I’m a big believer in the virtue of humility. My heart melts with the rest of ‘em when I see others shun credit when credit is really due. But when we’re talking business strategy—there are times when modesty just isn’t the best policy.
One such case—awards, baby.
Winning an award is business gold for three primary reasons:
- Awards give your company external credibility.
- Awards are free marketing, and you can’t beat that.
- Awards provide excellent fodder for your blog, social media, ad campaigns, etc. All hail SEO.
Getting recognized typically won’t happen without a little legwork. I recently had the opportunity to discuss nine strategies for winning awards at cj Advertising’s marketing workshop. Here’s my advice in a nutshell:
- Get organized.
Award hunting can be overwhelming, so it’s important to stay organized. Have someone in your office or on your PR/marketing team champion the awards process so nothing falls through the cracks. Then, start searching for the awards that are best fit for your business. Start with:
- Media outlets: Local business publications, daily newspapers, trade magazines are a rich source of potential awards.
- Business organizations: Area chambers of commerce often highlight local businesses with awards. And for national awards, check out the BBB, American Business Awards or Best in Biz to name a few.
- Trade/industry associations: Trade groups love to highlight the best and brightest in their field – so don’t forget to look there.
- Know your strengths.
To win an award, you have to show judges that your company is award-worthy. So make sure you have a thorough understanding of what your company does well. Then, source data to back it up. Look at revenue growth, profit margins, employee growth, web traffic, client success metrics, etc. and see what those figures are telling you. If they support good things about the company – use them!
- Think like a reporter.
Before you fill out an application, make sure you’ve uncovered all appropriate information that could help you win an award. Details matters to judges, so pull as many compelling facts and angles as you can by interviewing key players in your company. Also, try to include at least a few notable developments that have occurred in the last year. Proving relevance makes you more award-worthy. As you gather information, play devil’s advocate by asking, “What sets this apart from everyone else?”
- Tell a story.
Judges are people, and people like stories. That’s because a story is easy to relate to – and if it’s told right, it can be really compelling. So rethink giving a stuffy resume feel to your award application and build a cohesive narrative whenever and wherever you can.
- Highlight your all-stars.
Often, awards will recognize a person—not a company. So make sure you choose your nominees wisely. Look for employees who have strong social, civic and professional networks. Those folks are probably already well-known in the community, and that gives them a leg up in the judging process. Also, look for employees who really do outstanding work—professionally, civically or both. Mediocrity doesn’t win awards.
- Get your employees to participate.
Some awards—particularly awards that highlight a company’s culture—require your employees to fill out anonymous surveys. Aim to get as many of your employees to participate as possible—at least 85%. Often, you can get results back from those surveys that you can use to improve your company, so remind your staff that it’s worth taking seriously.
- Ask for votes.
Some awards ask the public to choose a winner. In those cases, don’t be shy about asking your happy customers, your staff and your social media following to help you out. Of course, you don’t want to go overboard to the point of begging, but it will work in your favor to send an e-blast and write a few social posts that encourage your supporters to vote for you.
- Leverage your wins.
If you win an award – don’t keep it to yourself! This is a fantastic opportunity to share positive news about your company. Write an SEO-optimized press release (but be cautious if a media outlet gives you an award – you don’t want to pitch it to one of their competitors). Blog about it. Tell your customers “thank you” on social media for their support.
- Keep trying.
Whether you take home a win or not – make award applications part of your marketing and PR habits. There’s really nothing to lose.
If this all sounds a little exhausting, think about outsourcing awards entirely to a PR and marketing firm. With a fresh set of eyes on your business and writing—and brand chops to boot—it can be one of your best strategies for taking home a win.