How to Get Good Vanity Phone Numbers for a New Business or Marketing Campaign
It’s easy to think of business phone numbers as low on the marketing priority list in this interconnected age. Just when I had fallen into that trap, I had a client reach out to me and say, “Hey, before I forget, we need to get some new, easy to remember phone numbers in our area code. You can do that, right?”
Confidently, I replied, “Not a problem”. (hopefully)
The more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that having a good marketing phone number might be relevant now more than ever.
With the rise of localized search and mobility, people are connecting with local businesses through their smartphones more than any other form factor. This has caused conversion challenges because thumbing information (orders, forms, etc…) into a phone is a pain.
Smart marketers are overcoming that hurdle with click to call (because speaking is easier than thumbing) and if you’re going to give customers a way to connect with your business, it’s imperative to give them one with an average 74.4% higher memory recall rate than a normal number.
Back in the day
When there were only a couple phone companies that provided local phone service, obtaining a “vanity phone number” that is easy to remember wasn’t that hard. That was because just a couple entities were able to tap the pool of all unused phone numbers in a given area code.
Things have changed though, haven’t they? Today, there are literally thousands of companies offering local phone service. Some of these companies could be the old Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), cell phone providers, cable companies or one of thousands of VOIP providers.
Why is this a problem? All of the unused vanity numbers are now dispersed across a numerous phone companies instead of just a few.
So if you find an easy to remember phone number that works for your business needs, you have no choice but to activate that number through the company who owns it. Since there isn’t a law in place that obligates the company to release that phone number, you aren’t always free to use it with the provider of your choice.
So how did I find the right vanity number for my customer?
The client was launching a new product that was going to be marketed through TV, which was the reason they needed a vanity number. They wanted a number relating to fitness that was simple to remember. The VOIP provider that we positioned the business with told us that getting a vanity number “wouldn’t be a problem”.
It actually was a problem.
A couple weeks before the deadline, the VOIP provider came back to us, claiming there wasn’t a way to search for vanity numbers through the carrier vendors they used and the only way to sort through the underlying carrier’s untapped numbers was to select an area code/ prefix one by one and then manually search every number in the hope that we would stumble upon a usable vanity number. After doing this for days, we still had yet to find anything good.
At this point, panic was setting in. I started typing out a flurry of Google searches for “available phone numbers” and “vanity phone number search” and found tollfreenumbers.com by Bill Quimby and hostednumbers.com, an ATG Technologies company.
My requirements were pretty strait forward. I was looking for a number that was:
- Easy to remember – Using all letters is key, and combining words into a call to action (when possible) is also a great thing to do (e.g. 1-202-BUY-CARS)
- A simple, dictionary word – Making the vanity number memorable is very important, so getting creative with the spelling (e.g. 1-202-NUMBERZ as opposed to 1-202-NUMBERS) isn’t the way to go because customers might end up calling the wrong business two weeks after the fact. Similarly, hybrid numbers like 1-202-214-CARS are less than ideal because most customers would have a hard time remembering the 214.
- Clear on what my client does – This number was going to become incorporated into the client’s brand, so I wanted it to clearly reinforce what they did (e.g. 1-800-BUYCARS) through the number.
At Hosted Numbers, I could easily do a vanity number search but it was too limited in that you had to first enter a city and state. Because my client was doing a national media buy, it would have helped a lot if I could have searched everything without having to limit things with city and state first. So with this limitation, I first went to allareacodes.com and made a list of cities with area codes that would be easy to remember, such as 303 (Denver), 404 (Atlanta) and 808 (Honolulu).
After some time spent jotting down dozens of potentially viable vanity numbers that I found on Hosted Numbers, I reached out to our VOIP carrier and asked why they didn’t provide the same capability.
The account manager at the VOIP provider asked for some example numbers that I found on Hosted Numbers and we looked them up at fonefinder.net to see who the underlying carrier was. As it turned out, bandwidth.com and broadvox.com held most of the numbers on my list.
Thankfully, our VOIP carrier already had a relationship with the carrier (bandwidth.com) behind the number that best fit my client’s needs. They were able to claim the number and make it available to our VOIP carrier relatively quickly. While Hosted Numbers has a decent search platform, I found their platform a little weak in that they’re only searching available number databases from a few third party carriers and not their own pool.
So basically, I lucked out.
Finding a number through hostednumbers.com that my client liked and then having it be available to our VOIP carrier was a stroke of luck, indeed. If that wouldn’t have worked, my plan was to “port” the number away from Hosted Numbers to the carrier I was working with. The problem is, number ports take anywhere between 5 days to a month to complete, which meant my client wouldn’t make their broadcast deadline.
Toll Free Vanity Numbers
This client also wanted to split test the response rates between a local vanity number and a toll free one (1-800, 1-888, 1-877, 1-866 and the newest, 1-855). For this ask, I had already decided to use tollfreenumbers.com because friends of mine have been able to find some truly nice toll free vanity numbers there.
After 45 minutes of searching the site, I was able to create a list of every toll free vanity number my client would want to consider and then after some quick deliberation, we purchased the TFN and did the RespOrg change (the switch of ownership) from Toll Free Numbers to our carrier.
Unlike “porting”, which can take up to a month to complete, transferring TFN between carriers only takes two days to a couple weeks, and is a much less painful process if everyone involved does what they are supposed to do.