The choice of area code carries more weight in consumer perception than zip code, according to more than 70 percent of small companies polled in a survey conducted by communications and messaging service company j2 Global Communications Inc.

Nearly the same percentage of business owners said having the right phone number gives them a competitive edge.

“Reinforcing that you’re the right person to be working with, building that credibility is the most important thing (owners) have in building a small business,” said Mike Pugh, j2′s vice president of marketing communications, adding that a San Francisco area code was more likely to be seen as optimal for tech startups, while a Detroit number would be preferable for someone in the automotive industry.

“They really just have the impression they can make,” Pugh said, noting small businesses with 800 numbers and preferred area codes said they are more likely to project an image of greater scale and prestige to their customers. “Having the right phone number really just helps with that impression.”

As Internet and mobile communications take on greater importance in business services, physical presence such as the leasing of expensive real estate diminishes, according to the survey. It found only 8 percent of respondents said location was the most important factor in business image.