Now that you have a vision of your small business you can start working on the finer details that will take you business over the top. You have certainly heard or seen the catchy phone numbers or easy domain names that business owners use to ensure prospective customers contact them first. You have probably wondered how they got those assets. An easy to remember phone number such as 1-555-FLOWERS or the website www.Flowers.com are rare and obtaining such marketable assets can sometimes come with a hefty price tag. However, don’t think that all the good ones are gone. These assets are out there you just have to know where to look.
Vanity numbers and straight digit numbers are not a new thing. Though it might seem like there is a limited supply of telephone numbers out there, the FCC is always introducing new ones. As the phone companies obtain these new numbers they become available for public use. There are many companies that have vanity numbers and straight numbers you can search. You may not find the exact number you are looking for, but you can certainly find something worthwhile. Another avenue for finding numbers is to walk in to your cell phone provider and tell them you want to add a line to your account. They can do a search of available numbers and the larger carriers tend to have a good selection. Do not be discouraged if you can’t find the perfect number in your area code. With the growing number of people using their cell phone as their primary telephone, long distance is no longer the issue it was before. Of course you want to ‘look’ localized, but in most markets there are more than one area code you can use and still maintain that local appearance. An often-overlooked venue for obtaining a good phone number is from other businesses that are closing their doors, especially small business owners that are retiring. So keep an eye out for these gems as they become available. At some point someone else may even offer you the use of a phone number. It can be tricky if you are offered a phone number or you find someone looking to pass on their marketing, because no one actually owns a telephone number or has the right to ‘sell’ a number. The telephone companies have the rights to their phone numbers and they allow people to use them, thus your monthly service bill. However, people can transfer their use of a telephone number and marketing of that number to someone else. If a phone number and its respective advertising are good enough to transfer the use of, they usually come at a price and their own head aches. Before deciding to accept the use of a number you should have it forwarded to you or your office for a few days. This will give you an idea of the call volume and you can see exactly what hassles will also be transferred to you. A common problem with memorable telephones numbers is that they are used by every one avoiding creditors and debt collectors.
If you are looking to use a vanity number you need to keep in mind that some mobile phones do not dial past the tenth digit and some cell phones do not have the lettering on the dial pad. So if you are considering 555-ATTORNEY (555-288-6763-9) the 9 at the end could cause problems for someone trying to dial your number. Of course this is not a problem on all phones, but it can cause issues and is something to be aware of.
Straight numbers are more difficult to come by. Some would think that these types of numbers have fewer issues than vanity numbers, but there are definitely some things to keep in mind when using them as well. Straight digits are the prank caller’s ultimate dream. You can review your call logs and without a doubt there will be a spike in calls every time you run a television commercial or radio spot. There may not be a study out there showing this is to be true, but rest assured, it is very much so. In addition to prank calls, straight numbers are pocket dialed and butt dialed a whole lot. By their very nature they are easy to dial-even by accident. The number of prank calls and pocket dials may come at a cost. If your office is not equipped to handle the extra call volume, another receptionist or call screener may be needed to so that real and valuable prospects and customers are not abandoned or ignored due to the extra calls.
A good phone number is important to your marketing campaign. An easy to remember phone number makes conveying your message in an ad far less complicated and leaves more room for your sales pitch. Before just accepting the number the phone company gives you or going with the number you have now, take the time to see what’s available in your market. You may be surprised at what you find and it could end up being a very lucrative investment. That said, as an investment you need to protect your asset. Imagine spending thousands of dollars advertising your vanity or straight number, and right when you get it burned into your market it is stolen away from you. This can and does happen. Stealing phone numbers, or slamming, is much more common than people believe. This happens if your phone number is not with a reputable telephone company. As a valuable asset you need to make sure your telephone is ported or moved to a secure company such as AT & T, Verizon or any of the larger phone companies. The smaller communication companies tend to have fewer restrictions on porting or changing carriers, and for that reason they are easier to compromise.
Aside from a good phone number, your website is the most invaluable tool in your marketing toolbox. A good domain name is critical and there are some things to consider before making a purchase. First and foremost you need prospects to find you on the internet. Advertising a long, difficult website name can very easily drive prospects to your competitors. Domain names with dashes are often confused with those without, and if your competitor has that website without dashes your ads very well might drive their business. Likewise, websites that use the lesser-known suffixes like .net or .org are frequently mistaken with .com sites. Recently more suffixes were released and probably should not be used until they become more widely used and recognizable.
In addition to the advertising advantages, the right domain name can have a very direct effect on your visibility in the search engines. Google and Bing use several factors when ranking websites on their search engine results page (SERP), and the actual domain itself is one of those factors. The age of the domain, meaning how long ago the domain was originally registered for use is important. Older websites that have been around for a long time, or crusty domains as they are lovingly referred to as, are worth considering. Search engines sometimes use the age of a domain as an indication of their legitimacy and significance, more importantly they consider the backlinks associated with older domains and that these links bring weight with them. However, steer clear of websites that have been in use for a long time but were used for spamming, gambling or pornography distribution.
Another important thing to investigate before deciding on a domain is the neighborhood the website is in. What does this even mean? This means you need to find out where the website is being hosted, or where it lives, before you buy it. If a company known for having spam servers controls the site, your site could be punished for their offenses. This makes buying a domain from a reputable domain registrar very important. Google and Bing know where your site lives and if they think it is living in a bad neighborhood, then they believe it could potentially be used for spamming too, and that is an impossible battle to fight.
Now that you know what to look for when buying domain, what do you do next? This depends on the vision you created for your business in the beginning. If you have a geographical area you want to target or a primary product, then it makes sense to use those as options in your domain name search. You can go to any number of website hosting companies and search available domains, mixing and matching your keywords, or simply type them in to your favorite search engine. If the vision you set out contains a broad spectrum then it might be a good idea to find a variation of your name or your business name. Make a list of all domain names you can find that are available and then do your research, being mindful of the things to look out for. You can and should purchase more than one domain name. You can always use the other websites later as a supplement to your primary site. For example, if you have a business that covers several different products or services you may want to use www.BusinessName.com as your primary site that contains all of your areas of business and information. Then later you build www.BusinessWidget.com to highlight just your one aspect of your business. Conversely, if you are a just starting out as a small business owner you may be better served with one domain name. Within that one website you highlight all of the various products and services you provide. Standard domain purchases are relatively inexpensive and it is always a good idea to seize an option if it is available.
Domain Purchase & Registration
After you have researched and decided on your domains it is highly recommended that you purchase or register them through a reputable registrar such as GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com. This will ensure that your registrations are secure and your website service and customer support is reliable. You should also register any variations of the domain that are available, such as the .net and .org and the hyphenated variations, if they are available. Registering the alternate domains with the alternate suffixes will keep someone else from poaching on your traffic when your advertising moves into full gear.
Once your website is up and successful you will surely be approached to purchase other domains. Sometimes these offers can be great deals and sometimes they can be costly mistakes. It is important to research who the current owner of the website is and the history of the site. Make sure to ask the seller all of the important questions regarding neighborhood, age and previous use. Investigate the domain thoroughly before paying out any money. If they are asking big money for the domain, it may be worth it to pay a third party company to do additional research on the website to make sure it has not been burned in the search engines. Domains get burned, or banned, in the search engines because of ranking tactics by previous owners. Black hat SEO companies use bad linking campaigns, keyword stuffing and cloaking to create doorway pages. These practices fool the search engines for instant short-term results and create penalties that are incredibly difficult to recover from. Black hat SEO can even knock a perfect domain name completely out of the search engine results all together. Just because the domain name sounds good, does not always mean that you can make it work. In fact, the best domain names can sometimes be impossible to convert into a usable asset without spending tons of time and money. If you do decide to purchase a premium domain name you should use a domain escrow company so that both parties are protected in the transfer of the asset. Make no mistake, website selling and hosting is a lucrative business for some, and just like with a telephone number or piece of property you need to make sure that you are confident and secure in your purchase.