There are thousands to choose from across industries, niches and company types. You could literally spend hours hunting awards down on search engines, pouring over categories and criteria to find ones that will meet your business objectives. Which ones have the most sway in terms of credibility? There are ways to work that out … but let’s start from the very beginning.
A very good place to start with awards is to work out WHY you’re entering.
There are awards recognising individuals, innovation, growth, customer service, business longevity, staff excellence, achievement, marketing or a specific product or service. What is it you want to be recognised for and why?
Think outside the box - you might have a niche business where there are not industry specific awards but you can enter awards around aspects of your business – for the individual’s achievements and journey, for business growth, a marketing campaign that went off, your customer service processes, for innovating in your space.
Are you entering to:
- Boost your ego
- Demonstrate to prospective clients/customers you are good at what you do
- Showcase your expertise
- Highlight how you do things
- Stand out from competitors
- Bragging rights
- Feel good about what you do
The next questions to ask - how will entering and winning this award help your business?
Awards are great for – business benchmarking, marketing and PR, morale boosters, giving your business an edge, third party credibility. Like anything in the PR sphere, winning an award or making the finals is not a magic sales boom gate – winning doesn’t mean you hit the sales jackpot.
You have to have a plan on how you will leverage the win. PR is all about perception and relationships – both a built over time. It is important to understand your audience intimately – what will float their boat when it comes to announcing your win? Is it making the finals of the Telstra Business Awards or Stevie Awards.
The next thing to do is find the right award for you…and that also means finding awards that have a good reputation and pack a marketing/PR punch.
Working out which award is more desirable comes down to understanding your market and your audience - what will float their boat when you tell them you've won. In my experience, most people have no idea about awards so you could say you won a chook in a raffle and your fans will support you anyway.
As for reputation and credibility, there are things you should look out for. There are many vanity awards out there in business award land, so when it comes to weighing up what is a credible business award, this is what to look for when it comes to awards that may as well be the chook in chook lotto:
A is for effort – an award shouldn’t be easy to get; you’ve got to put in the effort. If an ‘award', out of the blue says you're shortlisted and you never entered it or heard of it, I'd run for cover. I've seen people celebrating their wins, but they really did nothing to win (and now being asked to pay $1000 to appear in the ‘winners’ magazine.) I came across one recently and did their 'nomination' process. Guess what? We won!!!! But they didn't look at our financials, stats, insights, we didn't answer any criteria, so I'm not sure how or why we won.
Unlimited winners, categories and finalists – if it looks like every child wins a prize, back away. Winning an award should be an elite activity. Although there are some business awards that do have lots of categories to cater to multiple industries, their judging process is vigorous, and you have to jump through the criteria hoops to win.
Payment – if you have to pay to use the logo or buy the trophy or pay to be in the winner’s marketing, it’s not about the accolades but making money for the ‘award’ organiser. However, there are some credible awards that do charge entry fees to cover the costs of the awards platform, marketing and trophies. You may be asked to pay to have the trophy sent to you, but that’s ok to pay for postage. Contrary to the negative Nancies, paying an entry fee doesn’t diminish the value of the award – it's not cheap to run an awards program and unless it is a big multinational like Telstra, the organiser does have to cover costs. Think of the entry fee as a marketing cost.
All about the votes – People’s choice awards are nice but not really a reflection of skill, business nous or expertise. These are popularity contests – if you have a huge database, chances are you will win. These awards are not based on merit and that is what you want if you are going to put in the time and effort.
Credible awards have:
- A panel of industry or business professionals judging the entries against strict criteria that clearly and openly shares their credentials
- A judging points scale or checklist the entry has to meet and is judged against
- Clear, established timeline and process and entry requirements including entry fees and what is required to enter
- A nomination and judging process clearly outlined (it is ok to nominate yourself)
- An awards event to present to the winners (yes, you have to pay. Before you say ‘it’s a money grab’, running events is not the best way to make money.) Many awards organisers LOSE money on the event. For the winner/finalists, it's an investment in your PR and marketing – photos, speeches and marketing materials which give you oodles of leverage ops).You have to do some work to figure out which is the best one for you and what will add the most value to your business. It is not a simple process because like any marketing you do for your business, you have to put time, resources and energy into getting it right – read their guidelines, talk to previous winners about their experience or engage with an awards specialist to find the right ones for you.
The final thing is you must have a plan to leverage your win. In my experience, most people have no idea about awards so you could say you won a chook in a raffle and your fans will support you anyway. Entering and winning is just one aspect, PR communicates the value and weight of the award you’ve won or made the finals.
Create a marketing/PR plan on how you will use your win to get in front of more people.
Do these things so you can share the news far and wide, and over time:
- Media attention – what is the story behind your win?
- Blogging – write about the process, what you learnt, who helped you, what you’re grateful for
- Videos - of your acceptance speech (even if you don’t win), talking about the process, what it means to you
- Use the logo – email footers, website, social media
- Podcasts – get on these to talk about your business
- Customers – write thank you letters to your customers for their support, share your news in a newsletter or email
- Photos – of the trophy/medal/certificate, of you at the event, with your team