“Are you local?”
If you remember the cult comedy show The League of Gentlemen, then you’ll recall the sketches in the Local Shop for Local People run by Edward and Tubbs. In the show, the joke was that the owners didn’t entertain many patrons, and certainly didn’t like non-locals coming through their door.
However, although funny, an enterprise targeted at individuals and businesses located within close range actually makes an excellent business strategy. This is especially the case for growing businesses that operate in a specific geographical area or start-ups that aim to dominate the market in one location before expanding.
If you operate a local business for local people, then you’ll need a local phone number. Read on to find out about local phone numbers, the benefits of having one and what 01 numbers cost.
A Brief History of Local Phone Numbers
To be clear, when we refer to local 01 phone numbers, we’re referring to the area code.
Telephone numbers in the UK are split into two parts. First, the area code which begins with 01 (or 02 in London, Southampton, Portsmouth, Coventry, Northern Ireland and Cardiff), followed by the local number.
If you’re located within an area code, you can call a local number without the first part. So, if you’re in Reading, with an area code of 0118 and you’re calling 0118 234567, then you can drop the area code and just dial the local number (234567) to be connected. However, if you’re in Bolton (area code 01204), then you’ll need to dial 0118 234567 to get through.
This is because there can be more than one individual or business using the same local number, however they will always be in different area codes. So, the local number 234567 could also be in use somewhere other than Reading.
It’s important for a growing business targeting an explicit geographical area to understand their local area code. Area codes don’t match postcodes or local government districts. They are, in fact, linked to BT’s phone network and where the telephone exchanges were historically positioned. (Want to find a local area code? There’s a handy list here.)
Area codes were first introduced in 1958 to allow callers to phone another telephone directly rather than being routed through a switchboard manually operated by a telephone exchange operator. Due to population growth and the rapid uptake of telephones, these area codes were updated and standardised in 1995 to all start with either 01 or 02. As an example, Manchester was once 061 and became 0161.
There are 611 area codes in the UK, with new ones being created when required. In 2008, an area code of 01987 was created for the new town of Ebbsfleet. Nowadays, when an operator assigns a local number they will honour these area code boundaries, although occasionally the border between two areas might vary slightly.
Benefits of Local Numbers
If your business strategy is to target customers within a community, then using a local phone number with the correct area code is an absolute must. Here’s four reasons why:
1. Customer Relevance
Knowing your own telephone area code, plus the area codes of adjoining districts, is ingrained in most people’s minds. We know our own landline and we’ve likely dialled numbers with nearby area codes more than once.
We see phone numbers for local businesses in regional newspapers or on the side of vans, and we hear those familiar digits read aloud on our local radio stations. Recognising this sequence of numbers fosters a sense of community, an understanding that this business or media channel caters for our neighbourhood and so is specifically relevant to us.
If you want to target customers in Norwich (01603) with your product or service and have a marketing campaign planned with ads in media local to Norwich and promotions aimed at Norwich-based businesses and individuals but have an Exeter number (01392) then you possibly won’t get very far. The Exeter area code 01392 simply doesn’t have the same relevance to residents of Norwich as 01603.
2. Customer Trust
Hand-in-hand with customer relevance is customer trust. If a consumer or business is looking for a local service, for example a new hairdresser or a cleaning service for their office, then they are more likely to buy from a company with the same area code as them, or a code that they recognise as being nearby.
Knowing that the hairdresser is “just down the road” and that they don’t have to travel too far to get there will encourage sales. Supporting “homegrown talent” by using a cleaning service that has been based in the area for many years, will boost goodwill and confidence.
Sometimes consumers and SMEs simply don’t want to deal with huge, faceless corporations with phone numbers starting 08 or 03. They want a smaller, more human organisation with an area code they recognise and trust.
Imagine you’re looking to buy a property in a location that you don’t know well, let’s say Edinburgh, and you know the area code is 0131. Who would you trust to advise you on the best places to buy in Edinburgh: an estate agent with an 0131 area code or an estate agent who is selling properties in the city but who has an area code you don’t recognise (and which could be from who-knows-where in the country)?
Instinctively, you’re more likely to trust the first agent with the Edinburgh area code.
3. Increase Calls
Most Brits know that 0800 numbers are free to call, and that dialling local phone numbers starting with 01 or 02 will cost less than calling 03, 07, 05, 084, 087 or 09 numbers. Generally, local 01 numbers are often included in landline and mobile phone packages as free or inclusive minutes.
With this in mind, if you’re targeting customers in a precise locale, then offering a local number rather than one with any other prefix will naturally increase your inbound calls. Customers who might’ve avoided calling you because you’re not located within their community will now call you happily (see points one and two above!).
We all love a freebie, however by having an 0800 number you give the impression of being a nationwide business rather than a local one. Mobile numbers can also be a turn-off for some customers, with the perception that they are calling a one-person operation.
If you are considering investing in a marketing campaign, then including a local number within adverts in magazines, radio, TV or newspapers that are only distributed in that area will help you to reach your ideal customers, raise brand awareness and drive inbound calls.
4. Build A Network
If your business is on the cusp of two area codes, or if you’re looking to appear local but are actually a nationwide organisation or are physically based miles away from the locality you’re targeting, then you now have the option of purchasing local numbers and forwarding them to another number to be answered.
You can build an entire network of local phone numbers with specific area codes that are all routed to your mobile phone or another landline.
For example, your business seamlessly covers a wide geographical region that includes five different area codes. You know that your customers like to buy local and prefer purchasing services or products from businesses located in their neighbourhood.
To ensure you bring in revenue from each area code and attract rather than repel all potential customers across the region, you can set up five local phone numbers for each area code. These are then directed to your main office phone number, or to a mobile phone. The five local numbers can then be used in marketing campaigns that target those specific area codes.
What 01 Numbers Cost to Buy
You can purchase an 01 or 02 local phone number from a telecoms provider. There are numerous companies to choose from, and each charge their own rates and fees.
You might think that 01 numbers cost the earth to purchase, however at 24 Seven, we offer affordable line rental packages starting from just £2 per month for a basic number.
Our clients range from sole traders to firms with thousands of staff. Every business has its individual needs and budget, and we offer packages to accommodate all.
If you’re after a highly memorable 01 number, then you can opt for our platinum line rental at £50 per month. There are also valuable benefits that you can ‘add-on’ to your package depending on what you require. These include personalised voicemail greetings, time of day routing, voicemail options, and many more.
You can create your custom package by using our monthly cost calculator here.
Keeping It Local
Local 01 and 02 numbers are hugely beneficial for a growing business looking to target clients within a particular vicinity. Basic 01 numbers cost little more than a couple of quid each month and can significantly boost inbound calls and ultimately revenue.
Edward’s catchphrase in The League of Gentlemen was, “We’ll have no trouble here!” and we like to believe that we echo that sentiment. Purchasing and setting up a new 01 phone number is no trouble at all with 24 Seven. It’s easy and straightforward – and we welcome all local and non-local people! Get in touch today.