What’s in a number?

Think of a number, any number.  Now think about how that number makes you feel. Is this a strange question to ask; well not really because the psychology of numbers is far more complex than many of us would imagine.

If you chose 7 as your answer then you wouldn’t be alone because this is generally acknowledged to be a lucky number. But delve deeper into the science of numbers and some fascinating patterns start to emerge. For example, a study in 2011 showed that in general even numbers are viewed as feminine whilst odd numbers are seen as having more masculine traits. Other studies have revealed the way in which we see some numbers as being stronger and more trustworthy than others, as well as the difference in perceptions depending on our country of origin.

Of course the number you chose may have been more complex. For example, the first number which popped into your head may have related to your credit card or the cost of something you were thinking of buying. It may have even been the phone number of a friend or loved one or simply a number which you recently came across in work. But whatever the number, the chances are that you will have had some type of emotional response to it, even if on a very subliminal level.

What does this mean for business? Quite simply, the psychology of numbers translates into a whole range of business applications including pricing policy, logo design and marketing. Take two virtually identical prices and one will resonate more with customers than the other. Incorporate a number into the product name and you could easily be affecting your chances of successful sales.

So numbers are important; and whilst some are more effective when introduced on a quasi – subliminal level, others may more obviously affect your chances of business success. Take phone numbers for example. If you just picked the first one which was offered when you set up in business then you may well already have made your first numerical mistake.

Let us give you some examples. If you are offering plumbing services within a small local area then your prospective customers may want to have the comfort that a local telephone number brings. Choose a national, or even international, telephone number and it may put off prospective customers who want to entrust the safety of their water pipes to someone who is close at hand.

On the other hand, if you are offering a national sales service, perhaps providing printer inks and stationery to businesses across the country, then unless you intend to build your name and reputation in a very short space of time, your prospective customers will be more likely to trust a national organisation. So in this case it would be in your best interests to choose a national number or freephone number which matches the expectations of your prospective customers.

The same applies to international numbers. Why advertise a UK number to prospective customers in Paris when you can entice them to do business with you by offering a local Parisian phone number. Or why offer a full range of numbers to prospective clients in China when a single China 401 number covers the entire country. And with numbers being seamlessly rooted to your nominated office, you don’t even have to have a physical presence within a country or region in order to advertise your services with a telephone number from that area.

With a little thought and an appreciation of the message that your telephone number gives to your prospective clients you can start to use numbers to your advantage from day one. What’s in a number? In some circumstances, the answer is quite simply; business success.

Written by Alison