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Written by
Katy Ratican
12 Jan 2022
3 minutes

Local vs. toll-free: Which phone number is best for my small business?

The differences between local and toll-free numbers to help you choose the right small business phone number
Local vs toll-free small business phone number

If you’re a small business or a startup, you know the importance of the right small business phone number. But if you were to choose a small business phone number, should you go with a local or a toll-free number? What is the best number for your business?

The small business phone number you choose should make it easy for customers and your business associates to get in touch with you. But from a local and toll-free number, which one should your small business phone number be?

What's the difference between local and toll-free numbers?

As the name implies, local numbers are linked to specific locations. When you get a local number, you’ll get an area code that corresponds with your locality. People in the region would know that the phone number is based there. The business doesn’t have to pay for incoming calls on a local number, it will be charged to the caller.

A toll-free number doesn’t reveal the location of your business to the caller. Their codes are not linked to any region. Businesses will have to pay for both incoming and outgoing calls on a toll-free number. This is the reason they’re used as customer support numbers or in marketing campaigns.

Which is better for my small business: local or toll-free numbers?

If you’re trying to decide whether a local or toll-free number would suit your business, the most important factor should be the kind of communication you expect with the number.

Local numbers are better for your business:

  • If you have customers or clients in a specific locality or city

  • If you want to associate your business with the locality it operates in

  • If you want to build personal relationships with your customers

  • If you want to differentiate your small business from national or international brands

Toll-free numbers are the right option for your business:

  • If you want customers or clients from different regions or cities to contact you

  • If you don’t want to charge your customers or clients for the calls

  • If you want your business to seem bigger and more credible

  • If you’re launching a marketing campaign and expect customers to call you

  • If you want a specific number for customer support

Pros and cons of local and toll-free numbers

When choosing your small business phone number, you should be aware of these advantages and disadvantages of local and toll-free numbers:

Local number pros

  • Makes your business seem local and relatable

  • Increases brand awareness in the region

  • Calls to local numbers have greater chances of being answered

  • Can make your business seem trustworthy

Local number cons

  • Your customers or clients will have to pay for their calls
  • Makes your business seem small

Toll-free number pros

  • It doesn’t cost callers anything

  • Makes your business seem larger

  • Increases your credibility

  • Increases customer satisfaction if used for customer support

Toll-free number cons

  • Customers can treat calls from toll-free numbers as telemarketing or spam

  • Not location-specific and so may be perceived as unreliable

  • May make the business seem impersonal

When to use a local phone number

If you operate a local, independent business with customers limited to a particular region, a local phone number is your ideal option. Through the area code, people will identify your business as one from their locality, which will make you seem reliable.

If you have a physical store or office in the region, a local phone number should be your choice. Even if you don’t have a physical presence but do have customers in a locality, a local phone number can be your option since it will link you to the area.

When to use a toll-free phone number

If you have a wider consumer base spread across the country, you should go for a toll-free number. This will help you support your customers who won’t be limited by a local number.

Toll-free numbers are also the preferred option if you plan to expand your business to different locations. Even before your product or service hits other markets, a toll-free number would make you seem bigger and give you legitimacy.

Chalkboard: A better virtual phone number alternative for your business

Among the smarter alternatives to traditional phone systems, virtual numbers are now preferred by small businesses.

Chalkboard is highly affordable and comes with additional business features such as auto-reply which lets you send pre-written texts to missed calls. Sign up today for a free trial and you’ll discover all the reasons to make it your small business phone number.

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