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How can I get a Good Phone Number for My Business ??

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Dear Business Guy, we are starting a business and need a good phone number.  How can we buy a good phone number?

That’s a great question, and to be honest with you we don’t have a clue.  But we’ll take a stab at it by having our college intern look around the internet.    A good phone number can make or break a business.  Think of 800Flowers.  This company wouldn’t work as 800GoRoses.  Punching out FLOWERS on you phone pad is just so simple.  And they even use it for their web address by adding .com.  We wanted to look at all the possibilities.  And just to be clear, except for Amazon links, we do not get any commission or kickbacks if you click on a link below.

Buying a Phone Number — Technically Illegal

We looked and looked and didn’t find any market for phone numbers, we assumed that there must be some on-line marketplace for phone number like there is for domain names.  It turns out, there’s a good reason:

According to the FCC (link), ” ‘Warehousing’ by toll-free service providers is prohibited by the FCC’s rules. A toll-free service provider may not legally reserve a toll-free number without having an actual toll-free subscriber for whom the number is being reserved. RespOrgs or toll-free service providers who warehouse numbers are subject to penalties.  “Hoarding” by subscribers is similarly prohibited and illegal. A subscriber may not acquire more toll-free numbers than the subscriber intends to use. Hoarding also includes “number brokering” – it is illegal for a subscriber to sell a toll-free number for a fee.”

So this explains why there is no godaddy of phone numbers.  And they are pretty serious about the rules.  In 2008 a man was arrested by an undercover FBI agent for selling an 800 number on e-bay.  We assume–but are not sure–the same rules apply for local numbers.  Okay as with the sale of most banned items, entrepreneurs have been trying to find a way to skirt the law.  Here are a few that we found:

  • Buy the Business that’s going out of Business.  A phone number is a legitimate business asset.  When a company goes out of business or sells out to another company this business asset can be sold.  If a company with a good phone number or one of your competitors is going out of business, contact the owner and offer to buy the assets of the business which might include the phone number along with furniture, computer equipment, a customer list …  From we have read, you cannot just buy the phone number, but if you buy it as part of the business that’s okay.
  • Buy a Business for the sake of getting their phone number.  Then have the business owner form a new business and buy back most of her assets from you.  You are hiding the fact that the only business asset you want is the phone number so this one seems a bit questionable.
  • Leasing a phone number.  The owner of a phone number will forward calls to your phone for a lease fee.  This seems like it would violate the policy above as the lessor of the number is not using it for their use, but we’re not sure.
  • Marketing Package.  The phone number is registered as a domain name and the seller selles the phone number and domain name as a marketing service.  Again we’re not sure this one is legit.
 So where do the numbers come from?  A phone company cannot just make a number for you to use if you find one that’s not in use.  There is an obscure agency that distributes numbers to phone companies in blocks of 10,000 numbers.  When they have used most of them up, they get another block of numbers.  The North American Numbering Plan Administrator www.nanpa.com  is charged with Assigning (or denying) numbering resources in a consistent, neutral manner and Reclaiming resources (read phone numbers) no longer needed or improperly used.   ehow article  The take-away is that the no phone company has a lock on the “good numbers” so it behoves you to search multiple companies to find the perfect number. 
 Know What You Want and Understand it Will Take Time The key thing to remember is that this is a non-market exchange.  Unless you want to use the tactics above, getting a groovy number means spending time at the store, dealing with customer service reps over the phone, and spending time plugging things into internet shopping pages.  First Make a list of numbers that you want.

Specific Key Word in your phone number  Start by making a list of 4-7 letter words that describe your business.  For instance, if your are a plumber think drain, pipe, clog so you will know what your are looking for.  Then put those words into touchpad numbers.  For instance Drain, Pipe, and Clog are 37216 7473 and 2564.  If the word is more than 4 letters, you have to get an exchange that has the third or second and third letter(s) of your word.  For instance, the word DRAIN, will have to have an exchange that ends with 3, so your number will have to be (714) XX3-7216.  This limits your ability to shop.  There are fewer numbers available, and not all phone companies will have an exchange that ends in 3.

Look for good numbers.  Again you may want to have a list of good numbers, but you will know one when you see it.  Don’t forget about years, like 1776.  People are used to dealing with years so they are easier to remember.  And consider Asian customs.  Generally 8 implies good luck and 4 implies bad luck.  So people have been searching for numbers with 8’s, and rejecting numbers with 4’s.

Be Flexible Another way to go about this, if you don’t need a specific word is to use this web tool that allows you to type in a proposed number and see what the numbers spell out.  If you just want something that people can remember, see what pops out with this tool.  You would be surprised what how many words a phone number can make.    Word Search Phone  # Tool dialabc.com/words/search  Just be sure to put it on the American Standard

Avoid Trashed Numbers  The do-not-call list was a good idea.  But that hasn’t stopped a lot of telemarketers from calling, calling, and calling.  But today, a lot of people will google a phone number to see who has been calling.  If people are saying “don’t answer this is a total fraud, I got ripped-off” on the internet based on calls you they have received from your new number, they just won’t call you back or do business with you.  And you might never know because no one will write you a letter saying “We don’t want to do business with you because…”   Who know how long these comments will stay up on the internet?  So, google the phone number before you pay for it, because potential customers will google it to see who’s calling.  

 

Phone Number Matching Service.  We did find one company that helps you find the phone number you want.  www.tollfreenumbers.com  From what we understand, the have a search program that looks up numbers and finds out what’s available.  Then they get you signed up with the phone company that has that number in their inventory.  The nice feature with their website is you can just search for any key word by putting it into their keyword search and they will come up with a list of (8**) ### – WORD numbers from different providers.  They also have a site for local numbers http://www.vanitynumbers.com  and a site called VanityNumbersForSale.com.  They can even hook you up with a private investigator to help find the owners of a business number so you might be able to “make an arrangement” with them for the use of their primo number.

They seem to be skirting the law as they are not a phone company and they do not take possession (i.e. own, warehouse  or hord) the numbers.  They just sell information and help you get hooked up.  And yes you pay them a “search fee” for their help in your quest for a great number.  The advantage of using this type of service is that you end up “owning” the phone number and you do not have to pay extra fees for it.

 

Phone Number Licensing /Forwarding Services

The deal is they are not selling you the phone number, they are licensing you to use it and routing the call to the appropriate call center or your business.  One one hand, working with one of these companies would be the fastest way to get a primo number; and they may have access to numbers that you cannot get on your own.  Additionally, some of the pricing for basic forwarding service seems really reasonable.  On the other hand, there is the possibility that you may have to pay more for your number in the future, and someone else could come along and license the number for their use.  Money Talks.  Also, it’s not clear what happens if one of these companies goes out of business.  As we see it youy are basically paying these companies for the right to use their number; you are not paying for “your” number.  

We found this Forbes Article which explains how a company called Dial800 www.dial800.com sells you access to an 800 number for a licensing fee.  They a tool to search their inventory on their homepage.  For an okay number, it cost $99/month plus 11c per minute in 2005.  They also analyse your calls, as to offer other marketing services.  They don’t currently provide pricing on their website, and they seem to dominate for the big corporate market.  They might also have the ability to rout calls based on where the call is coming from, so you can save money–or they can make more money depending on how you look at it–by sharing the number with other businesses. For instance if your are a window washer in Wilmington, the calls in Southern California will go to you.  Calls from Clear Water Florida will go to a business in the flower state.

Another service we ran across “hosts” phone numbers.  Hosted Phone Number   http://www.hostednumbers.com/ This company offers local numbers and toll free numbers.  This is a link to their app that searches their phone number inventory  www.hostednumbers.com/vanity-phone-number  They appear to license phone numbers.  They forward calls to your existing phone equipment.  Plans start at about $8/month, but it appears that as with other licensing schemes you don’t own your number, you just pay for the use of the number.

Tossable Phone Number.  They have a nice search feature http://www.tossabledigits.com/findnumber.php?subftr=vanity&doSearch=Search&query=1????????00 (Second search box) and plans start at $7/month plus a few cents per minute after you go over a limit.  They also have toll free numbers.  As with the other services, they get the number and charge you to forward it to your existing phone.   This service was originally designed for people advertising on the internet and going on dating websites.   

 Getting the Number Yourself from the Phone Company

Okay, your have read the part above, but you want to save some money and just get a phone number the old fashion way, from the phone company.  At any given time, each phone company has an the remainder of it’s blok of numbers to assign.   We did not read any thing that said the old monopoly phone companies get the best numbers, but the do seem to have on local exchanges (see graphic below) along with VOIP companies.  ATT and Verizon have numbers and you have to be located in their respective territories to get a one of their local number.  VOIP companies also have the exchange part of the number based on territory.  Cell phone companies have their own exchanges part of the number, and when a customer looks up your number, 800Notes or other services will let them know it’s a Cell Phone Number from…   This distention might be good or bad.   If you aren’t super interested in the local exchange as part of your number, you have a lot of other options.

Don’t get married to your phone company

Think about it like someone you are living with–you are in a committed relationship but you are keeping your options open in case someone better wants to be in a relationship with you.  There are no better rates or access to numbers for customers who have been loyal customers.  They just don’t care.  (Click here to see what can happen with traditional phone company business lines.)  So if you think you can get a good number because you have been writing a check for an overprice bill to your phone company for twenty-five years think again.  Shop around to get the best number.  It might take a while.  When you call or walk in in to get a phone, they will typically offer you three phone numbers to choose from.  There is not law that says you have to take the numbers offered.  If you are not happy with their numbers just say, “Gee, this is a big decision.  I’ll have to think about it.”  Don’t accept or pay for service until you get what you want.  Over the phone, customer reps is getting paid to process calls, and it does not look good if he or she spend half a day going through numbers with you.  You might need to try several companies several times.  If you get a good number with a not so good company, that’s okay.  Look at it as the cost of getting the number.  And you can always move with your number to another phone company (This is calle port or porting).  They will try to lock you into a multi-year plan.  Just say No.  Again, don’t get married to the phone company.  Get your number than just move it to a company that offers the service/pricing package that works for YOU.  The phone companies might not like this, but according to government FCC regulations the choice is yours.

According to the FCC, “subscribers remaining in the same geographic area can switch from a wireless, wireline, or VoIP provider to any other wireless, wireline or VoIP provider and still keep their existing phone numbers.  link  (FN1)

And this can save you a lot of money.  For instance, if you are paying $50/month for a wired line and paying for a cell phone, you can just drop your cell phone number and re-assign your in line number to your cell saving you at least $600/year.  The only restriction on moving or porting is that you must be in the same general geographic area.  But that’s not defined, and with cell phones and VOIP you can be anywhere so we don’t know if that restriction is strictly enforced.

This video below explains how you can “shop” for a number at a cell phone store:


How to Get a Cell Phone Number — powered by ehow

Advantages of a Local vs National-toll free number

Phone Number

What your local phone number is made of.

People simply like to shop local and know that they are dealing with someone in their local area.   And these days, most people have free calling to the US and Canada, so the fact that you have a “Toll Free” number might not be that big of a deal.  (It was a big deal in the 1970’s when long distance rates were high.)  When they call a business with a local number they assume that they are not going to be speaking to a rep in India or the Philippines.  And locals recognize what numbers are around them.  In addition to the 714 vs 949 distention, local numbers have been assigned to local areas via the exchange part of the number.  When people see a local exchange, they know they are dealing with people around the block.   On the other hand, if you are trying to convey the message that you have a big multi-national company, getting an 800 number is the way to go.  It really depends on what type of business–big or local–your customers would like to deal with.

Also, keep in mind that there are some exchange numbers that are easy to remember.  For instance Yorba Linda has  777, Anaheim has 222.  From what we understand, You have to go through your monopoly phone company to get the local exchange number for your area.  

VOIP Companies ~~> Numbers in the Cloud

 

Money Saving Tip  A lot of businesses are using VOIP exclusively for their phone service, and just ordering internet from the phone company, cable provider, or even 4G providers.  4G may be the way to go.  It provides fast speed, and you can take it with you.  You get get a small box that ties in your laptop to the internet and you can run VOIP off of that.  No paying $10/night for internet in a hotel room, and if you are really cheep, you can cancel your home internet service.  Just take the 4G router box home with you.  Clear and Virgin offer 4G this service at about the same cost you would pay for fust a business phone line.  (They just don’t promote the fact you can do VOIP because they both sell phone service.)

Voice Over Internet companies will let you shop on line for that perfect number.  And you may be able to get the local exchange.  They all have advanced features such as call blocking, voice mail to e-mail text, call routing to your cell, home, or business phone.  They all have business plans available, but a lot of people just get the home plan because it’s less expensive if you just need a phone line.  And to our knowledge, there are no phone police going after people who talk business on a “home” phone.  We have tried to link to parts of their sites that let you know what numbers they have available.  

  • Ring Central www.ringcentral.com  This is a VOIP replacement for a PBX system.  Plans start at around $40/month for the first user, and $30/month per user for the second user, and get down to only $20 if you have more than 100 users.  (That’s less than an ATT business phone without long distance.)  As with the other companies, they have a bunch of features for free.  You can add extensions over the internet, and to add an employees line.  They have a nice feature that allows you to search for good phone numbers, and they have numbers in the 714, 760 but not 949 area codes.  Tool Free Search tool works well www.ringcentral.com/features/toll-free-numbers/overview.html  Just plug in the digits you want and it will let you know if they have that for you.  The local number selection tool is not as good http://www.ringcentral.com/features/local-numbers/overview.html   You select the area code and area, and it will show you about 8 available phone numbers.  The cool thing about this service is that you can see what they have available before you sign up.
  • Vonage http://www.vonage.com  They charge about $30/month for their unlimited plan, and they charge another $5 if you want to add on an 800 number.  You have to sign up to pick a number, or if your are an existing customer you can pick a number as an add on number.
  • Phone.com  http://www.phone.com/pricing  This seems to be one of the less expensive voip services starting at $15/month for two numbers and 300 free minutes.  They have an app to check for available toll free phone numbers (a bit more expensive) www.phone.com/features/vanity_toll_free.php  Local Numbers.  Looks like you have to sign up, but they allow you to select from their inventory and if you don’t find a number that you like, you can backorder one.  So you can get it when a number that meets your specs becomes available to this company.
  • ooma www.ooma.com  With this service “Ooma, you get … nationwide calling–plus all the phone features you’re used to–for free. You pay only applicable taxes and fees.”  It costs a couple hundred bucks for the box, but after that it’s free.  They give you an opportunity to select a phone number, but only after you have purchased the ooma device and registered it on line.  They do not have toll free numbers.
  • evoice   www.evoice.com/pricing  Plans start at $10/month which includes 300minutes, and its month-to-month.  They have a utility that shows you toll free and local numbers available in their inventory.  They don’t have a search feature, but they will list out a bunch of numbers to choose from.  But they serve up the numbers five at a time, but their site is fast.  www.evoice.com/evoice-signup/choose-your-number 
  • Google Voice http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html#  This is an interesting option because it’s basically free.  According to their website” All the features are free, except for calls placed outside the United States or Canada; you’ll be able to make those calls through Google Voice at an affordable price.”  (link)  It basically gets you a phone number for free, and works over your existing equipment.

The video below shows how Google voice routs your calls and shows how you can hunt for a good number on their service.  We believe the other VOIPs are do the same sort of thing.

 Cell Phone Companies

Even if you don’t want a cell phone, that company may have been allocate a primo number.  Be sure to check out the no-contract plans with services like Boost, Metro, Cricket, and Virgin.  According to the FCC rules, you can always move your number to the phone company of your choice.  You’ll may have to buy a cheep cell phone to get started on their network.  They usually have a model for less than $40.  And technically Vernon and Vernon Mobil are two different companies so they should be working off two different blocks of phone numbers.

Monopoly Landline Phone/Cable Companies

ATT and Verizon are the local phone providers for OC.  Time Warner and Cox also provide service.  Be forewarned  they will insist on installing a business line in your business location (installation charge) and their business salespeople have been trained to get you into a multi-year contract.  Again you might have to go through the these companies if you need a local exchange, and we are not saying that there is nothing wrong with them.  The monopoly phone companies make the phones work.  But you have to decide if the extra “service” is worth the extra cost.  VOIP and Cell service have become so clear that it’s hard to say that they are not as good as phone service over the old network of coper wires.

FN1  Based on the fact that the FCC attached a complaint form to this information sheet, we can infer there has been some issues with porting.

Danger Danger Danger This article is reporting information on the internet by people who don’t know the legal implications.  Contact your lawyer or the FCC to see if the advice above is legal.

© OCSmallBusiness.com

 

 

 

  1. Nice article! Although, I actually use a service from MightyCall. I only pay $10/month and I get dedicated business numbers, personal receptionist and the best part in my opinion, is I can manage all of my customer questions straight from their app on my smartphone! Just thought I’d share this option with others looking to get their business a good number for super cheap.

  2. I just happen to stumble onto this post and figured I would comment. There are many different types of “good for numbers” that you can use for your business. You can use a vanity toll free numbers such as 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-HOME-CARE, etc. You can use a easy dial number with memorable digits such as 1-800-800-4700, 1-800-500-5555, etc…and you can use a great local number that ends in an easy pattern or a word that connects with your business.

    Depending on the type of number you are interested in there are different places you can check. For a vanity toll free or even easy dial number you can check with your phone company to see what numbers might be available in the “spare pool” In addition there are companies that specialize in licensing these type numbers to business owners. You can license a great number for one area code, multiple area codes, an entire state (these are all called Shared Use) or nationally if available.

    For a great local number you can also check with your local phone company to see what markets they can provide you numbers in. Sometimes if you ask the person you are speaking with can do a little more digging to see if they can find you something you like. You can also check with some of the cloud based providers as they aren’t tied to only providing numbers in specific rate centers so they may have more options available to you.

    These are just a few ideas. If you are interested in learning take a look at companies like http://www.ringboost.com. You can also message me or add a comment and I will do my best to answer or help you.

    Paul

  3. Drab Bard says:

    You can consider a teledomain == a domain that exactly matches the URL.

    Consider a number like 888-888-7889 and domains 888-888-7889.com and 8888887889.com.

    If that’s interesting, you can buy it on the ebay

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