How to turn your business into an Award Generating Machine

Apr 2019

An awards strategy is fast becoming a must have for growing businesses. Recently, Blenheim Chalcot's Mitch Richards sat down with Salary Finance B2B Marketing Manager, Dimitar Iliev, to get the lowdown on how to do it.

Award recognitions can have a far-reaching impact for your business. A relevant award from a well-known body can give public recognition for your team’s efforts, in addition to building industry legitimacy, facilitating PR opportunities and even creating something as simple as a good reason to reach out to your CRM database. In this blog post, Dimitar Iliev, B2B Marketing Manager at financial wellbeing strategy and solutions provider Salary Finance, shares some best practices stemming from the company’s recognition strategy, which in 2018 alone generated 25+ recognitions for the business with an astonishing submission-to-recognition conversion of 85%.

Here are Dimi’s top tips for building a solid recognition strategy that generates some valuable awards for your business:

1. Zero in on the most credible awards

In the UK alone, there are literally hundreds of awards (here’s a good database!) offered by a myriad of awarding bodies – and the list keeps growing every year. Do your homework first and figure which ones are the most relevant for your industry!

  • Is the awarding body relevant/renowned? One of the benefits of winning awards is that you’re usually allowed to use the awarding body’s branding in your marketing collateral – so the first thing to do is check if the organiser is a) known; and b) associated with excellence within your industry vertical. How do you do that? Ask your clients or look for your competitors in the hall of fame! Find yourself shortlisting too many awards? Create a scorecard and pass all your ‘finalists’ through it, homing in on the most relevant ones.
  • Who is calling the shots? “A tell-tale sign of a credible award is having the judges announced well in advance” advises Dimi. “If you don’t know who will be judging your submission before you’re asked to submit it, then this is probably not the best award to go for.”
  • Will you get feedback? Awarding bodies that offer feedback on submissions are incredibly valuable – and tend to be the reputable ones. Often, understanding why you didn’t win or get shortlisted for an award can help you take your next submission to a new level. Be sure to ask that award organiser if the judges’ feedback will be shared. If yes, ask if there will be an opportunity to address that feedback ahead of the decision – you’d be surprised, but this is sometimes an option!
  • Will you have to pay to be recognised? “Be wary of entering awards which have a significant entry fee. If the fee is large, press the awarding body to justify it,” says Dimi. “Sometimes they need to charge to cover costs of printing and sending submissions to judges, and other assorted admin. That being said, if you’re not given a good justification for the entry fee, or if the organiser waives it after you inquire about it, then definitely be cautious. You should also ask upfront if you need to pay to receive your finalist and/or winner badge. Sometimes those fees can be exorbitant (thousands of pounds) and if you are told that you will need to pay even at the shortlist/finalist stage, then just move on – this isn’t a credible award.”

2. Tell a story that is compelling and complete

Think hard about what it is you’ve done that deserves recognition, and then tell the complete story – from inception to implementation to impact. “We found a compelling story around our recently launched employee savings product” explains Dimi. “We found that 75% of the customers using the product would not otherwise be saving money. How did we find that? We surveyed the pilot set of customers using it. If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have the last piece of the story – the impact – and the submission would not have been nearly as strong, even if we had built the most amazing, market-first product.”

There is no story without measurable impact, so figure out a way to evidence it. In order to do that well, a balance between quantitative (e.g. surveys, statistics, or raw data) and qualitative (testimonial quotes or feedback) support must be struck.

3. Rally the business

You might not realise it now, but it will take people from all areas of your business to find compelling stories which bring your recognition strategy to life. You will need your Product and Development colleagues to feed insight into how your offering was envisioned, as well as how it has evolved. You’ll need Customer Service colleagues to provide you with user testimonials, Client Success colleagues to provide you with client feedback and statistics, Marketing to create and run tailored surveys, Finance to provide key business data (asked for more often than you might expect) and of course a someone on the Leadership Team to sign off on the final draft.

“One person can turn the key and start the engine of an award-winning machine, but that machine has many cogs – all of which need to turn to get you off the runway,” says Dimi.

So the top tip is: have a clear goal for your recognition strategy – one that clearly supports business objectives and resonates with the rest of the team – so that you can get the necessary stakeholders on board and rev up that engine.

4. BONUS: Practical tips for writing the submission

  • Choose the voice (I, we or they) and stick with it.
  • Plan your headings first: Use the questions/pointers in the category brief as the headings of your actual submission. Doing so makes it easy for the person reading your submission to link what you’re talking about with what they’re looking for (because sometimes judges are literally going down checklist while looking for key words!).
  • Tell your story with passion: Use your first paragraph to really grab the judges’ attention – sum up why your product or service deserves the award using and justify it with ‘the bigger picture’.
  • Use plain English, not management talk: Do not assume the judges are familiar with your industry and that they know what your TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) stand for. Always use clear, concise and simple language. It’s not creative writing or wordsmithing competition, and the judges are reading many of these, so make it easy for them to grasp your points.
  • Make use of what’s allowed: if the awarding body allows you to use graphs, diagrams, fancy formatting or add appendices – make use of that because it’ll make your submission stand out!
  • Get others involved: Have a colleague – or two, or three – proofread your submission. This is actually less about finding typos and more about taking the presentation of your arguments to the next level – everyone will find something to add or clarify, and that’s the best part! (For context, Salary Finance had at least 4 pairs of eyes on each submission, including their CEO!)