Toll-free vs. vanity numbers: What’s the difference?
Your business has gotten big enough that you have customers, prospects, employees and vendors scattered across the country. You don’t want long-distance fees discouraging them from calling you.
Getting a toll-free number for your business is the logical next step. But now you’ve got some complications to sort out. Do you want an 800 number? Or, do you want a vanity number, like 800-BEST-BUY?
Why your business needs a toll-free number
A toll-free number confers credibility on your enterprise. It tells people you can afford to pay for their calls. And it triggers their instinct to return the favor, which helps strengthen business relationships.
Sure, some companies force long-distance callers to pay up. Maybe their need to discourage nuisance calls outweighs the benefits of investing in goodwill. That’s their call, and it could be yours.
But we’re betting you’re leaning toward getting a dedicated toll-free number for your business. If you choose your provider carefully, you can get business-friendly benefits like call tracking, which delivers insight on your callers.
Just keep these points in mind:
The 800 prefix, the U.S. standard for toll-free calls for decades, is the first three numbers in anybody’s mind. If you want to help people remember your number, an 800 number is a good place to start.
The other toll-free prefixes are 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833. These more recent additions to the prefix list are not quite as memorable.
You must choose from what’s available. Toll-free numbers are assigned first-come, first-serve — and many of the good ones are taken.
The best toll-free service providers let you choose from a list of available numbers. If you’re a keep-it-simple person, then this is the most direct route to a toll-free number with an 800 prefix.
But before choosing a bare-bones 800 number, think about whether a vanity number might be a better idea.
Why your business might need a vanity toll-free number
If you want a toll-free number so memorable that people can call without looking it up, you need a vanity number — like 800-IGo-HoJo for Howard Johnson’s or 800-Virus-No for MacAfee anti-virus software.
Alas, if you’re hoping to acquire a way-cool 800 number, there’s a good chance somebody else got there first. But your odds are better with 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833.
Fortunately, our techie friends at Grasshopper have built a tool to help you find a word-and-letter combination that suits your business. Just type seven characters in the box with “EX: FLOWERS” in the background, click the magnifying glass and see how well you do.
Your first results won’t look like much. You’ll probably get a jumble of letters and numbers that seem borderline useless. But you wouldn’t quit a video game after the first “game over,” right? You need to restart and try again — and keep trying till you find some winning combinations.
Hint: Instead of shooting for a seven-letter word, try a three- or four-letter word. For instance, type “FUN” in our search field. You’ll get a recommended 800 number and two columns of suggestions below that with the other toll-free number prefixes. Most of them look nonsensical, but a few put FUN in the first three letters after the prefix. This starts looking like it has possibilities.
Try again with a four-letter word. For instance, type “LAWN” in the search field and you’ll start seeing potential in the last four digits of the available toll-free numbers. Three- and four-letter words are the most obvious choices, but you’ve got a lot more to work with. Remember that “2” and “4” equal “to” and “for.” You might try a word that rhymes with 3, 6 or 9, for instance.
You’ll have this vanity number as long as you’re in business. Don’t settle for one you can drum up in 15 minutes. Skip movie night and play with it for a couple of hours.
Where to put your vanity number to work
Your vanity toll-free number belongs in all your marketing channels, such as:
Email: Place it in the footer.
Print ads: Make sure it’s easy to find and readily recognizable.
Digital: Don’t overlook the option of placing live links in your ads on social media platforms and websites.
Media: Make sure you like how the number sounds when spoken aloud.
Before you decide on a vanity toll-free number, make sure to bring in an editor. A second set of eyes can help ensure your number doesn’t have an embarrassing double meaning. Have a few friends help you choose the best of your top three choices.
Ultimately, picking a toll-free number comes down to your business goals: If you want to keep it simple, a numerical 800 number is fine. But if calling is central to your business brand, a vanity number is probably the better choice.
Test your number with a free Grasshopper trial.