For Alan Yarnoff of the Advertising Consultancy, located on Amy Drive in East Windsor 609)448-2451) the transition from a $30,000 photography shoot to a $500 one does not mean a change in basic business principles. You still need a business plan, a clear sense of the product or service you’re selling, and an idea of who your target market is.

After taking care of those basics, any business, large or small, is ready for the first step in the creation of advertising – developing a USP, or universal selling proposition. Developed by the Bates Agency, a major New York City advertising agency, the USP serves as the focus of advertising, and it must be product-based.

Yarnoff reels off a number of USPs that have stood the test of time. Visine eyedrops have done well with the USP "Get the red out." FedEx has staked itself on "When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight, Fedex." Dominos Pizza promises "You got 30 minutes." And McDonald’s encourages families to catch dinner at one of its restaurants with the USP "You deserve a break today" – don’t cook tonight, take yourself and your kids to McDonald’s.

Yarnoff is giving a class titled "Get it Done: Refine your Advertisements and Advertising Campaign," on Thursday, March 6, at 9:30 a.m. at the Small Business Development Center at the College of New Jersey. Cost: $89. To register, call 609-771-2947 or E-mail sbdc@tcnj.edu.

Yarnoff offers a number of suggestions to small businesses that want to improve the effectiveness of their advertising:

Build advertising around the target audience. "You can’t have a shotgun approach if you’re in business," says Yarnoff. "You need to know who the target audience is and make a strategy to reach that audience."

If you’re selling deodorant designed for males between 18 and 34, for example, create advertising that would be interesting for them. Says Yarnoff, "If you’re advertising to everybody, your message becomes blunted."

Reach out to the most likely markets. A small accounting firm was brainstorming with Yarnoff on how to expand its business. "It was an Indian firm that had neglected the Indian market," he says.

Find the best media outlets. "Once you decide on the target audience, everything gets easier in terms of your choice of media and advertising," says Yarnoff. Many small businesses, for example, are still spending much of their advertising dollars on ads in the Yellow Pages, says Yarnoff. But those ads are extremely expensive and do not offer the bang they did six or seven years ago.

If the target is women from 24 to 35, the advertising dollars might do well going to the show "Grey’s Anatomy," since much of its audience is in that target market. If you’re selling deodorant for young guys, you would not advertise in "Time" but rather in "Maxim," says Yarnoff, which is "Playboy with minimum clothes."

But you have to be careful. Say you own a day-care center and want to advertise in a local paper. You might think that a business weekly would not be a good match for your advertising dollars because it’s subject matter is not family oriented. But if it is an upscale day-care center, a business journal might be the perfect place to advertise – because the children who populate upscale centers are usually the offspring of two working parents, who might well read the business paper regularly.

If, however, you were opening a new women’s store, you might select a community newspaper because it has a wider range of readers, both working and not working. One way to figure out where to advertise and how much to spend is to look at what the competition is doing, says Yarnoff.

Pay the experts if you want high quality. Everyone in a small business wants a website, but to be effective it must be done and promoted properly. "Once you get people there, you don’t want to lose them," says Yarnoff. "It has to be simple, easy to get around, and understandable."

"In the world of advertising, everyone’s an expert," says Yarnoff. "On TV, they’ll say `That ad is wrong,’ `This one is right.’ But quality requires a professional. An accountant may be good at accounting, but is probably not so great for website design. Similarly with a photographer, even if you don’t have lots of money to hire at the top of the New York line, Yarnoff says that it is not difficult to find talented people willing to take pictures for an affordable price.

Make sure the product or service is central in the ad. Sometimes advertisements focus on the art rather than the product. "On television, there may be a terrific commercial, with excitement and lots of movement, and at the end you have no idea what the product is," says Yarnoff. If you remember 30 seconds of a great car driving around, that doesn’t spur you to buy a particular brand.

Yarnoff cites a Super Bowl commercial for Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover that kept the focus on the product front and center. An interviewer was so distracted by the stain on a job candidate’s shirt that he could not concentrate and started to babble.

Also on Super Bowl Sunday, an Audi commercial knocked off of a scene from "The Godfather," in which a famous movie producer found a horse’s head in his bed – a not so subtle message from the Mafia that they wanted the Frank Sinatra character to get a major role in his film. Audi was introducing a new $100,000 sports car. "It showed the front end of a competitive car in bed and said, `It’s time for a change,’" notes Yarnoff. "It introduces a whole new level of car in a unique way."

From his own portfolio, Yarnoff remembers when a small gym faced major competition because a Gold’s Gym had moved in down the block. He suggested focusing the advertising on the benefits it had offered neighborhood residents for 15 years. The campaign focused on people who had been with the gym for 15 years and portrayed why they stayed.

Find out whether your advertising is working. Include a call to action in your ad or quiz new customers. An effective approach is to advertise a promotion or sale by including a coupon for the coming week. If you offer something in an ad and no one takes you up on it, the ad is not working and maybe the next week, you’ll put the ad in a different paper. But if people do walk in with the coupon, you know the ad was effective.

Another good way to get feedback, especially if the business consists of a single store, is to ask new customers, "How did you know about us?" An exterminator business that Yarnoff worked with had been advertising in nine publications, similar to PennySavers, in area towns. When Yarnoff suggested analyzing the responses, the owner realized responses were coming only from two of the towns. "He was dumbfounded," says Yarnoff. He had been wasting a lot of money he didn’t have.

Set your advertising budget for the year on January 1. Yarnoff worked with a retailer who owned five different stores and asked him how much he had spent on advertising during the year. The retailer’s response was "I’m not sure – I don’t usually do that until the end of the year."

Advertising dollars need to be allocated based on the ups and downs of a business, says Yarnoff. Say the owner of a hypothetical rose business has set aside $100,000 for promotional advertising. The owner should be allotting the most dollars to seasons when she expects the most business: around Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. And since 60 percent of retail business often happens during the last quarter of the year, the owner must be sure not to use up the advertising budget before then.

Yarnoff grew up in Philadelphia, has lived in California and Long Island, but has resided in East Windsor for nearly 30 years. His father drove a bread delivery truck, and his mother managed a woman’s wear store.

Yarnoff graduated from Temple University in 1967 with a degree in marketing. He joined the Reserves and got a job teaching physical education while waiting to put in his required six months of active duty, but his first "real" job was as a salesman for Bayer Aspirin. He then moved to Helena Rubenstein, leaving as department store marketing director. Next he worked on Sally Hansen nail products at Dell Laboratories.

At that point Yarnoff decided to move from marketing to advertising, and his first account was Granimals. He worked on a variety of products, including Dristan, Preparation H, Advil, and Anacin.

He then moved to corporate, spending nine years at Church & Dwight before going out on his own as a small business advertising consultant, and he loved the variety. "One week it’s Trojan condoms, and the next week it’s Arm and Hammer detergent – there’s nothing more diverse than that," he says.

Advertising comprises three functions – strategy, copywriting, and art – all demanding creativity. Yarnoff has been involved primarily in the strategic side, for example, making sure that the 35 to 40 people who staff a TV shoot work together and come up with a great piece of advertising. As Yarnoff observes, "You can be creative without drawing the pictures."

"You’re always coming up with next idea," he says. "It’s not a science – sometimes you’re successful and sometimes not. You don’t do A equals B, but once you hit, you really know."

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