The SEARCHING section explains HOW the Toll Free Search Engine works but that's mechanical. There's a whole other side and that's WHAT to search for. This is the side regular phone companies don't know, and includes the three things you can look for, strategies and tips on finding the best numbers and what works best and why. It's all about Marketing and we want to help you get not just a good number but a killer marketing package. That's part of the difference between us and any other phone company. Getting the right number isn't just a technical thing, it's a "Marketing" thing, knowing what to look for, what are the most valuable options, what else is related to it, strategies and tips for searching. The hard part isn't setting it up, it's what to look for and how to search. To the phone company it's just a number. To you it's your identity and image.
What's Your Goal?
No matter what you're doing it's important to understand and keep in mind the goal. I know you think off the top of your head, your goal is just to get the "Perfect" number. If almost everything was available, and you could get pretty much anything you wanted, maybe that'd be a reasonable goal. But when you do a serious search for anything valuable or important to your business or life, whether it's a car, a house, a job or anything really important, you can't just expect to walk up and get the perfect one, of anything. Your goal has to be to get the best available one, not the "PERFECT" car/house/job etc.
You also have to realize that it's probably a little more complicated than you realized when you first thought about it and you can't just walk up and know whether an option is the best unless you've been thorough and considered a wider variety of options. You wouldn't hire the first person you talked to, or buy the first house you saw for sale. Even if you liked it, you'd have to look at more to be sure that was the best option. An interesting tactic I sometimes tell people is that if you were looking for a job, instead of working at it like your goal is to get one job offer, make your goal to get at least three offers. On average you'll end up with a better job, and you'll feel more confident that it was really the best job you could find, and be happier with it.
Now what should you search for?
You think you know what to search for, but when you search for that and realize you can't get the perfect number that doesn't mean you can't get a number. It just means you have to be a little more thorough than you were expecting at first. The good news is that the first thing you thought of is NEVER the only good thing for your business. It's often not even the best once you really dig into it. You're thinking my situation is different and I only needed that one perfect number. But I'll tell you a secret, even 1-800 FLOWERS could have been 1-800 FLORIST or a dozen other things. Despite what you think, the number isn't what made them successful or there would be as many examples of that as there are headings in the yellow pages.
There are there 3 basic things you should search for
There are basically 3 things you can search for in a vanity number, and you can't be sure you have the best number available for your business if you limit yourself to just checking one of them. Unfortunately the first one most people start with is both the least valuable and hardest to get. That's a "generic" term for your business.
A GENERTIC TERM is the hardest to get because everyone else in your business that's ever looked for a toll free number also looked for that same generic term. A good obvious example is the GOLD industry, where everyone starts out looking for a number that ends in GOLD. If you ask them why they want that they say because everyone else does, or it's the most memorable word for my business. The fact that everyone else does is why it's impossible to get and also why you don't want it.Think about it.... would you really stand out and be memorable if you dressed exactly like everyone else?
If you look at your website or advertising by itself Gold may seem memorable, but that's not how your prospects see you. They see you in a list of gold companies and when they've looked at a couple different sites, using a term that's in every paragraph and maybe even the name of many of your competitors, doesn't make you memorable or stand out at all. It becomes a Charlie Brown word, and might as well have been Wah waah wah waaah waaahhh... Small businesses look for generic words because they think that using a generic word in their name or in their advertising will make it easier for customers to know what they do. They may also think that it increases their rankings in search engines for that term.Both of which may have been true at one point, but are NOT true any more. Very few if any, search engine tactics from the 90s are still any help today. And saying that you're in X business used to be enough to sell people in many businesses before the internet. But today consumers have instant access to lists of companies in any industry right at their fingertips, and the only one that's going to buy from you just because you're in that business is your mother. Everyone else is deciding which company to use and the company that says why they're the best in that business will eat the lunch of everyone else just saying I'm in this business too.
YOUR BRAND is the second thing most people think to look for and is actually more valuable than a generic term. Your brand may be part of your name (without the generic word in your name), or it maybe your initials or it may be your NAME. Yes your personal name. (more on that below) Your brand is your identity and one of the most important things in your advertising. It's repeated over and over again or should be. It's often your domain name because you couldn't get the generic term for your industry as your domain name. (hint hint!) That didn't mean you shouldn't make a website just because you couldn't get the generic word .com, it just meant that you had to dig a little deeper to get a domain name that was more specific to you and your business. Even if you did get a pure generic domain name or have generic words for your business name, that doesn't mean you need a generic phone number, it actually means the exact opposite! It means you have to work harder to brand yourself, to make yourself look unique and memorable and the highest quality vendor and not fall into the generic box of cereal trap.
TIP: Imagine you're naming a restaurant.You don't need the word FOOD in your name or number for it to be memorable.That wouldn't make it memorable.You need pizzazz and uniqueness to stand out not genericness.
The only thing better than your brand is YOUR MESSAGE! What's the one thought you want them to take away after your ad? If it's that you're in _____ business, then it's just a matter of time before someone else saying why they're the best in your business eats your lunch. If you don't know your message your prospects certainly won't know it or remember any of it. That doesn't mean you can't have a reasonable or even good business, but the definition of a "KILLER" marketing package is that customers can't help but hear and remember your MESSAGE!
An EXAMPLE of the 3 different types of numbers
By now you're saying ok, but can you give me an example of the three different types? Well you've all heard of Geico. They're a huge company and spend over a Billion dollars a year on advertising. But even Geico customers never remember their phone number which is 1-800 359-AUTO. There are several good lessons there, but the most obvious is that even a billion dollars in advertising doesn't make a generic word connect to their business. AUTO is certainly related to their business, but it has a meaning and no amount of repetition has made it stick, even though their slogan and message is to "CALL" them for 15 minutes to save 15%.
Their phone number would be 10 times more memorable if it had been 1-800 4-GEICO or GO-GEICO or anything with the word GEICO. Even 1-800 359 GEICO would have been better than 359-AUTO. Now if you put their message into a number 1-800 FIFTEEN or 1-800 IN-15-MIN. all of a sudden that's 10 times better than 1-800 GO-GEICO and 100 times better than 1-800 359-AUTO. That's the difference between a generic term, a brand name, and your message!
BONUS TIP: If you think your message is that you're in ______ business or that you'll save them money on ___, just ask yourself if Geico would have been memorable if their message had just been we'll save you money on car insurance. Your message has to be more unique to be believable and sticky. Broad claims like "We're better" or "better quality" are Charlie Brown words and filtered out as "marketing" mumbo jumbo. You have to be more specific, more unique to even have a chance of being memorable.
Other things to look for:
I know you think your situation and industry is different and that you really just need this one magic number. But even 1-800 FLOWERS could have been 1-800 FLORIST or dozens of other things. So here's more things to look for:
Instead of FLOWERS try Roses, Sunshine, Sweet, Fragrance, Beauty, Pedals, Color, Arrangements, Send Love Instead of PAINTERS try Bright, Colorful, No Drips, Rainbow, Canvas, Masterpieces
Your name, first name, last name, nick name or any version of year name or the name of business owner. People today want to buy from someone they know and trust more than ever. Your name gives you credibility and social media is only going to continue to grow. Everyone thinks their name is too long, too short, to ethnic to boring, to hard to spell etc. but none of that matters. John Melancampe proved you don't need a cool sounding name. A name also adds more credibility and makes you more approachable, d increases your referrals and will benefit you no matter what you end up doing 5-10 years from now.
Add your state initials of a generic word. It'll help get you out of the pool everyone in your industry has already been looking in for years and make a generic term more possible
If you have to add something to your name, a city name gives you a home field advantage where the vast majority of your business is probably coming from. I can hear you now, saying you don't want to be limited to doing business in that town. I know you have dreams of going nationwide. It's not limiting you to that city at all, any more than Boston Market could only be in Boston.
Any pair of words from your slogan could be great as a toll free number because your slogan is often the key element you're trying to get to stick and focus on. This can be the most valuable thing you can use.
A lot of large companies started decades ago have switched and continue to switch to use just their initials. You know and use them and the initials clearly feels more like a brand name.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC
- General Motors became GM
- Home Box Office became HBO
- Consumer Value Stores became CVS
The list goes on and on, and even if you're not changing the company name, using the initials in some marketing is a good branding tactic you'll probably use along the way anyway, especially if you have generic words in your name. KFC just seems like more of a brand name than Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Take the blinders off!
So to sum up the types, and what to look for, don't just stop at the most generic obvious term you thought of first. I know you think the first thing you thought of had to be the best. I'm not telling you not to check it, but once you realize that's not available and that this is going to take a little more effort than you realized at first, you'll also realize than there are a lot more fish in the sea than you realized at first. The good news is also that the less obvious and more creative ones are much more likely to be available, and are even more valuable than the generic one you started with and may have been little emotionally attached to. Find your own 1-800 FIFTEEN! You wouldn't have put that on a list of 10,000 possible numbers for a car insurance company but when it ties into your message it's suddenly the most valuable number you could get. I know it's harder to come up with something like that but once you understand that your goal isn't just to say what business you're in but to stand out from everyone else in your business there are suddenly a lot more possibilities.
It also means like any serious search, whether it's for a house, a car, a spouse, a job etc, you're going to have to be more thorough than you probably realized at first. But in the long run, it's going to make a significant difference to your business. So explore related secondary terms, your initials, a personal name, and look for a pair of words in that creative slogan. Above all be bold and creative! Memorability comes from uniqueness not genericness. Don't do what everyone else does, find a way to stand out and focus on what makes you unique not what you have in common with your competitors.
It's all in how you use it
I used to call this how to turn a base hit into a homerun. The point is simple. You don't usually find a homerun number. But you can turn a base hit into a homerun number by incorporating the phrase you found into a slogan that you can use through your whole page or campaign. I always ask clients what their slogan is, and most don't have one. That means I can't search for their slogan, but you can still back into it if any of the phrases that are possible are able to use as their slogan.
It's also the connection and way they use it that makes the most valuable numbers valuable. 1-800 FIFTEEN wouldn't be especially valuable for Geico or anyone if they weren't using the message 15 minutes to save 15 percent. You wouldn't want 1-800 DISHRAG as your number, but if you used the slogan we'll help you WIPEOUT your competition, call us at 1-800 DISHRAG! Suddenly that becomes a powerful vanity number based on the connection and way they use it.
A Great '90s Search Engine Tip
A great trip for marketing n the 90s was to use generic words in your domain name. This helped you rank for those terms. Fortunately or unfortunately things change very fast in search engine algorithms and that hasn't been the case in generations. Today the competition for generic words is so high and search engines are so smart that using the word in your name has zero effect. That doesn't stop some people from doing it or new start ups from pointing to someone who started their business in the 90s as justification for doing it today.
Why did I make this site the way I did?
I practice what I preach. My overriding goal in designing the site was to stand out from regular phone companies. Professional is boring and bland. As a small business one of your biggest strengths is that you're not constrained by committees and can be more personal, more creative and more bold. Bit businesses have more to lose and are run by lawyers. A lot of this whole section is reinforcing a variety of different ways to be CREATIVE. Give your site and marketing personality and a unique feel, and that's what I'm doing here.
I use a lot of pictures because a picture is worth a thousand words and it can get the idea across more quickly and easily and is again very memorable. It also looks more prepared and like I put in more effort. People have less attention today and want pictures and videos and to be entertained. I also think very visually and just like it better too. And if you do something different in one spot it looks like a mistake. But if you do it consistently through the whole thing, that's your style and it makes you stand out!
Your Toll Free # is the Front Door to new business and should be a MARKETING question not a phone company decision
Your phone number is the front door to your business and a memorable number increases the effectiveness of all your advertising for the life of your business!
Your phone company doesn't know MARKETING and can't help you find the best number the way MARKETING experts can. They'll do a good job of providing the ongoing service but they're not MARKETERS. When you need a real 1-800 MARKETER just call Bill, Hope or Rita at 1-800 MARKETER!
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