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Buying vs Porting Business Phone Numbers: Pros and Cons

by Kevin Bartley

Should you buy a new inbound phone number or port your existing business number when you switch to a new phone system? Here are pros and cons to each side.

When you set up a new business phone system, you have a choice between porting your existing inbound phone number, or purchasing a new line. Both options have distinct advantages and disadvantages. We examined some pros and cons of each decision, so you can make the choice that's right for your business.

Porting Existing Phone Numbers: Pros & Cons

Pro: Brand Consistency

Customers who are used to your current phone number might get confused by a new phone number. This is especially true if your current number is a distinctive number that you've used for years. If your store has used "232-NYP-IZZA" for the past 18 years, that number has effectively become a part of your branding.

New phone numbers can unintentionally make customers think you're a different business, or somehow unaffiliated with your brand, even if you update your business caller ID name. By porting your current number over to your new phone system, you're ensuring that your customers won't mistake your business for a copycat or someone else.

Pro: Business Materials Can Remain Unedited

If you port your existing number, you won't have to change any marketing collateral, website copy, company signage, billboard displays, or anything else that has your phone number printed on it. Replacing all these mentions of an old number takes money, manpower, and time. You and your employees have better things to do.

Pro: Keep Competitors Off Your Trail

If you decide to let your current phone number expire instead of porting it, the number will go back into a pool of phone numbers available to the public. From there, anybody can purchase the number, including your competitors. Customers who call the number and speak with your competitor will likely assume that you've either gone out of business or merged with another company. In any case, your competitor will have the ear of a lead that's supposed to be yours.

Port an existing business phone number

Con: Wait Times

The wait time to port over your existing phone number can take up to several weeks. If your port gets delayed or held up, you'll end up getting charged by your previous provider for service until the port has completed. However, many providers offer temporary phone numbers and call forwarding from your old number while the port is ongoing to help with the transition.

New Inbound Phone Number: Pros & Cons

Pro: Vanity and Toll-Free Numbers

Buying a new phone number gives you a chance to customize your digits for the convenience of your customers. You can purchase a vanity, toll free, or vanity toll-free number to increase your business's visibility and accessibility.

A vanity number (324-BUY-HATS) uses the letters associated with each number on a dialpad to spell out a name or phrase, which makes it easier for customers to remember your phone number. A toll free number (1-800-438-2376) allows customers to call you without incurring any charges. A study found that consumers are< 75% more likely to recall a vanity toll free number than a numeric toll free number.

Pro: Instant Setup

Purchasing a phone number from your new provider will allow you to set up your phone system more quickly—in some cases, less than a few hours. You can select and assign most inbound phone numbers directly from your phone system's admin web page. That means your team can start making and receiving calls right away.

Pro: Lower Costs

Porting a phone number generally costs between $15 - $30 dollars per number, although some providers offer one free port. In comparison, purchasing a new number comes at a relatively low cost. The average local area code number costs about $10 to purchase, along with a small monthly fee thereafter. Toll free numbers go for around $10, while vanity numbers can go for $30, with monthly charges thereafter.

At these low rates, you can purchase not just a new inbound phone number, but a few outbound lines for calling customers outside of your area code. Studies say that you can get up to 15 to 25% more contacts by using local phone numbers when you call prospects.

Benefits of purchasing a new line

Con: Unavailable Local Area Codes

Businesses in highly competitive markets such as New York City are often competing for phone numbers. There are only so many phone numbers available within each area code, and in highly populated areas, the scarcity of the numbers outweighs the demand to use them. That's why finding a new number for a very popular area code might be tough. In this case, porting an existing number may be preferable to purchasing a new one with a different area code.

At the other end of the spectrum, businesses in very remote areas might also have difficult time finding phone numbers in the right area code. The phone number pool in these area codes can suffer due to low coverage. If you are coming from a rural wireline service provider, it's likely that your existing number cannot be ported to a new phone system at all. In this case, the only option is to buy a new number with a different area code.

Inbound Phone Numbers: What to Choose?

Whether you choose to port your inbound phone number or purchase a new one depends on the circumstances of your business. If you're an established company with brand recognition, high visibility, substantial inbound calls, and a large customer base, then porting your existing phone number will keep disruptions to your daily operations at a minimum.

However, if your business is looking for an image makeover, a more targeted calling operation, increased visibility, or a phone number that makes a better impression on prospects, you might want to consider purchasing a new inbound number with your new phone system. A vanity toll free number could make a difference in the way customers communicate with you and purchase your product.

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