4 min read

All you need to know about toll-free numbers for digital marketing

Girl looking at mobile

At Sinch, we bring new and innovative ways to communicate with customers, but we don’t want you to forget about tried and tested solutions that maybe you haven’t taken advantage of yet. In this two-part blog post, we’re going to take a look at toll-free numbers. Whether you’re doing Mobile Marketing, Digital Marketing, or Customer Service, toll-free messaging should be a part of your communication strategy. It’s a proven point that text messaging and SMS services are being used more often than ever before. What you may not know is that people can, and do, text your toll-free number. So, let’s take a closer look at this messaging channel.

In part one of this mini blog series, we’ll review: What is a toll-free number and what is toll-free messaging. In part 2, we’ll take a look at use cases; and things to avoid when you enable toll-free messaging you’ll be set up for success.

What is a toll-free number?

Toll-free numbers (TFNs) are telephone numbers with distinct three-digit codes that can be dialed from landlines with no charge to the person placing the call. Wireless callers, however, will be charged for airtime minutes used during a toll-free call unless they have an unlimited calling plan. Customers can also send an SMS message to a toll-free number, so long as the TFN is text-enabled, and businesses can then send an SMS in reply.

TFNs are often used by businesses for customer care lines or call centers.

Some toll-free numbers are highly sought after. These are known as vanity numbers. Vanity numbers spell out a company name, phrase, word, or acronym, such as 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-800-GoFedEx, to build brand awareness and trust in the number dialed.

Did you know that businesses can now use toll-free numbers to receive and send messages to customers? Yes, you heard right. You can use a toll-free number in your mobile marketing, digital marketing, or contact center strategy, to speak to your customers.

So, what is toll-free messaging?

You’re probably used to sending and receiving text messages from your family and friends. You might also receive messages from businesses over short codes (shorter phone numbers, for example, 12345) about package delivery slots, appointment reminders, or banking updates. Toll-free messaging is the same as this, just with a ten-digit toll-free number in place of the short code.

Will it impact my contact center if I enable toll-free text messaging? The answer is no. It won’t have any effect on your voice services.

There are many advantages to using a toll-free number for mobile messaging. Let’s jump into them now!

TFN reach

Toll-free messaging allows you to use one number to reach both the U.S. and Canada – no need for two different numbers.

Time to market

Toll-free numbers are much faster to enable than some other types of numbers. Sinch can enable your toll-free number (or procure one for you) and have you up and running in just a few days. Also, in contrast to email marketing, there is no ‘warming up period’ for a TFN - you can start sending at full speed straight away.

No carrier vetting

To enable a short code or A2P local long code, brands need to complete a vetting process to get started. For a TFN, Sinch handles the vetting, making the turnaround time much quicker.


The throughput on a toll-free number is very high and will meet most brand needs for mobile marketing campaigns. You can start slow, and if you need more throughput, we can work with you to increase throughput.

Handset delivery receipts

Toll-free messaging comes with delivery receipts as standard. So, with a TFN you’ll know whether a message is delivered or not. Not all types of business messaging offer this so if receipts are important, this could be a key feature for you. Just note, there’s no support for handset delivery receipts in Canada.

What types of numbers can run toll-free messaging?

You can run messaging on any toll-free prefix available today: 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, and 833.

Why should I use a toll-free number to communicate with my customers?

There are lots of reasons why toll-free numbers are a great choice:

  • Text messaging is the easiest way to reach consumers, delivered right to the phones native inbox without downloading any 3rd party messaging app
  • 98% of text messages are read within 3 minutes so, most consumers have zero unread text messages in their inbox, compared to unread emails that could run into the thousands. When an SMS message comes in on your phone, it’s like ringing the digital dinner bell
  • Toll-free numbers are trusted because they’re recognizable and, with a simple internet search, you can confirm who owns them
  • Many companies with a toll-free number may well already be receiving SMS messages from customers. Enable your TFN for messaging today and find out what your audience is saying
  • Many age groups prefer text messaging over other forms of communication. To remain relevant, you need to meet them on their channel of choice
  • Toll-free messaging is a tried and tested way to speak to consumers, it’s been around since the early 2010s, and many large Fortune 1000 companies enjoy success with it today: Nestle, Butterball, Instagram, and Google, to name just a few

That’s it for this post, be sure to watch out for part two where we’ll take a look at popular use cases and dive into some TFN no-nos. Can’t wait for more? Check out our Toll-Free Numbers product page or contact your Account Manager for more information.

In part one of this mini blog series, we’ll review: What is a toll-free number (TFN) and what is toll-free messaging. Join us!