Does Your Business Need QR Codes? An Internet Quiz

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 9:30 AM on March 9, 2011:

This is a QR code. Do you want to scan it?

QR codes are popping up all over.  As is often the case with new technology tools, popping up with them are numerous articles about what they are, how to create them, and examples of how they are being used.  With all that press, it’s easy to worry your business is falling behind and you must drop everything else RIGHT NOW to avoid missing the marketing innovation of the century.

Of course, it could turn out that QR codes aren’t all they are cracked up to be - or they just aren’t a good fit for you and your right people.  Many new tech breakthroughs get early adopters salivating about the possibilities, only to prove ultimately pointless for most business owners.

But which is it?  Rather than doing all the research and then finding out the new tech isn’t a good fit, how about just answering a few questions to figure out if researching QR codes is worth your time?

QR Code Compatibility Quiz

Will QR Codes help you grow your business?  Answer the 4 questions below to find out.  Give yourself one point for each “yes” answer.  Then add up your score and interpret it below.

1.  Do your customers use smart phones?
The only way to “translate” a QR code is to scan it with the camera on a smart phone.  If your customers don’t have smart phones, these codes are worthless.

2.  Do you have simple forms you want customers to fill out?
If you want customers to sign up for your mailing list or complete an online survey, making it easy to do in the moment is key.  Using a QR code link to the survey rather than to a traditional URL means customers can scan the code and complete the form before they leave your store, which means you don’t have to count on them remembering to do it when they get home.

3.  Does your business have a mobile app?
If your company has it’s own mobile app, advertising it with a QR code can dramatically increase downloads because scanning the code takes customers right to the install page - eliminating all of the potentially confusing (and distracting) steps it takes to navigate to it through the app store.

4.  Do your customers respond well to “secret” offers?
If so, QR codes open new opportunities to extend your offers.  Just send customers a short tutorial about how to use QR codes via e-mail newsletter, or other semi-private communication channel, tell them about the new “QR club” and how to play.  Then, display the actual code (without comment) in your store or on your website.

(Note:  If you use a QR code, make sure it points to a mobile-optimized web page that rewards visitors for clicking.  A page offering discounts or free gifts will definitely work, as will limited edition products, insider information, scavenger hunt clues, or even just a funny joke or story.  What won’t work is pointing the code to your website’s homepage or a standard advertisement - not only will you not sell anything, you’ll train your customers to avoid scanning future codes.)

0 points:  QR codes probably aren’t for you.  Ignore at will!

1 point:   QR codes are iffy for your business, but you may want to read at least one article linked in this post before crossing them off your list.

2-3 points: QR codes have a lot of potential for your business.  Consider incorporating one into your next marketing campaign and measuring the results.

4 points: QR codes go with your business like peanut butter goes with jelly.  Once you start using the codes you may wonder how you ever lived without them.

The best part of Internet quizzes is comparing scores.  If you’d like to share, report your score in the comments and let us know if (or how) you will incorporate QR codes into your marketing.

When Maureen isn't excercising her Cosmo-style quiz writing skills she can be found answering nonprofit marketing questions at Low Hanging Fruit.

A Donor Management System to Track "Who You Know" from Click & Pledge

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 8:30 AM on February 10, 2011:

Non-profit leaders who have secured any donation of any size from any person, company, or foundation know this one simple truth:  Fundraising is all about relationships.

Unfortunately, tracking those relationships can be  tricky.  It’s only possible to manage a handful of supporters relying on memory alone.  After that, a spreadsheet helps for awhile, but before an organization comes anywhere close to fulfilling its mission, a donor database is required.

Here the balancing act begins.  Most databases optimized for fundraising purposes are really expensive, difficult to learn, or both.   There are some free options, but they often have limited capability and, unless one is willing to delete donor records, most free solutions will only get you so far.

Through the Salesforce Foundation, non-profits have free access to the company’s commercial product - which is certainly robust enough to handle the needs of most non-profits - but because it was designed for sales teams, translating it for use in non-profit situations can be difficult.

Donor management system for non-profits Now, thanks to a partnership with Click & Pledge, that’s no longer the case. By leveraging its considerable experience in working with non-profits, Click & Pledge has designed an exclusive set of features and custom reports that integrates with to deliver one central access point for all data, donor and volunteer information, recurring payments, over 70 custom reports and dashboards, a virtual terminal, and all the rich features available through the Click & Pledge fundraising software. (Whew!)

As Kami Razvan, Ph.D, chief executive officer of Click & Pledge puts it, “This package is designed expressly for non-profits to get a unified view of every interaction they have with supporters. Combined with the integration of our payment gateway and suite of fundraising software tools, non-profits are armed with one of the most comprehensive, effective and efficient systems available.”

If you are a non-profit leader with donor database experience, you’re likely bouncing in your chair by now - for everyone else, here’s the layman's translation:  This partnership means non-profit budgets no longer dictate the extent to which organizations are able to maintain long-term relationships with the people who make their work possible.

And that’s good for everyone.

Maureen Carruthers is passionate about helping nonprofits do their work better.  You are invited to learn more at her blog, Low Hanging Fruit. She wrote about Click & Pledge in The New Face of Mobile Giving and her columns can be seen at Maureen Carruthers on Handshake 2.0.

Click & Pledge and Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0, are both member companies of VT KnowledgeWorks.  Click & Pledge was a client of Handshake Media in 2008 and purchases made through Handshake 2.0 are powered by Click & Pledge.

Sales Lead Generation Advice from Online Dating

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 7:15 AM on January 26, 2011:

Not contented to be known for some of the silliest, (and most addicting) personality tests on the Internet, the online dating site, , has started using their user data for some (slightly) more serious research.

Their latest findings prove interesting not only for those looking for love on the Internet, but also for small business owners who would like potential customers to seek them out.

Surprising qualities can inspire contact
OkCupid’s advice basically comes down to this:  The best way to get the people who will really love you to show themselves is to make sure you are turning other people off.

At first, this advice may seem counter intuitive - wouldn’t it be better to be generally well-liked?  The data says no.  Turns out, the very qualities that send some people screaming inspire others to make contact.

For on-line daters this means that highlighting a tattoo or voluptuous figure leads to more messages from potential suitors.  For sales lead generation, the lesson is not so different:

Naomi Dunford of Itty Biz is making a career out of having the biggest potty mouth in Internet marketing.

Havi Brooks helps people get unstuckified by dressing up in pirate costumes.  Her business partner is a rubber duck named Selma.

I am a nonprofit consultant with several postsadvertising how little experience I have with traditional nonprofit fundraising.

The OkCupid concept works off-line as well:

  • Slow Food restaurants emphasize the wait time to eat in their restaurants.
  • Quotations on roadsigns outside local churches serve as subtle messages about who will feel comfortable inside (and who will not).
  • High-end hotels charge twice as much as mid-range properties - with no free breakfast.

Could the key to business success be residing in a shadow?  Here's one way find out:  

Think about the aspect of your business that you most often try to hide.  Maybe you are open fewer hours than your competitors, or closed on Sundays.  Maybe your products are more expensive, or they take a long time to make.  Now, consider why you do business that way.  What advantages does this way of working bring to the right customer?  Once you know that, the final step is to stop thinking of this aspect of your business as a disadvantage to be hidden but rather as a beacon that you use to attract the customers with whom you most want to work.

Ready to give it a try?  We’d love to have your shadow-lurking solutions brought to light - starting in the comments!

When she’s not encouraging small business owners to offend people, Maureen Carruthers helps nonprofits find their raving fans at Low Hanging Fruit Communications. You're invited to read more from Maureen Carruthers on Handshake 2.0.

3 Reasons to Stop Marketing to the General Public

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 7:00 AM on December 28, 2010:

The general public isn’t a demographic - it’s just a short-hand term for people we don’t know. The "general public" is a powerful temptress.  For every business owner with dreams of explosive growth, she represents the elusive masses who, if wooed correctly, can turn a small local company into an international powerhouse.  These dreams of world-wide fame (and billings) lead otherwise savvy business owners to make a classic marketing mistake - marketing directly to her.

Here’s the problem.  The general public isn’t a demographic - it’s just a short-hand term for people we don’t know. Attempting to influence people we don’t know is a good way to spend a lot of energy and a lot of cash for very little reward.  Here's why:

Building a customer base is like eating an elephant
The only way to get it done is one bite (read: customer) at a time.  Since “the general public” is not one customer, trying to swallow it leads to choking.  On the other hand, by tackling the job one bite at a time, business owners can follow in the footsteps of Joe Hachem, the World Series of Poker champion who won over $7 million following this advice.

More traffic doesn’t translate into more sales
Targeting the general public may get your message in front of more eyeballs, but profits aren’t based on the number of shoppers - they are based on the number of buyers.  While it may seem reasonable to assume more shoppers equals more buyers, that’s not how it works.  A small and engaged audience beats a large, vaguely interested one. Every. Single. Time.  

A narrow focus leads to an expanded customer base
It’s tempting to include the general public in a marketing plan because focusing on a niche feels like ignoring potential customers.  Turns out, the opposite is true.

Business owners who focus their efforts are not only more successful inside their niche, they also find themselves doing well in markets they’d never imagined.  For example, do you know why computer scientists would flock to a salon aimed at water skiers?  Neither did the owner of this salon, but by targeting one group she got both - and more business than she knew what to do with.

So if you have dreams of world domination (in the good way), avoid this common trap by focusing your efforts on wowing the customers you know best.  You'll achieve the growth you desire - in less time than you imagine - without spending your precious marketing dollars targeting a group that doesn't exist.

Maureen Carruthers helps nonprofit leaders use social media to expand their influence (without targeting the general public) at Low Hanging Fruit.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0.  You're invited to read more by Maureen Carruthers.

Real Value of Mobile Apps

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 7:00 AM on December 14, 2010:

Contributors to Handshake 2.0 have been trying to answer the question “What do women want from mobile apps?” for months.  We've approached the topic from many angles, including serious market research - Piedmont Research Associates are in the process of studying the question now.  In the meantime, the results of my own, very unscientific poll, seemed to be all over the map.

High-powered career women wanted work apps.  Women who do a lot of waiting around liked free games. Mothers wanted apps to entertain toddlers.  Commuters loved public transport schedules.  Scientists needed field guides.  Some people were willing to pay for apps, others were not.  Interesting, but nothing one would call a trend.

Too much stuff! There should be an app for that! Then I read this piece by Paul Graham about tablets and a connection emerged:  The real value of mobile apps, especially for women, is they allow us to be as (or more) prepared than we are now - while toting less stuff.

My iPhone is my calculator, calendar, watch, GPS,  email and web portal, camera, reading material, music player, entertainment library, notepad, audio recorder, flashlight and, of course, phone.  If the tea leaves are being read correctly, eventually it will also be my credit card, car keys, medical records, and grocery store discount card.

I can’t imagine a world where mobile apps will replace the diaper bag, but if women’s clothes started to reliably have pockets, they could make purses obsolete.

So let’s ask the “mobile app” question another way.  What do women carry with them now that they’d love to be able to leave at home because they “had an app for that”?

When she’s not playing in the research side of marketing, Maureen Carruthers helps nonprofits tackle their social media fears at Low Hanging Fruit.


Women readers of Handshake 2.0 are invited to take The Apps That Connect Us - Women and Mobile Apps Survey, part of a study by Piedmont Research Associates on women and mobile applications for She Chooses(TM), the social network app for women.  If you would, please take the survey, then share it with your friends and networks and ask them to do the same.

Further reading:

The Apps That Connect Us - A Report on Women, Smart Phones and Mobile Apps
This Woman's Gotta Have Mobile Apps - case study, also by Maureen Carruthers
Women and Apps - Mobile and Social
Best Mobile Apps for Women

Mobile Apps for Women in Business
Women and Smartphones

Our category of posts, Mobile Apps on Handshake 2.0, may also be of interest. 

This Woman's Gotta Have Mobile Apps

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 7:00 AM on November 30, 2010:

I’m obsessed with my phone. I don’t go anywhere without it. In fact, I only put it down when I sleep. While I don’t believe this level of phone-love qualifies me to identify what all women want from their mobile applications, I have noticed some interesting trends that may be of use to app developers looking to catch the attention of women like me.

My most interesting find was some of my favorite “apps” aren’t applications at all - they are bookmarks to the mobile versions of my favorite websites. They behave very similarly to my “real” apps and have icons on my phone to help keep up the ruse. The lesson? A savvy web developer may create the next “killer app” by simply creating a great mobile interface for an existing website.

Next, the best way to make sure I never try an app is to charge me for it. This may not be a trend for women in general, but it’s a huge barrier for me. I’ve downloaded over 50 apps for my iPhone. I’ve paid for fewer than five. I understand on an intellectual level that charging for great apps is a legitimate business model. My open source sensibilities just don't let me go there.

This price factor is complicated by the fact that for every person who feels like I do about paid apps, there is another who dismisses free software (including apps) out of hand because their experience tells them technology is likely to fail at critical moments - and using free software means there is no one to call when the inevitable crash occurs.   So what’s an app developer to do?  Decide which group to serve.  Once a developer identifies her right people, deciding if paid apps or free apps are the most likely to connect gets much easier.

The final quality of my favorite apps is how they make me feel - about myself.  From keeping me connected to my social network, to updating me on the latest news, to capturing my to-do lists, these apps help me feel loved, well-read and prepared.  That's everything this woman needs to feel secure.  Most importantly, they are intuitive, so they never make me feel stupid.  No matter how potentially amazing an app may be, if I can’t easily figure it out, it will gather virtual dust.

That’s this woman’s mobile app story.  Does it match yours?  Tell us in the comments.  Perhaps together we can answer the seemingly unanswerable question:  What do women want from mobile apps?

When she's not checking her e-mail, Maureen Carruthers blogs at Low Hanging Fruit.

These posts may be of further interest:

The Apps That Connect Us - A Report on Women, Smart Phones and Mobile Apps
Women and Apps - Mobile and Social
Best Mobile Apps for Women
Mobile Apps for Women in Business
Women and Smartphones

Social Media Makes All Business Local

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 6:45 AM on November 9, 2010:

Now that it’s clear social media isn’t a fad, “big” businesses are learning how to “listen” to their customers, “open two-way communication channels” and demonstrate that they “care” through their new social media strategies.

Local business owners are working really hard not to roll their eyes.  

Local business owners don’t need to learn to listen to customers and respond to their needs - they do that every day.  Without the ability to connect with patrons and adjust business practices to meet their needs, local business owners would not only have failing businesses, they would have failing social lives, since the only way to avoid customer feedback - offered in the grocery store, at the post office, during a soccer game - is to stay locked in their houses.

While these constant customer connections may be annoying on a nice evening out, they also illustrate a huge market advantage:  local business owners already understand the most important part of social media.

Success in social media isn’t about becoming a technology powerhouse - by the time a social media tool has the ability to transform a business, it’s technologically quite boring.

Success in social media is about building relationships - the same kind of relationships already built face-to-face - with people who are not able (and increasingly not willing) to physically walk into a business.

While big business owners are learning to behave like the human beings customers want to know, like and trust, local business owners are simply translating the relationship-building work they've done their whole lives into this new medium.  It's not "nothing" work, and it's good to know there are people who can help - but using social media is way easier than reinventing an entire business model.

In other words, local businesses are no longer striving to emulate the "big guys" - they are continuing to work hard to be themselves and so they can connect with us. 

Looking for specific examples of how local businesses are making the transition?  Check out these concrete ideas from business owners in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Maureen Carruthers helps nonprofit leaders move their organizations from surviving to thriving by adjusting their view of what's possible.  Learn more at Low Hanging Fruit.

Even for Non-Profits, It's Still Who You Know

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 9:45 AM on August 23, 2010:

We all know strong businesses are built on strong relationships.  We spend a significant chunk of our working time cultivating relationships through networking events, community service, marketing, and good old-fashioned phone calls.  These relationships are so important that even businesses exist - like Handshake 2.0 - to help other businesses build the relationships they need to be successful.

Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock-Up Relationship-building is just as important for non-profits.  There is, however, one key difference.  As a business owner, you represent your company, therefore you and your staff can do most, if not all, of the relationship-building work your company requires.  

A non-profit is not “owned” by its executive director. It is owned by the community. Therefore, the most effective way for a non-profit to build relationships is not through the connections of its staff, but rather through the connections of its community leaders.  

This means that the best way to help a favorite non-profit succeed is to treat it as you would your business. 

Not sure where to start?  Here are seven relationship building ideas to get you going.

  • Recommend a non-profit organization’s Facebook page (here’s how to do it). 
  • Talk about your favorite organization on Twitter (and other social networks), and share/retweet what they say about themselves.
  • Invite the Executive Director (ED) from your favorite non-profit to attend your next cocktail party or barbecue and introduce him or her (and the organization) to friends likely to help support the cause.
  • Write a blog post about your favorite organization’s most recent, or better yet, upcoming, event.
  • Open Doors: Help the organization’s ED get a meeting with other community and business leaders you know.
  • Call a friend and ask him or her to volunteer with you or to match a recent donation.
  • Ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts. (Here’s an example from a fellow Virginia Tech Grad

With your help, and the help of your friends, the community cause closest to your heart will soon be in the hearts and minds of your neighbors as well.

From Anne Clelland of Handshake 2.0:

Kat McClinton, Program Supervisor of New Life Recovery Center is the "who you know" who suggested to organizers of the New River Valley of Virginia's Muscular Dystrophy Association's Lock-Up that they contact me.  When I was a volunteer counselor at the Center, Kat "went to jail" for the MDA.  I'm honored to follow in her footsteps, even into a "Lock-Up."  Feel free to help "bail me out" by donating to the MDA.


Maureen Carruthers writes about nonprofit marketing at Low Hanging Fruit.  

Tech Showcase: Click and Pledge - The New Face of Mobile Giving

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 7:45 AM on June 2, 2010:

Thanks to the overwhelming success of the Red Cross mobile and text giving campaign for Haiti earthquake relief, nonprofits across the world have been inspired to investigate text based fundraising. Unfortunately the service, as initially envisioned, works well for large organizations, but is not really viable for the majority of nonprofits.

Click and Pledge set out to change that.

SMS Mobile Giving Platform from Click and Pledge Click and Pledge offers Software-as-a-Service, SaaS solutions for organizations such as non-profits, charitable groups, and political campaigns to access online fundraising tools. The SMS Mobile Giving Platform has been added to its services.

According to Jim Barney, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, “This is bold new territory with a magnitude of potential and promise, so Click & Pledge wanted to be one of the early entries into the arena with a viable solution for all nonprofits. To do so, we attacked the current barriers and cost structures in four major ways.”


Most mobile donations are processed through the phone company which means, unless special arrangements are made in advance, 10%-50% of donated funds don’t go to disaster relief, but to the phone company. By processing mobile donations through the credit card companies, Click and Pledge is able to keep fees below 5% for each transaction.

Lack of Donor Data

While the extra influx of cash in a crisis is helpful, without the ability to contact new donors to start building long-term relationships, the value of mobile donations is significantly diminished. Unlike most mobile pledge services, Click and Pledge captures complete donor information and provides it to the nonprofit in a usable format.

Delay of Funds

Mobile giving is most effective for soliciting donations for crisis situations. Yet nonprofits using traditional mobile giving platforms often do not receive the funds raised for up to 3 months after they are pledged. While large organizations, like the Red Cross, have the cash flow needed to work around the delay, smaller organizations don’t have that luxury. Click and Pledge’s system gets donations to the organization in under 48 hours.

Donation Caps

Mobile giving provides people the opportunity to be generous when they are inspired, but by capping donations at $10 - well below the average online donation of $92 - a reliance on traditional mobile giving may actually hurt a nonprofit's bottom line. With Click and Pledge, the $10 donation cap does not apply. The Click and Pledge system also allows for reoccurring payments, a feature not yet available on any of the other mobile platforms.

By knocking down these four barriers, Click and Pledge not only improved upon a good thing, but also made this service, previously only profitable for giant organizations, accessible to the local organizations making a real difference in local communities.

You're invited to read more about the new SMS Mobile Giving Platform from Click and Pledge.


Maureen Carruthers is passionate about helping nonprofits achieve their missions.  For ideas to help a favorite nonprofit be heard, including how volunteers can help, you're invited to visit her blog, Low Hanging Fruit.


Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, and Salem, Virginia real estate and homes This edition of the Tech Showcase on Handshake 2.0 is sponsored by Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R), a full service real estate agency specializing in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, and Salem, Virginia real estate and homes.  A client of Handshake 2.0, Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R) strives to be the best online source for real estate listings in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, Salem and all of the  Roanoke Valley and New River Valley.  Experienced agents are available to provide expert real estate advice and quality customer service

You're invited to view this week's featured properties, learn the latest on CBT's blog, Keepin' It Real Estate, visit Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R) on Facebook, and see more Coldwell Banker Townside on Handshake 2.0.

Click & Pledge and Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0, are both member companies of VT KnowledgeWorks

Click & Pledge, Coldwell Banker Townside REALTORS and VT KnowledgeWorks are clients of Handshake Media, Inc.

Giving More than Money

Posted by Maureen Carruthers at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2010:

It's common to imagine the business world and the nonprofit world as two separate spheres.  Business is focused on creating products, selling services and making money.  Nonprofits focus on helping people, improving communities, and changing the world.

In reality, it's not so simple.  Nonprofits and businesses may have different goals and abide by different regulations, but the basic needs of both types of organizations are similar.  This means business leaders interested in giving back to their communities may be able to help in more ways than they realize.

For example, Handshake 2.0 readers know successful business dealings depend on who you know.  The same is true for nonprofits. Whether its recruiting board members, securing funding, or building a tribe, nonprofits benefit from having a large, diverse group of supporters.  Therefore, introducing new people to the nonprofit  is a big help.

YMCA at Virginia Tech on Facebook For example, here's a simple way anyone with a Facebook account can help.

  1. Visit your favorite nonprofit's Facebook Page and "Like it."
  2. Click the "suggest to friends" link below the page icon in the upper left corner.
  3. Click on the icons of several Facebook friends who are likely to support the nonprofit's work and click "send invitations."
  4. Send an e-mail to the Executive Director of the nonprofit in question to let her know you've suggested the page to others and how much you appreciate the organization's work. (I know this isn't technically part of the process, but saying thank you is a gift in itself.)

Please note, Facebook is not the only way to help.  Many of the relationship-building techniques and tools (like foursquare) businesses use for themselves will work for nonprofits - often with very little modification.  If you're stuck, share your favorite business networking technique in the comment section and I'll be happy to help you modify it for nonprofit use.


Maureen Carruthers is passionate about helping nonprofits achieve their missions.  For more ways to help your favorite nonprofit be heard, visit her blog, Low Hanging Fruit.


Image is screenshot of Facebook page of the YMCA at Virginia Tech. Handshake 2.0 was pleased to be a sponsor of Art To Go, part of the effort to complete the Pottery Studio at the Y.