In a world where it seems as though most costumer communication happens online, there is still a very valuable reason to keep your phone presence a prominent piece of your sales and marketing mix. A recent study found that social media channels handle just three percent of all customer communications, which is stark contrast to the 68 percent of consumers that get in touch with companies by dialing a business’ phone number. (Source: CallCentreHelper) While social media engagement on sites such as Facebook and Twitter is essential, the data continues to show that social media venues are still far from becoming the first channels of choice for many consumers when they have a real need. There are many creative ways to leverage phone numbers in both sales and marketing scenarios. Here are just a few new ways and valuable reasons to rethink your voice communication messaging plans.

Source: Cloud Phone

Recall and retention — Depending on your geographic locations and business needs you may want to acquire a standard phone number for local cities or states where you operate to convey your local presence. Vanity and toll free numbers also serve a purpose for businesses looking to simplify the phone numbers listed for their business, or perhaps appear larger. However, vanity numbers (think 1-800-FLOWERS) while an attractive marketing tool can cost significantly more and are in short supply, making it more and more difficult to find one that matches your brand or value proposition. But when it comes to recall, the results are compelling. Some studies have shown that consumers have a 58 percent average higher recall rate of vanity toll-free numbers over URLs used in advertising. Respondents to a study by 800Response said they find it easier to recall a vanity 800 number over a URL after listening to ads featuring both response tools. (Source: 800Response) The lesson: take the time to define who your customers are, what their needs are and where they are located so you can pick the right number, or numbers, for your business. The cost of a toll-free or vanity number may be worth the cost in order to encourage higher recall and acquisition rates.

Entertainment value — Look for ways to branch out beyond your main phone number with creative ways to ways to use temporary phone numbers for events and marketing promotion. Virtual numbers, which can forward to your main phone number, are great for this purpose. One creative way to do this with a live event, either in person or online, is to take advantage of the fact that most people have their phones on them and give them a way to interact with you by texting or calling a phone number for a chance to interact with your brand. One interactive example may be to tell the audience to look for hidden numbers throughout the presentation and if participants piece the clues together the result will be a phone number to call or text, which then plays a recording or links them to the next clue, ultimately leading participants to a location in the audience for the final prize. This simple means of leveraging IVR and SMS technology can be highly engaging and low budget.

Quickly establish a direct dialogue — What’s more personal than a phone call? Other than an in-person handshake the opportunity to talk to a live customer on the phone offers not only educational information for the brand, but it offers businesses a rare window that the customer has opened into their personal world in which you have the opportunity to delight or disappoint depending on the preparedness of you and your staff. But don’t take too long. According to some estimates up to 75 percent of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent. If you offer some sort of live service (phone or live chat), make sure you put customers in touch with a live person in less than two minutes. Failure to respond swiftly creates frustration for customers which can turn an opportunity to delight into an unhappy customer who might instead walk away or share a negative experience. (Source: Harris Interactive) And this isn’t just true for new customers. Keeping your current customers happy has a cost associated to it as well. It is 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs.)

Make your VIPs feel special — Rethink your phone number strategy a bit and give select groups of customers their own line for immediate VIP status. This doesn’t have to be a large undertaking operationally for business owners. With virtual numbers for example you can create phone numbers for your best clients but still have all those calls be routed to the phone number or device of your choosing and routed to the appropriate staff for optimal experiences. Brands can experiment by listing a phone number on their social media channels as well. For example, consider posting a phone number on your brand’s Facebook page with a line that says “Need help from a real human? Give us a call. We always answer.” The phone can be a life saver for customers who want faster service and support and can save you a lot of headache by removing the conversation from a public venue. Just make sure you deliver on your promise to answer the phone!

Broaden the conversation — Phone numbers can be enhanced with other sales and marketing tools, such as SMS messaging to take customer communications to a new level of engagement. Experiment by incorporating services into your communication mix that will send text message coupon codes to customers who opt-in, or prompt the customer with an option to enter a contest or other incentive such as event. Deepening the dialogue allows you to create a growing population of prospects and begin to track when people are interacting with you, from where and the kinds of offers they prefer.

So while online channels have an important role to play in the sales and marketing mix, the data shows that your phone presence remains a regular touch point for your brand. Plan your voice communications content, style, and customer experience in a way that reflects your image and marketing goals. Don’t overlook places where you can use your number creatively, even on social media. Make sure you have contact information listed on marketing collateral beyond business cards. It sounds elementary but often when creating brochures and postcards, basic elements can be overlooked. Consider using dedicated numbers for those pieces other than your main line so you can track success of these pieces. Thanks to cloud enabled phone systems you can now have as many numbers as you need all routed to and managed in one location in the cloud, making your life behind the scenes much easier and improving your customer’s experience.