We have a lot of information, but I just wrote a great summary designed for anyone new to toll free. It’s called Toll Free Simplified, and it’s Everything you need to know about toll free numbers in 17 sentences.
This probably seems a little basic, but a toll free number is a telephone number that can be called at no cost to the caller, because the recipient pays for the cost of the call. Also referred to as ‘800’ numbers after the original area code, although toll free numbers today can start with the area codes, 800, 888, 877, and 866.
A toll free number is basically like a remote call forwarded number that can forward to whatever local number you want it to. You can also change the number if forwards to (the “ring to number”) whenever you need to. So if you’re starting a small business, you can get your own toll free number and point it to your existing home or cell phone number without any separate line or extra equipment. You can always add a separate line or change the ring to number as your business grows.
Not having to have a separate line will usually save quite a bit more than the cost of the toll free number in just the first couple months, not to mention making your business look more professional and giving you the flexibility to grow and change things whenever you’re ready.
To simplify things a little, there are basically two types of services in the toll free business. There are vanity number owners (which I sometimes call “Squatters”) and there are regular phone companies. Regular phone companies also break down into two types too, Traditional carriers and Enhanced voicemail service.
Vanity number squatters own specific numbers and want to sell or even worse, rent a small part of their number for as much as possible. This is usually called “Shared Use” and can provide access to better vanity numbers but they’re also significantly more expensive both with their monthly fee and their per minute rates. They also limit your territory and they retain the ultimate ownership rights and control which can ultimately leave you at their mercy the more you advertise the number. Shared use companies also tend to come across a little like used car dealers sometimes.
The major phone companies from AT&T or MCI down to hundreds of smaller competitive long distance companies mainly sell long distance service but also provide the toll free service directly to end users. They are portable so the number owner can change them from carrier to carrier and so are much more competitive in price but they don’t come with voicemail, they simply route the calls to your toll free number to your local number, period.
Enhanced Voicemail Services
The other type of phone company generally offers more services such as voicemail, menu options, recorded greetings and follow me features to try you at multiple different numbers. These “enhanced service providers” sometimes called Virtual Office Services or Enhanced Voicemail Services don’t just deliver the calls straight to a local number. The call goes into their platform, switch or even a simple computer, where they can play an initial greeting and then give the caller options to hear recorded messages, leave messages or be routed to selected departments or people. The computer then routes the call based on the programmed menu and the caller’s input to one or multiple different people usually while the caller is on hold.
Enhanced services can oftan announce the call, give the recipient the option of accepting or rejecting the call, try additional numbers and even take messages. These services can provide a lot of additional functionality and value if you need these services, but they also generally cost more per minute since there is usually two “legs,” one going into the computer and one going out to the recipient and they always have a slightly higher monthly fee. You also have to be careful because some of these companies deceptively hide this 2nd leg charge in the fine print to try and sound cheaper.
There is more on all of these different types of services and their rates and which is best for you in the Providers Section, but this quick overview explains just a little of the types of companies you generally see.
This is a good question because I’m not any of the above. Technically I am my own phone company and have access to do things that a phone company does being a responsible organization, (abbreviated RespOrg) which basically means I have access into the national SMS/800 database. But I’m not really like a phone company or an enhanced service provider because I’m not trying to sell you the ongoing toll free service. I just want help you get the best number and then help you transfer it to the best service for your needs, no matter what company that is. (more…)
A toll free number just forwards to or rings to any regular local number, kind of like a remote call forwarded number. No special equipment or additional line or installation is required. All the features (ie. Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Voicemail, rollovers etc) on the local line, work the same as if the caller had dialed the local number.
More technical explanation
Consumers like them because they’re free to call. Advertisers like them because customers are more likely to call. Companies also like them because they are portable and they create a more national presence and they have additional capabilities in terms of reporting and routing that local numbers don’t have. Another major reason for their popularity is that they have dropped so dramatically in price and ease of use. When they were first introduced they were expensive and hard to get. But now they are so cheap and so simple to set up that even the smallest part time business or residential user, almost can’t afford not to use one.
Portability – One of the most important benefits of toll free numbers for small businesses is the ability to change the ring to number, called portability. If you move your business or your needs change, it’s easy to change the ring to number, usually by just calling your carrier at no cost. To bad you can’t move your whole business around that easy…
Larger company image – Toll free numbers create a larger more significant corporate image, even for the smallest home based business. If this is one of your main objectives, take a look at the virtual office services in the Enhanced Services List in our Provider List, because these inexpensive services makes it very easy to create an extremely professional large company image over the phone.
Expanded marketing reach – A local number is ok if you only market locally (see Local Vanity Numbers). But if you want to market outside your local area, a toll free number is practically a necessity for business in the US. A good vanity number is also one of the easiest things you cndo to give your new startup a successful big company image.
Scalability – Another benefit for smaller start up businesses is that you basically just pay for the usage or calls to your toll free number. This means that a new or small business with little usage will pay very little for their service and their bills will only increase as their usage and business increases. To bad all of your business expenses don’t work like that!
Ease of use, and additional information – They are extremely easy to use and easy to set up. They also provide additional caller information including the callers number even if the caller ID information is blocked as well as additional tracking and measurement capabilities. They also allow you to control and change where the calls go on the fly or automatically without having to reprint your literature or change your advertising and flexibility is important especially for small businesses that can move faster and change more quickly.
See also the Top 10 Benefits of VANITY Numbers
There are four toll free area codes, 800, 888, 877 & 866. Technically they all work the same. However in terms of their marketing image and results for the advertisers, there are obviously some differences.
The simple explanation is that 800 is essentially .com, 888 is .net and 866 and 877 are like .info, .biz or country codes. They all technically work the same, but from a marketing standpoint 800 is the king. 800, or 1-800 is more than just a toll free area code but it’s a brand name. That’s the real difference between 800 and 888 at this point, just the “brand name” value. It’s the industry default that the one the biggest advertisers use. More about the differences and comments
We’ve all seen vanity numbers, or numbers that spell things in every industry. Over 90% of the tv commercials during the super bowl that contain a toll free number were vanity numbers because advertising without a vanity number is like running the air conditioning with the window open. You lose a significant amount of your potential responses when you require prospects to remember a series of unrelated mostly random digits in order to be able to reach you. Some will still get through to you of course, but not nearly as many as you’d get with a memorable word or phrase.
The whole purpose of your advertising is to create a lasting connection with prospects and we all know it takes repetition to create that type of connection but it takes less repetition when your ad is more memorable. And the most important part of your advertising you want to be memorable is your call to action which is generally a phone number and/or a domain name. Beyond that you also want the prospect to remember who you are, what you do, how to reach you on the phone and/or the internet and the one which many people often forget, your strongest selling point or value proposition. That is a tall order to come up with in one simple memorable package, but that’s what you’re ultimately after.
If you wouldn’t use 7 random digits as your domain name, (like 723-8945.com) why would you use random digits as your phone number, other than because that’s easier for the phone company?
The are a lot of benefits to a good vanity number. These are in addition to the Benefits of a toll free numbers (above) because you can have a toll free number that is not a vanity number and a vanity number that is not a toll free number too. But when you combine the two you get a very valuable combination that will definitely help your business in a number of ways. Here’s my top 10 list for benefits of a Vanity Number.
- Increased Response Rates
- Credibility & Prestige
- Instant Brand Name
- Customer Focused Image
- Stronger Presence
- Better Domain Name Availability
- Increased Repeat and Word of Mouth
- Better Customer Service
- Improving Customer Feedback
- Additional Sales Avenue.
See Bill’s full Top 10 List
I have dozens of pages of information on how to find a vanity number. That is what most of my website is about, so I won’t try to repeat all that here. I’ll just give you the first few steps.
Start with the Instant 800 Lookup
Your first step to finding a good toll free vanity number is to try a few things in the Instant 800 Lookup on the top right of nearly every page at TollFreeNumbers.com. Just enter any words or phrases you think might be at all connected to your business. The most important single thing I can tell you is to be creative and try as many different combinations as you can find and follow the links from there, especially the alternatives.
Then let the Keyword Lookup do the research for you
After you’ve tried the Instant 800 Lookup a few times, if you want more help, use the Keyword Lookup. It’ll of a lot of research on the terms you give it to come up with all the potential numbers, check them all at once d then email you a list of the numbers that are available or going to be available (in disconnect). It’s amazing otherwise much easier it is to just pick a number from a list of available numbers, rather than dreaming them up and checking them all, one at a time. This really is one of the most powerful and important items on the site. There is a lot more information about how to use the Keyword Lookup in the Keyword Lookup Section.
Easy to Activate
If you find one you like I can activate it so it’s working immediately, give you better proof of ownership and help you to transfer it to any service you want. It really is fairly quick and easy if we can find something available for you and the independent proof of ownership alone is worth more than our $49 charge.
Like domain names, the best general names have already been taken but if you’re creative and spend some time at it, you can generally find something decent for almost any type of business. You may need to look for something more unique to your business. Don’t just limit yourself to generic terms or you’ll make your job next to impossible.
The bottom line is that the majority of the biggest advertisers in the US, use vanity numbers for one simple reason – because they work. They don’t cost any more to use than a random number, (unless you rent one from someone that marks up the cost) and they increase the response rate to all your advertising for the life of your business. So even the smallest advertiser should at least look for a decent number. With only a $49 one time set up fee, it certainly doesn’t take very many additional referrals or customers to be a great investment!
We have another options I should probably mention as a backup. Some people want what I call nice numeric numbers, or numbers with patterns, repetition or ending in 00 or 000. We have a special pool of these Premium numeric numbers, with hundreds of good numbers that are immediately available to chose from.
We provide the best tools available anywhere to find a good number for your business. And even though we automated a lot of the processs, and our business isn’t run by computers. We’re real people and we’re happy to help you get the best possible phone number for your business.
If you have any questions or need more help, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 1-800 MARKETER or first firstname.lastname@example.org. I really enjoy this niche and try to help as many people as possible.