In this day and age, it’s easy to think of phone numbers as low on the marketing priority list. I realized I had fallen into that trap the day 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, “No problem”. (fingers crossed)
In ancient times, when there were only a couple phone companies providing local phone service, obtaining a vanity number wasn’t that hard. This was due to the fact that just a couple entities were able to tap the pool of unused phone numbers in a given area code.
Things have changed dramatically since then though. Today, there are literally thousands of players in the local phone service game. Some of these companies could be the old Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), cell phone providers, cable companies or one of the thousands of VOIP providers.
Why is this a problem? All of the unused vanity numbers are now divided up and 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 don’t always have the option of using it with the provider of your choice.
So how did I find the right vanity number for my customer?
The client needed a vanity number because they were launching a new product that was going to be marketed through TV. They wanted a number relating to the automotive industry 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 scan through every number in the hope that we would stumble upon something usable. After days and way too much coffee, we still had yet to find anything good.
At this point, panic was setting in. After a flurry of Google searches for “available phone numbers” and “vanity phone number search”, I found several vanity number providers and started brainstorming.
I was looking for a number that was:
- Easy to remember – Using all letters to create a simple call to action (when possible) that a prospective customer can easily recall at a later time is always the best option (e.g. 1-202-BUY-CARS)
- A simple, dictionary word – Getting creative with the spelling (e.g. 1-202-BUY-CARZ ) isn’t the way to go because two weeks after the fact, customers might have forgotten and end up calling a competitor. Similarly, hybrid numbers like 1-202-214-CARS aren’t ideal because most customers have a hard time remembering random digits.
- Clear about what my client does – This number was going to become incorporated into the client’s branding, so I wanted it to clearly reinforce their offering through the number.
At one provider, I could easily do a vanity number search but it was too limited in that I 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 myself to a small area 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 ringboost.com because friends of mine have been able to find some great 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.