Business awards… making them work for your business
Business awards undoubtedly make a lot of business owners cringe. It’s a few things – the perception (‘They are so into themselves!’), the humility (‘C’mon – I don’t save lives’) or the modesty (‘I’m just lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people’).
But as soon as you get over the initial hesitation, it becomes obvious that entering business awards (regardless of whether you win!) delivers far more benefits than cringe-worthy elements.
Making business awards work for you
Winning a business award undoubtedly gives you credibility – not only with your clients, but also within your industry (particularly if your awards are industry-specific). Business awards enable you to showcase your business on a local, State or national stage, and provide huge networking possibilities. Provided you leverage the opportunity, receiving a business award can also result in plenty of free press exposure and the ability to position yourself as an industry leader.
Vitally, entering business awards is almost like a coaching exercise – it provides an ideal mechanism to review the progress of your business over the past 12 months (and hopefully to celebrate it!).
How to develop a quality application
Regardless of whether you are applying at local, State or national level, and for industry-specific or general business awards, the same principles generally apply. Here are a few tips for ensuring your application is professional and stands apart from your competitors.
Business awards are best written in the first person
One of the most common mistakes is writing in the third person. As soon as you say “Harriett’s Hairdressing invests in quality products”, you are immediately putting distance between yourself and the reader. Doesn’t “We invest in quality products that aren’t tested on animals,” sound much more personal? As a reader you can immediately identify with the author, so write as yourself!
To represent your business well, drop the modesty
Yes, we know that the tall poppy syndrome is well and truly alive, and we all try to downplay our awesomeness. But, every now and then, we need to let it shine.
Write the truth. Do your interior design skills dazzle? Show them how. Can you get your clients excited about accounting? Phenomenal! (Apologies to all of the accountants out there.) You are in business because you are passionate about what you do and you want to do it well, so don’t downplay your efforts.
Providing examples in a business award application is a great way of displaying credibility as well as helping you write impartially about your success.
Focus on the new
Don’t write about your success three years ago – the most successful businesses show year-on-year growth and development. Highlight a key innovation and display how it has positively affected your clients and/or staff. Show financial growth. Refer to relevant industry or legislative changes and demonstrate how you have acclimatised to market conditions. Focus on the new and the relevant!
Plan ahead, and leave yourself plenty of time
A quality business award application takes longer than you think. Don’t leave it to the last minute – you won’t do yourself, or your business, justice. Leave yourself at least a week to think through everything, and refer back to your Facebook page, newsletters, blog, and other forms of client communication. When you sit down to start the application, you’ll be surprised at what you have achieved!
Maintain an “I rock the Casbah” folder
Every time you receive a thank you letter or certificate, a card from a client, have a story published in a newspaper or magazine, or even have a gift sent (take photos!), scan the item and save it in your ‘I rock’ folder. Not only will the success of the previous 12 months come flooding back but, when the time comes, your evidence is already neatly prepared.
Demonstrate the ‘how’, after you explain the ‘what’
It’s all well and good to explain what makes you unique, productive or helps you excel in your industry, but you also need to show the ‘how’. Provide examples – what systems or processes have you implemented? How has this translated into improved productivity, an enhanced quality output, or an increase in profits?
Format in line with your branding strategy
Presentation is vital. A number of business awards require you to enter online and specify a word count so there is no opportunity to visually stand out, but there are a large number for which you have free reign with design.
Ensure your formatting is clean, with plenty of white space to make it easy to read. Lists can enable you to break chunks of information down into bite-size pieces, and pull-out quotes add emphasis to particular points. Images are a also great method of providing evidence to your submission. Vitally, always ensure your business awards design is in line with your branding strategy. Investing in a graphic designer to develop a template and/or title page that reinforces your brand is a great investment.
Plan your approach
Don’t cut and paste from your website or corporate profile – your writing needs to be specific and relevant. If you have a previous submission you can use it as a base on which to build, but certainly don’t submit it verbatim. Ensure you answer the question being asked, and approach it thoughtfully.
How are you different? What makes you unique?
And the questions you struggle to answer? Note them down – these are potential areas of your business where you can focus your efforts over the following 12 months.
Business awards encourage you to celebrate your wins – regardless of the outcome
It’s not about winning – much as we all love recognition and acknowledgment, it really is about taking the time to celebrate you and your team (or your support structure, if you are a sole trader). As business owners we all work incredibly hard, and awards encourage us to reflect on our achievements and high-five one another (as well as providing a great opportunity to dress up and party hard!).
And if you have a magnificent hairdresser who makes you look a million bucks on the night? Don’t forget to drop her a note reminding her of her awesomeness so that she can use it in her entry next year!