September 8, 2015
Recently, a LONG discussion erupted on the Queensland Business Group on Facebook about the merits of a landline for your business, and whether, in this day and age, it is essential for your business to have a landline.
Well, the quick answer is that you don’t have to have a landline. Many businesses can and will survive and thrive with just a mobile number. However, I’m going to explore the pros and cons of why, as a business of any shape and size, you should consider either a landline or a 1300 number instead of JUST your mobile number.
One final point: these are the pros and cons from your CLIENTS’ perspective…not yours.
The Mobile-Only Solution
Many mobile-only businesses are tradies or small service businesses — builders, pest inspectors, and so on. Often, they’re one-man bands, or, if they have more than one staff member, it’s the partner of the tradie running the books and paying the wages, or perhaps an apprentice or two. Maybe they’ve expanded to have a few staff, but the mobile is a central point of contact for clients to ring in.
You know you’re going to talk to the key person running the business. You’ll be able to see if they are able to do the job you want and when they can fit you into their schedule. You’ll also be able to potentially ask them some guidelines on prices and so on. It’s quick, fast and easy. From a business owner’s point of view, a mobile is also cheap and, well, mobile.
Let’s be honest, how often do we call a mobile and get through the first time? But we think that that’s OK, because we can leave a message. When they receive our message, they call our mobile back, and of course, we’re busy. We call them back again later, and they’re with a client. This game of ‘answerphone tennis’ continues. Now, if I’m in no rush, then it doesn’t matter. But if my kitchen tap is pouring water all over the room, then it’s a bit of an urgent one. And even if it’s not that urgent, this is the day and age of convenience. We want our TV on-demand but we’re happy to have our tradies take four attempts at getting back to us?
Furthermore, the problem with waiting for someone to get back is that most small businesses don’t understand the timeframe within which they should reply. A reasonable timeframe is 24 hours at best. But to be honest, if we’re looking at Google and we call you, and you don’t answer, what do most people do? Move onto the next result.
Now, that may not be the reality, but that’s the perception. And we all know, perception is reality.
A mobile number presents another challenge: if you see a mobile number attached to a business in Redcliffe and you live in Ipswich, are you going to call them? No way. No tradie will travel that distance to quote a job. Even though the tradie might actually have a big job out that way next week, he or she will never get the chance to find out about our job.
The final con: how many mobile numbers have you ever remembered from the side of the van? Precisely none. Are landlines easier to remember? Well, no. That\’s why we have domain names and Google. But if someone has the capability of memorizing a mobile number, they’re probably a genius.
If we see a landline, it immediately suggests that they have an office. If they have an office, they have support staff. If they have support staff, they’ve got their shit together. It means that if I pick up the phone, I can talk to someone RIGHT AWAY — no leaving a message and no following up three days later.
This will attract a different type of customer — something I will discuss towards the end of this article.
If you want to present yourself as a national business, then a landline number with a 07 prefix is never going to get called by a resident of Sydney or Melbourne.
In addition, when people ring a landline, they EXPECT an immediate answer. That’s not necessarily the case with a mobile, but they don’t want to go to an answer bank, and they sure as hell don’t want it to ring out. A landline call says ‘we want to speak NOW,’ so you have to make sure you have it manned. As a tradie who might be up a ladder at the time, that could be hard.
The other challenge is that you can’t SMS a landline, and many customers like to SMS their suppliers.
The 1300 Number
1300 numbers are known as Local Rate Numbers or SmartNumbers in Australia that can work across large areas and only charge the caller a low cost, routing the call to the appropriate place in a given area.
A 1300 number says ‘big-ness.’ It says that you are nationwide, have reach, and can service multiple locations, which may be exactly what people want. This could help reinforce national brand and service standards to your potential clients. It also means that people won’t be put off by locality — if they call from Brisbane, they expect to be serviced across Brisbane.
A 1300 number says ‘big-ness.’ Often, people believe they might get better service or a better price with a local, smaller business, and try to avoid the big boys. That’s why a lot of franchised businesses try to put a face to the franchise owner for the local markets.
An interesting point was raised from a small business owner who was ‘happy to stay as a small business owner’ and, therefore, felt a mobile number was fine. I hope that in the following scenario, I can illustrate why that’s not.
As a business, we know that the smaller clients tend to be the lifeblood of our business, in the sense that they supply a good level of cashflow. They may not be the most profitable, but they\’re regular, and if you’ve got your billing set up properly, they’re quick payers.
The larger clients tend to be better in a profit sense. They might take longer to pay, but the job is bigger, allowing you a little more padding for profit. A good business’ clientele is made up of a range of different-sized businesses. In addition, many big businesses like to use small business suppliers. They were small once and want to support them.
At the same time, as we said before, they want to talk to someone instantly. As a business owner, you often don\’t have the luxury or the desire to play answerphone tennis, and with small businesses just using a mobile phone, that\’s what happens.
In short, if you’re just using a mobile, you’re only going to attract people who aren’t looking for an urgent solution, which shrinks your target market substantially.
There is no simple answer for every business; different industries have different solutions, but hopefully the above can give you a solid idea of what is best for your business.
Simon Dell is a former agency owner and managing director, and is now a freelance consultant under his own brand SimonDell.com. His goal is to help develop and implement strategic digital and creative marketing plans for clients delivering measurable results and fantastic ROI. He also writes for Fairfax Media, MYOB's business portal and frequently speaks at events and conferences around Australia.