Nobody remembers phone numbers any more, and don’t get me started on LOOOOONG domain names. Your designers and marketers should know better.

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Dave Young:
Welcome to the Empire Builders podcast. I’m Dave young, alongside Stephen Semple and I was looking at the show notes for today and there’s no brand mentioned. It’s just Stephen saying he’s going on a rant.

Stephen Semple:
This one we’ll make sure we mark explicit.

Dave Young:
Is this, oh, this is not safe for children.

Stephen Semple:
Probably not.

Dave Young:
Oh my gosh. What kind of bee is in your Burt’s Bees bonnet?

Stephen Semple:
Well, there’s something I see going on all the time, especially in the home services space but not only. And that is, you’ll see somebody who will spend all this money. They get this beautiful design done. They wrap a truck or they do a billboard, and they put the God damn f****** phone number on it, and it drives me absolutely insane, and we’re going to go through the reason why that shouldn’t be done.

Dave Young:
But Stephen, since Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone in 1876, isn’t that amazing that I would remember that year? We’ve been putting our phone numbers on everything.

Stephen Semple:
We have and we have to stop.

Dave Young:
We’re saying the time has come. That ship has sailed. There’s no reason to do it anymore. Tell me more.

Stephen Semple:
Part of this is the world has changed. Here’s the thing. Do we remember phone numbers any longer? Have we still got that skill? I don’t know my kid’s phone number.

Dave Young:
I went to mail something to my daughter this morning and he asked me the phone number. I’m like, yeah, I got to get my phone out to look it up because I don’t know.

Stephen Semple:
Right. So our skillset for remembering phone numbers is just not there any longer.

Dave Young:
No. I do remember my phone number when I was a kid, but that doesn’t do me any good now, that phone’s disconnected 40 years ago.

Stephen Semple:
Well, that’s so funny because I have some passwords that are old phone numbers.

Dave Young:
Sure.

Stephen Semple:
Right?

Dave Young:
Yeah.

Stephen Semple:
But here’s the other thing. So first of all, we don’t have the skillset for remembering phone numbers as well. Secondly, we used to have to only remember seven numbers, right, because the area code didn’t count. So for example, when I was growing up in Toronto, Toronto was 416, outside of Toronto was 905. Well, now there are like five or six area codes in Toronto right?

Dave Young:
Mm-hmm.

Stephen Semple:
Now, if you’re in a smaller community, like where I live now, they’re all 705 numbers, that’s fine. But for many, many, many places, there’s more than one area code that you need to remember, so now we have to remember 10 numbers, not seven, and you want to know how much harder it is to recall 10 numbers than seven?

Dave Young:
According to science?

Stephen Semple:
According to science. It’s 50 times harder to recall 10 numbers than seven numbers.

Dave Young:
Uh-huh.

Stephen Semple:
We don’t remember phone numbers as much as we used to. We now have to remember something that’s way harder to remember because it’s now 10 numbers than seven numbers and at the end of the day, what do most people do before they phone you? They go to the web first, and I’ve seen studies that say it’s 92% of consumers do it. I’ve seen studies that say… But what we know is most people go to the web first, and even if I was driving behind the vehicle, I would probably say, “Hey Siri, call whoever.”

Dave Young:
Sure. Sure.

Stephen Semple:
Yeah. So it’s this ridiculous thing where all of a sudden we put this phone number on and it’s just not going to work that way. Now people say, “Hey, what’s the harm?” Well, here’s the harm. The harm is, by putting the phone number and the URL on, I’m directing people to two things. What would be far better off is to make your URL larger and more prominent. Get rid of the phone number.

Dave Young:
Get a vanity URL that’s just easier for people to remember.

Stephen Semple:
And we can do a whole thing on URLs as well. There are a bunch of things that drive me freaking crazy on URLs as well, but this whole idea of putting on the phone number because I want people to call me. I want people to call me, well, they’re going to go to the website first.

Dave Young:
Here’s the other thing about it that people want to do is like, well, I’m going to put a different phone number on my truck so that-

Stephen Semple:
Oh test.

Dave Young:
… I can test whether or not people are calling based on seeing the truck. I was like, that’s just, I still may see your truck and ask Siri or Google to call you anyway, it does not matter. The important thing is that they called. If I were going to test something, it wouldn’t be whether people can remember a phone number because we know they can’t, but this is one and I don’t know if this is a great idea or not, but during the pandemic, the technology that came into its own, hardly anybody knew what to do with, and now we all know how to use them are QR codes, right? And you can program a QR code to either take you to a website or make a phone call any of those things.

So if you have a QR code, I would think on the back of a truck that might even be easier than asking Siri. It’s just point, click, click, and call. I think that’s worth trying. We now know how to use them. Once you started going into restaurants and have no contact, right, so they just hand you a card that has their QR code, and it pulls the menu up.

Stephen Semple:
Yeah, because QR codes are interesting. They came out, and they were going to be the next coming, and there was all this hype around them, and then nothing happened.

Dave Young:
Yeah. They’ve been around for a long time.

Stephen Semple:
Yeah. And as you said, we don’t need special software or anything anymore.

Dave Young:
Yeah. Now the cameras just see them and say, “Hey, what do you want to do with this?”

Stephen Semple:
I can see a lot more QR code applications in the future because of the use and familiarity that we now have.

Dave Young:
I mean, even if I took a picture of your phone number, I can’t dial it because I’m looking at the photo and now I still have to remember seven, no 10 digits.

Stephen Semple:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Dave Young:
While I go back and forth between the photo and that’s not happening.

Stephen Semple:
And the part that people and advertisers and businesses don’t realize is by adding extra things, you dilute. You lose power as soon as you add things so in other words, on my billboard or my truck wrap, I put on my URL and then I put on my phone number then I put on my company name and logo, oh and then what I really should do is I should lay out the seven things that I do, oh, and by the way, I should also mention, I do free estimates. Oh and also right, every time you add something, it is actually not additive. It is subtractive, and people believe it’s additive because they go, well, what if they happen to be thinking about needing that service and it’s subtractive. The more you add, the less powerful it is.

And that’s the thing that people lose sight of because what is the harm of both the URL and the phone number, is it detracts. Detracts and it makes the message smaller. It makes it harder to read. It makes it more cluttered, harder to stand out, all of those things and that’s the part that people lose sight of.

Dave Young:
We’ve always said things like trucks, things like billboards, it’s a moving target. It’s something that people are only going to get a glimpse of. So one thing and do it powerfully and in as few words as it takes to just get your brand across.

Stephen Semple:
Yes, I actually feel so strongly about this. That I feel that if somebody is a designer and thinks that they’re a marketing expert and they bring a truck wrap to a client that has a phone number on it, you should fire that designer because they actually don’t understand marketing and they actually don’t understand the human mind and they don’t actually understand the journey the customer’s going to go on. They just are lazy and are doing it the old way. I actually feel it’s not good design, and it’s actually not serving the customer, and I’m sure I’m going to get lots of emails and complaints about that statement from designers.

Dave Young:
Only from the truck wrap people.

Stephen Semple:
And then the other thing with URLs, I will make this one statement on URLs, because this is another one, since I’m on a rant that drives me freaking crazy is long URLs. I don’t mind long URLs, but long URLs that are actually easy words to remember that are then done all lower case.

Dave Young:
Mm-hmm.

Stephen Semple:
So, for example, my other business. Business Growth Guys. Now, every time I show that URL as capital B, it’s capital G, capital G. When you see it that way, it’s really easy to read.

Dave Young:
Mm-hmm.

Stephen Semple:
And they’re easy words to remember: Business Growth Guys. Perfect. If you saw that all in lowercase, it’s really hard to read.

Dave Young:
It’s just alphabet soup.

Stephen Semple:
It’s alphabet soup. And there’s no reason why it’s just standard that we chose for it to be all lower case, and heck, even if a person typed it in with the uppercase lowercase, it’ll still go to you. The web is not case-sensitive, so why are we doing it all lowercase? Why are we doing it all in lowercase? Why not do upper case, lower case make it easier to read?

Dave Young:
Sure. The other thing I was going to say is, for God’s sake, make sure that whoever’s doing your website and managing your domains, make sure that it resolves correctly whether or not you have the www in front of it, because that makes a difference too.

You need to do both, but I’ve seen so many that are like, if you don’t put the www it doesn’t work, or if you do put it, it doesn’t work and you need to make sure that it works either way, because people are going to do the easiest, stupidest thing they can.

Stephen Semple:
That’s a really great point and just one other thought when it comes to design. So we have a client No Bull RV and the designer, when he was putting together design on it, so of course it was capital N-O, capital B-U-L-L, capital R, capital V. What he noticed was the L next to the RV made it a little bit hard to read. So he just, your eye, my eye wouldn’t pick it up, but he just added a little extra space, like not a space bar space.

Dave Young:
Yeah.

Stephen Semple:
But just a little extra space between the L and the R just to make it easier to read.

Dave Young:
Some well-placed kerning. If you don’t have a graphic designer that knows how to do a little bit of kerning to make something more readable, that’s a good sign you need a different one as well.

Stephen Semple:
Right.

Dave Young:
Yeah.

Stephen Semple:
So again, it’s just this makes it easier, makes it more prominent. Get rid of the phone numbers, and make the URL easy to read.

Dave Young:
You feel better?

Stephen Semple:
A little bit.

Dave Young:
A little bit? Okay.

Stephen Semple:
This was therapy for me.

Dave Young:
Oh, I’m so glad. I’m glad you feel better.

Dave Young:
Next time on the Empire Builders podcast, another business-building story.

Stephen Semple:
There you go.

Dave Young:
Thanks, Stephen.

Stephen Semple:
Thanks, David.

Dave Young:
Thanks for listening to the podcast. Please share us. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app and leave us a big fat juicy five-star rating and review. And if you have any questions about this or any other podcast, episode, email to [email protected]