What Is A Vanity Number?
Vanity phone numbers explained
You’ve likely seen custom phone numbers on every imaginable platform: television, newspaper ads, billboards, social media, bus benches.
So why have custom phone numbers become ever-present? Because they’re effective. One study found that 72% of people correctly recalled vanity numbers after seeing a short ad – while only 5% could recall a traditional numeric phone number in the same ad.
Vanity numbers in the smartphone age
Evolved from the toll-free numbers of the 1900s and reaching their modern form in the 1990s, vanity numbers – or any phone numbers, really – might feel outdated now that 81% of Americans own a smartphone.
But the fact remains that phone conversations are still crucial to growing a business. In some regions, the phone makes a business more accessible to its target customers. For many industries, the phone is where leads build rapport with a business and ultimately become clients.
This explainer covers the following:
- What is a vanity number?
- Examples of vanity numbers in different industries
- Benefits of vanity numbers
- Engagement campaigns for vanity numbers
- Success stories
- Best practices for choosing a vanity number
- How to set up a custom phone number
What Is A Vanity Number?
A vanity number is a phone number that contains a customized sequence of digits.
Vanity numbers are designed to be memorable for users. Some vanity numbers use repetitious numerals to be memorable, such as 1-800-777-7777. Often the digits will correspond to spell out words on a phone keypad such as 1-800-FLOWERS.
Vanity numbers are custom phone numbers
The vanity number is a custom number. There are different types of custom numbers.
800 prefix numbers
When you purchase a number that has an 800 area code, you’re ensuring that callers are able to call from any phone without incurring fees.
Your current business phone number is probably within your local area code, like (555) 390-1843. You could purchase a new 800 number, like 1-800-432-3094
Easy dial numbers
Numeric patterns make an ‘easy dial number’ more memorable than a standard number. They’re usually toll free, which also simplifies the memorization.
The number your business received from your local phone carrier might be (555) 729-0423. You could replace it with an easy dial sequence like 1-888-999-9490.
A vanity number builds on the benefits of easy dial numbers by creating phone numbers that are even easier to remember. Similarly, a vanity number can take advantage of the 800 prefix for toll-free dialing (though local vanity numbers are available too).
National vs. local vanity numbers
When it comes to selecting a vanity number, there’s a choice between your local area code and a national area code. There are a few basic differences between them.
Accessibility: a national number is toll-free, which enables anyone to call from any phone. This welcomes the widest possible customer base to reach your business.
Branding: a national number might confer a level of scale and stability that appeals to your target audience. However, if your business prides itself on being part of the local community, then a local number might make more sense for your brand.
Cost: Since a national number is toll-free, it may cost more initially to maintain, but may end up costing more as they can only be licensed, rather than purchased.
Ownership vs. licensing: A local number can be purchased. A national number can only be licensed from a carrier.
Location: No matter where your business is located, you can maintain the same national number. With a local number, if your business moves to a different area code, it would be less relevant to your customers as it would no longer retain the "local feel" that made it attractive before. If your business expands to new locations/offices Ringboost has local number options for you in every area code in the United States.
Examples of vanity numbers in different industries
Vanity numbers transcend industry boundaries from retail stores to financial advisors. Here are some examples from industries that find success with vanity numbers.
When it comes to legal practice, people expect a lot of jargon and a lot of stress. For those reasons, many law offices turn to vanity numbers in order to put people at ease. It’s also a great way to put the value proposition in an immediate way.
Reliability, accessibility, and reach are all huge assets for a real estate agent. Sellers need an agent who is visible in the community, and is able to act fast when opportunities arise. Vanity numbers can amplify those traits.
For home service professionals – plumbers, electricians, landscapers, roofers – a memorable phone number provides a competitive edge in an already competitive industry. If someone wakes up to a leaky roof, they’re looking for relief immediately – and that job might go to the first number they call..
The benefits of vanity numbers
The practical business benefits of a vanity number are clear. A well conceived vanity number is easily learned, shared, and used.
Building brand reputation
- Differentiates a business from competitors
- Builds trust by welcoming toll-free calls
- Creates continuity between branded campaigns
Improving user experience
- Delivers a message and call-to-action in one
- Lowers barriers to access
Boosting advertising response rates
- Makes word-of-mouth referrals easier
- Generates leads before they turn to internet searches
- Converts to revenue at a much higher rate than web leads
- Low startup costs promote ROI
- Easy implementation saves time
- Third-party management eliminates labor cost
Engagement campaigns for vanity numbers
Memorability is fundamental to more sophisticated applications.
Perhaps you’ve seen this bumper sticker on trucks: “How’s my driving? Call 800-555-555.”
Similarly, major supermarket, pharmacy, and restaurant chains print toll-free numbers on the
bottom of every receipt, encouraging customers to call in with feedback. Customers can provide rich insights for your operations team that might otherwise never be collected.
Local radio ads
A memorable phone number at the end of a radio ad will stick with listeners – just ask the team at Saddletree Homes. Setting out to dominate the local airwaves with their radio spots they added a vanity number to their call to action. The result? Sustained double-digit revenue growth.
As their marketing director said, “When you’re driving and hearing our radio spot, you don’t have a pen right there. We want people to remember us in a short time, and you can’t get better than 719-BUILDER.”
Celebrities have started giving out their ‘personal’ phone numbers on social media in recent years. Miley Cyrus set up a vanity number to promote an album. Of course, these lines don’t go directly to the celeb’s kitchen, but they still got a *lot* of calls.
A vanity number was even used to promote the cable t.v. show, Better Call Saul. See for yourself, by calling 505-503-4455.
Sometimes a company brand needs to be overhauled, and a vanity number is a good place to start. You’ve probably never heard of RBDS Rubbish Boys Disposal Service Inc. – but their vanity number 1800-GOT-JUNK is iconic. So iconic, in fact, that the phone number is now the company’s primary brand name.
The same approach worked for a small real estate business known as ‘Tom the House Buyer.’ Tom built a steady business for himself, but to reach the next level of success he knew he’d need a more recognizable name. So Tom switched to 903-FOR-CASH and orchestrated a full rebrand with increased visibility.
That’s the official business name, but their brand recognition lives in their vanity number – which has also become their URL address.
Trying to stand out from competitors and the usual round of holiday-themed sales and mailers? A vanity number might be the hook that enables you to reel in more shoppers.
Especially for temporary seasonal goods – Christmas trees, Halloween costume shops – a toll-free number is an opportunity for customers to call in and confirm that you’ve still got the products they’re looking for. Think 866-XMAS-TREE.
Vanity number success stories
Small businesses and global corporations alike have created vanity numbers to expand their customer engagement.
Corporations with iconic vanity numbers
- 1800-FLOWERS – The national florist chain took on the popular phone number as their actual brand name
- 1800-WALGREENS – It’s hard to imagine Walgreen’s having any other phone number. (No matter that it’s more than 7 digits.) For rural Americans with limited internet access, this toll-free number provides a reliable way to locate a pharmacy and schedule crucial vaccinations.
- 1800-ABCDEFG – The educational brand Hooked On Phonics promised to teach kids superior reading skills. They chose one of a vanity number that transcends language barriers.
- 1800-GO-FEDEX – FedEx handles a stunning volume of parcels and customers 24/7/365. So their simple vanity number leads customers to a sophisticated, AI-driven answering service that enables efficient self-service.
- 1800-BEACHES – What the Beaches resort franchise lacks in brand name differentiation they made up impressively with platform branding by pairing this vanity number with the simple URL: beaches.com
Best practices for choosing a vanity number
Make the most of this opportunity by being strategic as you decide on the ideal vanity number.
You want to choose a word or phrase that embodies your brand or its appeal. Walgreens already has the brand recognition, so using their name for the number makes perfect sense. For a less established pharmacy, it might make more sense to go with a call to action, like 1800-BUY-MEDS or 1800-4-RELIEF
Keep it simple
Simplicity makes a number more memorable. Common language, short phrasing, and easily spelled words are a big help. For example, a personal injury lawyer named Ben Erickson could go with 1866-ERICKSON, but it might be simpler to choose 1866-CALL-BEN.
Avoid excessive numbers
If you’re going to use numbers in addition to letters, be careful. Too many numerals will make the number hard to recall. If your business sells pens, don’t settle for a vanity number like 1800-479-PENS. Instead, try to find another memorable word to fill that space, like 1800-PARTY-PENS. Even if it winds up longer than 7 characters, it’s worth it.
Have a back-up choice
Your first pick might not be available (though some numbers are shared-use). So be prepared with two or three amazing vanity number ideas as back-ups, just in case. That way, you can act on the marketing opportunities right away, rather than going back to the drawing board to find a new vanity number phrase – or, worse yet, abandoning the project altogether.
How to set up a custom number
Here are the steps you need to secure a new number:
Choose a number (and some alternates)
As mentioned in the Best Practices section, put time into the selection process. Make sure that the number you choose is in perfect alignment with your greater marketing strategy – this includes your back-up vanity number ideas too.
Choose a number type
Do you want local or national? A vanity number, or a less customized easy-dial number? Different businesses have different needs. Make sure you choose the best fit for your situation.
Decide on a call reception flow
Will this new number connect directly to your in-house receptionist? Or will it go to a third-party reception service?
Consult your current phone carrier
Check with your current carrier to see what custom phone number options they have available for you. (Note: carriers don’t always have the most options.)
Choose a vanity number provider
Consult third-party businesses (like RingBoost) to survey your options. Consider vanity numbers available, different pricing and plans. Choose the best fit for your business.
Make an activation plan
Depending on what you choose, activation of your new number might require a ring-to number, or simple porting instructions that you’ll relay to your carrier. Figure out the timeline for activation. Promote your new number
Update your website and marketing materials to show your new number. Write new ad copy that points to the number and its wordplay. Consider new platforms and audiences that might respond to a vanity number. Tell the world!
Businesses of all sizes have been leveraging custom phone numbers for decades. The vanity number is designed to be the most easily memorized of all custom phone numbers.
Industries from retail to healthcare to law use vanity numbers to expand their client base, jumpstart client engagement, and provide more accessible resources to the community. Vanity numbers can be used as the centerpiece of marketing campaigns across platforms, from radio to social media to personal branding.
When choosing a vanity number, be careful. Choose language that is simple, accessible, clever, and intimately tied with your brand’s value proposition.
Once you’ve chosen your new number and a carrier for it, you’ve entered a new era in your company’s marketing. Explore your options and find your perfect vanity number.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Boost your calls and sales with a memorable vanity phone number!
- Written by: Dan Berkman on April 17, 2020Phone numbers may be something that we take for granted, but their role in history is undeniable.Read more