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1-800 vs Local Area Codes: Which Should You Use For Your Business?

Local vs. global. Small vs. big. Personalized vs. standardized.

What do you prefer?

Over the years, people's preferences change in radical ways about who they want to do business with. Even things that may seem obvious to us today and set in stone evolve or swing back and forth over time.

For example, there was a period when white bread used to be preferred (go to 0:05:34 in the podcast) by the elite over locally-baked, whole-grain, artisanal bread. To be successful, you need to make sure you position your business in a way that most resonates with your (potential) customers.

In the past, companies had two choices when it came to how they wanted their phone number to represent themselves with customers.  They could either have a local POTS phone number given to them by their local phone carrier or they could purchase a 1-800 number. Toll-free numbers had their appeal in the early days principally because they allowed people to make free calls instead of having to pay for long distance.  Now, with modern phone systems, companies have multiple options for toll free numbers and can setup virtual local phone numbers anywhere they want.  Which is better - 800 vs Local Area Codes? Well, that depends on what your customers want.

What Type of Number Do Customers Want to Call?

Quick: Recite a company phone number you've seen or heard from an advertisement. I bet the first thing you thought of was a 1-800 number, either from a recent ad or something that’s been stuck in your brain for years. Although the vast majority of us don’t pay long distance charges from our mobile, home or office phones, there still is something to be said about the power of toll free numbers (including 800, 888, 877 and 855). 8XX numbers are still relevant and if you can land a good one, it can be marketing gold; think 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-800-CONTACTS.

Toll free numbers, often cleverly pieced together as a vanity number to spell out a company name, motto or acronym, are easy to remember, free and can travel. If your office moves locations, even across the country, you customers can use and remember the same number that they've always used (and that you've invested in your marketing communications).  Having a toll-free number also makes your company appear larger, and perhaps, more serious to your customers.

Of course, there are a few disadvantages of toll-free numbers compared to local or virtual numbers as well. First, you will pay extra for an 800 number compared to a local number. What if you are a national chain that sells in a market where people want to do business locally?  Do you want to appear large and national or does it benefit you to have a local area code number to appear smaller and local? Toll-free probably would not be the right choice for you in that case. Also, if your customer base is exclusively local, there may not be a reason to choose an 800 number. If you have an e-commerce site or your customer base extends past your local area, an 800 number might be easier to remember and help instill confidence in your customers.

Choose What's Right For Your Business

The good news is that using a cloud VoIP provider today makes it simple and relatively inexpensive to choose toll free numbers and/or local area code numbers compared to the time and cost of securing them with a traditional phone service. Toll free and virtual phone numbers with local area codes can be instantly routed to any specified phone, such as a local office, mobile phone or call center. Furthermore, you can track marketing campaigns easily by assigning specific toll free numbers or local numbers to each campaign to see where your advertising is getting the most traction and which type of number is most appealing to your customer base.

A successful approach many companies take is to assign a toll free number to your support center and use local area codes for outbound calls. That way, customers call a large support organization, while prospects receive calls from salespeople appear to be from their area. With a cloud-based VoIP phone system, the possibilities are practically endless. Whether you choose a toll free number, a local number or a combination of both, understand that your phones are a powerful sales tool. Consider your customer base and choose your numbers wisely. Who knows, your number might be the next one people can’t get out of their heads.

As for me, I've always liked the sound of 1-800-HUZZAH1