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Toll Tales

Tips and trends for growing your business.

If you think 800 numbers are strictly for national companies, think again. A growing number of small companies with a local customer base are marketing with vanity 800 numbers.

"It's a different application of an 800 number," explains David K. Ashley, president of Tele-Name Communications and Advertising Group Inc. in Sarasota, Florida. "This is a marketing tool that reduces the cost of advertising."

A vanity number is one that translates into words for easy recall. Such numbers are now available on a regional basis, usually by area code. This means, for example, that landscape companies across the country can share the advantage of 1-800-555-LAWN.

Why an 800 number when most of your customers are local? If used aggressively in your marketing materials, Ashley says, a memorable 800 number lets prospective customers reach you without referring to the telephone directory--where they'll also see ads for your competitors. In addition, because Americans are so mobile, you'll benefit from other companies promoting the number in their areas.

These numbers also provide consistency. "A lot of area codes are splitting, and it's very difficult for people to know what is a toll call and what is not anymore," says Ashley.

Of course, you will pay toll charges on the incoming calls, but, as Ashley puts it, "Would you give somebody a quarter to call you if you knew it would translate into new business?"

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Toll Tales.

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