Whether you’re a one-man-band or a business of many, entering awards are a very clever way of positioning your brand as a leader in your field.

Love them or hate them awards are an incredible marketing tool for any business prepared to put themselves out there. As a small business owner myself, I have used the power of awards to build not only my two business brands, but also my own personal brand.

White River Design, my boutique branding studio has won a whopping 18 awards over the almost 15 years of being in business. These range from small business awards, innovation awards and design awards. It has enabled me to position my business, not just as a multi award-winning branding studio, but I can also claim bragging rights to being the only studio in Western Sydney to have won 3 Sydney Design Awards. I’ll go into more detail why being able to claim these kinds of accolades is amazing when building a brand.
My other business, The Creative Fringe that has only been going for 3 years has won innovation awards, business awards, staff awards and been listed on the Top 100 Coolest Companies Awards. Once again, some pretty cool claims to fame.

Last but not least I have also won personal awards including 2 Penrith Business Person of the Year Awards and being named as the Mulgoa Woman of the Year. This type of personal recognition definitely helps with the positioning and credibility of my personal brand.

9 tips on how to leverage of awards whether you win or not

1. Awards are simply a marketing opportunity

The first thing you need to realise is that awards are simply a marketing opportunity. If you can look at them this way you will have a much better attitude to awards and not take it too seriously if you don’t win. Once you are able to look at awards in this light and realise that it’s not personal, you’ll be able to treat them as simply just another marketing opportunity. As you would with any marketing you’d put a budget to the project, you’d allocate time and resources and you would track the outcome. The same goes with awards. You will definitely have to allocate time to fill in awards submissions which, trust me, always take longer to fill in than you think. To give yourself the best opportunity to win, give yourself plenty of time to fill in your submission and get as many eyes on it to proof and refine what you are saying. Even better, you could get the help of a copywriter who will be able to put into words what you might find hard to communicate. I highly recommend the services of Awards Agency (whose branding we won a Sydney Design Award for).

2. In it to win it

The first rule of thumb is that you have to be in it to win it! You really do need to put yourself out there, even if you think you might not win. Start small to get a bit of confidence. What I mean is, don’t start with a Telstra Business Award, but rather look at something that might be local or within community groups. When you write your submission, don’t be shy! You need to toot your horn and blow your trumpet. Mention things that you might take for granted as they are simply ‘what you do’ (and you might not see anything special in them) but trust me, these are often the extra’s that take you from ordinary to extraordinary.

3. Call for help

If you enter an awards program that requires voting, hit your social media, EDM’s, networking groups etc and ask them to vote for you. This might sound self-indulgent and a little show pony asking for popularity votes, but this gives you an opportunity to reach out to your clients or community and put your brand in front of them. Remember, that any excuse to get in front of your audience where there’s a good reason, will help you remind your clients that you are out there and that you are doing such great things that you are even worthy of being in an award program. Most people are happy to cast a vote a business, especially if they have used your services before or they have heard about you.

4. Being a finalist is something to brag about

It doesn’t matter how big or small the awards are if you are a finalist you need to tell everyone! Remember, this is a marketing exercise to leverage your brand recognition, and as such you need to reach a maximum audience to get the best return. Once again, utilise both print and media to either thank your clients for voting for you or to notify them of your finalist position. Let them know when the awards night is on so that they are aware that this is a real event. Using terms like ‘awards night’ or ‘gala dinner’ adds credibility to your posts. What you should aim for in your marketing is to try and elicit a reaction from your clients – on social media this may be a ‘like’ or a comment, via EDM’s this may be a return congratulations email. Most people are lazy when it comes to this type of thing and are more likely to do nothing, so the bigger the response you get, the better cut through you know you’ve had. Marketing 101 – track everything!

5. Pre-announcement posts

On the night of the awards make sure that your phone is charged and you’re ready to keep people posted on social media. Set the scene with a photo or two of yourself or your team all dressed up and ready for a fun time. Make sure you post a photo before the announcement so that you give your clients, followers and friends a reason to comment and wish you luck. Once again, this is about engagement. Blow by blow updates can also help to build suspense for those ‘watching from home/phone’.

6. Tag winners even if it’s not you

If you know people/businesses who are award winners on the night in either your category or in other categories, don’t forget to post their wins on your social media, and then tag them in your congratulations. This gives you access to their followers and positions your brand as supportive and connected. Whether you win or not you would have had multiple opportunities to talk about yourself for a very valid reason and get your brand in front of an extended amount of people.

7. Winners are Grinners

If you are lucky enough to win, you need to go into overdrive. Post on all of your social media channels – not just your favourite. Each post should include a different image so that if people are following you on multiple platforms that it doesn’t become too monotonous. Photos on the night showing the real excitement and joy are always far more enticing to view than the official photos that they take on the night, so don’t be shy about sharing. Use the hashtags of the event so that other people attending can easily find you and hopefully follow your business socially, which may lead to a further word.

8. The day after the night before

This is where all of the hard work needs to happen. Now if I didn’t have a personal bias to not jumping the gun, I would suggest that you could get super organised and have this all prepared the week before:

Press release: I usually write my press releases that day after the win. Your press release should include the name of the award, potentially the businesses you were up against, and inspiring quote, what the award means to you and of course a photo with a caption. Make it as easy as possible for the papers to run your story.

Use the winners’ logo: most awards will provide you with a winners logo. Pop this up onto your website, or if you are inclined, add it to your email signature which will notify everyone you send an email to about your award.

Special offer: Send the press release out to your database via an EDM, and include a special offer or incentive to use your service or buy your product as a celebratory offer. The special offer will enable you to not only leverage off the brand exposure, but will give you an actual offer to track your marketing.

Celebrate: don’t forget to celebrate. Perhaps it’s lunch with your team, champagne with your family or if you work for yourself, a half day to get a massage. Either way, you do need to take a moment to reflect, congratulate yourself and enjoy the limelight.

Bragging rights: winning an award is a massive achievement and one that you can really take advantage of. Firstly, you can now refer to your brand as an award-winning business. If you know for a fact that you have won more awards than any of your competitors, you can now refer to yourself as ‘the most awarded x business in x area. This really separates you from your competitors and positions you as a leader in your area. Using awards to leverage your brand is very difficult for your competitors to beat as it means that the only way they can compete on your level is to win awards themselves, and that’s not easy to do!

9. Blog about it

Yep, exactly what I’m doing right now! By this point, you’ve already taken a number of photos and shared quite a few posts on social media, so most of the legwork is already done! Elaborate on these posts and transform them into a blog post. Include things like how the night rolled out, congratulate your competitors and everyone who was up for an award on the night and any other interest points. It’s then super easy to share your website blog link on all social media platforms and EDM’s.

Whether you’re a one-man-band or a business of many, entering awards are in my mind a very clever way of positioning your brand as a leader in your field and separate you from your competitors. Just remember that it’s not personal – it’s marketing!

Written by branding specialist Debbie O’Connor
Consultant, Strategist, Keynote Speaker
Creator of Brand Magic Masterclass

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Written by our Creative Director & Branding Specialist Debbie O'Connor - Consultant, Strategist, Keynote Speaker

Published: Sep 30th, 2017