Small Business & Startup’s Guide To Getting A Toll-Free Number

Toll free numbers are expensive. According to this report on the Unitel Voice website, vanity toll-free numbers (those with easy to remember numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS) can potentially cost  as much as $10,000 to purchase. This is not really an expense that a small business can afford.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the reasons why small businesses should still get a toll-free number and how they can go about procuring one.

Why Toll-Free

Do small businesses really need toll-free numbers? Some marketing experts believe that having your own toll-free number helps businesses establish the kind of trust and credibility that customers have come to recognize with large businesses. Once implicit trust has been established, it becomes easier to convert a potential lead into a paying customer. In some ways then, a toll-free number pays for itself.

Another important factor to consider is that toll-free tends to remove a thin barrier that exists in the form of calling charge. Consequently, they tend to encourage even slightly warm prospects to give your business a call because it’s free. This helps you increase your inbound sales pipeline that has a dramatic effect on the top line of your company.

Types of Toll-Free Numbers

You do not have to buy a toll-free number to use them. There are also services that help you lease numbers for your business. Vanity number brokers can help you secure a brandable number for your business without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money.

There are also business number renters who can help you seek access to a generic vanity number based on geographical location. For instance callers to a business from Houston will be redirected to a business who have leased it for the particular location while those calling in from another city are redirected to a business who have sought rights for this location.

If vanity numbers are not for you, you may also sign up with virtual phone system providers, VoIP services and SIP trunk toll-free providers.

What Should You Choose

Quite frankly, your strategy should be based on your business objectives and what you can afford. Is your toll-free number only meant for support call requests? Or are you also looking for a virtual phone system for sales calls? Depending on your objectives, you may need to go for a phone system that can integrate with your CRM, offers concurrent calling, and so on.

Business number renters may seem like a great deal, but might be a problem if you expand your business to new locations where the number isn’t available. Telecom carriers provide their own toll-free number systems, but they are often outdated and are more expensive than virtual phone systems.

Small businesses typically have a few constraints – they are bootstrapped and may not be able to afford large capital on phone numbers. Also, venture backed firms tend to look at exponential growth that makes it important to secure a phone system that is easily scalable.

From this perspective, virtual phone service providers offer the best toll-free number system for your business. For one, these phone lines are internet based and do not need any physical equipment. This makes it easy to scale your business up.

Also, businesses get to own the numbers and can port it to a provider of their choice without much hassle. Most virtual phone system providers also come equipped with auto-attendants and IVR facilities although the features may be limited and not always be what you expect.

Finalizing a Provider

Once you have picked the kind of service provider you want to go with, the last step is to pick one. There are essentially two factors to consider – firstly, does the service provider offer all the various features that you want for your business needs? Secondly, is your provider scalable. While the fee for a toll-free number might seem affordable with your current employee count, it is possible that the provider may fail to be affordable when you scale up. Choose a provider who you can stay with as you scale your business up.

Have you signed up for a toll-free number for your business? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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