If you are in the real estate industry and have not heard of QR "Quick Response" codes in the past six to eight months, you have been doing a pretty good job of hiding from emerging technology. I have had a somewhat reserved opinion on the use of QR codes. In fact, it’s been so reserved that this is my first blog post discussing them. The reasoning behind my reserved opinion is that I really did not see any practical use in my real estate business at this time, being in a very small rural community. The second reason I have not posted on QR codes in Real Estate is that they already been written about extensively through numerous blogs and articles by many authorities in real estate marketing, so I did not feel further discussion was necessary.
Before I get into this blog I will provide you a simple definition of QR codes. QR codes are a two-dimensional symbology that creates bridges between print and the internet. A QR code links you to a website or a specific URL by scanning the image with your phone/mobile device. They are square in design and this square design allows the code to store content, both vertically and horizontally. In doing this it can store several hundred times more data than a simple bar code. In fact, numerically they have capacity numerically (7,089), alphanumerically (4,296), and binary (2,953 bytes), according to Wikipedia. To read QR codes you must have a reader installed on your mobile device. There are countless free and paid QR readers in the app stores for all devices so, to keep this post simple, just enter QR Code Reader into your app store and read the reviews to get the latest and greatest. Personally I use i-nigma4 on my iPhone, and it seems to work great.
Four Applications of QR in Real Estate (Coles Notes version)
- Signage - QR codes could be placed on listing signs to give additional information on listings or linked to videos promoting the property. Seems logical; I think we were all smart enough to see this one.
- Print Advertising - With the crazy high cost of print advertising, QR codes could be used in providing a greater degree of information about a listing in less space. Again, pretty logical use of technology. The one aspect I like about this is that it is trackable, which has always been a peeve of mine spending on print.
- Business Cards – OK. I like the idea of imbedding individual intros into a video format onto your cards to have a greater impression during conferences or special events; however, the downside is that you need to have a flexible low minimum printer at your disposal to really take advantage of this use. Otherwise you are just putting a QR code on your card to be cool and simplify the obvious – your website – which is already (hopefully) simple and short for people to type in from your card. (Yes, I do have them on my cards ;-) Secondly, I like the idea of the QR on your card linking to your vCard for a simple download of your contact info.
- Special Promotions / Mail Outs – OK. I think using QR in novel creative promotions could also be a fun way to educate clients on what QRs are and how the potential of this simple creative technology. Again, really, I don’t think in my small community this is going to sell more homes, but it may cause some buzz around my brand for the short period of the promotion.
I know that, for a blog on technology, I seem a little sceptical. But the challenge I see with QR codes at this time is that mainstream society needs to create an awareness of what they are and how to use them. And to put it bluntly, we are not there yet in rural Alberta.
Where does applying QR codes make me most excited?
You guessed it: on the farm. OK, hear me out. I think QR codes have so many more practical applications around the farm and with farm suppliers. Why do I see more applications on the farm than in Real Estate? Well, mostly because I control the technology that I teach my farm labour and contract workers. I am not relying on the general public understanding something that I think they should understand. If I hire my labour and train them on their mobile devices, they probably already have the simplicity of QR codes shine.
4 Farm Applications of QR
- Tracking Parts This seems to make logical sense, being that the roots of QR codes are in tracking parts for the automotive industry. What I am thinking is that, on machinery parts, each one is stamped to ensure you can use correct terminology when phoning in for parts at your local dealer. Now I know you could sit there for half an hour looking it up in a parts manual, but would it not make more sense to just have a QR stamped into many of the parts? I also know that all too often if a hired hand breaks down they have no idea how to explain what has broken; this way they could just scan the code. Now I know that this is limited to larger parts and would not work on many belts, chains, and bearings. In other areas such as filter, however, the QR could bring up a cross reference chart, which would show the filter number that is on it in relation to other suppliers and vice versa to allow for no margin for error.
- Chemical Application Rates / Tank MixingI think as farmers we have all spent our fair share of time reading the small print on the mini books attached to chemical containers to get application rates and tank mix instructions. I know for a fact that all farmers hate reading these mini books, not to mention that half of the time I put one or two into my handler during the mixing process. Why not just put a couple QR codes on the top of the box with different instructions over them i.e. Mixing Order (with a QR Code) Application Rate with 10 Gallon Tip (QR discussing range of acres per case and a short video of the size of weeds your attempting to kill at those rates)? I would be happy to scan three or four of these short simple tidbits of information prior to mixing up a tank of mix as a short reminder at the start of the spraying season.
- Equipment Operation TipsThis area could be broken into two sections: the first being manufacturer operation tips that you could scan when you sit down in your new piece of equipment provided by the manufacturer; and the second could be tips that you as the owner leave to your farm labour that changes every season. The most valuable to me would be in leaving tips around as reminder to my employees as for operating equipment. For example, we have a 1066 international tractor that has to be started by advancing the throttle slightly, turning on the key, and then pushing the ignition button. Sure, this little process is simple to me, but every time new labour gets in, they jump in, turn on the key, and then phone me to let me know the battery is dead. Button starts are not very common anymore (unless you drive a BMW). A quick YouTube of this process linked to a QR code on a magnet on the gauge panel would save me hundreds of calls in a lifetime. Same goes for shutting off the 1066 – you have to throttle it completely off, and then turn off the key. These simple reminder videos on magnets around the farm would be amazing tools for labour.The lessons learned in a lifetime of farming with my could be captured on video and put to good use for future generations, not to mention how cool it would be to have a video of great grandpa showing my son how to start the crank on the old Minneapolis Moline.
- Servicing Tips Again, this could be a combined effort by both the manufacturer and the owner. The large majority of these videos could be in an archive by the manufacturer and QR codes could be placed around the implement on the corners of the large servicing stickers they already have on the implement. In addition to these manufacturers’ service tips, the owner could add in additional notes to remember for labour to watch while servicing based on past break downs or weak points they notice on that particular machine.
Anyway, for the time being, I think I will start with some training videos for around the farm linked to QR codes on magnets just for fun to see how it works. I really feel that if QR codes got ahead of steam, they could have endless possibilities in marketing real estate and practical uses around the farm; but, the key is awareness by the general public, manufacturers, and suppliers. I am not certain that will happen any time soon, but if it does, I would fully support it! I will be updating this posts as the snow melts with some farm applications of QR just for experimentation sake.