You need a vanity phone number for advertising. But what’s the value of a vanity number? That depends upon the vanity phone number, what it’s used for and whether you are a licensee, buyer or seller (vanity telephone numbers cannot be sold, but can be transferred with money exchanged as part of the sale of another asset, however, this is a topic for another discussion).
1-800 vanity phone numbers and 1-888, 1-877 or 1-866 vanity numbers using other area codes are like diamonds. All diamonds are rare and come in many different qualities. A “D Flawless” diamond with perfect proportions is the rarest of all. There are thousands of vanity telephone numbers, but probably no more than 3 or 4 “D Flawless” vanity phone numbers for any particular field of business.
The “D Flawless” of vanity phone numbers is, first of all, 1-800. 1-888 is worth less but the other toll-free area codes are worth considerably less. The “D Flawless” of 1 800 vanity telephone numbers also must have no more than seven letters; be easy to spell; easy to remember; and suitable for branding. Lastly, the “D Flawless” of 1-800 vanity telephone numbers must have a matching web site domain name in the format of 1800XXXXXXX.com and should have many other web site domain names to protect the name. The web site domain name must have a 1 in front of the 800 and have no hyphens or dashes. For 1-800-HURT-911®, I have almost 80 domain names including 1800HURT911.com, HURT911.com, www.HURT911.org and many others.
1-800 numbers were in use for 30 years before they ran out in 1996. Other toll free area codes were introduced, but 800 remains the most important by far. People hearing other area codes such as 888, 877 and local area codes instinctively dial 800. Additionally, most people don’t even know the others are toll free. According to Response Marketing Group, only 33% of listeners know that 877 is toll free.
Vanity numbers should be protected by a U.S. Trademark. I have several trademarks protecting 1-800-HURT-911® which I use for lawyer advertising. A U.S. Trademark can protect you from losing your vanity number and web site name. Additionally, it can protect you from unfair competition. If your vanity number isn’t protected by a U.S. Trademark, make sure your use doesn’t violate an existing U.S. Trademark or state trademark, then apply for a trademark immediately. I have seen several 1-800 vanity telephone numbers advertised on TV which are unknowingly violating the trademark of a number with another area code. The 1-800-MATTRESS case is a famous example where a company with a U.S. Trademark for 212-MATTRESS® was able to acquire 1-800-MATTRESS when a company with that number began selling mattresses to callers who heard advertising for 212-MATTRESS.
Checklist for A “D Flawless” Vanity Number:
- No more than seven letters
- Easy to spell
- Easy to remember
- Suitable for branding (See Branding vs. Direct Response)
- Web site domain name in the format of 1800NUMBER.com
- No Trademark violation
- No words with possible ethical violations such as “WIN” (for lawyers)
Almost any 1-800 vanity telephone number with an easy to spell word and no more than seven letters, while not necessarily a “D Flawless” vanity number, should still be considered a top tier 1-800 vanity telephone number.
Vanity telephone numbers with other toll-free area codes such as 1-888, 1-877 or 1-866 are substantially less effective than 1-800 vanity telephone numbers and should not be considered a top tier vanity number.
Again, 212-MATTRESS is a good example. Advertising for 212-MATTRESS was doing well until a company acquired 1-800-MATTRESS and started selling mattresses to people who misdialed the 212 area code and called 800 by mistake. When call volume to 212-MATTRESS disappeared overnight, they successfully stopped the competing company from selling mattresses from the 1-800-MATTRESS telephone number because they were fortunate enough to have previously obtained a US trademark. 212-MATTRESS was then able to acquire the now well known 1-800-MATTRESS vanity number.
If a 1-800 vanity number is not available, a non-1-800 vanity number is still more valuable than a non vanity numeric number to increase advertising effectiveness and should definitely be used.
Numbers using more than seven letters are less valuable because, nationwide, 90% of cell phone callers will not be connected if they dial extra digits.
There are different uses for 1-800 vanity phone numbers which affect the value of the number to the company using it. For instance, the user may be interested in using the telephone number strictly for sales, either on a local or national basis. A national business can be successfully built and branded around a good vanity number such as 1-800-FLOWERS. A local business using a vanity number in one market license use to other companies or advertising agencies, either for exclusive use or for shared use, in any of the other 210 television broadcast markets. For instance a pizza store using 1-800-MY-PIZZA (not a valid number since there is no Z on the keypad) in Small Town, USA can continue using the number and license use to many pizza stores across nationwide. Finally, the user may be an advertising agency interested in using the 1-800 vanity telephone number as a method to enhance advertising agency services and retaining clients. Obviously a good vanity phone number can be a significant factor determining sales.
One method of determining the value of a 1-800 vanity telephone number is to compare it to real estate. Since use of a 1-800 vanity telephone number can be licensed in 210 television broadcast markets, the vanity number is similar to a building with 210 rental units. The difference is that a vanity phone number does not have the costs associated with a rental building, such as real estate taxes, maintenance, depreciation and the need to legally evict tenants who do not pay rent. In this manner my number 1-800-HURT-911® can be valued in one of the two methods as follows: 1) My share of income from among many other lawyers advertising in New York during the course of one year produced legal fees in the amount of $1 million. Since a building in New York City has a value of approximately 15 times rental income, 1-800-HURT-911® would be worth approximately $15 million for New York City alone. 1800HURT911.com and HURT911.org is also the largest personal-injury research web site on the Internet with many thousands of visitors every month. I would consider selling HURT911® for it’s value in New York City and I would throw in the rest of the country for free. 2) Potential annual license income from all 210 TV markets is $2,674,224. Two competitors operate in 60 to 65 of the largest markets. If 1-800-HURT-911® were to be licensed in the top 30% of TV markets, total annual income would produce $1,960,848 without considering advertising commissions. According to BusinessTown.com, a manufacturing business can be worth 5 to 6 times income or 8 to 10 times cash flow, however, licensing a vanity phone number is very different than manufacturing and more like commercial real estate.
The most valuable use is for a company which has a large advertising budget for national sales. The reason is that a good 1-800 vanity telephone number can result in substantially reduced advertising costs or conversely, substantially increased sales. For instance one study, by Response Marketing Group, reported that a good 1-800 vanity telephone number used in radio advertising produced 14 times more telephone calls than a 1-800 numeric telephone number. Even more dramatic results can be expected with billboard advertising. While not as dramatic as 14 times, a good vanity number used in TV advertising can result in as much as a 110% increase in calls.
If the advertiser is a company planning on a very large advertising budget, such as one well known mortgage company you see on TV every day with a budget of over $100 million/year, you can understand how a good 1-800 vanity telephone number is worth quite a few million dollars. Add up the benefits over 10 years and just having a good telephone number can make a difference to the tune of $500 million or more.