Jun 18

Tools for Selecting Memorable and Mnemonic Phone Numbers

Your telephone number is the front door to your business. When developing a new service, it is wise to look at every entryway people use to reach your business, including your phone number. Sometimes a unique phone number can help people remember your number, or at least make it easier to dial.

There are two approaches for developing a phone number for marketing purposes:

  • Memorable – A phone number that uses simple numbers, common sequences or repeated numbers that are easy to remember or dial, such as 555-1000.
  • Mnemonic – A phone number that spells a word or phrase making it easy to remember, such as 1-800-FLOWERS. Sometimes these are referred to as “vanity” numbers.
Of course, a mnemonic number that is also a memorable is ideal.
Art Business News reported that a 1999 study found that nearly one-third of radio ads contained a toll-free number, and nearly three-quarters of those were “vanity” numbers. The journal also reported that ”toll-free vanity numbers, those that spell out a word, receive up to 14 times more telephone call responses compared to a similar toll-free number presented only in numerical form.”
While the theory sounds good, and there may be some evidence to support better response with mnemonic phone numbers, marketers should be cautious. Including phone numbers in radio ads eats up valuable time (as Nick Kelley has argued) and may not be appropriate for every product or service. Furthermore, consultant Victor Urbach said that some studies have shown that full-alpha 800 vanity numbers actually reduce response rates. “They claim it’s because people think they’ll remember the number, and thus put off calling until later,” he says. “In marketing, later often means never.”
Another issue of concern to the marketer is the proliferation of toll free area codes beyond the familiar 800 numbers. There seems good anecdotal evidence that consumers are still unfamiliar with toll free area codes such as 877, 866, or 888. This will become even more pronounced with the future implementation of toll free 855, 844, 833 and 822 area codes. This means the marketer needs to reinforce that their telephone number is, in fact, toll free.
Moreover, the increase in the different types of phone numbers suggests that marketers would be wise to clarify the types of phone numbers listed on their stationary and other communications. For example:
Phone (555) 555-1234
Direct (555) 555-1234
Orders (555) 555-1234
Office (555) 555-1234
Toll Free (555) 555-1234
Fax (555) 555-1234

Some practical tools to help the marketer with the telephone number selection process include:

  • PhoNETic – Finds words within telephone numbers or convert words into numeric digits.
  • DialABC Phone Number Tools – Words to numbers and vice versa, plus a tool to select prefixes by their vanity phone number potential, a visual map of keypad movement for a number (cool), and sound-to-number and number-to-sound touch tone tool.
  • ATT Toll-free Business Number Availability Lookup – Enter any combination of letters and numbers to determine toll free phone number availability.

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