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VANITY NUMBERS   
[Printer Friendly Version of Vanity Details]

Realize the full potential of your marketing efforts. Use easy to remember 800, 888, 877, 866, and 855 toll-free telephone numbers. 

The marketing potential of an organization expands rapidly when using a vanity toll-free number. Sales increase, customer service improves, and because of the heightened brand recognition, your customers know who you are and how to contact you. Marketing efforts can seem almost effortless or become more focused in new product areas or markets.

  • Marketing campaigns are more efficient and effective
  • Sales increase
  • Customer service improves
  • Brand recognition is enhanced
  • Customer recall of toll-free number heightens
  • Company’s image is improved

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VANITY NUMBERS

Click on one of the links below to view more details on specific questions about Vanity Numbers . . 

STATISTICS  

Industry studies* have shown that:

  • the use of a toll-free number can increase orders for your product 18- to 23% and dollar value per order approximately 20-40% on average.
  • when a toll-free number and a reply coupon are advertised together, approximately 65% of all orders are generated by phone and 35% by mail.
  • customers are 3- to 4-times more likely to contact a company to request assistance if there is a toll-free number.

*Source: August 1994 DMMA Telephone Marketing Technical Assistance Research Programs (TARP).

 

 

 
Easy-to-remember phone numbers dramatically increase advertising response rates ... stated last year’s study by the Michael J. Motto Advertising Agency.

The company's research showed radio ads that used an 800 toll-free vanity number (i.e. 1-800-96adept) drew 14 times more calls than those with a numeric 800 number.

"Toll-free Numbers in Radio Advertising," ran 66 radio ads on WDHA FM in Cedar Knolls, NJ for Denville Nissan. The ads ran for 60-seconds on equal rotation. One-half of the ads used a numeric 800 toll-free number, and the other half used 1-800-NEW-WHEELS. 

The ads ran from Saturday, December 26, 1998 to Friday, January 1, 1999, and received 140 phone calls.
The vanity number received 14 calls for every single call to the numeric number.

Response Marketing Group (Burlington, VT) provided the shared-use vanity 800 numbers used in this study.

Two studies are available for review at their website: 


Direct Response in Radio Advertising
 
"Study focuses on the use of direct response in radio advertisements. The results show 29% of ads use toll-free numbers. 66% are 800 numbers (as opposed to toll-free 888 or 877) and 72% are vanity numbers." 

Direct Response in Television Commercials: Super Bowl XXXIV 
"Study focuses on the use of direct response in television commercials aired during Super Bowl XXXIV. It shows 16% of ads using toll-free numbers. 91% are 800 numbers and 100% are vanity numbers. The results also show 63% using Internet addresses. Overall, 73% use toll-free numbers or Internet addresses or both."


The marketing power of a dealer locator is super charged when used in conjunction with a toll-free vanity number. Using the letters on touch-tone keys to spell company or product names, marketing concepts, or generic words that can be associated with a marketer creates vanity numbers. The following are a few FAQ’s regarding vanity numbers and their use.

Who Benefits From Vanity Toll-Free Numbers?      [Top]

Many successful companies rely heavily on brand recognition (large or small). A vanity number that is attached to a product or service can greatly increase your company’s brand recognition. Your company gains an edge over the competition when customers can identify a vanity number with a brand.
  • 800, 888, 877, 866, and 855 toll free exchanges provide one number for your customers to call.
  • Your customer pays nothing when calling your toll-free number.
  • If your vanity number is easy to remember then a customer will call you, not your competitor.
  • Toll free exchanges can be routed [ported] to any number. Therefore, if your company moves, the vanity number moves with you.

Why use a toll-free vanity number?      [Top]  

Simple, they attract attention and are easy to remember – two of the most fundamental goals of any marketing message. If the number matches the marketer’s name, product or service, a compound marketing affect is created each time the number is mentioned. However, the single most important reason is their ease of recall. This fact not only increases marketing response rates where vanity numbers are used but it lengthens them as well as the numbers can be recalled more easily if a buying decision is not immediately made. The power of vanity numbers was shown by a 1999 study conducted by Michael J. Motto Advertising (New Providence, NJ) that found that 1-800 NEW WHEELS pulled 14 times more calls than its numeric equivalent when used in identical radio spots.

A vanity numbers will produce incremental calls, leads, inquiries or referrals that lead to increased revenue and sales.

Where should vanity numbers be used?      [Top]

Vanity numbers should be considered for marketing messages where the time and space allowed for communicating a phone number is very short, such as Radio, TV, Newspapers, Yard Signs, Vehicle Markings, and Billboards. The need for vanity numbers in marketing messages presented in printed materials that have a longer hold time, such as Yellow Pages, direct mail, letterhead, business cards, are more suited for numeric toll-free numbers. However, using the same number in all messages and formats increases repetition and conveys uniformity, which are two important characteristics of good advertising.

What should the number spell?         [Top]

In general its best for the number to spell all or a portion of the company name or product or convey the main feature or benefit of the company. Toll-free phone numbers are 7 digits in length plus the 1-8xx prefix. If the company name is less than 7 digits use numbers in front or behind the vanity portion to complete the 7th digit, i.e. 1-8xx-45 TIRES or 1-8xx-TIRES 45. Often adding a call to action to a short vanity name is a good idea, for example 4, GO, GET, BY, or MY whatever.

In some cases, a vanity number can be obtained to match the marketer’s industry or product/service category i.e. flowers, rent-a-car, contacts. This can be very powerful because the category, which is already a common term known by the target customers can become associated with the marketer driving thousand, hundreds of thousands or millions of calls to the marketer. Linking a toll-free number to the category is a simpler process than trying to create awareness of a particular company and its unique phone number that serves the category. The most famous example of this is probably 1-800 Flowers. Category vanity numbers are very difficult to obtain but the cost and effort is well worth the reward. New toll-free exchanges such as 888, 877, 866 and soon to be released 855 increase the chances of obtaining good vanity numbers, however the new exchanges do not immediately communicate "toll-free" like the 800 exchange. As such, the words "toll-free" should be used in conjunction with any non-800 toll-free exchange.

FYI    [Top]
If one carrier cannot provide a certain vanity number, the other carriers won't be able to either.  All vanity numbers are researched through the national SMS database [an industry clearing house in charge of researching and assigning toll-free numbers, including toll-free vanity numbers]. Finding a toll-free vanity number that works for you IS possible, you just have to be creative and be willing to consider alternatives.

Why are some vanity numbers longer than the actual numeric phone number?       [Top]

Marketers publish the extra digits needed to complete a word even though the telephone network does not recognize digits entered after 7th digit. For example, the "G" in 1-8xx-CLEANING is a superfluous digit and is not read by the telephone network. This is a problem on cell phones where the device dials the number after the SEND or TALK key is pressed. Cell phones will not process more than the 7 digits after the prefix and will return a network "fast busy" tone or some other dialing error message. If cell phones generate a high percent of incoming calls make sure the numeric number is published under the vanity number or use only a 7 digit vanity number.

What are vanity number misdials?         [Top] 

Misdials are common spelling or dialing errors for a particular vanity number. For example, they can be versions of a word spelled with a 0 (zero) instead of the letter O or versions with digits that often get "fat fingered" when dialing a vanity number. Misdials can be important. One 800 Adept client receives 10% of its total call volume on one misdial version of its main toll-free vanity number. Misdials can also be a source of irritation for companies that are unfortunate to have a toll-free number that is a frequent misdial of a popular or highly marketed vanity number. The recipient of these unwanted calls can be quite irate and will often want compensation "for taking all your calls." Keep in mind that just because your company may have spent millions on marketing a vanity numbers, it gives you no rights to other toll-free numbers that may be misdials of your number.

How are vanity numbers obtained?       [Top]

Obtaining a vanity number is accomplished by submitting a request to a Resp Org agency, such as 800 Adept, a long distance company or selected service bureaus. A Resp Org (Responsible Organization) is a business that has been authorized by the FCC to control the acquisition, distribution and management of toll-free numbers on behalf of their clients. Resp Orgs can search for specific numbers or they can conduct a "wild card" search where portions of a numbers are matched, i.e. 8xx-xx2-3456 where "x" can by any digit. Resp Orgs have direct access to the SMS 800 Database which is the central government depository for all toll-free numbers –see "How do toll-free numbers work?"

What do vanity numbers cost?          [Top]

There is usually little or no cost to obtain a vanity number that is in the "available" pool, which are unassigned numbers in the public domain. If a Resp Org requires a large fee to search for numbers or wants to charge an "acquisition" for a publicly available number, you are dealing with the wrong company. Vanity numbers that are unavailable are another story. Carriers, Resp Orgs, and other types of telecom companies often reserve large blocks of numbers and vanity number "acquisition" agents will often submit requests for thousands of numbers hoping to create a pool of numbers they can then market, either on a shared use or individual use basis. The FCC prohibits the sale or brokering of toll-free numbers (insert FCC link to specific rule), however vanity number specialists will charge "consulting fees" or other "compensatory or consideration fees" for arranging for the acquisition or transfer of a non public domain number. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a number that is unavailable and not in use that can be transferred to your carrier of choice.

Can you own a vanity number?          [Top]

No. Toll-free numbers, and all phone numbers in general, are not physical assets that can not be owned per se. Even if you have a trademark on a vanity number, the trademark in the eyes of the government does not give you "ownership" of the number itself on which the vanity concept is based. All toll-free numbers are ultimately controlled by the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) which is a government agency established by the FCC to control the introduction of new toll-free and local area codes and exchanges. The users of toll-free numbers are granted a "license" to use the number for as long as they desire providing they fulfill their payment and contractual obligations with their 800 carrier and adhere to and obey all FCC regulations regarding 800 use. This issue is a constant source of litigation and debate and is currently being re-evaluated by the FCC see – FCC Link NPR.

How do toll-free numbers work?          [Top]

Since toll-free numbers are non-geographic in nature and transfer payment responsibility from the caller to the called, a central process must be used to control their distribution and store billing and carrier data. This is done through the SMS 800 Database, which is currently managed by Lockeed Martin through a long-term contract with the US government. The SMS 800 Database is a central electronic depository for all toll-free numbers that contains information on the Resp Org of each number, the carrier, routing parameters and much more information. When calls are made to toll-free numbers, the local exchange carrier (LEC) uses fast network links to query the SMS 800 Database to determine the inter-exchange carrier responsible for billing and carrying the toll-free call. The inter-exchange carrier picks up the call, applies any specific feature functionality as requested by their client, creates a call detail record for billing, and routes the call to the delivery number, trunk ID, or circuit ID to which the toll-free number is programmed to ring. This entire process takes milliseconds and is virtually transparent to the caller.

A Little About Vanity Numbers        [Top]
The FCC defines a vanity number as a telephone number where the letters associated with the number's digits on the telephone spell a name or word of value to the subscriber. A vanity number can spell your company name, personal initials, or special acronym that you select.

Notable vanity numbers:
  • 1-800-CALLATT
  • 1-800-COLLECT
  • 1-800-FLOWERS
According to the FCC: of 7.7 million possible 800 numbers, there were over 300,000 "Vanity Numbers" in use by 1996. The original 800 series toll-free numbers lasted almost 30 years before being exhausted in 1996. 

The FCC/SMS introduced the 888 series in 1997. 888 ran low in only 2 years. To meet the demand an 877 series was introduced in 1998. 877 started running low in early 1999.  This demand has increased because business owners have discovered that vanity toll-free numbers are reliable marketing tool. 

Studies show that "saved ad clippings" and "writing the number down" are the main ways that people remember a telephone number. Therefore, if a person can automatically recall your 800 number then your competitors won’t get phone calls, you will.

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