Word-of-mouth marketing is king and online referral marketing is the jack of the trade. But is there a way referral marketing can be employed if the potential consumer is offline?

Network marketing, employed by companies like Avon Cosmetics and Amway, is one way to go but it requires a huge investment in training and management. Is there a way to automate this?

There is. It’s called Offline Referral Marketing, which uses mobile technology that is growing popular by the day – QR Codes.

What is Offline Referral Marketing?

Offline Referral Marketing is same as online but the difference is that instead of sharing content online-to-online, content is shared offline-to-online using the consumer’s smartphone.

How can it help me?

Offline Referral Marketing will help you convert word-of-mouth marketing to sales. Your existing customer will market the product but unlike network marketing, will not sell it. He/she will only provide an incentive to the potential customer. The advantage is that it’s not as intrusive as network marketing.

This system works well for exclusive brands not looking to dilute their brand value by excessive marketing. Think of it as an ‘invite-only’ marketing, but offline.

How does it work?

The process can be best explained with the help of an example:

  • Each product (lets say a fitness tracker) has a concealed QR Code
  • The owner (lets assume Megan) of the tracker first scans the QR Code and registers with the brand. This unique QR Code is now tagged to Megan
  • Megan is on her morning run when she runs into her colleague Susan
  • Susan is worried about her fitness and Megan advises her to get a fitness tracker. Susan loves the idea
  • Megan then shows her the QR Code and asks her to scan it. Susan pulls out her smartphone and scans the QR Code
  • Susan gets an exclusive offer to purchase the tracker at a 20% discount and she goes ahead and places the order using her smartphone
  • As soon as Susan purchases it, Megan gets a percentage of the deal for helping in making the sale

The result: Win-win situation for all.

How do I set it up?

To set up such an Offline Referral System, you will need the following:

1. Dynamic QR Codes

For each item of your inventory, you will need a unique dynamic QR Code that will be placed on the product. A dynamic QR Code contains a trackable URL that redirects the user to a webpage.

When Megan purchases the tracker, she will have to scan this QR Code to set up her referral account. Note this only a one-time activity. Once she signs up for a referral account, the QR Code becomes active. Now whenever Susan or any other friend of Megan scans the code and makes a purchase, Megan will get cash or credits in her referral account.

2. Dynamic QR Code API

In addition to the Dynamic QR Codes, you will need to integrate a dynamic QR Code API with your referral management system. A dynamic QR Code API will help you use the same QR Code for sign up (one-time by Megan) and referrals (Susan and the others).


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Gautam Garg is a Co-founder of Scanova. He is a QR Code enthusiast and a big fan of inbound marketing, CRO, and usability. When taking a break, he likes to travel solo and eat spicy food. Follow him on Twitter @GGarg88