Toll-Free Numbers Can Be Valued Similarly to Domain Names
In 1991, the FTC ordered that toll-free numbers become “portable,” freeing owners of 1-800 numbers from being tethered to their telecom companies. The ruling allowed for the rise of owning vanity toll-free numbers such as 1-800-Flowers (a publicly traded company with more than $919 million in sales last year) or 1-800-Yellow-Pages (sold last year for a reported $10 million). And while most small business owners won’t gain such valuations, the mnemonic value of having a 1-800-Business number can’t be denied. In California alone, insurance companies with inferior (IMHO) marketing content (no offense 1-800-General, really) have built very successful marketing programs with easy-to-remember toll-free numbers.

seacrest Currently there are 800, 866, 888, and 877 toll-free numbers available, but one does consistently hear Ryan Seacrest on American Idol repeat the call-in vote numbers as “866, not 800 numbers.” I wonder what call statistics they saw in people who saw an 866 number on the screens and instead still dialed the 800 number? This is not to say that toll-free numbers that do not begin with 800 are not valuable, but it something to consider when deciding which numbers to purchase. Any discussion about valuing toll-free numbers and not mentioning this facet of consumer behavior would not be comprehensive or honest. BTW, the previous link is from a private citizen who posted a webpage that lists the season’s 866 numbers for dial-in voting – and it outranks’s own website for anyone searching online. You’ve got to love the internet.

And how competitive is the market for toll-free numbers? Chances are, the toll-free number of any variety (800 or otherwise) + your business name, is not available. This hasn’t stopped a lot of other creative marketers from getting toll free numbers that are constructed as:

866-Product-Name (866-Widget-2000)
800-Call-to-Action (800-Cash4Gold)

There is a solution to not getting the 800 number, however, in that studies show an increasing amount of consumers ‘Googling’ toll-free numbers in order to find more information about the company or its services before calling. This gives owners of non-800 toll-free numbers a chance to display low-cost ads through Adwords that redirect those visitors to a specific website, with the correct number displayed. Better yet, place that number right in the ad copy – a percentage of people will call without clicking the ad, saving you the click-through fee. (Sorry, Google, I still love your technology and your wonderful, wonderful cafeteria. Please invite me back.)

Photo by justinbaeder