How Shared Use Gives Small Businesses Access to Big Numbers
800 numbers have been a favorite marketing tool for large U.S. businesses for many decades. From the early days of television shopping to customer service applications and bringing online business into the real world, toll free 800 numbers are almost as iconic as the companies they represent. With such a long history and high demand for new toll free numbers, one might assume that the best vanity phone numbers are already taken. This is partly true, with one important caveat that we'll discuss today: shared use.
800 Numbers Are Big BusinessToll free 800 numbers, especially those that spell a meaningful word or phrase, are exceedingly rare in the spare number pool. Read our recent article on how a RespOrg works to learn more about this. Small businesses, therefore, have little to no access to high-value vanity phone numbers, such as 1-800-HOMECARE or 1-800-HOSPICE. Or do they? Toll-free numbers can route calls to more than one location simultaneously, based on the geographic location of the caller. This means that a large company can set their toll free number to send calls to a New York office if the call originated in New York, and they can send calls to a Florida office if the call originated in Florida. Routing can be done by state, area code, county, and even zip codes (though, not reliably), and send calls from any one geographic location to a separate destination. What does this have to do with small businesses having access to high-value vanity numbers? There are specific phone numbers in service that make use of this particular kind of complex routing, called shared-use, where many different companies share the same phone number across the country, and each company controls the phone number in one geographic location.
How Does Shared Use Work?The best way to explain shared use phone numbers is perhaps by looking at a business built on that very system. In the mid-1990’s, an entrepreneurial home care agency owner in the state of New York reserved the phone number 1-800-HOMECARE. He successfully used the phone number in all of his local marketing and outreach campaigns. Within one year, the phone number helped him to double his business. The agency’s owner recognized the role his new phone number played in his business’ success. At the same time, he lamented the fact that he could only make use of it in one small corner of the country. That’s when he learned about shared use numbers. 1-800-HOMECARE leveraged a unique opportunity that few companies at the time had begun to explore. The routing of the number could be as complicated as its owner wanted, permitting many exciting business models to emerge. Chief among them was the shared use capability. In the case of the home care agency owner, it allowed him to “share” his phone number with other agencies in other states. While he received calls from his territory, New York, he approached and recruited other home care agencies to use the number in other geographic locations. Today, 1-800-HOMECARE is used by over 40 companies across more than 800 cities nationwide. Each provider promoted the phone number as their own in their territory, and all calls within their area are routed to their business. In this way, small agencies across the country who otherwise would never have had access to a robust phone number like 1-800-HOMECARE to use it to strengthen their brands and grow their businesses.
Other Examples of Shared Use Phone NumbersSome of the most prominent brands in the country are shared-use toll-free numbers. Consider businesses like 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-CONTACTS, and 1-800-PET-MEDS, who literally trade on their numbers as a name. Other examples of prominent shared use 800 numbers include:
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Boost your calls and sales with a memorable vanity phone number!
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