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Do you want your peers to recognize you for your innovation and hard work? It’s simple: apply for a business award. 

In today’s crowded, noisy world, an award is another way to stand out and boost your business profile. Each year, many companies plan out what award programs they will apply to, as they consider this a large part of their marketing strategy. 

Winning—or at the very least, getting nominated—can give an organization several marketing assets, including:

  • Specialized logos for website/business cards
  • Plaque or trophies for the office
  • Content for a press and/or media kit
  • Spotlight article in magazines or digital media
  • Opportunities to raise awareness through social media and other sources

Telling Your Story

Here’s how to write a submission that gets to the top of the judging pile.

First, make sure to read each question carefully and answer as accurately as possible – don’t just cut and paste content from your website – think it through! 

Be respectful of the judging criteria. If it’s a 500-word submission, do not send in anything longer, as the judges will think that you did not follow directions and may view your submission negatively.

Writing a brief and succinct description is harder than you think. As Mark Twain once said, “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”

To validate what you are saying, make sure to use third-party evidence. This may include customer testimonials (links to your review pages on Capterra or G2Crowd work well), case studies, analyst mentions, and links to evidence that support your statements.

This is the time to tell your story the best way that you know how. 

What Writers Know

Capturing the attention of your reader and keeping them engaged is the technique that all great writers have used around the world. The secret ingredient for a winning submission is to tell a story using the four elements for great storytelling:

  • The Opener
  • The Hero
  • The Villain, who needs to be eliminated
  • The Sympathetic Victim

These four elements create a story—the kind of story that will capture attention and keep the judges reading all the way to the end.

Opening Hook

In some awards programs, there are often categories with lots of entries, many in the thousands. Some judges may read 20, 50 submissions or more at a time. 

During the first read through the judges may be looking for a reason to throw entries out. You heard that right. The first pass through is about taking out the weeds, the ones that are weak or may not have followed the guidelines. You have to grab the attention of the judges the first time they read through your submission with your opening sentence.

Example of a Weak Opening

We worked really hard this year and we think that this is a great entry because our guys skipped vacations to get this solution delivered on time.

Example of a Strong Opening

When John Doe learned about the shocking rise in homelessness for pregnant women at the annual “Hacking Health AppDev” event, he knew he had found his community mobile project. “I remember the birth of my own daughter only a few months earlier and how small and precious she is,” he added. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for a young woman to be living on the streets with an infant.”

In the weak example, all the company said was that the entry was great because the guys gave up their vacation to get a solution delivered on time, which really does not say anything about the passion or inspiration of the project. They sound like whiners with a bad boss. However, the strong opening example creates a problem, a hero and a challenge (or villain) that the hero needs to overcome.

Tell us about your awards strategy.

Have you applied for awards before? Did you win? We’d love to hear how you used it in your marketing strategy to increase sales.

The Hero

A story needs to have a hero to make it good. A hero that is humble, saves the day. In your story, the hero is you and/or your company. You have the answers, skills, resourcefulness, and technology to eliminate the villain and save the day.

Take a minute to list all the qualities and capabilities that you bring to your clients. They may not all be used in your entry, just put them on paper. This list will help in building the foundation for what you want to say in your submission.

The Villain, Who Needs to be Eliminated

Who is the villain in your story? A story is NOT a story without a villain. The villain is what stands in the way of the hero reaching his goals. Some examples might include:

  • Customer’s pain point – for example, a client has terabytes of data but can’t turn it into business intelligence
  • Competition – if you are submitting for a specific vendor, name their biggest competitor and how you won against them
  • Budget – our company has to use what little, precious resources they have, be it budget, staff, or technology

Only you know your customer’s needs and how to deliver the results needed for your client.

The Sympathetic Victim

Your client is your victim.  You should be able to identify with your victim. Who is your client?

  • A school board that still needs to catch up to the 21st century in order to better educate the students in their school district
  • A charity that is stuck in the past and losing donations for not capitalizing on social media marketing
  • A small company trying to stay organized in the 21st century not knowing that the cloud is the answer

Grab the judges attention by understanding and portraying your client as a victim, allowing the judges to relate to them and their situation.

Re-Submit to Other Awards Programs

Your business is helping others—even if it is for profit. You have many good stories. You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t. The difference between those who win awards and you is how well you tell your story.

There is no guarantee of a win, no matter how well you tell your story. That is why you should repurpose your content into other awards programs. Here are some to consider:

  • Local Chamber of Commerce Awards
  • Supplier/Vendor Awards
  • International Business Awards (Stevies)
  • Local/Regional Awards
  • Local Newspapers or Online Publications

Getting recognition and getting your story out there – with a win or finalist designation in different awards programs – is a great way to boost your business brand. This tells potential clients that you are a leader, an innovator, a hero. It also shows that doing business with you is a smart choice.

Tell your story and tell it well—over and over again.


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