PC promo. (presentation software)
by Gregg Keizer
If you're not a marketing maven, you'll have to learn fast, or you'll have trouble putting black ink on the balance books. Home business success depends on your ability to learn new skills, and marketing may be the most valuable skill you could learn. No doubt about it - selling is tough. Marketing your services and products isn't much easier. Fortunately, help is handy, even if you are the only breathing employee in your business. While may people look to their PCs for promotional help, all they envision is print - newslaters, mass mailings, and fliers. Why not unleash the potential or your PC in a more imaginative way? Your computer becomes a powerful marketeer when you let loose its graphical talents
The business world spends millions of dollars and thousands of hours preparing presentations and pitches with PCs. You can take a tip from the downtown pinstripes and use your personal computer to produce spiffy presentations for new work and promotions for new customers. With a few software tools, your PC can become a miniature movie theater, an electronic slide projector, or even a computerized banner.
There are two broad categories of presentation programs:
* Slide-show makers take electronic
snapshots of the computer screen
and then enhance, organize, and display
those pictures. * Presentation makers are art-oriented
packages that let your create static images
or animated productions from
If you're at-home architect, for example, and you're already using a PC program to draft remodeling jobs, you can use old work to get new work. Simply run a slide-show maker, grab some sample screens of your best computer designs, and show them to prospective clients who want a sample of your abilities.
If your business takes you to trade fairs, craft shows, or any other place where there's a lot of walk-by traffic, producing a short animated or graphics presentation from scratch can turn some heads and get people thinking about your company.
Though a tremendous amount of PC promotion and presentation software is available, here's a small sampling across the price and performance spectrum.
PC Screen Presenter. One of the most inexpensive slide-show makers around, PC Screen Presenter takes snapshots of your computer screen and lets you assemble them in any order, add captions and arrows to highlight parts of the snapshot, and call on special effects called wipes and fades that shift from one slide to the next in an eye-catching way.
PC Screen Presenter is easy enough for beginners to use, though its three separate modules and the lack of preprinted documentation make the program less than perfect. It also works best as a text-screen picture taker, since it won't snap EGA or VGA graphics screens. Showing slides is just as easy - all you do is put the Project program and the desired slides on a disk.
Pick PC Screen Presenter if you're in the market for an affordable, simple slide-show maker.
Collage Plus. Another slide-show maker, Collage Plus picks up where PC Screen Presenter leaves off. You can capture any screen, including VGA and EGA graphics screens (a Windows-specific version is in the works), with Collage Plus by calling up its pop-up window and pressing a few keys. Once you've taken your snapshots, you can organize and display them. Collage Plus is fast, and it gives you plenty of options, from showing reduced images in full color to zooming in on any section of a screen. The package's Show module puts your slides back on the screen, though it's not for the beginner - you must write a batch file to produce an on-disk presentation. Collage Plus gives you a lot of advanced features.
DeluxePaint Animation. If you're artistic or simply adventurous, you can jump into DeluxePaint Animation, a topnotch PC animation package. This is no simple snapshot taker (though it includes a screen-capture utility) but a full-blown paint program with loads of features to set those images in motion once you've drawn and colored them. Simple animations - titles that move, for instance - are within the capabilities of almost anyone, but to really take advantage of Animation, you'd better have a healthy dose of artistic talent. A playback feature lets you rerun (with surprisingly tight control) animations for moving (literally) presentations and promotions.
Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows. For traditional business presentations based on overhead transparencies or 35mm slides and with a heavy emphasis on charts, graphs, and bullet lists, try PowerPoint. This package's point-and-shoot Windows graphical interface lets you grasp powerfull features quickly. PowerPoint offers nearly 50 chart styles, automatically recommends color combinations so your charts don't clash, and includes a way to get your slides made fast, no matter where you live. You'll need at least a 286 system (preferably a 386) with IMB of RAM (2MB recommended) to use PowerPoint, but the results - very slick, very businesslike, very corporate - may be just the thing when you want clients to think your business is big, not in the back bedroom.
Tools and How to Use Them
These programs are just four of the tools you can call on to make that perfect presentation or expand your business with a timely promotion. Just having the tool doesn't guarantee success. You've got to know how to apply the tool for the right result.
PC promotional strategies. You want to boost your business. You want to stand out from the competitions. That's why you're thinking about PC promotions and presentations. If done right, they can make your small business seem bigger, smarter, and more creative. Rather than a flier or business card pinned to a bulletin board at the laundromat, why not have an animated advertisement at a kiosk in the mall?
Onscreen presentations. Certainly the most common way to turn the PC into a promotions specialist, onscreen presentations are also the easiest to produce.
When you head to your banker for a startup loan or for money to expand your existing business, show an onscreen presentation rather than simply tossing a business plan on the desk. As a foundation for your presentation, you can use spreadsheet screens illustrating your financial projections, then add charts and graphs that show your expected revenues, expenses, and profits. They're easy to generate with a spreadsheet like Quatro Pro. Then insert screens from your word processor as transitions or to explain the special problems that your business faces. Compiling this presentation is fast with a program like PC Screen Presenter.
Onscreen presentations, line any other pitch, should be focused. Don't include a screen for every item on your outline, but hit the highlights. Keep special effects to a minimum: Too much dazzle only obscures the presentation. This same advice applies to color. If you're using something like DeluxePaint Animation, for instance, pick three or at most four compatible colors, then stick with them throughout your presentation.
On-disk presentations. You can be two places at once when you have your PC presenting for you. Since all slide-show and most presentation software lets you put your electronic pitch on disk, why not send the disk instead of yourself? Here's how it works.
You've created a standard presentation that shows how your at-home publishing practice saves your clients money and time. The slide show combines charts that focus on your fast turnaround and low rates with sample Ventura Publisher screens that show of your best publication designs. You get a call from a prospective client who wants to see what you can do, but you've got deadlines to meet. Don't turn down the chance to land another customer. Instead, find out if the potential client has a PC; if so, simply drop off a disk or pop one in a mailer. The on-disk presentation acts as your stand-in until you get back to the customer in person.
You can even use an on-disk presentation as a way to get more business from established customers. Construct a multiscreen presentation that lists your services and/or products and their prices, as well as your telephone number. Every new customer with a PC gets a copy of the disk, which acts as your electronic catalog.
Point-of-purchase presentations. Retail possibilities for PC promotions are just as impressive. If you have a small retail business, dedicate some counter space to the PC and use it as an always-changing electronic billboard.
Put your PC and keyboard under the counter, its monitor on top, and run slide-show software that puts mini-ads on the screen for your services or for other retail stores in your area. DeluxePoint Animation can create dazzling ads with graphics and text, or you could use PowerPoint to generate simpler text-only advertisements. You could charge customers for the ads or use them to draw new customers by offering free advertising to businesses that use your center for their packaging and shipping needs.
If your home business is in advertising, design, or promotions, you could add point-of-purchase presentations to your service inventory. Using a PC paint program such as PC Paintbrush and a slide-show maker like Collage Plus, you can generate colorful ads on the computer for clients.
Toot Your Own Horn
You've got to sell yourself, and your business, every day. No one can sing your praises better than you.
The PC you use to keep books, track customer addresses, and generate correspondence can also help you sing louder than the competition. PC promotions and presentations are nothing new - major corporations have been producing them for years. But they're an underused and underestimated aid for the home-based business.
For best success, start small, change your presentation to match the targeted customers and clients, and vary the delivery from in-person to through-the-mail for a complete and aggressive marketing plan.
Your home operation may not have the wherewithal to air ads on television, but your PC presentations can give you the same result - new business.
New business is what PC promos are all about. And that's fine with you, isn't it?