Vanity Phone Numbers Dramatically Increase Advertising Response Rates (Plus, Expert Best Practices)

Vanity Phone Numbers Dramatically Increase Advertising Response Rates (Plus, Expert Best Practices)

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

I have been fascinated with vanity phone numbers for a long time. Early in my career, I came up with 1-800-WORKOUT and 1-800-FITNESS at J. Walter Thompson for our client Health & Tennis Corporation (later Bally Total Fitness). At that time, they owned multiple brands in dozens of markets and required $500,000 a year to edit calls to action on TV spots, with multiple location numbers on each spot. 

To me, it seemed like an incredible waste of time, resources, and money. I also knew the likelihood of a viewer choosing the correct club location and phone number in a few seconds was slim to none. Thankfully, they did what I recommended and came up with an electronic solution that allowed people to input their zip code and be directed to the right club.

This solution has become what we now call vanity phone numbers.

I recently interviewed Bruno Tabbi, the Founder and President of Ignition Toll Free, one of the nation's leading providers of toll-free vanity numbers, to discuss the benefits and how they can dramatically increase advertising response rates.

I met Bruno through 1-800-VARICOSE, which he leased to several of our clients in various geographies. Unlike “owned” toll-free numbers, some numbers are leased on a market-by-market basis, so that a business in Los Angeles can use the same vanity number as a business in Chicago.

Bruno and I recommend all healthcare businesses get a vanity number to reinforce your brand, improve word-of-mouth marketing, and help build relationships with people. 

They can also: 

  1. Make your brand more memorable
  2. Boost credibility
  3. Help you build long-term marketing campaigns
  4. Help expedite your service ROI
  5. Increase your click-through rates by 33% on online display ads 

In this podcast, Bruno shares valuable insights about the benefits as well as his expert best practices.

In case you don’t have time to listen to the entire podcast, here’s a summary:

How do vanity phone numbers work?

A vanity number is a unique set of digits that either spell out a word or are memorable in some way (e.g., recognizable patterns of numbers or letters) to capture the attention of potential clients and encourage them to call your business.

A memorable vanity number can help your business stand out in a saturated market, like healthcare. 

Local Versus Toll-Free

It used to be that people had to pay for long-distance phone calls, so having a toll-free number was essential. Today, healthcare consumers can call anyone across the country without additional fees, so 1-800 numbers have essentially become the “dot coms” of telecom. 

Also, local numbers are no longer easier to dial than long distance. Today, people across the United States must dial area codes all the time, even if the local number matches their phone's area code.

Given these two options, I think you’ll agree it’s easier to remember vanity 800 numbers, like 1-800-MEDICARE, than a unique 10-digit phone number.

Vanity phone numbers allow businesses to bypass these area code requirements and advertise highly-memorable numbers.

They also add legitimacy and trustworthiness to your business. Bruno explains, “If somebody sees 1-800-VARICOSE or 888-BARIATRIC, they associate it with an established, reputable, and decent sized company." 

Vanity Area Codes and Prefixes

“We have something called the default dial rate, which is phone numbers people recognize instantly, with 800 and 888 being the highest,” Bruno explains, “ If someone's already using the 800 version, don’t be tempted to compete with a lower grade number, like 833.“ People are less likely to remember phone numbers with a local or lower grade prefix.

For example, 800 and 888 numbers are being dialed correctly over 92% of the time. In contrast, lower-grade toll-free prefixes, like 833, 844, and 855, are misdialing as much as 40% of the time (e.g., if your website were a dot ORG instead of a dot COM, you would have several people entering the wrong domain), according to Bruno. 

Another interesting point Bruno makes is that text messaging is less expensive for businesses using a toll-free number than a local line. "When you enable text messaging with a toll-free number, it's cheaper, and you're less likely to have outbound campaigns blocked than you are through local numbers." 

Many people may not realize they can send a 1-800 number a text message, and that's okay. "Many toll-free numbers use a call-to-text feature where you call a number and simultaneously deliver a text message," Bruno explains. This helps businesses establish a direct link to prospective customers allowing them to reply via text message with links to their digital assets.

Cons of a Partial Vanity

Numbers like 1-800-500-CARE are called partial mnemonics (partial vanity phone numbers). Not only are they less effective than 1-800-DENTIST, but partial or hybrid numbers may also hurt your response rates.

Partial mnemonics can reduce response rates by as much as 75%. There’s not a single company nationwide that’s successfully used partial ones. 

“It’s easier to recall vanity numbers like 800-FLOWERS, 800-GOTJUNK, 800-DENTIST, rather than a partial vanity number, like 800-222-ROSE,” says Bruno, “and that remains true even if the word is longer than seven digits, like 800-PROGRESSIVE.”

Best Places to Use Vanity Phone Numbers

So much of advertising is fleeting. It’s a visual or auditory reference that’s presented and gone quickly, so having custom toll-free vanity numbers to help prospective clients remember your business is essential.

Here are some practical ways to use these in your advertising:

  • Radio
    Vanity numbers are essential for radio ads because there’s no visual reference, so it’s got to be memorable.
  • TV
    Displaying these on TV ads gives people visual and auditory cues to help them remember and recall later.
  • Billboard
    This format requires easy, memorable messages that can be read and understood quickly.
  • Newspaper
    Sharing this type of number in newspaper ads is another great way to help people easily remember your contact information and recall it later.

How Vanity Numbers Increase Response Rates: The Data

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Ads with vanity numbers outperform those with generic numbers by 33%

Toll-free vanity phone numbers help make your business memorable and easy to reach. Almost 85% of people are likely to remember a vanity number after seeing or hearing it in an advertisement and 58% of consumers prefer to dial a vanity 800 number over a numeric toll-free one to reach a business.

  • Radio & TV
    Television and radio ads outperform those with generic numbers by 33%. When heard on radio or TV ads, vanity numbers generate 58% more calls.
  • Billboard & Print
    A vanity number delivers up to 84% improvement in consumer recall when used in outdoor and print advertising vs. a numeric toll-free number.
  • Online Advertising
    When vanity numbers are used, display ad response rates often increase by more than 20%.
  • Word of Mouth
    These numbers can increase word-of-mouth advertising by as much as 200%

6 Expert Best Practices on How to Choose the Right Vanity Phone Number

  1. It’s okay to go long.
    It’s okay to go over the typical seven digits for vanity phone numbers (e.g., 1-800-ALLSTATE is recognized by phone carriers as 1-800-ALLSTAT. The extra digit at the end is irrelevant.
  2. Make it easy to remember.
    Choose higher grade numbers, like 800 or 888, and choose a word connected to your business or industry to increase memorability.
  3. Treat it like your last name.
    Anytime you say your business name, your vanity number should immediately follow because people will use that information to look you up online.
  4. Repeat your vanity number.
    Repeat your vanity number on radio and TV ads five times to capture audiences who may be scanning stations or just tuning in. Be sure to spell the number out one time at the end.
  5. Make it the focus.
    Feature your vanity number and make it the focus of your print, radio, and billboard ads to increase calls and sales.
  6. Put it everywhere.
    Make your vanity phone number part of your brand and incorporate it into your logo. You can add it to business cards, email signatures, PPC ads, websites, eBooks, white papers, signage, promotional materials, and more.

I want to thank Bruno again for sharing his time and expertise with us. I hope it's provided you with new and valuable insights into the benefits of using vanity phone numbers in your healthcare advertising.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, I highly recommend listening to our podcast in its entirety.

Of course, if you need help with your marketing or vanity numbers, be sure to contact us.

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