How to Get Good Vanity Phone Numbers for a New Business or Marketing Campaign

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)

How Do You Find Easy To Remember Numbers?

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.

AT&T and Verizon Alternatives

When the Bell System monopoly on telephone communication run by AT&T was broken into “Baby Bells,” also called Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) in 1982, the monopoly on phone service seemed to be at its end.

The original anti-trust action by the Department of Justice was initiated in 1972, but legal wrangling stalled the final breakup until 1982. Thirty plus years later, I often wonder whether the quality of service has improved.  A quick online scan shows throngs of unhappy customers’ voices have echoing across forums and consumer advocacy sites.

Freedom From Telecom Bullies

Verizon is the other major player in the space, selling its phone service under the FIOS brand.  They also bundle internet access and TV service and deliver it over a fiber network. Verizon was initially known as Bell Atlantic, one of the aforementioned RBOCs. In 2000 it merged with GTE and re-branded itself with the name we know today. Now, with millions of customers across the country, Verizon too has been inundated by hordes of unhappy customers who complain about phone service and virtually every other service Verizon offers.

Fortunately, the telecom landscape has evolved in recent years and now provides businesses many alternatives to those two incumbent phone companies. The VoIP revolution has transformed the industry, so I’d like to suggest a few companies that we feel comfortable recommending to business clientele looking for a change.

Here are our top picks:

ShoreTel

ShoreTel targets mid-sized and larger companies, generally those that need 25 or more phones. The ShoreTel Connect product is a VoIP system that can be run as a managed service from the cloud, or as a system with its own hardware and servers that you manage at your place of business. Or, if you have multiple locations, you can install Connect as a hybrid deployment where certain locations are managed in the cloud while others are managed on site. The product supports IM, VoIP, conferencing, web sharing and video. Its allows users to move from an IM to a phone call, to an online meeting then to a desktop share that can include video, all with a single click.

Ooma

Ooma began as a VoIP provider for residential customers, then expanded into business services with a clear customer demographic: small businesses that need 25 or fewer phones. Ooma works with any traditional phone (of the curly cord variety), eliminating the need to buy IP phones. You can easily set the system up to ring remote extensions off premises, including employee cell phones which is useful for sales, service and other workers who spend time outside the office. This short video leads you through the basic setup process.

Broadview Networks

Broadview Networks, discussed elsewhere on this blog, serves more than 200,000 users every day with its OfficeSuite cloud phone system. It provides not only excellent quality VoIP phone service; Broadview also lets you communicate with hi def video, web and audio conferencing, and toll-free service.

As network speeds increase and technology becomes more refined, the marketplace for VoIP continues to grow and become more relevant. Contact us with any additional questions you might have relating to finding a suitable alternative to the incumbent phone companies.

How Many Hops is Too Many Hops? Is Latency Hurting Your Business?

Let’s face it, we’re in the age of now.  Who doesn’t find it annoying when network latency forces you to wait while streaming video is buffering, degrades important VOIP calls or slows load time for critical applications?

As businesses are only as agile as the applications that support them, it’s critical to address the underlying causes for any latency issues you might be experiencing.Network Latency Is Less Ideal

The principal cause of latency lies in the route used to forward data from point to point. Routers are the devices that manage the path between any source-destination pair of addresses. They determine, usually, the shortest path between two points.

I’d like to share a few thoughts on how data moves across the internet to get from point A to B. Then we can talk about what is meant by “too many hops.”

Routers used by large enterprises, VoIP providers, most ISPs and other organizations that connect to two or more ISPs use Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to route traffic through the Internet. = Whereas Interior Gateway Protocol (IGP) manages the low level details of Internet routing with methods like Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), the Border Gateway Protocol attempts to find the shortest path between two points using Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs).

ASNs are issued through the American Registry for Internet Numbers, commonly known as ARIN. (In Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, an organization in Amsterdam known as RIPE handles Internet number assignment).

ARIN explains ASNs as follows: “An Autonomous System is a connected group of IP networks that adhere to a single unique routing policy that differs from the routing policies of your network’s border peers. An ASN is a globally unique number used to identify an Autonomous System. An ASN enables an autonomous system to exchange exterior routing information with neighboring autonomous systems.”



Once an organization is given an ASN, the BGP router accesses a list of Internet routes from its BGP router neighbors to find a path that minimizes the number of autonomous systems involved in forwarding data. That is, the router consults “nearby” routers to choose the shortest path.

Now that we’ve delved into those details, let’s take a look at a simple way to determine if your data is taking “too many hops.” The simplest test is the Windows program TRACERT, which you can launch using the CMD.exe command prompt. (Use TRACEROUTE for Linux or Apple computers). The program will show you the name or IP address of every router along the path that forwards your data toward its final destination, along with the time taken for each hop.

Depending on the ISP you use, data moving from you to its destination may have to make 10, 15, 20 or more hops across multiple ASNs. (There are about 20,000 ASNs in use worldwide today). To avoid the latency that’s bound to develop, it’s desirable to minimize the number of ASN’s on the route. One company, NTT Communications, solves the latency problem by using only one ASN (#2914) to span the entire globe.

With exchange points around the world, your data gets to any access point on NTT’s Tier 1 network in fewer than five hops. That means your data travels smoothly around the world and back with fewer delays. For VoIP service where latency can’t be tolerated, NTT Communications is our choice of ISP partners.

Additional Resources:

Networking 101: Understanding BGP Routing

Overview of Autonomous System (AS) Numbers

Product Review: Low Cost VoIP Phones for Remote Call Center Employees

The number of employees working from home continues to rise as the world becomes more and more interconnected.  Businesses are having a hard time ignoring the obvious cost savings and people working in call centers are among those who can enjoy some real benefit by transitioning from an office environment to their home. They no longer have to commute. They spend fewer dollars on gas and auto maintenance. They’ve got more free time after work. Most of all, people who work remotely tend to enjoy their work more than those corralled in an office.Scaling Call Center With Low Cost VOIP Solution

For instance, it can reduce office lease expense over the long term, and other expenses (utilities, office supplies, etc.) associated with people working from the office. It can let a company attract the talent it needs from any geographic location. It can increase productivity, save money and help retain that great talent.

But the question of how to connect those remote workers with day-to-day business needs some serious thought. If you’re using VoIP to connect with customers and employees, you’re already ahead of the curve. But how much do you need to spend to outfit your remote workers with a connection to your VoIP system?

Let’s take a look at two popular phones that work well on VoIP, but without the high cost of phones like the Cisco IP Phone that sets you back more than $1600 per employee.

Grandstream GXP2130 Enterprise IP Telephone

Grandstream GXP2130

If your remote workers need more than a single line, this desktop phone from Grandstream handles up to three lines. It can conference call with up to four parties and has a color LCD display and speakerphone. Its dual gigabit network ports, integrated Power over Ethernet (PoE) and nearly automatic provisioning make it a strong choice where multiple lines are needed. Grandstream has published a YouTube video here that discusses the GXP2130 and its sister products in the GXP lineup. A variety of headsets are available as accessories. Another plus is that this phone normally retails under $100.

Plantronics CT14

Plantronics CT14

The CT14 is a single-line cordless phone using DECT6.0 that lets your employee stand up and move around, up to 300 feet away from the base unit. The headset is comfortable: It can be worn over the ear or over the head. The dial pad gives the user volume control, a mute button and access to voicemail with one touch. The unit clips onto a belt or clothing, includes a dial pad and can be linked to an iOS or Android device.



The company claims the unit delivers up to 10 hours talk time, while the headset uses a noise canceling mic. The street price for this phone is under $100 and gives your team everything they need to manage calls.

Why Not Use a Soft Phone?

A soft phone is a piece of software that runs on a PC or IOS device. They tend to be much harder to use than a real phone. Here is a YouTube review  of one particular soft phone I’ve chosen at random that will give you a sense of why I say they tend to be less user friendly than a physical phone, especially in a high volume situation like a call center.

Learn More

Click here to learn about the options for low cost, cloud based phone solutions for small offices.  Also, we’ve worked with numerous VoIP phones and I’m glad to share my thoughts and recommendations, so feel free to reach out.

DECT 6.0 Helps You Get Rid of Business Phone System Wiring Nightmares

Whether you’re opening a new office and need phones, or planning to update your existing phone system, there’s a technology you need to know about that eliminates phone system wiring hassles and expense.DECT 6.0 Saving The Day From POTS

With only one phone jack in the entire office it lets you put four cordless phones in service with no need to run cabling, no need to install phone jacks at each desk, and no need for any servers or computers. It’s simple, reliable and economical. It’s called DECT 6.0.

Well, maybe I should clarify that last statement. If you’re still using POTS (the “plain old telephone system”, aka the monopoly phone company) you don’t need any computers or servers. But if you have moved (or are about to move) to VoIP, of course you’ll need a computer that connects you to the Internet.

So, what is DECT 6.0?

It stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications. It’s an industry standard that defines how dial tone can be passed via radio signals to a cordless phone.  A DECT phone system comes with a base unit. It plugs into the phone jack that delivers dial tone into your office or building. When you make or receive a call, your cordless handset communicates by radio with the base unit. DECT phones are digital, not the analog cordless phones of years past.

How Does DECT Help You?

• The DECT cordless technology works whether your dial tone is delivered by a POTS phone line or a digital VoIP line. If you’re still using POTS but plan to upgrade to VoIP, your DECT phone will continue to serve you well
• DECT phones are cordless and convenient. Many can be used with headsets, giving you continuous communication no matter where in the office you may be
• If you’re currently running voice over your data network and do not have quality of service (QoS) technology installed, DECT will eliminate the dropped words, noise, static and distortion your phone system probably generates
• You can forget about the complexity of punch-down panels, wiring closets and cabling when you switch to DECT. It eliminates the costly nightmare of pulling phone cables through the walls and ceilings when you need a phone in a new location

Is DECT Right for You?

The original DECT 6.0 technology limits the number of cordless handsets to four. Subsequently, manufacturers (such as Spectralink) have extended the capability of DECT 6.0 using proprietary hardware to support more than 4,000 phones. However that’s a much more complex and expensive solution. I want to focus on the simplicity of DECT for small businesses in this article.



Clearly, a company with a boat load of inside sales reps dialing out or receiving calls all day isn’t a good prospect for a four-line DECT phone. Yet for millions of small businesses DECT makes the perfect phone system. Retailers, service companies (think lawn care, plumbers, electricians, contractors, medical and dental offices) and others who rely primarily on face-to-face contact with customers rather than phone contact, are ideal candidates for DECT.

DECT phones have been available in the U.S. since 2005.  Manufacturers competing for market share have differentiated their products and added important features. For instance, you can buy DECT phones with Bluetooth to link with one or more cell phones, allowing you to make or receive cell phone calls at your cordless handset. If you’d like to learn more, check in at Cordless-Phone-Update.com for their summary of phones and the overall DECT marketplace.