No one wants to be just a number. People have been trying to come up with ways to add meanings to phone numbers and to memorize them for a really long time. To pull just one example from history, way back, in the 1960s, a Boston-area carpet cleaning company struck marketing gold when telephone numbers still had exchange names. While the Marvelettes were singing about BEechwood 4-5789, Adams & Swett Rug Cleaning Company asked the Boston area one simple question:
“How many cookies did Andrew eat?”
The answer … was their phone number. ANdrew 8-8000, or Andrew ate 8,000. Although exchange names are long gone, Adams & Swett still posts the jingle to their site, proof positive that their marketing not only worked, but that it’s still working some 50 years later.
Why a Vanity Phone Number May Be Right For You Today
Ok, it’s not 1965 anymore, and so many new options now exist for consumers when they want to reach you. They can text you. They can contact you through any one of many social media channels. They can go to your website. They can email you. They might even just stop by. So, why invest in a vanity phone number today? How have they remained relevant to today’s business world? Read on for the 10 reasons why you probably need a vanity phone number for your business.
1. People Remember Them and You
Look at the people you see every day – on your way to the office, when you’re dropping your kids off at school, when you’re out at a restaurant. They’ve got busy lives, and it’s increasingly harder to keep everything in check. These days, people need to remember passwords, pin numbers, and sometimes even the answers to security questions before they can do business with you online. Why not make their lives easier with vanity phone numbers? With vanity phone numbers, people remember them … and you … and more importantly – how to reach you – when they need what you do.
Do you want to get a package delivered? Call 1-800-GoFedEx. Do you need flowers for a special occasion? You’ll probably remember how to reach 1-800-FLOWERS. Did you just discover that your annual supply of contacts is running out in two weeks? 1-800-CONTACTS can probably fix that. Maybe you’ve amassed quite a pile of junk to toss after this year’s spring cleaning. Call 1-800-GOTJUNK. As an added bonus, 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-CONTACTS, and 1-800-GOTJUNK are not only the vanity phone numbers you use to reach these companies, they’re also the names and URLs of their respective companies, which brings us to:
2. Vanity Phone Numbers Reinforce Your Brand
Say you’re the American Cancer Society and you help people stop smoking cigarettes. If your vanity phone number is 1-866-QUIT-4-LIFE, that’s going to last a lot longer in people’s memories than a random set of numbers. The vanity phone number also reinforces the mission of the American Cancer Society, and its branding.
With vanity phone numbers that reflect what you do, not only will your customers and customers-to-be remember how to reach you, they’ll also remember what you do when they need you, and when they’re telling their friends about you. Another great example of building brand identity through a vanity phone number comes from Fathers’ Rights Attorneys Cordell & Cordell whose phone number is 1-866-DADS-LAW. With branding like that, there’s little doubt what they do when you get ready to call them.
3. Vanity Phone Numbers Lend Credibility to Your Business
If you’ve got a vanity phone number that’s dedicated to flowers or getting rid of junk or providing legal advice to dads, anyone who sees your number knows that you’ve made a solid dedication to your business, and that you specialize in what they need. Sure, your competitors might offer similar services or goods, but your message tells customers what you do in one fell swoop, and they can use that marketing message to contact you right now.
4. Your Customer Service Improves
Things happen. If people remember you, and how to reach you … because your number is stuck in their heads … they’ll call you when something goes wrong with your product or service. They’ll call you before they take their message of woe to social media, and cost you reputation equity, or worse, new customers. Best Buy, with their 1-888-BEST-BUY customer service line, knows this. The Boston Globe does too. Their subscribers call 1-888-MY-GLOBE whenever they need help.
5. Even in the Age of Websites, People Still Remember Phone Numbers
One study, which surveyed 1000 people, found that consumers remember vanity phone numbers with far more frequency than they do website URLs. According to the study, more than twice as many consumers remembered a home improvement company’s vanity phone number than its web address, after seeing both in print. Similarly, consumers remembered a healthcare company’s vanity phone number with 126% more reliability than its web address, after seeing it on a billboard. With success rates like that, it’s no wonder that even the government is buying up vanity phone numbers. For example, to opt out of prescreened credit and insurance offers for 5 years, the FTC asks you to call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.
6. Vanity Phone Numbers Broaden Your Market
Not only do vanity phone numbers generate traffic and leads, they also give your company a national presence – because you have a toll-free number. With a national toll-free number, you might even edge out local companies. With your vanity number, you will likely stay more top-of-mind to a consumer. You might not be down the street like your local competitor, but you’re easier to reach if that consumer has your number stuck in his or her head. That almost never happens with standard randomly generated phone numbers.
7. Your Campaigns Live On
Marketing campaigns have shelf lives. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But, vanity phone numbers live on, across multiple marketing campaigns over time. Vanity phone numbers can also inspire campaigns. While Andrew 8-8000 may have eaten his 8,000 cookies some 60 years ago, people today still remember the jingle, even if the days of five-digit phone numbers and exchanges are long over.
8. Toll-Free Vanity Phone Numbers Are Mobile Now Too
Gone are the days when toll-free numbers were hard-wired to a call center in the middle of nowhere. Today, toll-free vanity numbers are mobile too, just like your business. With call forwarding, you can route calls to your business anywhere at any hour. Have you left the office for the day? Calls to your vanity number can be forwarded to your home office line. Are you out on the road visiting clients? Forward your calls to your mobile phone. With call forwarding, calls to your toll-free line aren’t missed, and your clients can reach you when they want. Call forwarding can even transfer traditional calls to a VOIP line.
9. Vanity Phone Numbers Expand Your Global Reach
In this era of virtual phone systems, when you can make calls over the Internet using any smart device or laptop, how have vanity numbers kept up? As your business grows, so too can your use of call forwarding. Using your vanity phone number as a virtual phone number, you can forward customer service calls to other areas of the globe, and deliver to your customers seamless 24/7 customer service.
10. You Can Build a Whole Business Around a Vanity Phone Number
Jim McCann did. When he bought the name 1-800-FLOWERS for his Manhattan flower shop in 1986, he did so with the idea that consumers would react to the name. Today, 1-800-FLOWERS and its web domain, 1800flowers.com, have a market capitalization of $1.21 billion. Another success story comes from 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Originally founded as Rubbish Boys in 1989, the company converted to a franchise model and rebranded itself as 1-800-GOT-JUNK nine years later. In 2017, its parent company, O2E Brands, posted $320 million in revenue.
Useful Tips to Remember with Vanity Phone Numbers
Lots of marketing-savvy businesses have jumped on board with vanity phone numbers. So, finding your first choice can be tricky. The best way to generate a great vanity phone number is to brainstorm short words and phrases that best capture the mission and value proposition of your business. Because your seven-letter word may be taken, you may be more likely to land on an available choice by putting two smaller words together, like 1-800-GOT-JUNK.
Keep in mind, also, that not everyone does, or can, dial by letter. When advertising with your vanity phone number, it’s a best practice to also include your vanity phone number’s corresponding numbers. This way, your advertising delivers a strong, on-brand marketing message, while also making it easier for all customers to reach you.
Don’t get too creative with vanity phone numbers, though. When the new toll-free area codes (888, 866, 877) were introduced, some companies such as Vonage and Rent-A-Wreck tried new vanity phone number combinations such as 1-VONAGE-HELP or 1-US-RENT-A-WRECK. The practice was short-lived, though. The numbers confused customers.
Lastly, remember that vanity phone numbers don’t always have to spell out a word. Sometimes, numerical numbers are just as easy to remember. Motel chain Super 8 uses 1-800-800-8000 for its customer service line. Also, Canadian pizza chain 241 Pizza, has been known to use the local number 241-0-241 to advertise its two-for-one pizza deals. And, of course, there’s Tommy Tutone’s famous 80s song, which forever popularized the number 867-5309.
Vanity Phone Numbers Today
Vanity phone numbers have come a long way since their early days. Despite early appearances like ANdrew 8-8000, vanity phone numbers actually came into their own much later, in the 1980s and 1990s. Before toll-free phone numbers were created by AT&T in 1967, constructing interesting and memorable phone words from local phone numbers was difficult, given that the first digits of those phone numbers needed to reflect a specific location. This restriction even extended to the first toll-free numbers in the United States until the early 1980s, when the current toll-free numbering system was put into place.
Today, however, with new technologies connecting us through virtual phone numbers, virtual phone systems, and internet-enabled calls, vanity phone numbers still offer customers just what they need: a simple way to reach companies. Companies, in turn, can offer their customers a way to reach them, while also getting a simple, concise vehicle through which they can quickly and efficiently deliver their value proposition and message.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.