Subtle brand psychology and simple logic say “lots”

While it may not be that obvious to everyone, it makes a big difference– area codes are important. Some reasons to have local numbers:
  • People who live in your metro area, or even in your state, feel in immediate kinship with you.  This can vary from just feeling a subtle “we’re in the same geographic community” to something even more intimate, where you share not just the area code with someone but you have a common prefix, indicating that you likely live in the same neighborhood.
  • When there is a sense of having common ground, like living in the same community, there is at least a slightly higher assumed level of trust.  Whether or not this is warranted, it’s human nature.  We tend to trust those with whom we have connections
  • As a business providing global services,  the area code is often the give-away that you’re a local company.  It can make the customer feel like you’re just down the road in many cases.
The dwindling demand of the 1-800 number:
  • The days of 1-800 toll free numbers are dwindling.  They’re still around, in their various forms,  866,888,855, etc  but we’re running out of them really quickly because the cost to acquire such a number is so low ($1-2 / mo) compared to what it was in the early 1990’s (almost always requiring $200+ / mo plan)
  • The costs of dialing an 800 number fall on the receiver of the call, and are 1.5-4 times the cost per minute for that same call to be connected through a local exchange. This can only lead to higher prices for products sold over these numbers, or reduced profits for shareholders, or both.
  • nearly everyone has unlimited long distance now.  This is the biggest reason 800 is dead.  It costs the same to call NY from LA dialing 1 + area code + number (if this is not the case, you need to have a talk with your provider, which is probably long overdue.)
  So, local numbers are in, and 800 numbers are out… but what else is there to consider?   BRANDING.  If you have a company that has anything remotely suggested as a part of your branding identity that emphasizes “Local” (locally harvested, locally grown, locally manufactured, locally conceptualized, etc.) then you’ll want a local number.  Yes, you can have an 800 number too,  but put the local number front and center.  Otherwise you look like you’re an affiliate rep of a global subsidiary of nationwide conglomerate… Not the feeling you are trying to get across to the users at all, is it? Other ways to use local phone numbers to augment your brand:
  • Create an informational recording that people can call for some relevant information.  This is a throw-back to the days where time and temperature were read by an announcer (Pat Fleet recording, Verizon, 2007.)
  • Use a local, dedicated dial-in number for your business’s conference calls.  These are becoming more and more the standard. Some conference call services allow companies to extend their branding even into their conference call system (greeting voice tonality (and geographically appropriate “drawl” if applicable) , type of hold music, etc.
There are plenty of reasons for all of us to support our local economies.  Showing your customers and associates that you believe in local just one more way to stand out from the competition, show your commitment to local causes and values, and most importantly, start with a baseline of commonality when the phone number is seen, even before a phone call is even made.