It is pretty clear that the world of advertising is going to continue to move online, with digital options being more cost-effective, and with human nature driving people to the web. However, it is simultaneously recommended that advertisers -even the smaller and local ones – should not completely abandon the use of traditional forms of advertising, like radio, television, outdoor and even newspapers.


Because, making a connection with people is increasingly important in order for businesses to survive.  And, yes – connections can be made online through Twitter, Facebook, live chat and other social outlets – but I think we can all agree that a live conversation is generally more productive and a better way to build relationships with customers.  And so, advertising a phone number – toll-free or local – will give those customers who prefer to speak with someone at a business the opportunity to do so if they don’t want to rely on just submitting an online contact form.

Why do phone calls produce better leads?

Because a live conversation is always a stronger, more direct path to a sale. So, while online advertising is certainly an important component of the media mix, the cost of providing consumers with only an online response mechanism is too high to justify a strategy that omits immediate, live dialogue.  After all, it is well-known that interactions within the online environment are inherently impersonal and provide people with many opportunities to shop the competition, stay anonymous, and non-committal, where as a live conversation immediately starts to build trust and relationships.

For example, I recently spoke with one of our customers who is the Internet Marketing Manager at an auto dealership on the East Coast. His main responsibilities on a day-to-day basis is to execute digital/online marketing and advertising programs to generate inbound leads through their website.  But, what he told me is that they still run radio and television advertising campaigns to drive incoming calls because he knows that having a customer on the phone is a better lead for their business.  Here’s what he told me:

We use 1-800-NEW-FORD in our radio and TV ads because it is easy for people to remember. Phone calls are more valuable than online web leads. Having an inbound phone call eliminates a few steps and shortens the sales process.”

This is just one business’ perspective, but there are other success stories out there from other businesses in all types of industries as well who understand that tapping into a customers emotions and making a connection is the key to making a sale.

How to Drive More Valuable Leads?

When it comes to driving more valuable leads – ones that involve live conversations – obviously the telephone is one option, apart from face-to-face communications.  That said, there are many different types of phone numbers, and not all perform well in advertising.  A vanity 800 number is the strongest tool in terms of being remembered by customers, thereby generating more leads.

Vanity 800 numbers, like numeric toll-free numbers, provide businesses with critical call data via call tracking systems, but vanity 800 numbers are better at building strong credibility and brand image for a business.  Think of the companies you know of that use a vanity 800 number, 1-800-GOT-JUNK®, 1-800-FLOWERS®, 1-800-CONTACTS®.  These successful businesses have built impressive reputations all around their vanity 800 numbers.

It is, however, common to see businesses advertising a numeric toll-free phone number.  This may be because they could not obtain a vanity toll-free number.  Either way, a ten-digit numeric toll-free number can be effective at tracking leads, but it is not as easily remembered by customers, nor as effective as a vanity 800 number at generating leads.

For businesses that do not spend a lot of money on advertising – typically smaller businesses – using a local phone number on marketing materials can be effective.  In rural areas, where competition is less, a local business using a local phone number may resonate with their local customers.  For larger businesses, or those in more competitive markets, it is not always the best response tool.  Today, when a business lists their local phone number, they most often have to include the area code as well, making it a full ten-digit phone number, which is nearly impossible for people to recall when they need to.  In fact, the research shows that when presented with two options, a ten-digit local phone number or a vanity 800 toll-free phone number, 57 percent of respondents stated that they would prefer to dial the vanity 800 number over the local phone number, citing reasons such as “because the vanity number is easier to remember” and “is more professional looking.”

So, which type of phone number is best for you?  The answer to this question should be based on what the goal of your ad campaign is, how you want to communicate with your customers, and what type of call tracking data you want to gain.