How to win an award for your business

It’s about engaging with customers and getting them to trust your company over a competitor. It’s about image, communicating a sense of brand value and converting sales.

But how to create trust with potential customers who may not have heard of you? However, one often overlooked tactic can provide the third-party endorsement that smaller companies generally struggle to find.

Entering business awards should be front-of-mind for any company, because excellence is something every company strives for – whether that’s customer service or technical innovation.

There’s a business awards scheme for every business sector, so finding an appropriate award category shouldn’t be hard. In addition, there are personal awards – in HR, accountancy, marketing…you name the job title, and there’s an award to be won.   

Nor does it matter how big you are. There are awards for start-ups, entrepreneurial awards, or innovative new products. Or there are awards in the workplace – for best practice in flexible working, best places to work, social inclusion, or recruitment policies.

Here are some tips on how to make your entry stand out from the crowd.

1. Enter appropriately. Writing a killer submission is a lengthy process, so best not waste time on an award category that you are unlikely to shine in. Concentrate effort on the awards and categories where you really have something to shout about. (If in doubt, speak to the awards organiser).

2. Read entry guidelines. Judges look for clarity and generally set an upper word count. They will also indicate what they’re looking for to support your entry – whether that’s sales figures, customer endorsements, media coverage etc. Focus on what’s important for your entry, and cut the waffle.

3. Leave yourself time. Writing an award submission takes far longer than people anticipate. For a start, facts and figures have to be assembled, and other people in the company consulted. Better to set a timetable that gives you time to think, rather than completing it in a mad rush. (A rushed entry is rarely a good entry).

4. Appoint a champion. While several people in the company may have an input to the submission, put one individual in charge, and task that person to complete a draft of the submission(s) well ahead of the deadline. (There’s nothing worse than an entry that looks like it was written by a committee).

5. Make it interesting. There’s no point being over-technical or using too much jargon. Your entry should be memorable and interesting, right from the first sentence. Think of it as an elevator pitch: grab the judges’ attention in the introduction.

6. Make it real. You’re justifiably proud of your company and want to shout about its attributes. But beware of making unsubstantiated claims to be “the best” – using sales data to demonstrate healthy growth is a better way of demonstrating success.

7. Get another view. You might think that your submission is right on the button and has ticked all the boxes. But get someone from outside your company to take a look at it. A point you thought was blindingly obvious might not be that obvious to an outsider.

In conclusion, it’s not about you saying how wonderful you are. It’s about an independent panel of judges deciding that you really are wonderful.

What’s important is that you take the time to really understand what the judges are looking for, and how to make your entry stand up to scrutiny.

In our experience, every successful or ambitious company has a story to tell, about itself, its products or its people, irrespective of size or sector. It’s how you tell that story that matters.

Charlie Laidlaw is a director of David Gray PR and a partner in Laidlaw Westmacott. 

Look out for the launch of Real Business’s flagship Growing Business Awards 2014 coming next month. 

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