One often-overlooked business strategy that brings many benefits to a company is competing for (and winning!) a business award. Competing for a business award and being named a finalist, that is, eligible to win first, second, or third prize, is a big vote of confidence for the chosen organizations. The recognition sets your business apart from competitors, implies credibility and expertise, enhances your company’s brand and stature and is almost certain to increase the number and quality of prospects, clients and referral sources your business receives.
There are more ways to win than you might think. Sponsoring organizations are typically generous with the number of awards and categories they choose to honor. More awards and more categories are an incentive for business owners and leaders to become contestants because there will be more opportunities to win. More contestants means more entry applications received by the sponsor and more tickets sold to the awards banquet (when those activities resume), since every finalist will buy at least one ticket and some will buy a table.
In addition to its role as a revenue enhancer, sponsoring awards is good PR for the organization, which could include the bank where you keep your business account. The awards not only distinguish the group as a prominent member of the business community, but also attract and help to retain members (or customers). In the best of American traditions, business awards are a way for many to make money. That could mean you, too.
Full disclosure—-as a result of the destabilizing impact of the coronavirus shutdown, I declined to accept an invitation to return as a preliminary round judge in The Stevie Awards/ Women in Business category (there are eight in all), an honor I’ve been happy to receive for six of the past eight years. Judges are neither paid, nor do we pay to participate. I do it because I enjoy experience and it looks good in my bio. https://stevieawards.com
Be advised that as with any marketing campaign, there are expenses involved. You’ll be required to join the sponsoring organization. You must pay the award entry fee for every award category that your company pursues—-best new product launch, business of the year, best workplace, social responsibility award and so on. You must buy one or more tickets to the ceremony (even when it’s virtual). The awards process could represent the entirety of your outfit’s annual marketing budget.
The time needed to prepare your award entry and determine which supporting documents will best communicate who you, your team (if applicable) and your company is another cost. Creating an impressive and persuasive entry application can be a laborious and time-consuming undertaking.
Furthermore, an assessment of your company’s readiness to pursue an award may reveal that it would be advantageous to build for 12-24 months before your organization is prepared to compete for an award. But that’s OK. Taking steps to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your organization (are not most of us facing the threat of the COVID economy?) will pay dividends in and of itself. Just be objective about your company’s chance of winning and understand the time and money likely to be involved.
Choose a target award
Potential contestants are advised to do some homework and discover awards that are sponsored by local, regional and national organizations, whether business networking organizations (chambers of commerce), industry-specific associations (such as the Bar Association for attorneys), or your business bank. I recommend that your initial forays into awards campaigns focus on local sponsors, particularly for those of you who are Freelance consultants and small business owners generating less than $500,000 in annual gross revenue.
After compiling a draft list of possibilities, check the award entry criteria. It’s likely that candidates must join the organization in order to compete for an award and that will be your first expense. Annual dues may run from a few hundred dollars to $1000 or more, depending on the sponsor. Confirm also when new members will be eligible to compete for an award. Next, investigate other entry facts—-the entry application deadline, the fees and whether candidates must be nominated to compete for the award.
Read the specs and select the categories in which you can expect to do well—-excellence in your field, customer service, new product or service launch, community outreach, environmentally-friendly, for example. Within the categories offered, where might your company step to the front of the pack?
Finalize your choices and prepare to compete, being sure to give yourself ample time to collect, evaluate, or create the supporting resources you’ll need to enter. The good news is that if you plan to enter more than one category, most of the content developed can be used in multiple entry forms.
Tell a compelling story
On nearly every award entry, there’s a section that asks for more details about your business, your team and you. Be sure to provide all of the information that is requested and as well, tell a story beyond the statistics. Let the judges feel your personality and understand what makes your business stand out. Here, you can share unique information that might not fit elsewhere in the entry application. Customize your message by sharing relevant success stories and achievements that address the award category you are entering.
Construct a strong beginning, middle and end for your story. Reveal how you overcame challenges to reach new heights and back up your claims with hard evidence. Feel welcome to include good visuals like charts and graphs, or the persuasive appeal of client testimonials. Keep your application punchy and concise, using short sentences and statistics to underline key points. Bullet points are an effective way to ensure that judges can absorb your performance metrics quickly.
Describe what motivated you to launch the company. Detail the company’s vision, mission, guiding principles and values and what you and your team are passionate about and which accomplishments make you most proud. Tell your story from your heart. Before hitting the send button, or sealing the envelope for a hard-copy mailing if required, add a personal note and thank the sponsoring organization and the judges for their consideration of your entry. Then conjure up some positive thoughts!
Thanks for reading,
Image: The inimitable Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Grammy Award winning actress-singer-dancer Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954), for which she won the 1955 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical