09 June 2015

What You Should Know About The Life Cycle Of Your Business Phone Numbers

Could your competitors buy your business for $150?

Yes, they could—and to show you just how easy it is for that to occur, here’s a story about what happened to me just last week.

When it comes to vacations, I’m about as Type A as can be. In preparation for an upcoming trip, I pored over TripAdvisor reviews for local attractions and the resort I planned to stay at, making sure to take notes and get ideas of must-sees and must-dos.

Thanks to the recommendations and reviews of the resort, I found out I needed to call ahead and request a room on the third floor, so I could have the best views of the Pacific Ocean. I dialed the resort phone number listed on the website, but the person who answered wasn’t from the hotel I was staying at. In fact, the number went to a hotel a block away—one I knew from reviews was vying for the top-ranked resort in the area.

When I clarified with the front line employee that this was, in fact, not the hotel I intended to call, she mentioned that they still had availability and were running a summer kickoff promotion that would guarantee me an oceanfront room at a lower price than I intended to pay at the first resort. Hmm…

What happened next may not matter to you, but it definitely affected that hotel, as well as the hotel I originally planned to stay at.

Now think about this: what if this same situation played out between your company and your competitors? Would it matter to you then? Absolutely! The life cycle of the phone numbers you use to advertise your business is a crucial element to the health of your entire business.

What happens to your old phone numbers after they’ve been disconnected?

There are several reasons marketing managers think a phone number has outlived its use and might consider disconnecting it.

  • An advertising campaign may have come to an end or run its course.
  • The analytics to a number may show that calls to the number are dropping off.
  • Marketing strategies have changed, and the decision is made to quit a campaign (and truncate everything that goes along with it, including phone numbers).

What many marketing managers don’t realize, however, is that their phone number lives on long after the campaign ends or the advertisement is pulled.

Why shouldn’t you just disconnect your business phone numbers?

The life cycle of a phone number is, at bare minimum, two years.

While it’s nearly impossible to state the length of each phone number’s individual life cycle, our experience is that a phone number is still viable for at minimum two years. Depending on how much you advertised, where you advertised, and how you advertised, that could go up to three, four, or even 10 years!

Think about all of the collateral that goes into marketing and advertising your business phone numbers. No matter what industry you use, your phone number is a unique, crucial tool that identifies the right customer to you and gives them an opportunity to choose you. When they pick up the phone, they are choosing to work with you—the ball is in your court, and it’s up to you to slam dunk the opportunity.

Your business phone numbers are too valuable to be thrown away or disconnected.

For example, in your advertising, you likely send out hundreds, even thousands, of pieces of collateral with your business name and the phone number your customers can reach you with. Maybe it’s a flyer, a business card, or a magnet your customers stick on their appliances so they can contact you easily when they need you.

Even if your campaign ends, customers will still use the associated phone numbers.

Your advertising may have a much longer life than you expect. Customers may keep cards, magnets, or other collateral material with your phone number on it for future reference.

Similarly, you should be aware of the presence of your phone numbers online. In the example I shared above, it’s likely that the first resort initially owned that phone number, and it was the contact information provided on their website. Chances are, when the company chose to disconnect that specific phone number, their competitor sought it out and purchased it. The results? Now all calls made to that number go directly to the resort’s competitor. For the purchase price of that one phone number—which averages about $150—their competitor just bought their business.

What should you do with old phone numbers if you’re thinking about disconnecting?

If you’re thinking about disconnecting your phone number(s), there are several things you need to do and know first:

  • Get your number(s) off the internet. You need to search Google, Bing, Yahoo—every search engine available—and see where your phone numbers exist. Chances are, they are living in regions of the web you haven’t even considered.
  • Make sure you’re checking Yellow Page ads, too. If you put ads in the Yellow Pages, you should know that those numbers also get posted online. If you disconnect a number from an ad, be sure to follow up to make sure it’s also changed or removed from the online component.
  • Analyze your call volume so you know what you may be giving up. Call tracking phone numbers can give you a data-backed look at just how well your individual advertising pieces are performing. By adding a unique number to each piece you send out, you can make a fact-based decision about whether or not disconnecting a number is a good idea. You may discover that the facts about what’s driving your call volume don’t line up with your assumptions.
  • Remember this truth: A competitor could claim the number. If you decide to disconnect your number, you will be sending a number back to inventory, where it can be reclaimed by one of your competitors, who may benefit from it. (Greatly.)

Before you pull the plug on your business phone numbers, it’s imperative to take the time to ask yourself what you could be losing. With call tracking, you’ll be able to see exactly what business you may miss out on—and what business your competitors could steal—by simply taking one of your old phone numbers.