Awards: Worth entering or a costly waste of time?

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With awards season firmly upon us, there seems to be a black-tie event at every turn and emails aplenty inviting entries to the latest ‘must win’ award.

All this begs the question…

Are awards worth entering?

There seem to be two schools of thought:

  1. That entering awards should be an important part of your marketing strategy and that preparing the entry is something to be taken seriously, with appropriate levels of time and effort taken
  2. A more cynical approach often accompanied by an instance (usually with zero evidence to back up the claim) that an adviser’s chances of winning correlate suspiciously with the number of tables booked on the night

I’m very much in the first camp. I don’t believe that the most prestigious awards are made based on commercial considerations.

For example, when Sense won ‘Best Network’ at the 2016 Money Marketing Awards (which remains one of my proudest moments during a very happy two years there), how many tables did we have on awards night?

None.

Another network booked four, and didn’t win a bean, whereas little old me, wedged into the cheap seats at the back, took home the title on behalf of Sense.

Of course, an anecdote isn’t evidence. If someone can show me evidence that I’m wrong, I’m happy to listen.

Why should you consider entering awards?

Before we start, it may be worth defining the term ‘awards’. These aren’t necessarily restricted to your sector and could consist of:

  • Industry awards
  • Wider business awards
  • Local awards

All three have their merits with the list of shortlisted candidates, as well as the eventual winners, reaching different audiences, all three are worth considering.

So, what exactly do you stand to gain from entering, and hopefully winning, an award?

It’s the taking part that counts…

I watched my daughter at her school sports day last week; at the age of four it’s the taking part that counts not the winning and the same is (partly) true with awards.

The process of entering, and distilling everything you do into a finite number of words can be hugely enlightening. It really does show you where your business is strong and where there might be room for improvement.  Of course, the whole point is to win, all I’m saying is that there’s merit in the process too.

Exposure

Winning an award will no doubt get you hoisted up on the shoulders of whoever is organising it. The subsequent newsletters, press coverage and the like will display you to a new audience. Leverage it correctly and it’s a great way to attract new business.

Many awards have special mentions for entries that didn’t win but were highly commended. Even if you don’t take home the trophy this time, there are still opportunities to get exposure.

Follow up opportunities

If you win, there are so many things you can do with the good news, such as:

  • Adding the logos to your website (keep reading for a word of warning)
  • Writing a blog post
  • Telling your clients, introducers and prospects
  • Local press releases
  • Social media posts

In short, make a song and dance about it – this isn’t the time to be coy!

Benchmarking

Awards offer a rare opportunity to be directly compared to the competition, and can give you great insight into how you shape up. If you win, great. If you don’t, you’ll learn a lot from the process (especially if the judges will offer their feedback), be able to improve from the experience and stand a better chance next time.

Credibility

You’ve probably gathered by now that awards can work very hard for you as a marketing tool.

But not all awards are equal.

Some are incredibly tough to win. Take the Moneyfacts and Money Management awards as examples, both require lengthy written submissions, others, such as the Money Marketing awards, often require panel interviews.

The difficulty of winning these awards, and the calibre of the firms shortlisted adds further credibility should you win or receive one of the runner-up positions.

It isn’t a short-term hit either. Back to Sense for a moment. After their 2016 Money Marketing ‘Best Network’ victory (their third Money Marketing award in 5 years), they decided against entering in 2017, but continue to benefit from their consistent track record of winning these and other recognised awards.

Increased Morale

For all businesses, large and small, entering, and hopefully winning awards is a sure-fire way to give your team the recognition that they deserve. This is more than just a pat on the back though; the higher profile which will naturally result can help with both retention and recruitment.

Notes of caution

Entering and winning awards isn’t easy, it takes time, effort and resources. If you are going to do it, then allocate plenty of all three; if you can’t, then I’d recommend you don’t bother; you’ll only become downhearted.

There are many awards worth the effort of entering and hopefully winning.

We can probably all name them.

Select your awards carefully; consider the entry criteria carefully and whether you are really capable of winning. Better to focus your time on a small number of awards rather than entering too many and not giving each entry the effort it deserves.

Finally, beware!

A whole industry seems to have built up around smaller awards. You may well have received an email starting “We are delighted to announce you have won…” when you haven’t even entered!

This is usually then followed by a ‘special offer’ to use the designation in return for parting with a couple of grand. I won’t go as far as to call these scams, but these are the ‘awards’ to avoid. Stick to those which are well recognised and tough to win.

In answer to the original question, yes, entering (the right awards) awards can be tremendously rewarding, you might even find yourself on that long walk to the front from the cheap seats at the back!

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