There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of winning an award. It’s recognition of the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building your business – often over many years.
Whilst you’ll never know who or what you’re up against, you can significantly increase your chances of winning by finding and choosing the right Award, preparing your submission well in advance, capturing appropriate evidence, and honing your writing so that it achieves maximum impact.
Applying for awards makes perfect business sense.
Of course, it presents an excellent opportunity for PR. It’s a morale boost for your team who are all personally invested in your business. It gives your customers, suppliers and partners the conviction (if any were needed), that you are at the top of your game. Whilst an Award submission reflects past achievement, the application process in itself sets a strong foundation for the future. It presents the opportunity to compile vital evidence on business performance and impact, which helps to strengthen your proposals, marketing activity and grant applications; as well as present you an attractive employer.
It also gives you the opportunity to assess the direction of travel within your business, and audit what’s going well.
Find the right Award
There are some free-to-access Award lists out there which can be identified using a simple Google search. Whilst they present a useful starting point on the breadth of national and regional awards available, they’re not always up to date. Joining the mailing lists of the awards you’re most interested in ensures accuracy.
Setting up your own Google alerts, for example “manufacturing” + “award”, and scanning the local and trade press for Award wins help to extend your net of opportunities.
There are many different Awards to choose from. Common examples include: Business Woman of the Year; Corporate Social Responsibility; Customer Service; Export; Innovation; Marketing; Sales; Small Business; Technology; and Training; as well as industry-specific awards like Manufacturing. Where you have particularly excelled – or what you would most like to be known for – are a good indication of where to point your energies.
Even if you haven’t yet put the legwork into finding the right award, there’s a lot you can prepare in advance; even if your intention is to apply next year, rather than this.
What are your most impressive achievements over the last year? There’s the obvious ones like revenue or profit growth, job creation and, as importantly in the current climate, job retention.
Beyond financial success, how has your product or service impacted lives? Think not just of your customers but their customers, your suppliers, your staff, and the wider local community.
Information that’s useful to weave into your submission regardless of the award scheme you choose:
Boilerplate: who you are, where you’re based, what you do, who you help, and why that should matter to anyone else.
3-year revenue and profit figures.
Research that reinforces your services are needed. If, for example, you help people to retrain, you might want to refer to unemployment rates in your region.
Results of customer surveys.
Previous achievements and accolades whether they be awards or grants.
Favourable recognition from governing, regulatory or accrediting bodies such as Ofsted or ISO.
Memberships which demonstrate you are serious about having a voice within your industry or local community.
Capture your evidence
Every Award submission should be supported with strong evidence.
Three questions to ask yourself:
What do you do differently?
How can you evidence that?
Why should anyone care?
Which evidence you supply will of course be influenced by the questions you’re asked on the submission form.
Excellence in Customer Service could be demonstrated by customer retention rates; user testimonials; and on the impact on up-sell and cross-sell sales.
If you’re asked to evidence your impact on the community, you’ll want to cover your Corporate Social Responsibility. What commitments do you have in place to source and trade ethically? Can you cite particular fundraising activities? Do you commit support to a chosen charity each year? Are your staff encouraged to volunteer by being given time in lieu? Do you donate in kind? A potter may wish, for example, to gift some of their handmade mugs to a local hospice, a baker their cupcakes to the NHS.
Innovation can often seem a tricky one to navigate for companies that don’t feel they have invented a product. Consider instead the wider definition of innovation as the creation or implementation of a product, process or service that has improved, efficiency or effectiveness, or helped you gain advantage in some way.
Write with impact
Once you have all relevant background material and evidence to hand, you can start on the writing process.
At first glance
Read and re-read the guidelines to make sure the Award category is a good fit to your business; if not, there’s little point trying to shoehorn your work to meet the criteria. Check too for eligibility in terms of your size, location and industry.
Highlight relevant points that, should you forget to adhere to them, may dilute or disqualify your application. Failing to meet the deadline date is an obvious one but consider too:
word count (both on particular questions and on the submission as a whole);
how many and what type of attachments are considered acceptable, so too their file size; and
the submission process itself.
Tell your story
Whilst your submission needs to be written with confidence, it also needs to be real and human. If could be that your revenue or profit performance hasn’t been stellar. Your financial position may be better described as standstill or, even worse, in reverse. If you can attribute this to factors outside your control, you can still make a compelling case.
Award judges like to hear how real people have overcome real problems. Where and how did you start? How have you adapted? How have you worked with others along the way?
Write clearly and concisely
One of the best ways to structure your writing is to jot down your keywords before you put pen to paper. Committing to no more than one idea per paragraph will make it easier for the judging panel to follow and digest your submission.
Meaning and impact can get lost in long sentences. Aim for no more than 15 – 20 words, choosing short words where possible. You can make your writing more concise by removing hidden verbs (verbs which have been turned into nouns). You might spot them as the words in a sentence that end in -ment, -tion, -ance, as exemplified by the following two sentences where a technology company describes its services.
We help businesses to implement improvements to their performance through the introduction of clear business processes.
We help businesses improve performance by implementing clear business processes.
Frontloading and active language
What is the most important point you want to make? Each sentence – and particularly the sentence that opens a paragraph – should start with your most important point.
‘We give confidence to vulnerable young people trying to find work.’
‘Vulnerable young people are given the confidence to find work’.
The second example puts the focus firmly on the beneficiary.
The power of three
Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
You’re The First, My Last, My Everything.
Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité.
Whether they are song titles, national mottos or public information campaigns, there’s something about the symmetry of three words or messages that makes them memorable. The addition of the fourth one to this well-known recent example arguably dilutes its impact:
Hands. Face. Space. (Fresh Air.)
Where you’re faced with the question, ‘Why do you consider your business is worthy of this award?’, you might want to open your response with the three areas where your business has the most influence. A children’s coaching company might describe their work as ‘Empowering children. Supporting parents. Transforming futures.’
If not, why not?
There are so many business people out there who are worthy of recognition yet shy away from applying for an Award. There’s an assumption that the approach your business takes – whether that be to quality, mentoring, staff empowerment, business development, partnership building, or your unshakeable approach to constant improvement – is somehow common to all other businesses. Why not let an Awards panel be the judge of that?
Looking for support on penning your Award applications? Drop us a line to find out more.
One of the reasons it pays to work with a small business, is that they work hard to keep overheads and costs low. It’s certainly the case for Yellow Bird Marketing and Communications. Since the clients we work with all have very different needs when it comes to their projects (web design, SEO, videography, perhaps graphic design), it makes perfect business sense to bring in certain expertise only as and when needed.
When we were offered the opportunity of getting involved in the University of Derby’s Driven internship programme, we jumped at the chance. The programme meant we could work with talented and enthusiastic students and graduates like Maciej Rus and Freya Padmore who applied their expertise to projects; not only for Yellow Bird’s clients but for our business too.
“I think it is really important that the University, regardless of its name, supports businesses across the county of Derbyshire and that is the benefit of this particular programme. Remote working has given me the perfect opportunity to get the candidates that I really wanted for the project, regardless of where they’re based.” Rebecca Erskine, Yellow Bird owner
The internships may now have ended but we’re very happy that there have already been further opportunities to involve Maciej and Freya in new projects.
You can hear more about how the all-round benefits the project brought here.
Without knowing how your competitors are performing, it’s easy to operate in your own bubble. You’ve built up a loyal base of repeat customers, your products and services are well received and your order book remains full. But if market conditions suddenly change or if a new competitor enters the market, do you have the data and intelligence you need to adapt your products or services, channels or target markets?
Conducting a competitor analysis, and regularly maintaining it, is a vital activity in making sure your business remains relevant.
We often think of ‘the competition’ purely in terms of other businesses or organisations that are selling the same products or services as us. In reality, there are three types of competition:
Primary: those direct competitors who are offering the same or similar products or services to the same customer audience.
Secondary: those offering similar products or services to a different audience.
Tertiary: those serving the same audience but not with the same products. Even if your products are very different, you may still be competing for the same budget.
There’s also a fourth type of competition that is often ignored: that of the customer choosing to ‘do nothing’. In other words, not choosing you or any of your competitors but simply carrying on as normal.
Competitor analysis not only helps you future proof your business, it also helps with the here and now.
Taking the time to research the alternatives a customer may have other than choosing your business, means you are better prepared to deal with any objections in their decision making.
A Simple Guide to Competitor Analysis from Yellow Bird Marketing and Communications is designed to help you:
identify your competition in all its forms;
apply both tools and gut feel to compare and contrast your offer with that of your competitors;
determine which assessment criteria to use in your analysis; and
continually monitor market activity to always remain one step ahead.
To download the guide, simply click the image below or download it from Google Drive.
A copywriter writes copy that influences readers in some way. It could be copy that entices them to find out more about you or to buy your product; that educates them about a particular subject; or that entertains them. Whatever the desired outcome, there’s a common theme: that of making something memorable and building trust with your audience.
A good copywriter will help you identify what to write about (and what not). In a manner and tone that’s true to your business. They will take into account your wider business strategy and ambitions. They will relish the challenge of writing for channels as wide ranging as websites, magazine articles, blogs, newsletters, brochures, case studies, press releases, speeches and whitepapers.
Isn’t it easier to write my own copy?
Writing your own copy is often seen as the most appropriate way to engage with your audience. However, it can soon become a painful, never-quite-finished task. There’s a number of reasons why.
Firstly, time. Even for those who really enjoy writing, it’s an activity that often gets pushed to the back burner.
Secondly, perspective. When you’re so passionate about your business, it can be incredibly difficult to write about it both objectively and with your customer, not your business, in mind.
Thirdly, knowledge. When you are expert in a subject, there’s a tendency to live in the detail which can easily overwhelm or confuse your audience.
With an aptitude for assuming the client’s perspective, an external copywriter can work at pace to capture your expertise in compelling headlines and clear copy.
Adding regular and engaging content to your website is not only good SEO practice, it also helps reinforces your brand and shows your clients you’re engaged in subjects they care about.
I love writing copy. I get paid for what I love and have the opportunity to work on a completely different subject every day. When I’m writing for my clients, ideas on what to write about next come easily. When it comes to writing content for my own business, however, it’s often a job that’s forever on the longlist…
Do you too struggle to come up with content ideas? Or maybe the ideas are there but you never find the time to make a start? Here’s five pointers to help you create great written content for your business:
1.What are you going to write about?
Before you start to write, think about what you know about. Where do you and your company add value and how might you reinforce that through useful content (and definitely not as a sales pitch)?
What advice or thought leadership might you offer to customers to improve their understanding of a particular topic? How might that understanding then save them time, money, help them implement new processes or efficiencies, offer better customer service or win new business? What questions might they be seeking answers to?
A good starting point for coming up with your list of topics is answerthepublic.com which identifies search terms related to your topic posed via Google or Bing. A search on ‘photographer’, as an example, (more…)
For many UK businesses, shouting about their achievements just seems, well, a little immodest. Client case studies are ideal in illustrating your great work but through the eyes of those who matter. Not only that, working with a client in this way gives you a much better insight into how your product or service sits within their wider business strategy.
Say something meaningful
What’s worse than having no case studies? Case studies that don’t say or mean anything! They should reflect different elements of your business: whether that be different products or services; different sectors or geographies; or, most powerfully, which client ‘problems’ you seek to address. Segmenting your audience in this way will ensure a breadth of different case studies and will avoid duplication.
One of the key barriers in creating case studies is a lack of time – not only yours but your client’s. He or she may happily agree to be the subject of a case study but be hijacked by other projects. Make the process as easy as possible by scheduling a 30-minute call to capture the information you need. Sending your questions in advance helps the client to prepare and collate any figures needed. (more…)
There are literally thousands of funding programmes in operation across the UK. They range from the European Commission to national government, regional programmes, local trusts and corporate donors. Trawling through those opportunities to find the most relevant can be both time-consuming and overwhelming.
Where to start?
Funding databases like GRANTfinder (UK wide) and Funding Central (England voluntary and charitable sector only) take the legwork out of the search process as they present the opportunity to ‘model’ your project according to those criteria which are most important to funders. Who’s delivering the project, where the project will take place and what the project hopes to achieve (common examples being employment; innovation; upskilling; and regeneration) are all important.
“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.”
Wise words indeed from Mark Twain but when time is of the essence, it’s easier to scrap this discipline and type your thoughts straight onto the page. The result? A gush of thoughts which overwhelm your readers.
Regardless of whether you’re writing an email, a business proposal, annual report or marketing brochure, there are 8 common principles that can transform your writing:
1. Focus & meaning
What’s the single objective of this piece of writing? Want do you want your readers to do as a result of reading your content? Do you want them to say Yes to a proposal? Take action by sharing an article? Compel them to change their behaviour in some way or sign up to a cause? Meaningful content should inform, engage or influence.
2. Never forget your reader
Always write with your reader in mind. Have you made any assumptions on knowledge through use of acronyms or technical language? Will a reader who doesn’t have English as a first language understand the words or phrases you’ve used?
Imagine you are talking to your reader. Write sincerely, personally, in a style that is suitable and with the right tone of voice.
Before you start jangling the keys on your keyboard, stop! Make a note of the points you want to make in a logical order.
It might be helpful to consider the AIDA model of marketing and the stages you want your audience to go through as they read your content: (more…)
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