A memorable 800 number is brand building at its core. There's intrinsic value in "vanity" numbers such as 800-FLOWERS. Even the stodgy 800-PRODIGY pulled in more calls than plain numerals did -- by 25%.

Here's an idea for small companies serving local markets: share a vanity number with similar businesses around the country. Marina Haber, owner of Empress Travel, in Pequannock, N.J., obtained 800-GO-VISIT several years ago. "My husband kept saying, 'I know we can do something with this number." She has. Her industry under siege, Haber is signing up other travel agencies to subscribe to 800-GO-VISIT and use it in their advertisements.

The major carriers call such a service "database routing." In this case, MCI sorts GO-VISIT's incoming calls by zip code of origin and routes them accordingly. Calls from zip codes without coverage bounce back to Haber's offices.

As for securing a dream number for your business, don't bother trying for our headlined 800-PARTNER. It belongs to a big bank.

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