Many business owners would like to think so, but the reality is that all toll-free numbers are not created equal.
With 800, 888, 877 and 866 numbers already littered on billboards across America, competition for the best toll-free prefix has never been more fierce. They're even taking reservations now for future 855 toll-free numbers (expected to launch no later than Q4 2011).
Navigating the world of toll-free prefixes is a frustrating and confusing experience. Let's face it, your company has a lot on the line. The right vanity toll-free number can catapult your brand image and drive your sales strategy. But before you jump into the fray, you'll need some background information about toll-free prefixes and whether or not numbers that don't begin with an 800 prefix are worth the effort.
A (Very) Brief History of Prefixes
The first 800 toll free number appeared in 1967. Introduced by AT&T, 800 numbers were a hit from the very beginning, generating 7 million calls during their first year. As time went on and toll-free numbers became more affordable for the average company, it became necessary to expand to other toll free prefixes to meet demand. In 1996, the FCC generated 8 million more toll-free numbers with the addition of the 888 prefix. They would follow that up in successive years with the rollout of 877 and 866 toll-free prefixes. Prepare for even more chaos as future plans call for the addition of 855, 844, 833 and 822 prefixes.
Does the Prefix Really Matter?
The short answer to that question is "yes" – the prefix of your toll-free number makes a dramatic difference in your conversion rate. Research indicates that consumers are most likely to follow through and make actual purchases based on prefix recognition.
The prefix that enjoys the highest conversion rate is the one that's been around the longest – the 800 toll-free prefix. Other prefixes result in conversion rates in descending order, based on the amount of time they have been in active service. Currently, the lowest producing toll-free numbers are the ones that begin with 866.
Prefixes are especially important for companies that advertise on radio or TV. Many toll-free number providers still offer 800 numbers. It's in your best interest to strenuously pursue an 800 number before moving on to other prefixes.