Build Your List With QR Codes

A QR (quick response) code can help you build your email list. Skip all the hassle with a smartphone solution that gets them signed up in seconds (and yes, you can do this without a smartphone yourself).

You know those times when you’re at the gym or a restaurant or a trade show, talking with someone who’s interested in your business? And you ask if they’d like to get your email newsletter, and they say yes?

Alas, no computer is at hand, so you give them your card or write down their email address. But then they forget to sign up. Or (horrors!) you forget. Or you remember, but still have to take care of getting them onto the list.

Or, you could skip all the hassle with a smartphone solution that gets them signed up in seconds (and yes, you can do this without a smartphone yourself).

How QR Codes Work

A QR (quick response) code is essentially a barcode with spots instead of the traditional bars. When scanned with a smartphone, it causes the phone to load data. If the data’s a URL, that web page opens on the phone.

This means that if you have the right QR code handy, your conversation buddy can scan it and be taken straight to a web form to sign up to your list.

For Example

DroidphonefileSDroidPhoneFiles uses QR codes in their app gallery. Users can point their phones at the screen, scan a code and instantly download the app.

DroidPhoneFiles Example

Detroit Red WingsThe Detroit Red Wings, a national hockey team, includes QR codes in the programs passed out for each game. They even created an instructional video to show fans what they’re for.

Detroit Red Wings Example

Tissot Swiss WatchesNASCAR driver Danica Patrick is sponsored by Tissot Swiss Watches, but rather than sporting a traditional ad, she’s driving with their QR code on her hood.

Tissot Swiss Watches Example

Getting Your Own Code

1. Create a digital sign up form, if you don’t have one already. (Here’s how to make one in AWeber). You can put it on your own site or if you have an email service provider, they may host it for you.

If they do, use the URL for the hosted page. Your form will be the only thing there, so there will be nothing to distract from the signup.

2. Using the URL for the sign up page, generate your code at a site like, or use this bookmarklet.

3. Get your code out there!

How to Distribute It

Yes, you can share your code as an image on the web. But on a computer, it’s easier to just click a link than to scan the image with a phone. So you’re better off printing your code and keeping it on hand for cases like those conversations mentioned above.

But the best part about your QR code is that just as it’s not tethered to the computer, it’s not tethered to you, either. Print your code on items you can easily pass out. Bring them with you to industry events, conferences, fairs and festivals.

When people scan and subscribe, give them the item as a thank-you. As they carry it around, everyone who sees it will have the opportunity to sign up.

For items that will attract notice and aren’t too expensive to produce, try:

  • buttons
  • stickers
  • pins
  • temporary tattoos
  • postcards

Where to Put Your Code

Have you ever used a QR code to promote your business? How did you launch it into circulation?

Would you use a QR code to attract subscribers to your email campaign? Why or why not?

And what other ways could you get your code out there?

QR-Reading Apps

For iPhone:

For Android:


  1. Jeremy

    12/21/2010 10:48 am

    thank you for your time on the article and some great marketing tips!

    can you have the code printed on business cards and have someone scan it with their phone to sign up ?

    have a nice day

    do you need a different code for each type of smartphone?

  2. John Frenaye

    12/21/2010 10:58 am

    Where are the instructions for creating the digital sign up form? I assume it is something different than the standard one!

  3. Simone

    12/21/2010 10:58 am

    How so you create a digital email form in Aweber so that you can link it to a QR code? I see the refernece to it, but no instruction on how to do it.

  4. Carol Bentley

    12/21/2010 11:11 am

    This article is brilliantly timed for me. I’m creating a series of apps from my publications and this is (potentially) a good way to get people to subscribe to the articles I normally distribute to my book customers.

    I’ll certainly take a closer look at QR codes.

    And, whilst I’m here…

    MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all and a big THANK YOU for the great ideas you have shared throughout the year.

  5. Gidon

    12/21/2010 11:21 am

    very cool!
    but it looks like you left out a link:
    (Here?s how to make one in AWeber).

  6. Adrian

    12/21/2010 11:24 am

    Incredible, Thanks for the info

  7. Mark

    12/21/2010 11:34 am

    AWeber, great article, very timely! Might be worthy of a video?

    Was the “Here?s how to make one in AWeber” supposed to be a link to somewhere? Seems like there’s a missing piece here.

    Also, assuming most people don’t already have a QR-Reading app on their phone, can we use the one on our phone to opt them into our list? Would love to see this process in action.

    Great job!

  8. Annie

    12/21/2010 11:47 am

    Looks very useful, but I online use a mobile PHONE. Maybe Father Xmas will be kind this year!

  9. Amanda Gagnon

    12/21/2010 12:05 pm

    Jeremy ~ You can print them on anything. 🙂 And most apps read most codes, so you should be (mostly) safe with just one.

    Mark & Gidon ~ Oops! Thanks for catching that!

    Mark ~ You can, if you don’t mind handing over their phone so they can input their info.

  10. Wes

    12/21/2010 12:24 pm

    Haven’t used them yet, personally. But, I can definitely see how useful these can be. Putting it on the to-do list of 2011. Thanks for the great tips!

  11. Simone

    12/21/2010 12:51 pm

    I am new at this, so i am trying to figure out how to link my signup from my website to the code? Am I using my website url? but if so wouldn’t that just take them to my website and nott he actual signup sheet? Should I make a separate url for my signup sheet?

  12. Susan

    12/21/2010 12:52 pm

    Very cool ! I’m definitely getting one or more. Which is better to get: one for my FB page? or Newsletter list? Both? I put my blog postings on my FB page as well.

  13. Amanda Gagnon

    12/21/2010 1:21 pm

    Susan ~ Get both! Then people can pick the platform that works for them. (Though if you want only one, direct email is a lot more reliable than a FB news feed.)

    Simone & John ~ You could just put a standard web form on a separate sign up page in addition to having the form on your other pages. Then you can use the URL for that page.

  14. Simone

    12/21/2010 1:25 pm

    Thanks Amanda. Is there an example of a website where this is actually working? I went to the examples and I did not see a QR code to test it out on those sites. i am a very visual person. For me to understand it best, I will have to see what is looks like and how it works live. Thanks again!

  15. Tiffany

    12/21/2010 2:41 pm

    I just tried this out… it is great info and works! We have a Strength and Conditioning Camp coming up Jan 10th. I linked our website to the barcode put the bar code on the form for signups and I have placed an edited version of the form in our clinic window (with the barcode of course) so that passerbys can use it. It was exciting to see it work and it is too much fun! What better way to send year end than playing!!!!

  16. Dave

    12/21/2010 2:47 pm

    Some ideas for getting your QR code out there:

    # Business cards – add a QR code for your website to your business card – or your contact information, or just your phone number.

    # Flyers – ever been to a sporting event and come back to your car and found a flyer tucked under your windshield wiper? Slap a QR code on that and maybe, just maybe, you won’t find the flyers floating around the parking lot.

    # Postcards – need I say more?

    # Products – do you sell physical products, products you ship? Say DVDs? Then slap a QR code on the back of the packaging.

    # Bus Stop – why not? Right there at the bench, slap a QR code on the advertising that links to your website.

    # Where’s George – I’ll let you think about that one for a minute


  17. Simone

    12/21/2010 3:55 pm

    @Gerorge!! That is so hilarious!! SLAP IT ON EVERYTHING! I love it! This is so much fun! Great way to build relationships with your potential market/customers while implementing some fun! i am cracking up right now. Great ideas! Thanks!

  18. Simone

    12/21/2010 3:56 pm

    oops i meant @ Dave

  19. Judy Helm Wright

    12/21/2010 4:02 pm

    Hello from Montana,

    this is great information. I kept seeing them in magazines and they said click here. I thought maybe they were like the perfume things that you had to rub.

    I can really see how this would be very handy to have.

    Thanks again and Happy holidays

  20. Mike

    12/21/2010 4:21 pm

    Hello Amanda,

    This all sounds good but don’t forget that not all smartphones have a qr code reader and even if they did, the smartphone market penetration is only at 18%, leaving a whole bunch of feature phones out there without scanning capabilities.

    Maybe in a year or so it will be better but as of right now, it’s something to keep in mind.

    Thanks for the article.

  21. Earl Netwal

    12/21/2010 4:32 pm

    QR Codes are here and will become ubiquitous in the coming 18 months. Kudoos to you for leading the way and for sharing how we can use them to build our aweber lists. I will be using these with my offline customers for both email and text messaging via their phones.

  22. Amanda Gagnon

    12/21/2010 4:42 pm

    Tiffany ~ So glad to hear that! Let us know how it works out!

    Dave ~ Good ideas! Where IS George??

  23. Dave

    12/21/2010 5:01 pm


    Are you sure you want to know?

    Here goes …

    That should get some ideas flowing.


  24. heather

    12/21/2010 5:11 pm

    Where is the link to do this?

    Great idea..I love how Aweber is always on the cutting edge of technology!

  25. Michael Webb

    12/21/2010 10:41 pm

    Thanks for continuing to provide such useful info to us. This gives me some good ideas.

  26. Amanda Gagnon

    12/22/2010 9:59 am

    Mike ~ It’s true that many people don’t have smartphones, so no one should abandon their traditional list-building methods! But as they become popular, you’ll be on the cutting edge with these codes.

    Heather ~ How-to instructions are above, under “getting your own code.” 🙂

    Dave ~ THAT is creative. I wonder what the banks would say?

  27. Jeremy

    12/22/2010 10:28 am

    When they scan the QR code; what mobile page would they be taken and would they just enter their email address to subscribe to your newsletter? Can I see what a page like that looks like?
    Great tips!

  28. Judith

    12/22/2010 11:32 am

    This is a fantastic idea.

    Have inserted the code into the widget on my WP blog but it does not appear to be live.

    It should open up my Clu7b Sea Breeze site.

    Also how do I add this on FB Pages?

    Do I have to have a smartphone?

  29. Amanda Gagnon

    12/22/2010 4:00 pm

    Jeremy ~ You choose the page they would see, then enter the URL for that page into the code generator. To get people to sign up for your emails, you’d send them to your sign up page.

    For example, our sign up page looks like this.

    Judith ~ You might want to ask WordPress support for help, or just stick with a link on your blog. As for FB, your best bet is taking a screenshot of your code and uploading it as a photo.

  30. Dr. Keyvan

    12/22/2010 5:00 pm


    This is great. I’ll try it.


  31. Art Derfall

    12/22/2010 6:39 pm

    Most QR creation programs will print out low resolution images.
    Check for high quality output, plus a lot of information regarding QR use.

    I learned about QR,, and mobile marketing from the course offered by . Excellent and well worth the money (not expensive).

  32. Art Derfall

    12/22/2010 6:53 pm

    If you don’t see my post re: a certain QR website, it’s because I put a full link, that may not pass review.

    Anyhow….On that site is a reference to a cupcake company that produces a QR code on cupcakes. The photo shows a square (probably 3″x3″) on top of the cupcake with the QR code. I think it’s done through an inkjet printer that shoots edible ink. You’ve seen it on cakes. So, QR cakes. Maybe, QR pizza?

    Get on Google Local and Google will send you a QR sticker for your
    window. Magnetic signs (one large QR, minimal text) for your car.

    Any other ideas?

  33. Adele Berenstein

    12/26/2010 5:39 pm

    If you use as a URL shortner, they provide you with a QR code whenever you shorten URL.

    There are many courses around now on how to use QR codes and how to do mobile marketing. I have bought a few!

    There are even mobile autoresponders.

    Aweber, will you be offering a mobile autoresponder service?

  34. Amanda Gagnon

    12/27/2010 9:35 am

    Art ~ Good tips! List building only gets better with buttercream. 🙂

    Adele ~ Subscribers can open your autoresponders on mobile devices if they wish. If you’re asking about text marketing, that’s not something we’re doing right now.

  35. paul

    12/30/2010 4:54 am

    why have a QR code? why not just give people your web link?

  36. Amanda Gagnon

    12/30/2010 9:32 am

    Bill ~ If they’re not online, people would have to open the browser on their phone and type your url in. With the QR code, they scan and instantly, they’re at your form.

  37. Jeremy

    12/30/2010 10:59 am

    Paul, QR codes are for “offline marketing” with mobile phones. With basically one click on a mobile phone you can get a Quick Response [QR] from your marketing. Here is a video of one of our clients on how it’s helped his business.

  38. Mike

    12/30/2010 3:10 pm

    Happy New Year to everyone.

    Paul, I had asked the same question myself until I started actually using QR codes. They are really Quick Response. Most people have their cellphones with them, so it’s just a matter of me telling them to scan my code and voila, my mobile website comes up on their Smartphone!

    The response has been great. A bunch of people didn’t even know their phones could read these codes until I showed them how. This technology seems to intrigue them and I believe that’s one reason they choose to keep my information.

    There are some ups and downs.

    The ‘down’ as I alluded to before in a previous post, is market penetration not being at the tipping point for Smartphones as of yet. You can’t scan with ‘feature’ phones. Secondly, unless it already came installed with the phone, the code reader has to be downloaded and installed on it (as an app or similar method).

    The ‘upside’ is really something to watch for in the future. QR codes can be of anything you can give a web address to, pictures, videos, tee shirt designs, business cards, a discount coupon for local customers, your dog Fluffy and on and on. You show the code to someone, they scan it, and BAM!, it’s now on their phone for them to do with as they please, (hopefully, save it).

    I keep a printed card in my wallet with codes for my website and email address on one side and my virtual business card and business phone number on the other. I hope to eliminate physical business cards this way.

    What would your card have?

  39. Andrew Harvey

    1/1/2011 4:47 am

    Never heard of this code before- Just tested the code on my fitness health blog and downloaded qr reader on my iPhone for free and it worked instantly! Very quick response – I can see a lot of potential benefits for in the future with this for offline marketing. Thanks for the tip!

  40. jake

    1/1/2011 1:33 pm

    Mike seems to have the answer, and you appear to acknowledge that the directions for obtaining a QR code are missing.

    So, . . . . . where are they ??

  41. Seb Brantigan

    1/2/2011 1:53 pm

    This sounds like it might be a new trend to be right on top of in the next coming months…although I do agree with Mike’s point of view that not all phones work with QR codes.

    Personally I would hand out a flashy business card with a short message and a website, however the way that QR codes are rapidly evolving that soon might become obsolete.

  42. Sean Breslin

    1/3/2011 2:09 am

    Cheers Amanda, I was totally unaware these even existed…. Great Idea! Must admit the idea of a temporary tattoo made me laugh.

  43. Justin

    1/3/2011 3:09 am

    Under the Detroit Red Wings example, there is a link to an instructional video… only the instructional video, is how to Knonwall someone… nothing about QR codes…??

    Does anyone know where a video resides to teach consumers how to use QR codes??

    Unless you have the iPhone app or happen to have a specific phone and have used a QR codes, most consumers I know or talk to, have no idea how to use them, thus they are just spots on a page, like a barcode on food you buy…

    I think they will grow in popularity, but not until people actually know how to use them and why they are simple to use…

  44. Amanda Gagnon

    1/3/2011 9:21 am

    Justin ~ I’m sorry; that link was wrong. The RedWings show the instructional video during games. And yes, it takes time for the trend to catch on.

    Jake ~ The instructions are above; step 2 in “Getting Your Own Code.”

  45. Steve

    1/5/2011 10:24 am

    Can see immediate use for this for the back of business cards, especially as just about to get new ones printed … thanks!

  46. Claude Fullinfaw

    1/6/2011 5:04 am

    Thanks so much for sharing the concept of QR Codes. I am sure many of us will find ways to implement this into our businesses. Will give feedback at a later date after I see what it does for my traffic and signups. Regards

  47. JULIUS

    1/12/2011 9:26 am

    Can you also include an app for the code for my Windows Phone? Thanks

  48. Alan

    1/21/2011 8:11 pm

    Fantastic, I think this will help tie my print and Emedia together nicely.

    I am going to have a go right now and have some test material printed this week.

  49. Cynthia Leighton

    6/4/2011 6:25 pm

    Great… oops? clicked to subscribe and it says it is not active right now and to let the owner know.

  50. Craig

    11/26/2012 4:06 pm

    Wish I would have seen this post earlier. What a great way to connect. We currently post videos from our blog in QR Codes that are published in our ads in a trade publication. Now I’m starting to think this might have been a better option.