Awards are becoming an increasingly important part of a company’s marketing plans. Success in a national or international awards competition can be a significant tool for firms to highlight how they have been able to support their clients and the quality of the products and services they provide.
Award success can deliver external and independent credibility, highlight your excellence and provide a broad range of promotional opportunities for the following 12-months in which your success can be regularly highlighted.
But victory in awards takes planning and a clear approach to the process.
Do you want to enter?
The first step is to understand why you wish to enter the awards and the benefits that winning the award will bring your business.
Once that is understood you need to identify the awards you wish to enter.
The first question you need to ask is the relevance of the award to your business. How would winning that particular award or category sit alongside the business? For some there is the desire to be viewed as a good employer or a diverse company which opens the potential for awards which are not industry specific but will fit with the message you wish to provide to prospective employees and clients.
If you choose to enter industry specific awards, then the categories are key. Do you have a story or case study that resonates with the category you wish to enter, and does the category provide the ability to demonstrate the excellence in what you do?
Ensure you understand the timeframe for the awards process. All too often there is a view that an awards entry can be a quickly completed. The entry will provide details of you as a business, potentially your staff and your performance and as such needs to be fully considered. A reasonable period needs to be devoted not only to completing the necessary entry criteria but also to ensure it can be signed off in good time.
There are cost implications to any award entry which need to be considered. Firstly is there a cost to entry, and if so, is it a one off cost or will you find yourselves having to pay more as your entry goes through the various stages?
You have to factor in the cost of creating the entry itself. Many firms choose to bring in external expertise. If work on the entry is retained in-house it will divert staff from other tasks for a considerable period of time. For some awards the written entry is followed by a judging day where the shortlisted companies are required to provide a presentation and undergo a question and answer session with the judging panel. Again this will necessitate staff being out of the office.
There is also the awards ceremony itself to be considered. Should you be shortlisted is there a minimum number of seats you would be required to purchase at the awards ceremony. The costs can mount so it is best to understand what the potential costs are before you begin the work on your entry or entries.
Standing out from the crowd
The key to any successful awards process starts with ensuring you understand the awards criteria. Obtain the entry kit and ensure you understand what is expected.
If the awards attract significant numbers if entries the awards organisation will likely set a word count on the initial entry. You might think you have the best reason for entry in the world and what you have done is so far and above your peers that you must win. However if you are told that the entry needs to be limited to 500 words then keep it to 500 words. There have been many times when a firm has had a compelling story but decided that for them 500 words means 750 words. What it actually means is that the judges will never even get to read it.
Some will allow supplementary material to support your entry, but again you need to understand what you can and cannot provide for the judges.
Ensure that you understand in what format the entry needs to be submitted. If it requires a PDF to ensure that it cannot be altered then submit a PDF. If it needs to be in word format then word format it is.
One of the classic mistakes that many make when compiling their awards entry is to ignore the information on the entry criteria as to what the judges are looking for and the basis in which the decision will be made.
There will often be a clear indication on the questions the judges will be asking of the entrants and these need to be addressed in your entry. The key to success is ensuring that your entry contains the information that the criteria has stipulated, not simply the points you find compelling. Your opening statement should clearly define why, on the basis of the entry criteria, you should win the award.
Guide the judges through your story in a logical way and avoid industry buzzwords and shorthand, the judges may be from outside of your industry and keep your language and sentences clear and short. Tangible results and research can be compelling so any results should be compiled early in the process to further support the arguments in your entry.
Making the most of your success
If you hard work has paid off and you have won or been highly commended in the award category there is then the opportunity to use that success as a marketing tool.
Any success including the awards logo can be prominently displayed on your website. It can be used in an email marketing campaign and widely publicised on social media. If the award has not been organised by a trade publication, there is the opportunity to issue a press release to the media to further publicise your award to a wider audience.
Many firms also include their award wins in company email signatures to ensure current and prospective customers are aware that your expertise has been recognised.
Balancing risk and award
Winning an award can deliver significant benefits both internally and externally in terms of recognising the efforts of staff and highlighting the company to clients.
The awards process can be complex and lengthy and as such companies needed to balance the costs of entry, in terms of fees and time with the benefits, that success will bring. It necessitates a clear and systematic approach in which enough time is allocated to ensure that the criteria are understood, the entry can be both created and receive necessary sign off, to provide the maximum chance of success.