What are the ways in which a company can stand out and gain attention? There’s marketing, of course. Customer reviews are helpful, but most consumers know those can be faked. Then, there are industry awards. These come from third-party groups who decide how much value a company brings to consumers based on a set of criteria.
Award-winning businesses have what their competitors don’t; an objective statement that says they’re the best. Car manufacturers always market how safe their new family minivan is, but only one can say it’s the safest. It’s “street cred.” It’s the proof in the pudding. And for startups seeking a round of funding, it can be a launchpad that separates them from over 200,000 other new startups that emerge each quarter in the United States alone.
Why Brands are Hesitant to Apply for Awards
Being noticed and gaining “street cred” aren’t the only benefits of winning an industry award. It can be used to leverage success across multiple different avenues. Which begs the question, why don’t all brands apply for awards? Here are the most common deterrents:
- Fear they won’t win – If a company enters for an award in their field and they don’t win, doesn’t that mean they’re not the best? For most brands, they’d rather protect their image than stick their neck out and try. This self-conscious mindset prevents them from seeing all the positives that come with competing for these awards. Positives like:
- Areas to improve – To enter for an award means to receive an evaluation of your company based on certain metrics. If you lose, look at how the evaluation is broken down and identify where you need to improve.
- Nobody knows who lost – Just because you entered doesn’t mean you have to share the results. Besides, consumers won’t go out of their way to identify who lost what business award. If you win, great. If you don’t, who cares.
- Cost associated – Some entry fees can cost over $500 with no cash prizes even for the winner. Companies can see these fees and claim it’s all a big waste of time and money. But in reality, there are plenty of great business awards, especially for small businesses, that are either free or low-cost entry ($25 or less).
- Not understanding the importance – Winning an award won’t immediately shoot your company into stardom. However, as a brand trying to position itself against the competitors in its field, every opportunity to gain a leg up should be treated optimistically.
- Too many awards to choose from – If you’re unsure which awards will bring the most value to your brand, consider the previous winners of an award. Check back over the last five years; you should see a trend of successful businesses. This will tell you which awards are legitimate and which are out for the entry fee.
Why Apply for Awards?
As mentioned above, the benefits of being an award-winning business go beyond the initial recognition or cash prizes (which, granted, are both great). This holds true especially for new brands who are looking for a way to outmatch competitors and for companies trying to capitalize on their local market.
Here are the upsides to applying for awards:
- Credibility – The credibility granted from winning an award should not be understated. As a new brand, you’re positioning yourself against other companies who already have a reputation in the industry. Winning an award gives your company a sense of legitimacy and can give you a competitive edge.
- Networking Opportunities – The award ceremony offers business owners the chance to network with other owners. This doesn’t only apply to the winner either. Often, award ceremonies will have a group of about ten selected companies who are all top-prize winners (with one being the grand-prize winner). This is an opportunity to exchange ideas and connect with like-minded people.
- Positioning Yourself – For brands trying to make a name for themselves, they often have to target a niche market. Then, as the brand grows, they’re able to expand their reach. This gradual process can be sped up once an award establishes credibility.
- Award Logos – To capitalize on winning a business award, you can place your grand-prize logo on everything. It can be on your products’ packaging. It could be displayed on the front of the website or the corner of every webpage. Storefronts, business cards, whatever method you use to get your business in front of other people, you can now do it with a humble brag attached.
How to Vet Award Opportunities
Before you start collecting these benefits, it’s essential to know which awards to aim for and which offer the best opportunity for your brand. By creating your own vetting process, you can avoid spending excess time and money on the award applications.
Knowing who won the award in previous years will give you an idea of how beneficial the distinction is. Imagine your business’ name alongside the past five winners. Is that a list of successful, innovative companies? Or is it a list of who’s-that and what-do-they-do?
To understand the quality of winners, do a little background research on the companies.
- Size of the brand – First off, is it a big company or small company? In general, you want to win an award that seems outside your current reach. For example, you don’t want to win an award where you’re the largest and most successful company out of all the previous winners. To gain the most from an award, you want to be a small fish in a big pond.
- Social Media Channel – When determining the quality of the winners, take a look at their social media following. Look at the content of their posts and the engagement. Keep in mind their prospective clients. B2B companies will typically have a higher presence on professional social media (LinkedIn), while B2C will focus on traditional social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
- Request a Media Kit – If you’re not sure about the company’s reach or impact in their given industry, never hesitate to request a media kit. This will provide you with valuable insight into how significant a company is, and if you want to be placed next to them in a list of winners.
When looking for awards, a quick Google search will provide you hundreds. To narrow this list down, try to find niche awards that pertain to your specific industry. These types of awards are the ones that build credibility, not only amongst consumers, but among your peers and competitors.
Similar to looking for awards in your industry, you should also narrow in on local competitions. Consumers want to try the best pizza in their city. They want to take their cars to the best mechanic in town. Winning local awards can come with ad space in local newspapers or magazines and can open you up to your local market.
Another type of award to investigate is one where you can nominate an employee. This will not only bring prestige to your company when they win, but the employee will be thrilled to represent the brand. It’s a win-win!
How to Prepare
Many business awards will ask for similar information. To be prepared, have in mind a story that you want to tell. Know your company’s strengths and be ready to emphasize these in whichever category you’re presented. Once you’re ready, keep the following in mind:
- Read the Qualifications – Before you waste time filling out an application and writing out responses, be sure that your company qualifies. Some are based on revenue numbers, others based on how many years a business has been established. Whatever the case, be sure to read through the qualifications.
- Follow instructions to a T – Judges have to scan through a huge volume of entries before selecting their top choices. Because of the nature of judging, they’re looking for any reason to toss your entry out. Don’t give a single reason. Follow the instructions meticulously and ask questions if you’re unsure.
- Organize Your Entry – While an award application will often tell you exactly how to order your attachments, don’t be afraid to add in some extra organization. Being as thorough, clear, and concise as possible will be appreciated by the judges.
- Do It Right – Make sure that you and your team have the time to think about awards. Gathering all the necessary information and applying takes time. If you’re going to enter, make sure you do it wholeheartedly. If you can’t, plan ahead for next year.
Win it All
Business awards are a great way of getting your brand name out there. Being chosen by a third-party for your capabilities as an outfit is not something to take lightly. Awards come with notoriety, increased credibility, and the leverage to expand and grow your company. To best capitalize on these opportunities, it’s important to know which awards to choose.
Filtering through all the choices can be overwhelming. Instead, let us help. We can break down each award based on its opportunity cost to give you the best chance of success and to help catapult your brand to success.
U.S. Small Business Administration. 2018 Small Business Profile. https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/2018-Small-Business-Profiles-US.pdf
Statista. Most important social media platforms for B2B and B2C marketers as of January 2019. https://www.statista.com/statistics/259404/most-important-social-media-platforms-for-b2b-and-b2c-marketers-worldwide/