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