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Why Your Business Needs a Toll-Free Phone Number

The toll-free numbers we know and love today actually sprung up from a service introduced to automate collect calling way back in 1967.

The original prefix was 1-800, but these were soon snatched like gummies from a bowl at the comic-books convention as the craze caught on during the 80's, and in 1996 it was followed by 1-888. 1-877 was added in 1998, 1-866 in 2000, and more recently—1-855.

“So what's it got to do with me” you ask? Simple. Toll-free numbers work.

They didn’t become popular just because someone had a beef with phone operators and wanted to see the entire profession go extinct, they became popular because they brought in business—lots of it.

And why are toll-free numbers so good at bringing in business?

Did Someone Say ‘Free’?

Yep. Everyone likes free stuff. If you doubt this, try thinking up the most useless thing you can imagine and go to the shopping mall with a small sign that says “Free ____ here!”

So if most of us are at least somewhat partial to the word ‘free’ before something completely useless—just imagine when it comes to something we actually need.

People are just more likely to call your business if they don’t have to pay for it (which is fair enough, since they’re giving you the time of day to practice your sales pitch).

Go Fishing Across the Seven Seas, Not Only in Your Own Backyard

The goal of every business is to grow, and growth comes from increased demand. What surer way is there to increase demand than by exposing yourself to a greater market? You must have heard the saying ‘there's plenty of fish in the ocean’ (a big brother perhaps?), and it couldn't be more true.

A local number only lets you cast your hook into the small pond behind your house, but a toll-free number opens up the seven seas and lets you go fishing virtually anywhere!

Someone, somewhere, is sure to bite.

Bachelor Life Rules! Don’t Get Married to No Telecom

Running a business sometimes also means restructuring. Things happen, and for one reason or another, you might want to switch providers at some point. A local number stays behind, but a toll-free number travels with you. It’s yours. You own it.

To put this into perspective, just imagine spending the time and resources on marketing your business with a local number, and then one day this number has to change. Not only will you have to rework all of your marketing materials and enter new campaigns, this could also hurt your credibility. After all, customers like stability, and a shifting phone number could be taken for a red flag signaling trouble in the business.

The Three Secrets of French Cooking...“Perception, Perception, and Perception"?

The French say the three secrets to great cooking are “Butter, butter, and butter.” Now, had they been good businessmen too, they might have added that the three secrets to success are “Perception, perception, and perception”. But they aren’t, so we’ll just leave them to their frog-legs and move on.

Because toll-free numbers have traditionally been used only by big and wealthy corporations, the afterglow of this prestigious legacy still follows them to date. As such, just seeing a toll-free number automatically associates in our minds with stability, credibility, trust—in with short, with every value you’d want your business to project.

This can help a small business with the right stuff earn the implicit confidence needed to set the right foot forward. But, on the flip side, perception is no substitute to substance, and should you not live by these values the veil can just as easily come off.

Last But Not Least, A Touch of Vanity

Remember that first time you ever saw an ad with a phone number like 1-888-WHY COOK and went: “Hey, I don’t have any letters on my—wait a minute...”

We all have those little moments of epiphany. Some while listening to Wagner, others when seeing a catering truck. It's all good.

These are called Vanity number—probably because they’re kinda like those pathetic license plates that spell ‘IM COOL’ or some such nonsense. But the difference is that Vanity numbers actually serve a useful function.

They’re great because memorizing one or two words is infinitely easier than memorizing seven figures, and when prospects may only catch a glimpse of your ad for a second or two, you want to make memorization as intuitive as possible.

Final Thoughts

Toll-free numbers have been smart business for the past few decades, and will continue to be for many more. The best part is that when you sign up to a virtual PBX service with Synclio, you get your own toll-free number absolutely free!

(Yes, yes, we’re out fishing too ;)

There’s been some hype that the world is fast running out of toll-free numbers, and that soon there will be the toll-free 'haves', and the 'have-nots'. There’s also been some hype about the Rapture, but we’re still here, and 2012 is not far down the road. Somehow, I have a feeling we'll survive.

While the numbers are being snatched at an incredible rate—89,149 were activated in the first week after the 855 rationing was lifted according to the folks at—new prefixes can always be made available, and by the time these are exhausted there will likely be something new. Technology never sleeps.

So should you run out the door this very moment and get one because there may not be any tomorrow? Of course not. But then again, if it’s something you know you need—why wait?

"Procrastination is the thief of time" said Edward Young, and your Economics professor would have added: "Time is money."

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 8:31 AM