From The Urbach Letter –
Reader's Question: Should I get one of those alpha phone numbers for my beauty salon? Something like 1-800-CUT-HAIR?
My Answer: I've never been a big fan of "Vanity" numbers. Yes, I know they have their place, particularly in radio advertising. But, I believe their value is overrated. Sure, there are successful businesses built on vanity numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-LAWYERS, etc., but these are few and far between. They're also all alpha. I could never understand the logic of 1-800-587-HAIR. You're still asking someone to memorize a (albeit smaller) random number -- so what's the point?
Also, some studies have shown that full alpha 800 vanity numbers actually *reduce* response rates! How could this be? They claim it's because people think they'll remember the number and thus put off calling until "later" (and in marketing, later often means never). So, the only situations I can recommend use of vanity numbers are:
I personally find vanity numbers irritating. I hate translating them into numerics to dial. And it's downright dangerous to attempt this while driving.
By the way, the general public still universally recognizes only an 800 number as toll-free. Even after five years of common use, the triple-eight numbers get poorer advertising response than equivalent 800's, while 877 and 866 numbers are still virtually unknown as toll-free. Unfortunately, few good full-alpha 800 numbers are still available – and you may be forced to use an 888, 877, or 866. If so, it's important to include the exact phrase: "Call toll-free" in your advertising.