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Toll Free Phone Facts

  • 2001 marks the 34th anniversary of toll free calling in the United States.
  • 90% of Americans say they use toll free numbers.
  • More than one-third of Americans estimates that they make 60 or more toll free calls per year.
  • Demand for new toll free 866 numbers for business and personal uses averaged above 325,00 requests per month, since introduction of the 888 code on March 1, 1996.

In addition, experts say that 84% of current Internet users rely on electronic media to search for product or service information in order to make a purchase (Source: InternetTrak). Being able to locate the 800 number on the Internet greatly improves the success rate of any Internet ad or Web site.

Sources: Individuals, Inc.; PR Newswire; Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions

The Value of "I Want"

It's no secret the domain name real estate market is hot, catching up to and quickly surpassing the 800 vanity number market due to its legal status. Note recent sales:


800 vanity number sales, though often illicit, are in the same ballpark: 1 800 TICKETS: $1M plus 6% stock; 800-i-TRAVEL: stock valued at $1,648,500; 1 800 COMPUTER (along with $500,000. And so on. says the average price of domains sold on its site is $14,500. That's low-end for an "average" vanity number, but not entirely incomparable.

So you've got a domain name. Maybe its not one short word (witness above - there are valuable exceptions to the one-word gospel.)

What's it worth?
Logic, and battle-worn folks, will tell that its worth what someone is willing to pay - and what the seller is willing to accept. But theoretically speaking, you ask - what's it worth?

The closest model for valuating domain names is 800 vanity numbers. Setting the differences aside (vanities overlay 7 digits with 3,000+ alpha permutations, and are captive to different regulatory and trademark schemes), 800 vanity numbers can be informally valued (since buy/sell is illegal per FCC 4/97 ruling, the vanity not officially an asset) a number of ways.

  1. The Brand - If a brand is valued a $X Million dollars as a static name, its interactivity: transportation, concierge, and cash register - can only increase that value: measurably, tangibly.
  2. Certainly this brand model of static value to measurably increased interactive value, can be applied to brand domain names, as well as generics for products and services that have high appeal and broad market/mind share. 800 and Dot Com - 800 is branded, triggering an elevated consumer response, and a pronounced buying behavior. (888/877/866/855 etc get too easily confused with the proliferation of new local area codes, and inevitably send misdials to the 800 version. They do not perform, or represent, as well as 800.)
  3. Can 800-modeled elevated response and recall be attributed to the branded dot com? By all appearances, yes. The Power of Language: "I WANT" - Closer to the heart of domain names, is the power-of-language factor.

In interviews I conducted a number of years ago, Prodigy Internet revealed a 25% greater response, longer recall, and significantly increased customer retention, when testing its 800 PRODIGY vanity number against an 800 numeric in a mainstream television campaign.

Operations managers reported that 800 PRODIGY provided an ease of use and access of service that well exceeded the initial response, extending the sale into a customer.

1 800 JEEP EAGLE, rolled out during a Super Bowl, revealed increased response, and an elevated caliber of respondent, both more inclined, and more financially qualified, to buy -- plus a 50% conversion rate: within 12 months of the initial call to 1 800 JEEP EAGLE, 50% of callers bought either a Jeep Eagle or comparable vehicle. That's an incredibly high conversion rate on a very high-priced item. Bally's Health and Fitness' call center manager raved that their 1 800 WORKOUT and 1 800 FITNESS callers "were raising their hands, asking to buy."

Apparently the value of consumers actively semantically asserting the inherent "I WANT" demand in 1 800 PRODIGY, 1 800 WORKOUT, and 1 800 JEEP EAGLE, far exceeds the more tentative consumer behavior experienced when provided weaker response and access vehicles.

So 800 number brand names, recognized vernacular, and calls to action trigger an elevated response and a pronounced buying behavior. They attract more callers, who are more qualified by both desire, and ability, to buy.

I'm not aware of any studies done attributing increased sales, conversion, or retention, specifically to dot com's. But like the 800 vanity, called, dialed, clicked or keyed.

Common sense dictates that the pronounced assertive "I WANT" behavior, its benefits and value, would apply to the vernacularly dominant (brand, generic and call to action) domain name too.

Judith Oppenheimer is President of ICB Inc., purveyor of accurate 800 & Dot Com News, Intelligence, Analysis, Consulting., Copyright 2000 ICB Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Toll Free Service Makes Sales!

Although AT&T created the first toll-free 800 service for the caller over 35 years ago, it wasn't until the late 1980's that this service began to become an integral part of today's business. The incredible growth of toll-free numbers has even led to the exhaustion of available "800" prefixes and the creation of the new toll-free 888 prefix, then the creation in 1998 of 877 prefix.

The toll-free number access vehicle has almost become an absolute necessity for companies offering products and services to the general public. This phenomenon speaks as much about human psychology as it does about technology and marketing.. In a study accomplished by Bellcore, paper ads that were almost identical were displayed and monitored. One group had an 800 toll-free number and the others didn't. The toll-free number ads received six times the number of calls as did the regular long-distance listings. It also seems that this will hold true regardless of the socioeconomic level of the caller.

The following are some other important and interesting facts:

The average phone order from a catalog can be 30% to 70% higher than the average mail order.

As telephone buyers generally use credit cards, they will order more merchandise and higher ticket items 95% of the time.

A productive ad featuring an 800 number can generate approximately 30% more orders.

(Source:"Zip Feature Article")

If you want to decrease returns by as much as 50%, use an 800/888 number on product literature. This encourages customers to call in and resolve difficulties with a trained expert. (Source:"Telephone Marketing Report")

Fund-raising organizations have increased their response approximately 25% by adding that 800/888 number in commercials, print ads or direct mail pieces which previously used only addresses. (Source:"A.I.S.800 Report")

Companies who take orders by fax have seen their orders increase by as much as 40% by having a toll-free fax number publicized. Note: This last item easily leads into an up-date of the info-communications arena. Just as the fax has become commonplace, e-mail is as rapidly replacing hard-copy fax transmissions. Since no long-distance costs are incurred on the Internet using e-mail, more and more companies are using it not just for communication, but for taking and confirming orders. Adding an 800/888 number to the e-mail (or vice-versa) will increase productivity.

Hints on increasing the effectiveness of your 800/888 number

Always prominently display 800/888 numbers in your advertising, cards, stationery and promotions.

Use the phrase "Call us TOLL-FREE AT 1-800-xxx xxxx. "

Bold-face the "800" and the Toll-free.

Display your 800 number on all Internet advertising or communications, together with an e-mail address.

Other things to consider

A. Make a monthly examination of your 800 number call completion. A Bellcore study indicates that the casual caller who reaches a busy signal, even on a toll-free number, will abandon his impulse buying upon as little as one busy signal. If you don't receive an "incomplete call" analysis from your carrier, get one, or change carriers. Your 800 number is portable. Although the percentage of unacceptable blockage varies by industry, 12% to 15% is too high.

B. Monitor your order-taking and customer service staff calls. An unfriendly or uninformed employee can cost sales.

C.If you take orders by fax, add an 800 fax number. Monitor the increase in orders.

D. If your 800 usage is 400 hours or more, you can save money with a dedicated T1.5 line, and increase efficiency. Call your carrier. If you do not have a knowledgeable carrier, call 800 299-1879 and we'll refer you to an 800 expert.

As Published in the ICB TOLL FREE NEWS, Sept.9, 1998:

Twenty-four percent of television commercials contain a toll-free number, 91% using the 800 prefix and 57% of which are vanity (numbers that translate into words for easy recall), according to a new Response Marketing Group study of TV advertising. A sign of Internet popularity, 19% of television commercials contain a World Wide Web address.

Overall, 37% of commercials feature either a toll-free number or an Internet address, or both. "Television advertisers know the value of direct response,'' said David Greenhaus, President of Response. "After seeing a commercial, consumers may be ready to learn more or to buy immediately. Without a direct response mechanism, they have no way of acting on their impulse.''

Seventy-nine percent of commercials with toll-free numbers display the number prominently, the study found. Forty percent emphasize the number with a voice-over by an announcer. Only 19% of the commercials featuring toll-free numbers are time sensitive ("act now'' or "limited time'').

The Response study, Toll-free Numbers in Television Advertising, monitored seven networks for over a month, analyzing nearly 5,000 commercials airing during 170 hours of evening, news, sports, and morning programming.

Response Marketing Group has been providing marketing and telecommunications services since 1990. The principals of Response have over 30 years experience in the industry and are continually developing innovative ways for businesses to market their products and services.

Industries using toll-free numbers most often are real estate, telecommunications, and lodging, the study found. Game shows are the favored program. The top time slot is late afternoon/early evening. "Toll-freenumbers are no longer seen as a late night, hard-sell tactic,''Greenhaus explained. "They've come of age as an integral part of marketing and advertising.''

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