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.
- User testimonials.
- 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.