For startups, winning awards can help your company increase brand awareness and boost credibility. As your business scales, awards promote loyalty and trust while providing a competitive edge.
According to Best Business Awards, award-winning small businesses can see a 63% increase in income and a 39% growth in sales. Large companies also benefit, seeing a 48% increase in income and a 37% growth in sales.
Awards do more than grow your business; they also boost employee morale as your team celebrates its success. Additionally, by constantly raising the bar higher than industry competitors, you have a better chance of hiring and retaining employees eager to work with your well-respected organization.
We’ll explore more benefits of winning business awards and share strategies for securing award recognition.
The business benefits from winning awards
Being recognized for excellence in your industry brings tangible and intangible benefits to your business. We’ll look at five significant award upsides.
- Awards help your business build credibility. Placing on an industry list, whether it’s the “Top 10 Best Places to Work” or “Largest Wealth Management Firms,” will encourage prospective clients to take you seriously even before they dig deeper into your company’s background.
- Awards give your business an edge. Awards increase awareness of your business while offering third-party validation and establishing market leadership. Using awards as a sales tool can be an account executive’s ace in the hole.
- Awards boost employee morale. Employees enjoy being part of a recognized team, and recognition from an outside source, such as an industry association or a respected publication, will spur even more impact than internal recognition.
- Awards attract talent to your business. A company’s success depends on its staff. Workforce retention can be an ongoing challenge. When candidates see that your company is ranked as an excellent place to work or that it received diversity or technology accolades, you’ve made your business even more attractive to potential hires.
- Awards get your business free publicity. Industry awards can be a valuable addition to your marketing arsenal. The free publicity an award-winning business receives can result in more business and new connections, helping validate what your company does and increasing your visibility in the marketplace.
When your company receives accolades, potential new hires will likely see this industry respect as proof of your strong company culture, making them more inclined to join your team.
How to win awards for your business
Awards can positively impact many facets of your business. If you’re interested in actively pursuing awards or ensuring your company is considered for industry accolades, here are some strategies to consider.
1. Reinforce your corporate direction.
Businesses should plan an awards strategy with corporate initiatives in mind. For example, if your company pushes for ethical behavior or corporate leadership, look for awards that recognize these traits.
Whether your business is new or well-established, national small business awards can be a boon. Consider the following list of awards that recognize small companies nationwide in all industries.
- Stevie Awards: Stevie Awards honor excellence in many business pursuits, including management, corporate social responsibility, customer service, human resources, information technology and marketing.
- Inc. 5000 Awards: Inc. 5000 Awards are given to the fastest-growing private companies in the country. If chosen, you’ll receive media exposure and invaluable networking opportunities.
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women: In the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, multiple women are chosen from a pool of nominees to participate in a yearlong leadership program designed to help them grow their businesses and succeed.
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: In the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program, multiple entrepreneurs are selected regionally and nationwide in various industries, including technology, agriculture, retail, pharmaceutical, media and entertainment, construction, and energy.
When exploring funding for your startup, search for entrepreneur-specific financial resources, such as government loans for entrepreneurs and business grants for women entrepreneurs.
2. Choose industry-specific awards.
When your business is targeted at a niche group of customers, pursue awards that highlight your expertise. Here are some examples.
- Food service businesses or restaurants: Restaurants or food service businesses can pursue recognition from the Good Food Foundation, the National Restaurant Association, James Beard Awards and more.
- Businesses committed to sustainability: If you have eco-friendly products or a sustainable business plan, pursue awards like the Business Intelligence Group’s Sustainability Awards, the People & Planet Award for Green Businesses and the Veggie Awards.
- Businesses that represent cultures or ethnicities: If you’re a minority-owned business or your business represents cultural or ethnic minorities, contact your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office to see if it has any minority-owned SBA business awards. You could also pursue an MVMT50 Award or the Stevie Award for minority-owned businesses.
There are also awards for veteran-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and businesses specific to industries like marketing, accounting and law.
3. Find awards that focus on your strengths.
To give your business a better chance of winning, focus on awards that relate to your strengths. For example, if your company excels at customer service or has an excellent website, pursue awards that focus on those aspects. Examples of these awards are Stevie Awards for customer service and WebAwards for website design.
4. Think local when considering awards.
Discover awards specific to your region; these will be extremely impactful for your local customers. For example, if your business is based in San Francisco, consider entering the San Francisco Business Times’ contest for the fastest-growing private companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Research awards for your city and your state; your local SBA office should be an excellent resource for this.
5. Research awards your competitors have received.
If your competitors are large enough, conduct quick internet searches or visit their websites to see the awards they’ve received. This research will give you a good starting point for the awards you should target, especially if you’re looking to beat the competition and snag their recognition.
6. Focus on your customers when considering awards.
When pursuing awards, it’s not about gaining clout and singing your own praises. Savvy customers understand that businesses can nominate themselves for awards and even negotiate accolades for marketing purposes.
To maintain your integrity and stay in good standing with your customers, pursue awards that truly matter to consumers and have clout in your industry.
For example, decorating your website with awards for having the best logo design won’t impress many customers. However, if you’re recognized for outstanding customer service or product quality, this will resonate with consumers.
Potential clients have many choices about with whom they do business. Having an impartial award bestowed upon your firm may be the ultimate differentiator for a prospect researching all the businesses in your space.
7. Focus on your team when pursuing awards.
Awards aren’t just for businesses and products. When pursuing awards, consider team members you could nominate for their exceptional contributions. For example, Ernst & Young’s entrepreneur awards are a great publicity opportunity for your staff and business. You might even want to nominate yourself for an award.
Most importantly, ensure you or your team member qualifies for an award before making a submission for consideration. There’s nothing worse than being disqualified from an award competition because your company or product doesn’t meet the entry guidelines.
Once you’ve applied for an award, monitor the process by signing up for email updates to be notified when the winners are announced.
What to do when your business wins an award
To capitalize on your well-deserved achievement, consider the following award-recipient best practices:
- Issue a press release. Issue a press release to publicize your award. You don’t need a marketing agency to get the word out. Research free and low-cost press release services to distribute your announcement. In many cases, award organizers will supply the winners with a press release template, making the process even easier.
- Share the news via email marketing. Include the news of the award in your email marketing campaigns. Share the story behind your award and why you won. You can even include a link to your press release.
- Use the award logo. Use the award organizer’s logo and the phrase “award-winning” in your online advertising. Use this branding on your direct mail pieces and business cards, display it on your home page and About page, and include it in your bio. The more prominent you make the award branding, the better your small business will look.
- Mention the award on social media. Post links to the official award website and winner list on your social media accounts. You can also link to your press release. For example, include quick links on Twitter and post the press release on Facebook. You will also want to list your awards on your LinkedIn business profile.
- Make a video. Marketers report a positive ROI from utilizing video branding on platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. Consider producing a video that explains how you won the award and celebrates your company culture.
- Use your storefront as a showcase. Display your award, whether you’re an online-only business or a physical retail store. Ensure that employees and customers see your award by framing it or displaying it on a stand, or putting a sticker on your window.
While pursuing accolades can be time-consuming, award rewards can be plentiful and well worth the extra work. Your bottom line may be the big winner when an accolade sets your business apart.
Traci Cox contributed to the writing and research in this article.