While this year’s TV and film awards season complete with the red carpet has come and gone, it’s always awards season for businesses. A myriad of opportunities exist for organizations to apply for recognition no matter what the month – from national “Best Places to Work” awards to regional business lists to client awards to industry top performers – and everything in between.
If you’re not taking advantage of awards as part of your marketing and sales (YES, sales!) strategy, you’re missing out on a tactic that sets you apart from the competition. Why? The “wins” of awards and placement on vendor and association lists far exceed the plaque or website banner that often come with them.
For example, award wins:
- Earn your business valuable recognition and credibility from a third party.
- Increase your company’s visibility and loyalty, drawing new customers and keeping current ones longer.
- Improve your company’s employer brand and boost employee morale to better recruit top talent.
Awards are well worth the effort, but it’s essential to develop a strong strategy and well-executed application. As someone who frequently judges awards – from the Stevie Awards to the upcoming Bullhorn Engage Bullseye Awards for Staffing Innovation – as well as makes client recommendations on award submissions, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of creating the best submission possible.
If you’re going to take the time to apply, why would you compromise your chances? Just like directors and actors only submit their best work for Oscar recognition, you too should take the time to go the extra mile for the awards you want to win.
How do you ensure that your award applications showcase your brilliance? Here are my recommendations on how to submit a winning award application (and make the effort worth it!):
- Figure out your “why” – Before you start getting into the nuts and bolts and gathering information, it’s important to understand why you may want to win a particular award. Ask yourself questions like, “How does this award help me achieve my company goals? Why would it be beneficial for my organization?” It’s also important to ask “Can we win?” and if the answer is no, figure out what it will take to win next year.
- For example, if you’re interested in applying for a “Top Innovator” award, is it because you want to position your company as forward-thinking and technologically savvy? Or if you’re going after a “Best Places to Work,” is it because you need to boost your employer brand? Understanding why an award benefits your organization is key before you set out to tackle the application.
- Metrics win the day – You need to have results and data to back up your claims, plain and simple. I cannot stress this enough. Anyone can submit an award application filled with subjective statements, e.g. “Our company is the best!” but it’s essential to provide actual proof points. Data-backed statements such as, “We gained new market share by X% in the past six months and increased sales by Y%” clearly show you’re deserving. A bonus is that sharing this kind of information shows your company is sophisticated and strategic enough to be able to track successes, as well as holds itself accountable to results. And don’t worry, award applications are typically confidential so your data is safe with the judging committee.
- Going the extra mile: Don’t forget that if you’re going to take the time to enlist others to nominate you and/or your company for an award (a very common practice), arm them with details to help get the win – remember, a simple “They are amazing to work with!” isn’t going to cut it in the competitive awards arena. For example, ask your client to share specific business objectives or company growth targets that your specific product or service has helped them achieve. Be in it to win it!
- Get creative – The best entries not only answer the questions asked, but also tell a compelling story. If you think about it from a judge’s point of view; we’re reading through piles of submissions, so use the tools at your disposal to wow us! If visuals or video are options, include them! Craft your application as a story that judges will want to read from start to finish to give yourself the best chance. If you don’t have someone internally who can manage the process, outsource it.
- Pay attention to deadlines – This may be seem obvious, but most awards have strict deadlines for submission that are many months before awards are actually given out (and yes, many extend the deadline to get in as many applications as possible – but don’t bank on it!). Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you forgot to mark your calendar enough in advance and/or procrastinated so long that what you submit is subpar. Take the time to invest in the win!
- Proof, proof and proof again – To that point, it’s really easy to spot rushed submittals, and they immediately stand out to a judge. If you’re going to take the time to submit an application, carefully answer the questions, check for errors and typos, etc.
- Don’t stop short at the win – I promise you, people take notice when you win awards, make a list and/or are recognized by clients as a supplier of choice. Make sure if you win that you take full advantage of it via a variety of tactics (just a few ideas):
- Distributing press releases
- Posting on social media
- Updating content on your website, email signatures and social profiles
- Citing award wins as appropriate in your new business proposals
- Spreading the news among employees to drum up internal excitement
- If there’s a live ceremony for the award presentation, stream it via a tool such as Facebook Live for employees, friends and family. You can share the date/time in advance and promote via social channels, too!
- Providing communications for employees to easily share the good news with clients, prospects and partners, such as emails<
- Send a personalized thank you note and a bottle of bubbly to key clients who helped you get the win – not from a nomination perspective, but from a delivery/end-result standpoint!
You spent the time to apply, and eventually win – why stop short without telling the world?
Bonus tip: It also never hurts to nominate your own clients for awards! They certainly appreciate it and it can go a long way in building your partnership. For example, Staffing Industry Analysts just announced a new contingent workforce provider list. They’ll be accepting nominations for companies who are on the cutting edge of the profession as it’s undergone massive changes in the past 12 years. From CIO of the Year awards to rising stars and 40 Under 40, there’s a long list of potential client awards.
Finally, from a sales perspective, it’s important to keep in mind that some buyers pay close attention to industry lists and use those lists to select companies for RFPs. The HRO Today Baker’s Dozen Ranking is a perfect example. Also, imagine if you’re on the market to be acquired or you’re hiring a lot of new employees; when people search for details on your company and they find a lot of news about awards, it stands out and impresses.
Award applications take time and dedication, and your input should match the immense value of the outcome. Start the process with an assessment of why awards will help you achieve your goals, and then take the steps along the way to submit the best possible application. If you win, take time to celebrate, and then be sure to promote your success! Eventually, awards should become part of your company’s DNA and success strategy, so much so that that you’ll begin to focus on how your general practices and processes can better position you for winning.
If you’re interested in a list of sample staffing industry awards, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to share from our own research. Feel free to share your ideas, too!