Geographic Versus Non-Geographic Numbers: Which Is Best For Business?

Wesley Balten
November 1, 2018

Once upon a time businesses didn’t have a choice. Chic Paris businesses had Paris numbers. Ritzy Rome businesses had Rome numbers. And those unfortunate enough to be based in Bognor, or somewhere equally unfashionable, were stuck with their unappealing prefixes too.

Thankfully things have changed. Businesses can now choose any prefix wherever they’re based. And it’s all thanks to cloud-based telephony. SpeakIntelligence’s webshop, for example, lets customers order numbers ‘on-demand’ for 2,500 cities in over 150 countries.

But given the choice of a ‘geographic’ number – a number with a prefix associated with a specific city – or a ‘non-geographic’ national number, which one should businesses choose? We reveal all below …

Going Geo

Geographic numbers are your usual, every day, phone numbers. They’re understood, come with no frills, and callers know they’ll be charged a ‘local’ rate – which is why they’re so trusted.

If a company is targeting a specific town they should always choose a local geographic number. Customers believe local businesses are just up the road and can, therefore, meet their needs faster.

There are also economic reasons to go geo. Local numbers are usually ‘free’ to call from landlines and mobiles. They count as inclusive minutes on most phone packages so potential customers are happy to call them.

Geographic numbers are even more appealing thanks to VoIP and the cloud. Because businesses can, most of the time, choose whatever prefix they like – thus making geography irrelevant – they can keep their old number if they relocate. Companies can also buy ‘local’ numbers for nearby towns without setting up extra offices there.

Non-Geo Pros

Non-geographic numbers have contrasting strengths. Companies can establish a nationwide presence with a single number and win customers across the country. Non-geographic numbers also seem prestigious, and can make businesses appear larger and more established.

Customers might even prefer to call non-geo numbers in some circumstances. National prefixes are well known, often simpler, and more memorable. What’s more, customers might be put off by obscure geographic pre-fixes. Nobody trusts numbers that look strange and unfamiliar.

Geographic numbers can also be misleading and cost sales. Potential customers might think that a company with a local prefix only operates in one area. That’s why prudent businesses with a national customer base use national non-geo numbers.

There’s also an economic argument for non-geos. Nation-wide numbers can sometimes cost less than geographic numbers to call. And if a company relocates there’s no need to change stationery, letterheads, banners, advertising, and other marketing collateral. What’s more, non-geo numbers can be directed to any existing landline or international number so calls can be answered quickly.

It’s also possible, of course, to raise revenue from ‘caller-pays’ non-geo numbers. Alternatively, businesses can increase inquiries by setting up a national Freephone line. There are options for every business model.

So which is best?

Tough question. It depends what a business does, who their target audience is, and what their strategic goals are. Many businesses prefer the comfort of geographic numbers now that VoIP has removed many of their drawbacks. The ability to possess multiple local numbers in multiple locations is extremely appealing.

However, there’s a strong argument for non-geo numbers too. Many companies believe a central national number can enhance a business’s image and help them punch above their weight. Not having one can put them at a disadvantage.

A solution, of course, is to use both geo and non-geo numbers simultaneously: a national number for convenience and cachet alongside a geographic number (or numbers) for local appeal. That’s why it’s vital for telecoms providers to offer businesses all the options ‘on-demand’.

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