Numbers that Spell More Listings!

For many years people have been converting their PIN numbers and other security numbers to words they can easily remember – so it makes sense that a phone word, as opposed to a phone number, will have better memory recall. You can now turn your phone number into a marketing tool. Story by Chris Fitzpatrick.

It’s no surprise that in today’s fast paced world people are looking for shortcuts; whether its buyers searching for the perfect property online or vendors who expect e-mail based listing kits, every customer wants the fastest and easiest solution possible. However, one area that hasn’t kept up with the pace of change is the humble telephone number.

The eight or ten digits that form the essential link between customer and agent have remained the same for decades… until the advent of phone words. A phone word is simply a phone number that spells a word by using the letters on your telephone keypad. Chris Fitzpatrick, General Manager of 1300 REAL ESTATE explains the increased use of phone words in Australia and the evolution of telephone numbers into highly effective listing and selling tools.

Number overload
The estimated number of advertising messages a person is exposed to per day range from a few hundred to 3,000. Given most advertisements carry at least one phone number, and in the case of for sale boards up to three numbers (office number and two salesperson’s mobile numbers), customers can be exposed to thousands of phone numbers per day.

This is a worrying thought considering that phone numbers are usually the preferred method of customer contact and therefore one of the most important parts of advertising. Phone words are a simple and highly effective solution to this number overload.

Having been used in the United States for over 30 years, phone words have recently become prevalent in Australia and are proving so effective that nine of the top ten advertisers now use phone words in their advertising.

“The estimated number of advertising messages a person is exposed to per day range from a few hundred to 3,000.”

How do they work?
Phone words make your phone number dramatically more memorable and as a consequence make it much easier for customers to contact you. Independent tests have shown that phone words are on average nearly 20 times more memorable than standard telephone numbers… 48 hours after a customer has seen the phone word advertised!

The following are the results for memorability of premium generic phone words (eg 1300 PLUMBER) vs standard telephone numbers in the advertising mediums most Real Estate agents use:

Outdoor advertising (eg sign boards) phone words are up to 21 times more memorable

Print advertising (eg local paper) phone words are up to 19 times more memorable;

Word of mouth advertising phone words are up to 23 times more memorable.

Business guru Gerry Harvey (CEO of Harvey Norman and Australia’s seventh richest person) believes so strongly in phone words, that he now uses them in all of his businesses, saying, “It’s pretty simple, if you want more calls, more customers and more sales, put phone names in all your ads – we did. Now I just laugh when I see phone numbers in ads!”

Phone words in Real Estate
Real estate agents have generally not been early adopters of phone words and it’s hardly surprising given the complexity of their business. The typical agency will have a number of sales staff and even multiple office locations, all requiring their own phone number.

Short of supplying a phone word for each person (an expensive task and one that is arguably no less complex for the end customer) it’s been extremely difficult to leverage phone words in the Real Estate environment.

One company that has successfully utilised phone words across its business is Barry Plant Real Estate, which controls the phone word 1300 REAL ESTATE exclusively in Victoria.

Chris Fitzpatrick has a Real Estate background, having previously been a highly successful listing agent for many years. Over the past four years Chris has specialised in phone word and telecommunications based marketing and he is now the General Manager of 1300 REAL ESTATE in Australia.

Case Study – 1300 REAL ESTATE

In 2008 Barry Plant teamed with 1300 REAL ESTATE to roll-out the ultimate industry phone word ‘1300 REAL ESTATE’ across its network of offices. According to CEO Mike McCarthy, “Initially we were looking at just rolling it out with one or two offices, but once we really established the benefits of 1300 REAL ESTATE we then decided to roll it out across the entire network of over 75 offices.”

Barry Plant initially used 1300 REAL ESTATE purely to attract more listings and dubbed it as a ‘Free Appraisal Hotline’. The number was used in all above the line advertising and provided a consistent call to action across its marketing activities. The number increased the memorability of the group’s ads and in particular allowed them to incorporate a direct ‘call to action’ for the benefit of all offices, rather than just relying on advertising for branding purposes.

In January 2009 1300 REAL ESTATE approached Barry Plant with new technology that would allow the phone word to be incorporated into their vendor’s marketing campaigns. This would then enable the group to leverage 1300 REAL ESTATE as a totally unique listing tool that is exclusive to Barry Plant in Victoria.

The 1300 REAL ESTATE team developed world first technology to simply and effectively direct buyer and seller calls by suburb. This leading system employs voice recognition technology based on the same platform that Australia Post uses for its 4000+ stores. It is so sophisticated that it ‘remembers’ every caller’s past preferences and offers repeat callers the option to connect directly with the office based on their prior call.

“Offices now know whether a call is from a buyer or seller before picking up the phone so that every call is handled correctly.”

In addition, each office can directly control the flow of buyer and seller leads separately by time of day and day of week, so that every call is directed to the most appropriate staff member. It has the added advantage that offices now know whether a call is from a buyer or seller before picking up the phone so that every call is handled correctly. This saves valuable listing inquiries from being put on hold while a receptionist deals with other calls.

Seeing the major benefits of the phone word as a listing tool, 1300 REAL ESTATE also developed a full selection of marketing materials to help Barry Plant reinforce the benefits for its vendors. These include a professional video presentation that can be emailed, presented on a CD-ROM or even displayed on an iPhone as part of a pre-listing kit. There is also a customised brochure for presentation during appraisals which includes a testimonial from Gerry Harvey.

For Mike McCarthy the benefits of 1300 REAL ESTATE are simple. He said, “1300 REAL ESTATE brings world first technology to our vendors’ marketing campaigns and is one of the unique benefits our customers have that no other agency can offer.”

Phone words in the future
Phone words are a novel solution to the problem of number overload and the 1300 REAL ESTATE system improves on this to also provide agents with a totally unique listing tool and selling proposition. 1300 REAL ESTATE is presently launching nationally as ‘Australia’s Real Estate Hotline’ and will only be available to one agent in each area. It is a classic example of turning adversity into advantage.

To view a related video to this content click here.

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