The Trick to Winning Business Awards

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”  This Muhammad Ali quote is excellent, but for a company, it only goes so far.  For a company it’s better if someone else says you’re good, compared to saying it about yourself.  It means even more when someone says nice things about you when you’re not in the room when it’s said!

Testimonials from existing customers are a fantastic source of third-party credibility to potential new customers but have little effect on current customers, existing staff, or potential new hires.  In comparison, awards provide excellent third-party credibility to all your target audiences.

Here are some tips and tricks to improving your odds of winning more awards.                                                                                                                                       

Open Your Options.

You don’t need to win the Nobel Prize.  There are a lot of award opportunities, from local community groups, media organization-sponsored awards, industry association awards, and internet award-centered companies.  Your gain a lot more credibility among potential customers when listing several lesser-known award logos on your website vs one highly recognized, big-name award logo.   

Answer Every Question in the Nomination Form.

In the early rounds, it’s about points, not prose.  Award judges are counting points to help identify the finalists and winners.  Make sure you get every point. 

When looking at the nomination questions, the judges tell you exactly what they want you to tell them. For example, many awards for individuals ask in the first question that you share the person’s name, title, age, City where they live (and sometimes where they were born), and where they attended school.  A lot of people to save time just cut and paste the person’s bio in this section- but they fail to realize there are five specific questions that need to be answered, and leaving one item out (for example, the age of the person), you automatically lose a point. 

Have an Internal Judge Review Your Work before Submitting it.

Have a co-worker review your planned submission, but have them literally check off each question you answered.  Using the example above one again, have the co-worker check off in the question each requirement (age, City, etc.).  If anything is left unchecked, add it to the final answer before submitting. Again, you’re going for points, not prose.

Examples Matter.

Often in a nomination, they ask for specific examples demonstrating your excellence.  Be descriptive in your answer and try to share a more unique story or result. Adding some color to an example makes it more award-worthy.

For example, saying bought lunch for employees or created a newsletter is nice, but not that interesting. Instead say how the lunch was a potluck or themed where you had people vote on which homemade salsa was the best.  Talk about what sections are in your newsletter, including any “personality sections” like a recipe or that you highlight individual employee milestones like work anniversaries, births, etc.

Improve Your Chances by Meeting the Award Presenter’s Expectations.

Different award presenters have a goal in mind for holding the contest.  A local organization like a Chamber of Commerce may host annual awards to support a yearly event that raises needed funds for the organization. They’re counting on finalists to buy tables for the event, and to encourage others to pay to attend as well.  If your organization grows a reputation for buying tables for awards events, other award organizers may notice.  While it won’t guarantee you a win, if there’s a tie or close vote in choosing the final finalist, it can make a difference to judges and organizers if they know they can count on you to buy a table vs the other potential finalist where they can’t count on the extra dollars.  

Look at the Award Schedules.

Many awards list their full timelines.  This includes early submission deadlines for reduced entry fees to late submission fees.

Many local organizations also include dates for interviews of finalists and the awards event.  Make sure the schedule works for your key participants. Don’t nominate your CEO for a CEO of the Year award if she won’t be available to participate in interviews or will not be able to attend the awards event to accept her prize. Local awards groups expect top leadership participation, and if they think you won’t be participating they’ll disqualify you for someone else that they think cares more about winning.

Spend Your Money Wisely- Part 1.

Some award submissions cost money just to apply.  An example would be the Inc 5000 list. Before submitting, do the math.  That award list is completely based on numbers, based on the percentage of growth over the last three years.  Do the math and see where you’d place on last year’s announced list had you submitted.  Will you still make the list at all? Would you place in the top 500, or be listed lower in the 4000s?  This might influence if you should pay the money to make the list. 

Spend Your Money Wisely- Part 2.

If you do win, will you be buying a statue/plaque to hang in your office? There’s often a cost for that physical award. Factor this cost when deciding if you want to submit your nomination, as the awards are sometimes more expensive than the entry fee. You may also want to look up what the award looks like, as this might factor in if you want to display it.

Being a Finalist Is A Win.

If you’re named a finalist or honorable mention, consider that a win!  As soon as they name the finalists, put out a company press release and promote the award to the public and your employees. Add it to your website, and treat it as a win.  Don’t wait for the reception announcing the top winner to start talking up your success. If you do ultimately win the top award, you get to put out another press release. If you came in third, you don’t need to say anything because you already put out the announcement a few weeks earlier announcing yourself as a finalist.

No-Name Awards Have Benefits too.

There are a lot of online awards companies where their entire business is to run their own awards contests. They have hundreds of categories, and their goal is to give out as many awards as possible because it encourages future nominations (with their entry fees). They sell the statues/awards on the back end so the more awards they give out, the more money they can potentially get.   Some of these “lesser known” awards end up having the most visually interesting statues. While these awards may not be as newsworthy or as attention-grabbing to potential customers who look at your website, it’s still impressive.  Especially when the more visually interesting statues are visible in your office to visitors.

Embrace Not Winning the Top Prize.

Sometimes it’s better not to be the top winner. If you’re the top winner, there is often a 5-year ban on you from applying again for that award.  Alternatively, if you’re a finalist, you can apply again next year.  From a PR perspective, it’s better to be a finalist for a year or two before winning.  Not only do you get to add numerous logos to your website, but you also get to stretch your excellence over a few years instead of a one-time-only announcement.

Reuse What Your Learn.

Keep the answers you create for different award submissions.  Often these narratives work for future submissions too, or at a minimum might provide additional details and ideas for other story opportunities.  Similarly, pull from past press releases or articles from key executives to create your submission answers or to identify interesting examples to include in your application.

In conclusion, rather than bragging or selling yourself, let awards serve as proof that you really are good.  Awards are an excellent way to highlight your company, as well as individual leaders where it doesn’t come across as biased or self-serving. Since it’s often time consuming to submit nominations, the key is being strategic to improve your odds of winning.