In the late 1980’s David Fesbinder had a vision of the great potential of vanity 800 numbers. He founded Dial 800 (Dail800.com), a company whose list of clients includes AT&T, Chevrolet, Cox Communications, Waste Management, The Perrier Group, Electronic Arts, Northrop Grumman and Time Warner. He was responsible for the acquisition of 1-800-COLLECT, the most successful vanity number in history. David is now with 1800PayPerCall.com.
Mike: How did you stumble upon vanity numbers in the 80’s and what made you think this could be a big deal?
David: In the late 1980’s, even though few companies at the time were using vanity 800 numbers, I saw the trend to use them increasing. Also, in the early 1990’s a new law allowed one to move their toll-free numbers from one carrier to another. This was a big change, since a toll-free number that was previously restricted to service with a carrier in one state, could now be moved to a national carrier like AT&T.
Mike: Switching from the 80’s to the 90’s, I could see the natural transition (at least in hindsight) into domain names, or in this case, complementary domain names. How did you identify this bridge?
David: It only made sense to integrate both domains with their matching numbers.
Mike: How has pairing vanity numbers and domain names been working out. Can you provide some examples?
David: A lot depends on the industry your speaking of. But, even if a particular industry does not commonly use vanity 800 numbers, having a good one that matches their domain looks impressive. Especially today, when there is a natural suspicion as to whether a particular online company is legitimate, having a toll-free number that matches their domain name can be an indication that this company is not fly by night.
In the right industry, a vanity 800 number can be the nucleus of a startup. Look at 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-DENTIST, 1-800-CONTACTS to name a few. In their case, the vanity number may be more valuable than the actual domain name.
Mike: When a business gets a matching domain and number, you are essentially providing them with branding. Is that an unintentional byproduct?
David: A great vanity toll-free number is one that tells you what you selling, who you are and how to reach you, such as 1-800-COLLECT did. An 800 toll-free number that spells the exact generic name of a sought-after service or product is extremely valuable. For instance, a company like 1-800-FLOWERS is not only a leader in their industry but when their competition advertises, they cannot help but mention “flowers”, which inevitably strengthens 1-800-FLOWERS brand.
Mike: Is the growth of the internet, in any way, diminishing the value of vanity names or phone numbers in general?
David: Definitely. Phone numbers were really the only way to immediately contact a business before the internet. On the other hand, today where competition is so fierce between online businesses, those a matching vanity 800 number can now have an edge. And the bottom line is that an inquiry via phone, which means the caller wants direct contact with a salesperson, is considered much more valuable than an inquiry made online.
Mike: I understand you provide tracking, routing, and analysis of these phone numbers as well. What does that mean and what does that provide for your clients?
David: Shared use or call routing can provide a very valuable tool for integrating national marketing with local marketing. For instance, we have the number 1-800-PODIATRIST which can be promoted via our domain 1-800-PODIATRIST.com. When any call is made in the U.S., it is automatically routed to the podiatrist located closest to him. In effect, we could give hundreds of podiatrists exclusive rights to 1-800-PODIATRIST in their local area, and the leads are generated from just one national ad campaign.
Call tracking and other types of analysis can give you detailed insights into how to optimize your ad campaigns, caller satisfaction, etc..
Mike: One major risks businesses face is not keeping up with the ever-changing trends. Is there another emerging technology you are watching for or thinking about for the future?
David: Perhaps SullysBlog.com is at the forefront of a trend right now by bringing to the attention of your followers what are the great advantages of a matching number/domains. I would like to give you an example of how far this concept can go. We have 1-800-2Day-Air and 2DayAir.com as well as 1-800-Free-Offer and 1800FreeOffer.com. Since these are already well known generic brands, it should not take much marketing to have such numbers/domains go viral.
This is a new approach to the creation of a startup in that we’re working backward, starting with an already known brand that is represented by a matching number/domain.