THE BLOG
10/25/2013 10:52 am ET Updated Dec 25, 2013

Is an 800 Number Necessary Anymore?

With the Internet as widespread as it is, businesses have a lot of communication platforms. At the dawn of the Internet, a company that only had a web presence was seen as shady and untrustworthy. These days the reverse is true -- for large demographics of consumers (most often young and/or male), a business that doesn't exist on Yelp or Google Maps simply doesn't exist.

Managing communication methods largely depends on the type of business you run and the demographic you serve. If you provide software solutions for business-to-business (B2B) communication, you'll gain more business networking through LinkedIn and email and phone campaigns rather than listing yourself on Yelp.

Below are the most common business communication methods, along with their recommended uses:

Local Telephone Number -- If you run a business whose income depends on geographic area (for example, a pizza delivery joint), you'll need a local telephone number. This tells people you're a neighbor and member of their community. Many consumers would rather deal local with many services, including home repair, convenience shopping, food, and more.

If you plan to serve foot traffic or local consumers in any way, either contact your local phone company, register for a free local number with Google Voice, or shop similar VoIP services tailored specifically to the needs of your business.

1-800-Number -- Businesses that ship or serve customers anywhere outside of their local geographic region (outside the same metropolitan area), should have a toll-free 800 number set up for customer contact. Having an 800 number signifies to potential customers that you accept orders and have business outside of your local geographic area. Franchises, corporations, shipping businesses, and consultants are among those likely to need an 800 number.

If you plan to serve business customers or customers residing in large geographic areas, research reputable providers of toll free forwarding services to set up an 800 number for your customers to reach you.

Email -- If your business has an Internet presence, you'll need an email address. Despite the rise of social media, texting, and instant messaging, email is still the current standard for business communication. Email is faster and cheaper than phone lines, but they are meant to be used in conjunction with, not in lieu of, a telephone presence. You can save yourself a lot of junk mail by posting a form on your site as opposed to an email address. This also allows you to control and route email accordingly.

To set up an email account for your business, sign up for Gmail, Yahoo, or research an option that fits your particular business needs.

Social Media -- The social media platforms you sign up for will again depend on your type of business, available resources, and how tech-savvy your business is. At the very least, register an account with every social community you can find in order to reserve the name. Usernames don't abide by trademark laws, and you don't want to be @EHarmony365 because some squatter already used your business name.

Register an account with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Once you have those up, you can start looking for more specialized communities, and even start lending your expertise to community forums as an expert.

The Final Word

Technology is moving at an extremely fast pace, and as a business-owner, it can be difficult navigating the array of communication platforms customers and potential customers use. Every business has its own unique challenges, and by tailoring a specific communication package for your business, you can ensure your customers always feel like you're on their side, no matter what method they use to contact you.

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