Vanity telephone numbers work to generate orders for local florists via 1-800-FLOWERS and local shipping pickups via 1-800-GO FED EX. Some major companies (1-800-WALMART and 1-800-MICROSOFT) rely on them as a corporate number as well.
Recently vanity numbers have been introduced to the paving and pavement maintenance industry, and contractors are starting to take notice.
Vanity “1-800” numbers are those easy-to-remember telephone numbers where the individual digits can spell out a word or phrase related to a specific company (1-800-STAPLES) or industry (1-800-FLOWERS).
“Direct mail is big but this is better,” says Mike Musto, president of vanity number 1-800-PAVEMENT and president for 21 years of U.S. Sealcoating and U.S. Paving. “It’s the single most effective marketing tool I’ve ever used in 20 years.”
In fact, Musto says that one study found that vanity 800 numbers are 14 times more effective than numeric 800 numbers.
How vanity numbers work
Two companies now offer vanity telephone numbers (1-800-PAVEMENT and 1-800-ASPHALT) and both services work in a similar manner: Contractors lease the vanity number monthly for a set fee. The numbers are leased by area code, and contractors can lease as many area codes as they like. When a potential customer dials the vanity number, the call connects directly to the contractor’s office, providing him with the lead.
“The customer wants to see more professionalism, rather than ‘Joe’ pulling up and handing him a quote on a business card,” Musto says “Marketing like these vanity numbers helps give credibility to a company and to the industry. It adds to the professionalism.”
“The number is a marketing tool all by itself,” says Tom Fee, president of 1-800-ASPHALT and owner for 44 years of Asphalt Specialists Inc., Indianapolis. “People see the number and it’s very easy to remember. You don’t have to remember a company name. It’s like a rolling billboard. A lot of people, like us, have cut their Yellow Pages ad size by two-thirds and are getting more calls than they were before.”
Pavement market success
At 1-800-ASPHALT contractors pay $300 a month for each area code they work in. Contractors don’t pay per-minute charges, which 1-800-ASPHALT pays for. Contractors who lease the number receive an information packet that explains how the number works and how to market the number.
Competitor 1-800-PAVEMENT takes a similar approach, leasing area codes to contractors for monthly fees starting at $275.
Started four years ago, 1-800-ASPHALT leases phone numbers to pavement maintenance contractors in 13 states from New York to California. Fee says 22 of the contractors lease more than one area code. Aggregate Industries, for example, leases seven area codes at a cost of $2100 a month; Quality Shopping Center Maintenance leases three numbers.
Fee says 1-800-ASPHALT is designed for paving but at least one 1-800-ASPHALT user is a sealcoating contractor who subs all the paving work to a local paver and retains all the sealcoating work for himself.
“He’s told me that this year he’s going to the show to buy himself a paver,” Fee says. “That’s how effective the 1-800 marketing has been for him.”
Musto acquired the 1-800-PAVEMENT number early in 2005 and also owns and leases 1-888-PAVEMENT, 1-800-SEALCOAT and 1-800-BLACKTOP.
Musto says that while it’s difficult to compare calls from market to market (because of population density), In-Line Pavement Maintenance, DE, is averaging 200 calls per month; and Quality Edge of Staten Island, NY, and Premier Paving & Sealing each are averaging more than 300 calls per month. He says his own call reports ranged from a low of 749 in April to a high of 1,386 in September. He says 1-800-SEALCOAT is averaging 1,250 calls per month.
“These 1-800 numbers make your phone ring,” Fee says. “It’s up to each contractor to sell the work, but the more calls you get the more work you have a chance at.”