1-800 painting vanity numbers are something my pro painters have asked me about in the last few months. Instead of taking 15 minutes to explain my thoughts on the subject every time I’m asked, I recorded this video and had it transcribed for painting contractors.
If you are considering a 1-800 numbers as a painter, please watch this video and play close attention at what happens at 2:03 in the video. I think you may have all the information you need about whether or not they help you get paint jobs.
Brandon Lewis: Hey it’s Brandon Lewis with Painters Weekly and the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors and I have been asked by a couple of our members in the last few months if a 1-800 number, a vanity number, would be good for their business. Additionally, I had a proprietor who promotes these 1-800 numbers really come after me in kind of a forceful way of all the benefits of the numbers. I remained very neutral about it, but frankly someone who has an independent, non-biased, non-self interested motive needs to tell you if these things are best for your painting business or not. So, I’m gonna give you some pros and I’m gonna give you some cons and I’m gonna let you make the decision based upon your own logic.
So, the first thing that I’m going to talk about with these numbers is a big huge confidence. It is not a pro, and for this reason alone I think that these numbers are a complete waste of money and here’s why. We’re going to call 1-800-pro painter on the phone right now and I see people that have this number on their website and on their vehicles. If you try to call them and if you are out of that service area that they have quarantined you into. Say for example, that you are buying a house in that area and you’re looking for a painter. Say you are a commercial property manager and you want somebody to paint the front of Staples or a shopping center. Or if you’re the manager for multiple properties, say there’s a plant in New Jersey and you’ve got this number and I try to call you because I manage the properties from Chattanooga or I’m living in Chattanooga and I want to move to New Jersey and I find your website, let’s see what happens.
So, if we call 1-800 pro painter, P-R-O-P-A-I-N-T-E-R and I go to talk the number dials, okay? So, I’ve just dialed this number.
Automated: The number you have dialed is not available in your area at this time.
Brandon Lewis: So, if you …
Automated: The number you have dialed is not available in your area at this time.
Brandon Lewis: So you lose 100% of the leads that come to your business from out of town.
I don’t know about you, but we get lots of business from out-of-town people calling in through our local area. I’ve called this number not only from a local number on a landline, but I’ve also called this number from a cellphone from Wichita, Kansas. And a couple of other people in our office just to see does it act differently with cell phones? I could not get it to act differently. Now, maybe this is an exception.
There’s another number that’s in this space and it’s 1-800 painting and I think it’s also associated with 1-800 we paint, okay? There’s a couple of different numbers. This is better, but it’s not good.
If you wait until when it picks up. We’ve got the phone ringing, that’s good, phone rings. Rings a second time. Rings again. So I’m calling the number, rings a fourth time.
Speaker 3: Hello, you’ve reached 1-800 painting and 1-800 We Paint.
Brandon Lewis: Okay.
Speaker 3: Please leave your name and number and also the city, which you would like to have the work done, and we will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you for calling 1-800 painting and 1-800 we paint.
Automated: At the tone please record your-
Brandon Lewis: Sounds like this thing is forwarding to a voicemail of a cell phone. I’m not sure, that extra sound at the end of the tone is a dead giveaway that it’s not really going to a landline. It’s going to a cellphone, which is okay, not a big deal. The big deal is this. If somebody’s calling from out of town to reach your company and they get your voicemail, in our industry there is a 60 to 75% abandonment rate. 60 to 75% abandonment rate for voicemail. So, if you promote this number on your website. If you promote it even on your vehicles and you go out of town and somebody tries to call you, number one if your vehicles are in another town and that other person has a number and you just happen to be doing work there you can’t pick up any work and number two, if somebody calls like me from outside of a service area where no one has purchased this number then it’s gonna go to voicemail and you’re gonna lose 60 to 75% of your out of town leads.
That’s the biggest reason that I think these numbers are a bad idea for your business because you only have to lose a handful of leads a year for it not to be worth it. Let’s say your average job is $3,000 and your close rate’s 40%. That means every single job that comes in is worth $900 thereabouts to you. So, let’s say it’s $3,000 it’s 30% net margin that’s $900. That means every time you miss a call and if you close at, let’s say a 50% close rate on average or let’s just say it’s 30, that means that you lose $300 at least every time something goes to that number. Or some percentage of that every time it goes to either the one that has the voicemail or the one that just says “I’m sorry you can’t even leave a message.” This is a bad thing, okay?
Second reason that I think these numbers are a big issue is because of what we call NAPS. Name, address, phone number. This is your social security number online in citations and on your website. It’s what allows Google to identify you and put you in three packs and on the first page of Google. The three unique identifiers are your exact company name, your address, and your phone number. If you’re sharing one third of your identity that’s supposed to be unique with other painting companies all over the nation it confuses and reduces the chance for that unique identifier. And, if somebody has a bad experience with one of these phone numbers and they think that you’re the same company they may look at you and think I’m gonna have the same bad experience because unlike franchises there’s no stop gap. There’s no consistency of service. There’s no repercussions, there’s no standards about how you perform when you have these numbers like there is the intimate relationship you have with a franchise. Good with franchises, bad with independents if there’s no regulating body. That’s the second reason.
The third reason is you have to pay for them. So, you have to pay for them and you lose leads from out of town and it probably hurts your local SCO because you’re losing one third of your unique identifiers.
The fourth reason I think these numbers are not very good is because of this simple fact that at some point the people who own these numbers could get hit by a bus. They could go out of business and you’re gonna have a ton of people who have these numbers associated with them that are gonna get this letter saying I’m sorry we’re not doing this service anymore. Even if you have some kind of legal standing what happens if the family member who picks it up doesn’t want to do it?
Now, there are two models in these numbers right now. One of them is you can lease the number or rent the number, which cost a ton more money and you’re paying constantly to lose leads from out of town. Or the second one is that you can buy the number.
Now, financially it’s better to buy the number than to lease the number however, it’s probably riskier and here’s why. If something happens to the proprietor of one of these numbers and they go out of business at least with the leased model there’s an opportunity for somebody to buy the business and have recurring revenue. If somebody buys the model that is the purchased number then basically they are constantly paying their operating revenue from yesterday and last year’s sales. It’s almost like selling a plot at a funeral home. You pay for it once you gotta support it and maintain it forever. It’s a dicey model that’s why you see so many graveyards that go out of business. You read about them in the paper. They work until they stop selling grave plots or they run out of land and then they’re stuck forever with these obligations but no revenue coming in. So, that’s a big huge issue that concerns me and those are really the big ones.
Now, here’s the pro, right? They say the pro is that people remember them more, okay? It’s not really supported with facts and evidence it’s just a claim that they make. That oh, doesn’t this look professional? Doesn’t’ this feel professional? The only way you would ever know if it helped with response rates would be to do what we call a split test in marketing. That is where you would take 10,000 people in an area, mail them all the exact same post card with the only difference being the reply device of the phone number. One of them would be 1-800 whatever and the other one would be your local phone number. It’s my opinion that people would respond better to a 1-800 rather I’m sorry, would respond better to a local number than a 1-800 number because when you think about calling into a 1-800 number do you think about quality service? Or do you think about sitting in a cue or waiting or talking to somebody in an overseas call center.
I’ve even seen the copy say we’re not a 1-800 number. I’ve seen it used by national chains where people call in and get local service. When you call in locally you want local service. Now, if you were calling into 1-800 flowers, or if you were calling into some company that you knew was not domiciled in your local area and ran by small business in a proprietor, by all means I think a 1-800 number’s great. I mean, it does say “hey we care. We’ll pick up the toll,” but frankly, with long distance being a thing of the past now virtually a 1-800 number originally came up because it needed to eliminate the long distance. Now that’s not even the case. It’s a thing of the past, you know?
So, that local number, I feel, would outpull it. Now, that’s what I call anecdotal feelings, okay? I can’t prove that. That’s just my opinion. What somebody needs to do is split test it to see and get an independent third party to split test it to see if it actually helps them pull,
Now, the final claim that they make is that people recall it and when they need to call you again they’ll remember. I got off the phone recently with somebody who has one of these telephone numbers associated with their businesses and they’ve got the exact same customer retention issues that everyone else has that I work with. This 1-800 number did not make Mr. and Mrs. Jones remember them when they hadn’t contact them in 12 to 18 to 24 months. The only way to keep your clients remembering you is to consistently communicate with them. With a monthly newsletter both mailed and emailed and three customer reactivation campaigns a year. Keeping in touch with them on social media and you have to reach out to them directly, often, for them to remember you. You have to build a personal connection.
I’m sorry, a phone number is just a reply device. It’s no different than an envelope. it’s no different than a website. it’s no different than an email address. It’s no different than whatever. It’s just digits on a piece of paper. Now, should you have a bad phone number that’s hard to remember? No. Should you pay $3,000 for a number that people can’t reach you from out of town and that it could be sold or something could happen to it and that confuses the search engines? Probably not.
So, overall I think the case built for these 1-800 numbers is exceptionally weak. I think the true risks like not being able to get out of town leads is real. We know that’s real. We just proved that that’s real. That’s not even opinion. So, these are things you need to think about. If I were considering purchasing one and I didn’t have one I would have to say I wouldn’t. If I had one already would I keep it? Maybe. If you’ve put it all over the place. If you’ve plastered it all over the place. If you’ve put it on cars and vehicles you may be kinda stuck with it, but I will tell you this, if you’ve already purchased one of these do not put it on your website. Do not put it anywhere that someone out of town can see it because if they call in they’re not gonna be able to get you and that’s remarkably expensive and dangerous.
So, I’m Brandon Lewis giving you my unvarnished opinion. I don’t mean to hurt feelings. I don’t mean to anger anybody, this is just something that I’ve had members ask about over and over again and recently I had someone really kind of push me on my thoughts about this, and I thought the only way I can do this so I don’t have to explain it six or seven times a year is to create something comprehensive one time to put it online and then let people reference it. So I hope that this has been helpful for you.
Finally, if you’re gonna spend $3,000 spend it on things that actually make money fast. Improve your sales systems, okay? Learn from somebody who can teach you how to increase your closing rates and someone who can teach you to raise your prices. Reactivate your clients. Reach back to the hundreds or thousands of people with a good multimedia, multi step campaign. Build referral relationships with commercial repaint contacts or other B to B service providers. Or you know, optimize your local website for SEO and pre-positioning and follow up tools on there. Increase the proof. Build video testimonials. If you’ve not done those things first that’s where your money needs to go first. You always spend the money on the things that have the highest ROI that can come back to you the quickest and then you spend money on things that are secondary or tertiary.
I don’t even know if a 1-800 number even makes it to the list at all. I think it’s not even something you would spend money on. So, if you’re making these decisions about purchasing and if you think that having one of these numbers is gonna magically rescue your business it’s probably not. In fact, I can almost guarantee it won’t and in some cases it could even hurt your business. So those are things to think about. I’m Brandon Lewis with the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors and Painters Weekly giving you another unabashed, unvarnished assessment of all things marketing and sales. Take it for what it’s worth. Bye, bye.