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5 Tips for Picking the Right 800 Business Number and Why It's Important

Ryan Sze author image
800
Does your business receive a high volume of calls? Is your phone number difficult to remember? Are you using your personal phone number for business? If you answered yes to any of the above, it may be time for you to consider an 800 toll-free number. Here are the top 5 tips for picking out the right number—and reasons why you should get one.

Decide whether you want phoneword

A “phoneword” is a word or phrase created from the letters on your phone’s dialpad, like “ABC” for 1 and “DEF” for 2. This allows businesses to create clever 800 numbers, like 1-800-GO-FEDEX or 1-800-TAXI-USA.

These kinds of phone numbers are a great option for two reasons. First, the human brain has an easier time remembering just one or two words than it does remembering seven numbers, especially if the word has something to do with the customer’s goal (like getting a taxi somewhere in the United States).

Second, phonewords are a good opportunity for some clever marketing. Take, for example, the number for Jazzercise’s dance fitness program, 1-800-FIT-IS-IT, or AT&T’s famous collect call number, 1-800-CALL-ATT. 

There are also plenty of free, online tools that can help you come up with a clever phoneword for your business, like this one that allows you to enter a word and get the number, or enter a number and see all the possible words. 

Go for something easy to remember

Phonewords are relatively easy to remember, but certain sequences of numbers will do the job, too. If you’re unable to come up with a good phoneword for your business, just make sure your 800 number is simple to remember. This can be achieved by repeating a single number or sequence of numbers, or using a familiar pattern, like “1234” or “2468”. This is why so many 800 numbers are followed by a repeating-number sequence like “555” or “222”. 

While this may seem like a moot point, with studies showing that people principally rely on their phones now to store numbers, there are still many situations where it can be helpful. Take, for example, a phone number on a billboard on a highway. Unable to do so in the moment, a driver will need to be able to remember the number so they can write it down later on. 

Combine a phoneword and a number sequence

If you’ve found a short phoneword that fits your business well, you can combine it with a simple number sequence for something that’s just as effective a marketing tool, and still easy to remember.

A local fry shop might use, for example, 1 800 55 FRIES (which has the added benefit of combining similar sounds). A TexMex restaurant might use the number 1 800 22 TACOS. It’s also easier to find an available number using this strategy: if 22 TACOS is taken, try 33 TACOS, or 44 TACOS. 

If your 800 number is taken, try 888, 877 or 866

Although less recognizable, 888, 877 and 866 are all toll-free prefixes, just like 800. Thus, while the number of clever phonewords or simple number sequences may be quite limited for 800 (and those that are still available can be quite expensive), there are many more (and much cheaper) numbers available for 888, 877 and 866. Customers still benefit from a toll-free call and an easy-to-remember number, and you may be able to get the right business number for much less. 

Compare providers

There are dozens of leading national toll-free number providers, so you should do some research to find the one that’s best for you. While many providers compete head-to-head and offer similar pricing terms and key features, some providers may cater to a specific subset of customers. Depending on your business and the niche that it operates in, you may find particular providers to be a more suitable choice for you than others.

In general, it’s a good idea to create a shortlist of providers you’re interested in. You should then get quotes from at least three of those providers for the 800 number(s) you’re interested in. This will help you find the best price for your new number.

After you’ve collected bids from all vendors, try to negotiate with each of them. Don’t hesitate to let vendors know if a cheaper offer is available somewhere else. This puts you at an advantage and makes it more likely that the vendor you choose will offer you the best price possible, with all the features you’re interested in. 

Why Your Business Needs An 800 Number

1. It’s affordable

If you thought 800 numbers were only for enterprise clients with big budgets, you’d be mistaken. Toll-free numbers are for businesses of all sizes, including mom-and-pop shops, solopreneurs, and small businesses.

These national toll-free numbers are cheap and affordable, and fees can be as low as $0.99 per month. On average, monthly fees are usually between $10 and $20. There can be additional charges as well, like 1-time setup fees and metered per-minute rates.

However, these fees are nominal. Setup fees are usually no more than the cost of 1 months’ service, and metered rates for 800 numbers are usually only about 5 cents per minute. In other words, if all your customers spend a combined 1,000 minutes on the phone with your customer care team per month, your metered portion of the bill will cost just $50. Add that to a $10-$20 monthly fee and a similarly-priced setup fee, and you’d still pay well under $100 for the first month of service.

2. It gives you a national presence

Unlike landline or cell phone numbers that are given local area codes, 800 numbers begin with the same prefix no matter where your business is located. This enables you to present your business as larger than it really is and may help you reach customers from outside your local geographic area.

An 800 number can particularly come in handy if you’re a small business that plans to expand geographically. For example, if you own and operate a restaurant but want to offer nationwide shipping and delivery services for certain menu items, an 800 number can help you position yourself as a bona fide national vendor.

3. It’s customizable

Unlike regular phone numbers, which usually aren’t memorable and offer limited options for customization, 800 numbers can be versatile. For example, if you want your 800 number’s next 7 digits to contain specific numbers, you can pay for specialty numbers. Known as vanity numbers, these digits can make your number more attractive, memorable, and easier to remember.

If you opt to purchase a vanity number, you can even customize it with letters. This may come in handy if you’re in a specific line of business or are known for a signature product. For example, if you’re a surfboard manufacturer and retailer, you may consider a number like 800-XXX-SURF. Likewise, if you run a service that helps people find their misplaced items, 800-XXX-FIND may be a suitable toll-free number for your small business.

4. It’s commitment-free

Toll-free number providers are also flexible, and many can offer customized contracts that suit your business’s needs. Some providers have short-term, cancel-anytime contracts that you pay for on a month-to-month basis. Gone are the days when you’re forced to sign lengthy and restrictive multi-year contracts with telecommunications companies that don’t have your best interests in mind.

In short, toll-free numbers are both easy to get and easy to get out of. If you decide to downgrade back to a local phone number, simply cancel before the next month rolls around, and you’ll be able to avoid additional charges. And if you’re subscribed to an annual plan, you can choose not to renew for the following year.

5. It’s toll-free for customers

The biggest benefit of a toll-free number is that it’s free for both your prospective and current customers to call you. While many consumer telecommunications providers are now offering unlimited talk and text plans as the basic phone package, a wide segment of the market is still using prepaid phone plans.

While affordable, these plans are metered. It costs someone money every time they place a call—but not if they dial an 800 number. If your business opts for one, your products or services may suddenly become more economical and attractive for folks who use prepaid plans. Since it’s free for them to call you, they may be more willing to consider you as their first choice when shopping around.

Conclusion

An 800 number isn’t just for established billion-dollar conglomerates. Even a small business operating in a single locale can take advantage of the credibility and flexibility of a toll-free number. When chosen and used correctly, your 800 number can be a powerful, customizable asset that provides you with a national presence. Best of all, it’s cheap, affordable, and easy to switch.

Ryan Sze author image
Ryan is a freelance personal finance and investments writer, with more than 3 years of experience trading and writing informative financial content. A chemical engineer by degree, Ryan's interest in finance grew out of a love of data science and computational statistics. His byline can be found on well-known sites such as The Motley Fool, Investing In The Web, and Top10.com.