Last month, Meg was recognised as Runner Up Digital Woman of the Year at the Business Women Excellence Awards Sussex. This time last year we, as a company, won the Entrepreneurial category and were crowned Runner Up Sussex Business of the Year, in the same awards program. We were delighted, but what have these awards done for our brand and are business awards worth the effort?
There are plenty to choose from throughout the year; industry specific awards, general business and enterprise awards, local and regional business awards and so on. The majority of award programs will require an extensive application form to be completed, needing a representative from the business to summon financial data, testimonials, details of company successes, internal policies and so on. In addition, some programs seek supporting evidence; photos, videos, proof of details mentioned in the entry. All of this takes a chunk of time to put together and then there’s the strict word counts to adhere to. I’ve spent a lot of time editing and re-editing and editing again and again, to comply with award entry word counts, both for ourselves and for client applications. A large amount of awards have an entry fee, presumably to limit the number of weak entries received and to help fund the awards. When there is a fee, it really does make entrants consider more carefully whether they might have a strong enough submission, rather than taking a ‘what have we got to lose?’ approach.
So imagine you’re paying to enter, you’ve got to write 2000 words, put supporting evidence together and provide financial information, are business awards worth it?
Before we won our awards, we had a specific goal set – to become an award-winning company. We knew we’d have to start small, start local, but we were on a mission. Why? We felt that being able to say we were “award-winning” added to our credibility, that it was another tick off the list for setting ourselves apart and that it would give us something to celebrate. It was all of these things! The glow can fade reasonably quickly as most award programs are annual and the time soon rolls around when a new winner is crowned. So you have to keep working on new entries to keep the ‘award-winning’ line on your comms most effective. We always have at least one upcoming award program on the horizon.
A gala awards night is an uplifting, usually glamorous affair, where ladies and gents get dressed up and enjoy a 3 course meal. From our experiences, competitors praise each other, colleagues strengthen their employee pride and stories of triumphing over adversity are shared. The evening itself is a good excuse for a night out and often a gift to employees and client guests alike. Of course, you may spend a large portion of the night sitting eagerly on the edge of your seat awaiting a win, only to be disappointed, but generally the fun and celebratory nature of the evening overrides any dismay and you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? Awards events are a great morale boost.
Meeting and rediscovering
At every awards night we have attended, we have met new people. Sometimes we also rediscover people that we used to know that have moved on in their careers and it’s nice to catch up once again. As a finalist, we share the news across our social media profiles and often make new virtual connections with other finalists that interact with our post or share their award news with the same hashtags. So new contacts is another valuable benefit of entering a business awards program.
Upping your game
It may feel as if the likelihood of a customer buying your product or service solely because you have won an award is slim. But to enter an award category in the first place, your business needs to be achieving great things – have a story to tell. Knowing that you want to enter and win awards, makes you and your team work harder and achieve those goals so that you can generate success stories. Becoming an award winner will always add trust for customers and having an award can never be a bad thing. I say that, thinking back to the days of Smash Hits and categories that included ‘most tragic haircut’ and ‘worst singer’ – at least in business, we don’t have those titles to worry about! Industry specific award wins can be particularly fruitful and we have met other marketing agencies that have won new projects on the back of a client discovering them through a particular award win.
The most common benefit of business award recognition usually mentioned is PR – sending in your winners story to the media and getting it published. It can be tough to achieve, given that lots of other winners will be trying to get their news shared too but the best approach is to add depth to the story, not simply make it all about the win, as well as sending in a brilliant accompanying photograph. Whilst seeking media coverage, don’t neglect your own channels – putting the news on your website, social media, sharing it on membership group blogs, including it in the company newsletter. And remember that all those people there on an awards night, heard or saw your company name listed as a finalist. If you make it onto the big stage, you may even get the opportunity to talk about what you do and what makes your business special.
So are business awards worth it? We believe in them and dedicate marketing time to pursuing them; we recommend that you do too. Add it to your 2020 to-do list and drop us a line if you need help with your award application.
Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative