Originally published: 04.01.08 by Mark Swepston
Vanity phone numbers are a savvy way to market your business.
Have you noticed increased competition lately? Is your utility selling service agreements? Have you been in a Home Depot and noticed the Trane display or Hamilton Home Products at Lowes? Have you noticed any franchises in your town like One Hour or Aire Serv? Did you ever lose a sale to Sears? Are you now competing with a former employee who a faithful supplier or manufacturer helped put into business?
As independent contractors, we have to work every day just to survive. Many of us want to do more than that — we want to thrive. The best way to do that is to provide outstanding service that blows away the competition. However, not only do we need to perform well, we need to find ways to stand out from the crowd.
Most homeowners only purchase one or two heating and air conditioning systems in their lifetimes and less than 20% of the homeowners have service agreements. So what will make your company stand out in consumers’ minds when they need service or new equipment? Nearly everyone in the industry includes some combination of the words “heating,” “air conditioning” or “cooling.” What will give your company top-of-mind awareness?
One way that is rapidly gaining momentum nationwide is the use of 1-800 vanity phone numbers and Web sites.
You’ve probably heard about the success of 1-800-FLOWERS and you may know about other success stories: 1-800-GOT-JUNK, 1-800-EYECARE, 1 - 8 0 0 - C O N T A C T S , 1 - 8 0 0 - B A S E M E N T a n d 1-800-MATTRESS. These companies have experienced explosive sales. Indeed, 1-800-FLOWERS logged in over $912 million in sales last year and 1-800-CONTACTS has filled over 15 million orders for contact lenses. These recognizable numbers, along with their Web sites, are easy to find and easy to use for repeat customers.
Studies have shown that easily recalled and easily spelled 1-800 numbers enjoy a 14-times-greater response rate. And studies show that using recognizable, easy to-recall 1-800 vanity phone numbers outperform those using local telephone numbers 6 to 1.
When marketed properly, people don’t have to go to the phone book to find your number. Why is this important? When customers open the phone book they are presented with not only your phone number, but the phone numbers of all of your competitors. Companies with vanity phone numbers also find that their customers aren’t calling competitors for price quotes nearly as often as they would if they had to open the phone book to obtain contact information.
After using your company and your vanity number, customers won’t forget you and more importantly how to contact you again.
According to Matt Michel of The Service Roundtable, it costs five to six times as much to get a new customer as to keep one. If customers can recall your number without looking it up in the phone book or online, why would they go anywhere else?
You can keep your independence and still help to build a national presence. Currently, 1-800-FURNACE is being used in over 40 cities nationwide by independent, non-competing service companies. 1-800-Air- Repair and 1-800-Air-Duct are available and they are gaining momentum.
If you still don’t believe it, do this simple market study. Invite people to a meeting and ask them to guess how many of your customers know your phone number. Unless you have been around for a very long time and have a very simple number, it’s not likely that the percentage is very high.
Then show this same group of people a list like the one below (you can use actual phone numbers in your market), cover the page and ask them what numbers they remember. The results normally favor the vanity number.
You also can use the phone number as your Web address. The recall rate goes up exponentially. Just look at 1-800-CONTACTS.com or 1-800-FLOWERS. com — customers find it easy to do business with them and will remember how to find them again.
With the right vanity phone number, you can significantly reduce your cost per sale. Instead of putting an ad in the phonebook and hoping someone turns to the page with your ad, you can reduce your phonebook ad and use the money to advertise directly to your customers. You can use your advertising dollars to bring in work during slower times and your year-round work load and profits will increase. This is a big advantage for you and your company, your employees and your customers.
Specialized marketing companies use today’s technology so you can gain the exclusive use of 1-800 vanity phone numbers by region. That way, non-competing companies in the same industry can share one number nationwide and enjoy the great advantages over their local competition. By using “caller ID”, routing systems recognize where calls come from and route them directly to a predetermined number. Another alternative is to have incoming calls directed to an automated attendant. The attendant can be programmed to ask certain questions and then route the call accordingly.
The investment isn’t large. If you sell two jobs per year that you would not have sold without the number, you will easily cover the marketing cost. You’ll also put yourself on the same playing field as the heavy hitters in the industry. Your company may not have as deep of pockets as Lowes or Home Depot, but with a vanity phone number on your side you can compete just as well.
Articles by Mark Swepston
The best way to do thrive is to provide outstanding service that blows away the competition. To do that, you must stand out from the crowd. Vanity phone numbers and websites are a way to move your company into the mind of the customer when they're thinking about heating and cooling services.