Ever entered an awards programme? Over the years I have written many awards applications for different companies. Lots have won; hooray, many have been finalists; yay, for some I advised that they should gather more results and submit next year instead; they simply didn’t stand a chance and the entry fee was a waste of budget. If you’re new to the awards thing or you never seem to get shortlisted, here are my top tips for award entries:
Select the right programme and the right category.
There’s no point entering the call centre awards if you are a beautician. And some programmes consider a start-up as under 3 years old, some under 2, so check the criteria and choose wisely. Otherwise, your application will be dismissed very quickly.
Gather evidence / real results
If you’re a young business like us, you might think that you don’t have enough successes to enter. Often you’ll be surprised once you start thinking back through projects that have led to a glowing testimonial and what it took to achieve that. Or if you sell products, not services, perhaps you expanded your distribution area or were busy enough to recruit. It’s not all about turnover, there might be seemingly intangible results that can actually be turned into meaty figures. Be creative, but tell the truth of course.
Judges don’t just want shiny, happy tales. Think of all the best X Factor entrants whose stories pull on your heart-strings before they make your eyes grow to the size of saucers as an amazing untrained singing voice pours out of them. The panel know that business is tough and you’ll have learnt some lessons along the way. Explain difficult situations and how you overcame them, if you’ve had to seek external advice, talk about it and describe what stage your business is at now. And if you don’t know, because it’s not your business, quiz the people that do.
Correct contact information
If the judging panel want to clarify something and the email bounces, it will take them added effort to get in touch with you. If they then keep reaching a receptionist who says you’re busy and the message isn’t passed on…well you get the idea, being uncontactable directly is not cool.
Plan – review your year, note deadlines
Plan your entry contents – schedule to talk to the people you need to gather information from, look back through your CRM system, your diary, whatever it is and make notes of all the things that have happened that will contribute to your application.
Plan to submit – put the awards deadline in your calendar, reserve time to complete the form and gather supporting evidence if required. Check whether there is also a time deadline, not just a date deadline. Do not submit your entry late; unless the deadline gets a last-minute extension and saves your bacon, you’ll be out of the running and all your hard work goes to waste.
Incorporate your USPs
Once you’ve compiled your facts, figures and information and are completing the application form, think short story. So, set the scene, tell your story and build to a great ending. However, when you are telling your story through the sections on the form, be sure to explain why you are different, why you are the best at what you do and why you therefore should win. There’s competition in your category!
Summon your squad!
The customers that love you, the business contacts that have got your back, the people that recommend you without reward. Ask them to nominate you, to vote for you, to support you – tell them how and make it a quick, easy task for them. Most of them will assist and then the judges don’t only have your words to listen to.
P.s. if these top tips for award entries make it sound like it’s way too much hard work, call us for a quote and I might just have time to do it all for you!
Rachael Dines giving a talk on award entries that win at the Worthing & Adur Chamber networking hub. Photo by Martin Bloomfield, Bloomfield Digital