any more decluttered. How many important e-marketing efforts have been missed simply from getting lost in the shuffle or placed in a Spam folder and never noticed by the reader? If it’s never seen, it can’t be acted upon. As a result, that physical response never occurs.

Instead of trying to get your message seen in the chaos of an email inbox, direct mail has seen a return as a vital communication medium. Just as before, it remains an item that needs a physical response.


QR Codes Are Seeing an Expanded Use

As you can see, the communication pendulum has never stopped swinging from one end to another. One might say that QR codes have seen a similar trajectory in a more compact span of time.

Originally developed in 1995, QR (“Quick Response”) Codes struggled to find a meaningful role. I can recall seeing them with some frequency ten years ago and then they seemed to fade away. People didn’t know how to use them and often times a separate mobile app was needed to make them work.

In the last couple of years, QR codes have seen a resurgence as they are being utilized in new and exciting ways:

    • Within museum or art exhibits to provide supplementary information.
    • Connecting to Wi-Fi.
    • Ordering food at a restaurant.
    • Logging into a school tablet. (I have two kindergartners who scan a QR code for their Chromebook instead of expecting them to remember a password.)

Scanning codes has become a much easier step now that most smart phones can handle them directly from their camera.

In advancement, you are asking your constituents to respond through a variety of methods: mail, phone calls, social media, videos, email and – more recently – texting. In doing so, you are looking for the medium that will trigger a quick response back.

Despite all the advances in technology, a printed mail piece still matters. You can leverage a QR code to provide another response mechanism that bridges a piece of paper to a portable device.


Connecting Your Printed Piece to Technology

Whether it’s a solicitation or an invitation, a mailed piece is often asking for a response. To make that response, the common choices are:

    • Mail this response piece back, or
    • Manually type a web address to respond online.

We know that most people have smart phones within arm’s reach. Why not take advantage of it? Do you think the reader would type out a URL on their phone or tablet? By including a QR code, you could bridge the gap between your printed piece and the technology that your audience is using regularly.

    • Giving Page: This is what most QR codes are used for; linking to a web page. Whether it’s for your annual campaign, a specific fund you are promoting or a giving day, link the URL to a giving page to a QR code and allow your donor to quickly open the page and make a gift from their mobile device. Some transactional sites now allow for images to be taken of the credit card so the donor doesn’t have to manually type in all of their information.
    • Event RSVP: Same concept as above, but instead of making a gift, they can quickly give you that “Yes” or “No” to RSVP an upcoming event.
    • Phone/Text: Maybe you want to initiate a phone conversation. Now that land line phones are less common, why not make the steps to make the call from a smart phone easier? The same could be done with texting with a pre-populated initial message asking for info you are looking to receive.This might not be something that you would need to do in advancement, but I bet your admissions teams would love to talk with a prospective student who recently received a packet of information from your school.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and scan that black QR Code with your phone or tablet. See what happens. FYI: Serious inquiries only.

    • Email: Do you have a need for a response via email? By scanning the code included on your printed piece, you can have an email message created that includes your email address, CC, BCC, Subject Line and body text completely pre-populated for your reader to use.

The blue QR code will open up an email once you scan it.

    • Personalized URLs (PURLs): You could create an individual PURL for each of your constituents and link that address to a QR Code. This could be a personalized thank you video, event invitation or giving page complete with an ask ladder personalized to match all of the information included in the solicitation letter they have received.

It’s hard to say if this renewed life cycle has staying power or will become a fad we simply look back upon. In the present, it is an exciting time to watch how technology enhances our experiences.

The same can be said for the donor experience. Giving up a small bit of real estate for a QR code on your letter or reply card might be a featured response mechanism to test (just make sure you explain why it’s there and how to use it). If you find that it works, it is an element you could keep using on future pieces.

Whether you are using one QR code, varying codes to cover multiple segments, or personalized codes for each record in your data list, let us know how we can work with you to increase the response rates from your donors, alumni and friends.

Dan Krueger

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.