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The Internet Journal of the Long Distance Industry



New York, NY- July 20, 2000 - On July 29 at 12 p.m., the floodgates to new toll free code 866 will open. If recent history is any indication, "replications" of existing vanity numbers and competition for others, will leave the database premium-number exhausted within half an hour or so of code opening.

Why the rush? What is so important?

The vanity 800 number is a prime method smart marketers use to get more customers and raise customer retention levels. Even forgetting for a moment the saturation of telephones versus computers in the U.S., a recent study showed that more radio commercials feature a toll-free number than an Internet address, and of those, 66% used the 800 prefix and 72% were a vanity number (numbers that translate into words for easy recall.)

Ads using the 888 or 877 codes, the study found, have to use the words "toll-free" more often than those using 800; similarly, those not using straight vanity numbers (e.g., 800-NEW-CARS) have to spell out their numbers or give the numeric equivalents more often. That's valuable airtime spent explaining the phone number instead of the product, whereas "800" says it all.

Beyond that, we've found that only 800 vanity numbers trigger an elevated response, and a pronounced buying behavior.

In recent years ICB researched 800 vanity number use in the marketplace, specifically within mainstream companies with existing advertising experience and track record (versus vanity-specific companies like 800 FLOWERS.)

Findings: A tv campaign test of 1 800 PRODIGY versus their numeric 800 number, pulled a full 25% greater response, over a 24 hour longer period of time, every time the commercials aired. Prodigy also attributed significantly increased customer retention (in a churn-sensitive business), and measurably increased customer satisfaction ratings, to the use of the 1 800 PRODIGY vanity number.

Jeep Eagle shared similarly enthusiastic results based on its 1 800 JEEP EAGLE commercial experience. Historically gun-shy about incurring 1-800 costs on a mass television scale, it took the tv plunge advertising 1 800 JEEP EAGLE on the Super Bowl. Response rates exceeded expectations, with the company discovering an elevated caliber of respondent, people both more inclined, and more financially qualified, to buy. (Conversion follow-up confirmed this: within twelve months of the first call to 1 800 JEEP EAGLE, 50% of callers bought either a Jeep Eagle, or a comparable brand.)

We heard similar stories from Bally's Health and Fitness, as well as business-to-business marketers like UPS (with its 1 800 PICK UPS.)

"Good" 800 vanity numbers -- brand names, recognized vernacular, and calls to action -- trigger an elevated response over numerics, as well as a pronounced buying behavior. Over and over, we heard from call center managers that callers to vanity numbers "were raising their hands, asking to buy."

Wearing my publisher-and-'800 scholar' hat, I attribute this phenomenon to the inherent power of language: the power of "I want." Of course as an industry advisor, I endorse what works best.

(More recently and pertinent specifically to numeric 800's, a source reports to ICB that telemarketing firms are bumping up against the limited supply of 800 numbers, having found that 888 and 877 numbers don't work nearly as well for their customers in their advertisements.)

ICB Toll Free News offers a free unlimited email headlines membership, as well as a Premium Access Service (normally priced at $495/year, currently on sale for only $99 for a full 12-month Premium Access subscription.)

About ICB
Judith Oppenheimer is publisher of ICB Toll Free News, recognized premier source of 800 and dot com industry news, and ICB Consultancy. ICB Consulting is the industry leader in toll free and domain name intelligence, advising business owners, corporate marketers and the telecom industries since 1993. ICB Toll Free News has been published since 1995. It is updated daily, and houses an invaluable archive of toll free and domain name news, commentary and information. See them on the web.

Source: ICB Consultancy

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