Article: Bill Quimby

The Small Business Library

December 9, 2000

Promoting a website with a Toll Free vanity number

We've all looked for a plumber or painter in the yellow pages and been amazed how every name seems to start with A's. Thatís because they all know the value of that fist listing. You already know the value of being at the top of search engines. But how about their cousin, the directories. What would it be worth to be at the very top of the Yahoo directory for your category? Most directories list companies in alphabetic order. But the one thing that trumps even A is a number.

Yahoo has been reluctant to accept company names like 123Domains but a vanity phone number like 1-800 MARKETER and a domain name will put you at the top in your directory listings not to mention the instant credibility and memorability of a good name/number. And although there are about 20,000 "800" domain names most non-generic names are available.

So a good toll free number can not only put you at the top of your category, give you instant credibility and a powerful customer service image but it can make a more desireable domain available by putting 800 or 1800 in front of the name. This "golden" combination of a domain name AND a matching toll free number is extremely valuable. A matching or even similar toll free number will make any commercial domain name more valuable and help to create a marketing package.

The first most important step is to brainstorm ALL the possibilities. And I really mean ALL of them. I tell my clients that they're not trying hard enough if they don't have 50-100 names, and for some fields a lot more. Don't prejudge any of them and don't limit yourself to 7 letters. You can also take one or two main core words and turn it into a hundred or more possible numbers/names by using prefixes and suffixes (ie. MY-words, GO-words, GET-word CALL-word, FIND-word, GET-word, PICK-word). For a more thorough list of over a hundred prefixes and suffixes see

Next after you've made your list you just pick up the telephone. Calling a number won't tell you whether it's available but about 70% of the time it'll tell you that it's not available if it's in use. You're looking for phone company intercept messages that say things like that number can't be completed as dialed or it's disconnected or invalid. Add to that fast busy signals and take away the "not available from your calling area," along with regular busy signals and no answers since these are actually in use.

Now you take this short list of possiblities to your phone company. It doesn't matter what phone company you use since they all use the same 'SMS' database. But realize with the difficulty of what you're trying to do, they'll often be a little less than enthusiastic. But don't let them talk you into an 877 or 866. They can function the same but just like .cc or .tv, they simply don't produce the same credibility and bottomline results.

It will cost you more to use a bad toll free number than it costs to come up with a good one. Toll free numbers do come in some new flavors these days from 888-the best alternative to 800, as well as 877, 866, and 855 the newest area code just launching in a couple months. But just like .com, 1-800 numbers are always going to be the best 'brand name' number. 888 may also be a reasonable alternative for some newer businesses, similar to .net. but avoid 877 and 866 at all costs for any type of revenue generating program.

Toll free numbers are the most common type of vanity number because of their recognition, portability, as well as the fact that all prefixes are possible. But for many smaller or more localized businesses a local vanity number may be an excellent possibility. This may also be a good alternative for anyone that doesn't have the budget or need for a toll free number, or an organization that receives a high volume of incoming calls.

Just remember to check on the toll free number equivalent of your domain name, company name or product before your competition does. It has tremendous marketing power and will be extremely valuable to you both on and off of the net.

For more information on toll free numbers, help or advice on getting your own vanity number or even how to develop a great number see

Bill Quimby, is the president of and practically invented this unique marketing niche called "Telenumeric Consulting" helping companies obtain valuable vanity numbers. Tel: 1-800 MARKETER