How to Choose Your Business Phone Number - Local, Virtual, Toll Free
woman talking to clients who used her business phone number

How to Choose Your Business Phone Number

Despite the growth of internet sales and communications, the preferred method of customer/business communications is by phone. The traditional phone call still tops the charts when it comes to ordering goods, asking questions, and sorting out complaints. So you can see why choosing the right business phone number is important.

The first part of the customers’ journey is often picking up the phone and dialing your number. Your phone number is a subconscious reflection of how the rest of the journey will go, so making the right choice is important for business owners.

Make the first part of the journey easy and the customer will feel assured and more confident about your company. They will be more likely to call again and again and again.

So, you need a suitable phone number. Phone numbers for business can differ in many ways from the normal private personal number. There are several different types, and selecting the one most suited to your business model is crucial. 

Table of Contents

What Are the Types of Business Phone Number?

Knowing how to choose your business phone number starts with understanding the available options. We’ve listed the different types of numbers below with a few of the benefits (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of each along with estimates of the price.

Local Business Phone Number


  • Shows you have a local presence
  • Great for building local relationships with customers
  • Easy and cheap to set up


  • Can make your business look smaller than you’d like
  • Not good for building trust and relationships with customers from outside of the area code

What is a Local Business Phone Number?

A local business number looks like a normal number with a local area code. It’s used to show people your business has a physical locality.

An example of this could be the number for your local office or shop. The head office might be several states away, but your business has a local office.

It portrays local knowledge and familiarity with the local market needs. It can help customers feel more connected than a national or international number. It suggests you serve a community, and this can help build trust.

Local numbers are usually a three-figure code that relates to your city or region. They are perfect for businesses with a physical presence that needs to get friendly with locals.

Of course, you can always use a local number alongside a national or vanity number to give customers a choice.


Local numbers are easy to set up and are cost-effective. You can even get a free local number with some service providers, while others may charge a minimal fee such as $10 per month.

Toll-Free Phone Number


  • Make the company look large and established
  • Gives your customers a way to contact you for free


  • You lose the local business image
  • You must pay for the customers’ calls

Toll-free numbers are usually 800 numbers (including 800, 888, 877, 855, 844, and 833). They help your business look like a national big business. A toll-free number does the customer a big favor by giving them a free way to contact you, but of course, you must pay for their calls!

A toll-free number is a great way to boost your customer service and marketing efforts. It helps improve your professional image and indicates you are prepared to invest in your customers. You want them to contact you and are willing to pay the costs of that contact.

They’re ideal for online businesses without any main customer-facing head office or HQ. A small business may choose one to appear larger than they are or signify an intention to grow and take on the bigger competitors.


Toll-free numbers also cost little to set up. Costs start at around $10 per month for a simple number. You do have to pay for all the customers’ calls, so long-distance or cell phone calls could make this expensive.

Vanity Phone Number


  • Easy to remember
  • Can spread your marketing message and brand


  • More expensive than a normal number
  • Sometimes difficult to buy popular numbers

What is a Vanity Business Phone Number?

A vanity number is a number that uses the letters on the phone’s keypad to spell out a word.

For example, a donut shop might have the number 1-800-JDONUTS. On the keypad, the customer dials 1-800-536-6887. You can see that remembering “jdonuts” is much easier than 536-6887.

You can get a significant increase in incoming calls (estimates range from 25% to 50%) with a vanity number. The simple reason is that the number is more memorable.

It’s also easier to include in advertising. Imagine a radio jingle for a shop called “J’s Donuts.” “JDonuts” is much less “clunky” to fit into a jingle than “536-6887.” It’s difficult to accidentally misspell “donuts”, while it’s easy to mistype 536-6887 and end up calling a nonexistent line.

Vanity phone numbers can also help with your brand awareness. The number can tell people what your company does. It’s a low-cost addition to your marketing strategy and can also portray your business as a large-scale enterprise and helps you boost credibility.

Your existing customers will be able to easily remember your number and new customers will learn the number much faster. Both add convenience to your customer’s “journey” to the sales department.


Your vanity number can cost anything from $19 right up to over $10,000, and you can buy them directly from the service provider.

Global Phone Number


  • Offer international customers a great way to contact you
  • You can reroute calls from all over the world to your HQ


  • More expensive than a normal number
  • Often internet based only

What is a Global Business Phone Number?

Your global business phone number acts as a local number to your customers anywhere in the world. The caller must only remember a simple local number to reach you in the head office on the other side of the ocean, so they’re great for international businesses.

A global number can also be a vanity and toll-free number, so your international customers can call you on a local, easy to remember, toll-free number. Now that’s true customer service! You can even have all of your global numbers routed to your main customer services center or HQ.

These are usually virtual internet-based numbers, and you can normally find a whole bundle of extra services available with the virtual number.


Costs can vary widely. A simple package can cost as little as $30 per month, and an enterprise-sized pack with extra services can cost over $500 per month. It pays to shop around!

Virtual Phone Number


  • Modern technology integrates with cell and landline phone systems
  • Offer huge flexibility and variety of services
  • Cost-effective for small businesses


  • Reliant on a good internet connection

What is a Virtual Business Phone Number?

A virtual business phone number is one that does not have a physical phone or line. They’re sometimes known as online or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) numbers.

Traditional numbers rely on an actual phone line. At the end of the line are a phone and any other expensive equipment such as the answerphone, switchboard, call recorder, etc. When someone dials the number, their phone is connected to the physical line and phone at the other end.

With a virtual number, all of these services are provided by software (SaaS – software as a service). They can be server or (more recently) cloud based.

Managing these extra services can be extremely easy. For example, the NetLines business phone system can be controlled via an app on your existing cell phone! This also means that you can get a second phone number without buying extra equipment.

Your virtual number can be set up to transfer incoming calls to any mobile cell or fixed landline phone, which makes this option ideal for businesses with remote workers.


Some providers supply a free virtual number, and others may charge a nominal $10. Virtual numbers are cheap and easy to set up making them great for small or mobile businesses.

NetLines is the most affordable virtual phone system on the market, starting at just $9/mn. View our plans and pricing here.

Area Codes to Avoid

Over the years, several area codes have become associated with various phone scams and robocalls. An example is where the phone rings but quickly cuts off. You call the number back only to hit a long-drawn-out recorded message. Later you find it cost $30 a minute to listen to the message.

Local and Federal governments regularly issue warnings about scammers working in a certain area and malicious calls using a certain number. Some area codes are used more than others.

Having a phone number with the same area code may have negative connotations and these numbers should be avoided. Typical numbers include the area codes 684, 671, 670, 787, 939 and 340. If you’re based in an area with one of these area codes then use a virtual, vanity or toll-free number.

Which Type of Number is Best for Your Business?

Only you can decide what type of number is the best fit for your business calls. It’s difficult to generalize and say one number fits one business type perfectly.

We can however make some rudimentary guidelines as follows:

  • Businesses trading in localized areas who depend on building local customer relations will benefit from having a simple local number
  • Established businesses with a loyal customer base are likely to favor the toll-free number. This is especially true if sales are dependent on phone conversations and repeat orders
  • Vanity numbers can be especially useful to businesses that drive sales via big advertising campaigns. The number is easy to remember and raises brand awareness
  • A global number is useful for the international sales business with local trade centered in various countries around the world
  • A virtual number could be useful to all types of business, big or small, who are looking for more facility (auto attendant, call recording, etc.)

Virtual business phone systems, such as NetLines, can offer you the most flexibility, affordable features and multiple number types all in one app on your existing phone.

The Bottom Line

Quite simply – choose the easiest one to remember.

Your business phone number is important. It’s part of someone’s first impressions of your company and reflects your company image in their subconscious.

Spend some time considering the best type of number for your business since it becomes part of your branding and advertising. Changing your number later will be difficult.

Also consider that technology is changing and ever advancing. Old traditional technology is slowly being replaced with cloud-based virtual systems, so investing now in a virtual service could be a prudent investment for the future to keep your company at the cutting edge of technology.

Categories: Small Business

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