If you build it …

Kevin Costner’s character had a dream.

He believed building a magical baseball field on his farm out in the middle of nowhere would bring former baseball stars back from the dead. More important, it would draw people from miles around to buy tickets.

And it worked. How? Because it was a movie.

Although the “build it and they will come” theory succeeded in Costner’s film “Field of Dreams,” that philosophy has devastated most dot-com start ups over the last couple of years. These sites had a lot of visitors, but didn’t attract buyers.

Despite the dot-com bomb, most businesses today either have a Web site or are building one. After a well-thought-out site is in place, attracting the right people is critical. But a Web site should not replace profitable advertising, marketing or sales forces.

Instead, it should leverage and support these activities. Here’s an advertising tip from one of my sales training and marketing workshops presented to a national association: To attract qualified prospects and outshine your competitors in the Yellow Pages, invite prospects to visit your site to download a free booklet or tip sheet.

For example, financial planners could offer “Secrets to Investing in a Down Market.” Car dealers could provide “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride: Money-Saving Tips When Buying Your Next Car.”

The key is to provide a valuable resource that costs you little or nothing. Don’t buy a bigger ad, just put “Free Booklet” prominently in the copy. After the booklet is written and placed on your site, customer downloads are free.

Another important issue is your Web address. This is your brand on the Internet and should be included everywhere your company name, logo or phone number appears.

Using a catchy (and brief) slogan promotes a benefit and supports other advertising. Everyone has heard, “We’re dealin’!” on Columbus radio or TV. In addition to ricart.com, Ricart Automotive also registered weredealin.com.

Be careful not to use too many letters, however. I’m car shopping, and the lowest prices I’ve found on several makes and models have been at nfsqal.com. Although the address looks like someone leaned on a keyboard, this is definitely easier to remember than nationalfleetservicesquickautolease.com.

Domain registration is inexpensive, so don’t be afraid to register several Web addresses. I register mine for only $8.95 per year through godaddy.com.

Another sure-fire way to reach qualified buyers is to write articles for Web sites and include Web and e-mail addresses. Accountants could submit articles on tax law changes for bar association sites; consultants could share words of wisdom with association Web sites in their target industries.

Because prospects are already online, they are more likely to e-mail you or visit your site. Another bonus is that the more sites on which your Web address is listed, the better your position in the major search engines.

Take a swing at these ideas. They will increase your new customer batting average and may lead to a home run in sales. Just don’t bet the farm. Brian Urbanski is a professional speaker, sales trainer and business development coach specializing in helping businesses grow their sales using nontraditional selling techniques and Internet technologies. He can be reached at 792-3400 or [email protected].