When you’re starting a new business, some decisions are more exciting than others: What will your business be called? What will your logo look like? But some of the less exciting decisions are just as important to your business’s success, like choosing the phone number for your business. Whether you decide to use your cell phone or an office phone system, navigating how to get a business phone number can be overwhelming once you start looking into it.
The experts at Smith.ai have logged thousands of hours working with all different types of businesses, so we know what you need when it comes to business phone numbers. We’ve compiled 11 helpful tips to make the process easier so you can make a decision quickly and confidently and get back to growing your business.
When you first start your business, it might be tempting to use your existing phone number to save money, but this can be a costly mistake. Changing phone numbers isn’t as easy as you might think.
For one thing, reprinting documents with your phone number, like business cards and letterhead, can get expensive. You’d also need to update any advertisements with your phone number, like commercials and billboards or even branded company vehicles.
Not to mention the impact changing a phone number can have on your clients. If they dial your old number, they may assume you’ve gone out of business and call someone else.
Unlike picking a new cell phone number when you add a new line to your account, you have options when choosing a business phone number.
As a startup, you’re probably looking for ways to keep costs low. A free phone number for your business is a great way to do that. Apps like Google Voice and eVoice offer free numbers while still providing all the great features your business needs for success.
A local number begins with your local area code, which you can get by contacting your local telephone company. Local phone numbers are good for business numbers because they are free to set up and show potential clients that you’re a member of their community. The downside is that local phone numbers lack features businesses often need, like extensions.
Anyone can call a toll-free number for free from landlines, eliminating long distance fees for the client. Because they are national numbers, toll-free numbers give your company a national presence and a credibility that local numbers may not. You can recognize a toll-free number by its 800 code at the beginning.
Toll-free numbers are available through “responsible organizations” (RespOrgs), who work with the Federal Communications Commission to oversee toll-free numbers. You’ll need to pay a small setup fee and a monthly fee to have a toll-free number, or you may be able to get one for free through a VoIP service.
A vanity phone number is a type of toll-free number in which the phone number includes easy-to-remember patterns. Sometimes those patterns are numerical (for example, 1-800-123-4567) and sometimes the numbers spell out words associated with your business (for example, 1-800-GOT-JUNK).
The main advantage of a vanity number is how easy it is for clients — and potential clients who see your marketing campaigns — to remember.
Virtual numbers, often called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), use an internet connection rather than a telephone line, which makes them cheaper than traditional phone lines and eliminates long distance charges altogether.
VoIP numbers come with extra features other phone numbers lack, like extensions, call forwarding, and conference call capabilities. Those features and their lower costs make VoIP numbers popular with businesses. However, you’ll need to make sure you have a strong internet connection, as that can interfere with call quality and lead to lost clients.
Before you pick a number, think about what goals you want to accomplish with it:
You don’t want to pick a phone number and advertise it only to discover that it’s missing key features your business needs.
Consider how you will use your phone number for your business. Do you need the capability for conference calls? Voicemail? Extensions? What features you need may determine the types of business phone numbers you can choose from.
Regardless of what type of phone number you choose, pick the simplest number you can. Our brains are wired to remember patterns, so take advantage of that by choosing a phone number with repeating numbers or a specific pattern. For example, 555-5555 is only one number, and 555-1234 is easy to remember because it counts up.
If your business is on the outskirts of a city but not within the city’s area code, ask for a phone number with that area code. That way, more people will think your business is local, so they’ll be more likely to call you than if you have an area code they’re unfamiliar with.
1-800 numbers have been around since the late 1960s, so availability is limited. Over time, other toll-free codes have been introduced, including 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888.
So if the 1-800 number you want isn’t available, ask your service provider to check if it is with one of the other toll-free codes.
Because businesses understand the positive impact of a vanity number, many of the popular ones you want may already be claimed. You may have to get creative to find an available vanity number.
For example, if you have a law office, you may want the vanity number 1-800-LAW-HELP, but it’s unavailable. Instead, consider creative options like 1-800-OHMYLAW.
Spam calls are on the rise, so people are relying on technology to identify and block spam calls more than ever. If your business phone number isn’t in the contacts of the person you’re calling, it could be mistakenly labeled as spam, so your client may never hear from you.
To prevent this, register your phone number to your business name rather than your own. This will give your number legitimacy to the analytics programs that mark incoming calls as spam, increasing the likelihood that the person you’re trying to call will answer instead of sending your call to voicemail.
The process for how to do this varies by provider, so talk to your provider during the setup process to get your number registered to your business instead of you.
While having a business card can make your business seem more real than any other step, don’t rush to the printer as soon as you get your new business phone number.
Instead, give your number to a friend or colleague and ask them to call. Have them test any special features you’ve signed up for, like leaving a voicemail, call recording, or conferencing. Contact your provider if you discover any issues.
Once you’re sure everything works, then start advertising!
You’ve carefully picked the perfect phone number for your business, but have you thought about who will actually answer when the phone rings? It’s a bigger decision than you might initially think, since it’s often the first contact a client will have with your business. Whoever answers the phone needs to sound professional.
You can answer the phone yourself, but you’ve likely got a lot of other business responsibilities, and answering the phone yourself may turn into a much larger inconvenience than you’d think.
If you want someone else to answer the phone, you can always hire an in-house receptionist, but keep in mind you’ll need to pay their salary, which averages nearly $30,000 a year, plus benefits. You’ll also need to consider who will answer the phone when they are at lunch or out sick.
Another option is to use virtual receptionists to answer your business calls 24/7/365, during peak call times or after hours. Regardless of what type of business phone number you choose, virtual receptionists can do everything your in-house receptionist can do without the hassle of hiring and training one yourself.
No matter which phone service provider you choose, or whether you opt for a local, toll-free, or vanity number, you need to answer every call. The most responsive businesses win more clients, and Smith.ai’s virtual receptionists have all the qualities you’re looking for in a receptionist, so your customers won’t know they’re talking to someone who isn’t from your office. Our plans are tailored specifically to your needs, so your virtual receptionists can handle appointment scheduling, answer live chats, or conduct outreach campaigns, all while blocking spam calls for free and keeping you and your clients happy. Reach out and book a consultation today to learn how Smith.ai’s virtual receptionists can help you grow your business.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics