Yes, but Tooting Your Own Horn is an Art Form
Do awards really offer value to a company’s bottom line? According to a research study by Hendricks & Singhal of the University of Western Ontario and Georgia Institute of Technology, it was revealed that more than 600 quality corporate award winners had 37 percent more sales growth and 44 percent higher stock price return than their peers.
Those stats alone are enough to prove that awards are a good idea to go after. But the reality is that they requires a lot of money, time and resources to secure, so what is the real is ROI?
Rewards of Awards
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.
Related Article: Business.com Recognized as San Diego's Best Places to Work
Get an Edge Up
Awards have benefits of increased awareness, third-party validation and establishing market leadership. Using awards as a sales tool can be an account executive’s ace-in-the-hole.
Employees like to feel a 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.
A company’s success depends on its staff. Work force retention can be an ongoing challenge. When candidates see your company is ranked a good place to work or getting a nod to diversity or technology accolades then you've made your company even more attractive to potential hires.
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.
So, yes, awards can have a positive impact on your business. Now, what's the best way to go about getting a few under your belt? It's not rocket science, but you do need a strategy and some sort of gameplan.
Go for Quality not Quantity
Not many kids showcase their participation awards on their book shelf, but when they get that blue ribbon, well that's a different story. Sure, getting those participation awards is easier, but having a bunch awards like “best employee parking” and “best break room coffee” is not going to set you apart as a winner. Customer Service awards from J.D. Powers and being recognized by the American Business Association are the types of prominent recognition that is going to make you stand out in a big way. Just think to yourself, is this an award I want I want on my bookshelf?
Reinforce Corporate Direction
Businesses need to plan a corporate awards strategy with corporate initiatives in mind. If your company is making a push for ethical behavior or corporate leadership, then look for awards competitions that recognize these traits.
Whether your business is just starting up or well established, national small business awards can benefit you. This list of awards recognizes small businesses nationwide in all industries.
- The American Business Awards. The Stevie Awards honor excellence in a wide array of business pursuits, including management, corporate responsibility, customer service, human resources, information technology, marketing and more.
- Inc. 500/5000 Awards. Awarded to the fastest growing private companies in the country, the Inc. 500/5000 Awards provide winners with media exposure and invaluable networking opportunities.
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women. Twelve women are chosen from a pool of nominees to participate in a year-long leadership program designed to help them grow their businesses and succeed.
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Multiple entrepreneurs are selected both regionally and nationwide in a wide array of industries including technology, agriculture, retail, pharmaceutical, media and entertainment, construction, energy and more.
Choose Industry-Specific Awards
When your business is targeted at a niche group of customers, you should go after awards that will highlight your expertise there. For example, a marketing firm owner should target marketing awards.
Focus on Your Strengths
To give your business a better chance of winning, make sure you only focus on awards that relate to your strengths. For example, if your business excels at customer service or has a really great website, pursue awards that focus on those aspects. Examples of these awards are the Stevies and the WebAwards, respectively.
Target awards that are specific to your region; these will mean more to your local customers. Research the awards for your city and your state. For example, if your business is based in the San Francisco area, you might want to enter the San Francisco Business Times' fastest-growing private companies in the San Francisco Bay Area contest .
Learn From Your Competitiors
If your competitors are large enough, it's easy to do a quick internet search or visit their website to see the awards they have won. This will give you a good starting point for the awards you should be targeting, especially if they've won for a few years in a row.
Focus on the Customer
Use "what's in it for the customer?" as your guide to help offset any stigma of singing yourself praises. Consumers are pretty savvy and are aware that companies can nominate themselves for oodles of rewards and even negotiate themselves into accolades. That said, make sure you go for the awards that matter to the consumer and have some clout in your industry.
Decorating your website with awards for having the best logo design isn't really going to buy you much in the consumer’s eye. Instead, they want to know if you've been recognized as having outstanding customer service or product quality. Potential clients have a choice. Even if you are the best, you can’t stand out just by telling others that you are. Having an impartial award bestowed upon your firm may be the ultimate differentiator in the eyes of a prospect who is Googling all the firms in your space.
Related Article: Customer Delight: The New Standard in Customer Service
Focus on Your People
Don't just target awards for your small business or your products; think about which staff members you could nominate for awards. For example, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur awards are a great publicity opportunity for your staff and business. You might even want to nominate yourself for an award.
The most important consideration is this: Make sure you qualify! There's nothing worse than starting to submit an award nomination only to find out you're disqualified because your company or product doesn't meet the entry guidelines. It's common for awards to focus on companies and products launched within a specific time frame, so ensure your company meets the requirements when applying. Once you've submitted the application, ensure you monitor the progress by signing up for e-mail updates so you know when the winners are announced.
You’re a winner! Now what?
- Press releases: There are a number of free press release services you can use to distribute your announcement such as Free Press Release Online and PR.com. In many cases, the award organizers will actually supply the winners with a press release template for the award, making the process even easier for your business.
- E-mail marketing: Include the news of the award in your e-mail newsletters. Share the story behind your award and why you won. You can even include a link back to your press release.
- Use the award logo: Use the logos and the phrase "award-winning" in your online advertising, put them on your direct mail pieces, include them on your business cards, display them on your home page, and include them in your bio or on your about page. The more prominent you make them, the better your small business will look.
- Social media: Post links to the official award website where they list the winners; you might also link to your own press release. Do this on all of your social media sites. For example, include quick links on Twitter and post the press release on Facebook. You will also want to list the awards you have won on your LinkedIn company page.
- Use your storefront as a showcase: Whether you're an online-only business or you have a physical retail store, display your awards. Ensure that employees and customers see your awards by framing them, displaying them on a stand or putting a sticker on your window. It doesn't have to be hokey, just prominent.
Sure, it can be a headache to go after accolades, and often hiring a professional firm to assist is your best bet. But if you think you don’t have time to capture awards for your firm, or that it’s not worth the bother, think again. The rewards can be plentiful and your bottom line may display the difference when a string of accolades sets you apart.