The Phone NUMBER, Reinvented

Steve Jobs famously introduced the iPhone on January 9, 2007 by proclaiming it as “The Phone, Reinvented”. It was a phone, music player, and Internet browser, all in one. That was revolutionary, inasmuch as it created convenience for the user. But if you watch the entire iPhone launch video on YouTube, you’ll see that after the Big Bang announcement, Jobs goes into detail about how the User Interface is all about Ease of Use.

Existing smartphones of the day (Palm, Blackberry) all had a physical keyboard that was relatively difficult to use. They were also problematic in that the keys were fixed, so not amenable to the needs of new software applications (you’d be forced to use a clunky Ctrl+K type of keystroke to activate a feature). The iPhone eliminated the need for the keyboard with its Touch Screen - which also eliminated the need for a stylus, by allowing you to use your fingers. Intuitive and easy to use – this is why the iPhone accounts for half of all mobile phones in the world today.

Um, no. Keep Innovating.

Okay, now let’s talk about phone numbers – the things you must deal with to talk to friends, family, colleagues, doctors and businesses. In the 1920’s phone numbers were only 5 digits – short enough to remember. But by the 1950’s, the numbering plan had to be extended to 10 digits to accommodate the demand. This created the problem of remembering a semi-random number string, which is pretty difficult for most people. Other than the Bell System’s “chunking” of the number into the familiar 3-3-4 format, the only innovation related to the memory problem has been “vanity” phone numbers (making part of the number correspond to letters on the dial-pad, which then spell a word).

So is a vanity number the perfect solution for the problem? Not exactly. In some cases, it is easy to remember. But there are a few issues that diminish the utility. The biggest one is that you have to hunt & peck to spell a word on the telephone dial-pad – which is dangerous and probably illegal if you are driving (as you would be if you just heard a radio advertisement asking you to call the business). Once all the literal 800 numbers were used up, advertisers had to resort to 888, 877, 866, etc. which effectively pushed the memory load from 7 back up to 10 digits. Advertisers also often use partial vanity numbers, such as 877-432-BOSS, which are hardly helpful.

Now consider: if you are a marketer, isn’t it frustrating that you want to receive phone calls from prospects and customers, because you know that calls convert at a much higher rate than clicks – but you are stuck with a response method that suppresses calling!? And don’t tell me that “drive to Web” is the answer – those radio listeners and billboard viewers who are driving cannot go to the website while they are driving, and most will forget to do so by the end of their commute. The small subset that do remember to go online in search of your business will start at Google, and only find you in the midst of competitive clutter, which will siphon off some of your surviving prospects.

Your prayers have been answered. Just as domain names relieve us from having to remember IP addresses, #250 Spoken Keywords relieve consumers from having to remember 10 digit phone numbers. Advertising calls-to-action simply ask them to dial #250 & say a brand keyword. The chances of a consumer remembering a phone number are low – but the chances of them remembering the brand name or slogan from the 30-60 second commercial they just heard are quite high. This ease of dialing, and the removal of the memory-based barrier to response, can result in call volume increases of 20-150%. Prospects don’t have to Google you later – they can respond immediately after your ad’s creative or offer inspired them to act.

#250 works right now on virtually all mobile phones in the US and Canada. Advertisers all over the country are licensing their brand keywords (including category terms, like “Roofing”, “Lasik”, “Mortgage”) before their competitors do. Direct Response advertisers are using #250 keywords on national radio like Sirius XM and Premiere Networks (Rush, Hannity, et al.).

Reinvent your own business phone number today by using #250 in your advertising, so more buyers can reach you.

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