Report: Local Numbers Outperform 800 by 2X

Picture 42Dennis Fromholzer’s CRM Associates recently issued a report that said the following about use of local telephone numbers vs. 800/toll-free numbers in print or online advertising:

In general, ads with local phone numbers receive more than twice as many calls as  ads with just an 800 or toll-free number.  The cost per call is 2.4 times higher in ads with just an 800 number than with ads with just a local number.  The pattern of results that is observed in the US data is the same as has been observed in several other countries around the globe, which indicates that the results are reflective of very clear, deep, and culture-independent patterns of consumer shopping behavior.

Accordingly, Fromholzer says, 800 numbers wind up costing more than local numbers because they deliver fewer calls given what he says is a clear consumer preference for local numbers — suggestive of more personalized attention than 800 numbers, which suggest “not-local,” “call center,” “less caring,” “less personal attention,” “computerized answering service.”


8 Responses to “Report: Local Numbers Outperform 800 by 2X”

  1. Stever Says:

    Nice to see some authoritative numbers on what should be obvious.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    People always need data to confirm what they already “intuitively” know. 🙂

  3. Don Campbell Says:

    Actually this was not intuitively obvious to me. For local search, of course I always use a local number.

    But for websites with a national presence I thought an 800 number would indicate that a company is “for real” and is willing to invest so that potential customers do not have to pay for a long distance call.

    Thanks for sharing this research. I guess I’d better remove the 800# from my website and use my local number 🙂

  4. Ben Says:

    Hmm… The real question is – at this point does it really matter?

    Local or toll free – outside of selected industries and selected geographic markets, the return delivered by the YP is pathetic. Think I’m biased because I run a (mostly) online marketing company? Take a look at Idearc’s stock price for the past three years. The Yellow Book rep told me that the reason the book is smaller is because they have “gone green!” What a freakin’ joke! No one at the Yellow Book was complaining about the big cumbersome book when they were selling ads left and right. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing (and our client was laughing even harder).

    Up until (somewhat) recently, the only effective way to track YP ads was to use specific toll free numbers in each ad. Of course, no YP rep or agency selling YP ads wanted you tracking your results – so they would tell you that local numbers equaled better results. In my experience — using both — this is hogwash!

    CRM Associates looks to be a very “pro yellow pages” organization (at least as a surface glance). Perhaps local numbers do pull better than toll free — the average consumer probably equates local number with local business. Fine, great, wooowhooo!

    For many businesses, it’s a little too late. Track your advertising and my guess is that you’ll uncover something similar to what we have for this client:

    (read the top case study)

  5. Aaron Sperling Says:


    If the print and online ads are locally focused, e.g. Dallas company advertising in Dallas, then the findings aren’t surprising. Does the report address nationally focused advertising and the usage of 800 vs local numbers?


  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Aaron, yes believe it was in the local context.

  7. Colin Says:

    Greg, do you have a copy of this report? I looked at CRM Associates’ site and did not find a copy of it.


    Colin Cook

  8. Greg Sterling Says:

    I don’t seem to be able to find it. That quote is take verbatim from the document but I’m not finding it.

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