From our eXtension community, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, welcome to Small Business Week+. Extension supports small businesses and their development as a part of our land grant mission. For the next several days, we are going to highlight small businesses around that country that have partnered with us.
Guest Blogger: Chrystal Irons, Business Development Specialist, Taney County, University of Missouri Extension
Yesterday brought you two examples of Extension working with small business owners as partners in identifying their educational and support needs. Those examples showed three ways that Extension brings this information to the audience, field days, in-person sessions, and video. Today Missouri highlights another tool used to respond to needs, written materials. Often Extension will use multiple platforms for the same topic allowing the small business owner to use what best fits their time schedule and need.
Decoding the QR Code Frenzy
Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) are edging into public consciousness, and there are lots of conflicting options and advice on whether and how to use them. Small businesses are increasingly using QR codes in advertising efforts to entice customers. QR codes are similar to barcodes, but the key difference is the amount of data they can hold. Their ability to hold more information and their ease of use makes them practical for small businesses to implement into a marketing strategy.
QR codes are created with QR code generator like Kaywa, GOQR.me and Microsoft Tag. Most generators are free and allow you to upgrade to be able to analyze and track performance as well as enhance the look of the code.
The second part of creating a code is to choose the link you want it to contain and customize the code design to match your brand.
The third step is to make sure the code reads correctly with more than just once reader. The QR code needs to be big and clear enough for multiple smartphones. The fourth step is to track and analyze how much traffic the code generates.
When a customer scans or reads a QR code with a camera-enabled smartphone, they can link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect the mobile devise to a web browser.
Once you have a QR code you must have a goal in mind; give your customers a call to action. Be sure to reward the user for scanning your QR code by giving them a coupon, a fun fact or an incentive to return to your site. Be sure to place the QR code in a location where they can easily and safely be scanned, and there is WiFi or 3G access where the code is placed.
One popular method for using QR codes is put the codes on print media like business cards and flyers. This can provide contact information and even maps with directions for company visitors. Businesses can provide special QR code coupons, access to social media options for the business or incentive programs to customers.
QR codes are easy to use and so versatile that they provide instant value to potential customers and companies alike. Start brainstorming creative ways to use this hip new tool to give customer information, drive traffic to your website, get more leads and engage a whole new audience.
Keeping Your Critical Business Data Safe
Even though we all realize the importance of business data and can recognize the impact data loss could have on business operations, only 30 percent of businesses have some kind of disaster preparedness plan for business data.
Business critical data includes information your business could not recover if it were lost. As a basic rule, if losing the data will interfere with doing business it should be backed up. This can include: customer information, email correspondence, financial records, HR records, procedures and policies, certificates and licenses, passwords, and software.
There are many backup software programs available that allow you to set a schedule that will archive your data automatically. There are also several options for backup media. CD-ROMs are inexpensive but may be the most unreliable. Tape backups are more reliable but are more expensive. External hard drives are cheap compared to tape drive systems and offer a low failure rate. The emerging online backup services are easy to use and require no additional hardware.
A final consideration is where the backup data should be stored, if not using an online service. Adhering to a regular data backup schedule won’t help if all your data backup copies are in one place and that place is struck by disaster. It may also be wise to practice redundancy, picking more than one way to preserve your data and have the backups at more than one location.
No matter which method a business chooses to keep their business critical data safe, one thing is evident, it is important to have a disaster preparedness plan for business data in place.
Our eXtension community represents another means of providing information. Along with websites and other online information outlets, answers to questions can be found 24/7. If you have never explored our national site take a few moments to do so at: http://www.extension.org/entrepreneurship/
Photo credit: Victuallers2, Flickr, Creative Commons license