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Wait, what?!

Yes, you read that correctly.

Paying for awards may seem counterintuitive—after all, your company worked hard to accomplish certain things and you apparently won. So why should you have to pay? 

I think it’s important for companies to understand the underlying marketing and economics of the world of awards programs.

Of course, not all awards programs are created equal. Some are worth more than others. (And we can help you shortlist the ones that we think are worth their salt.). However, it’s important to understand where your money is going.

Let’s have a look.


That’s right, labor.

In some awards programs, there are actually people who perform research and write reports choosing companies as the leaders in a particular category.

Such researchers may have been following a particular sector or vertical, and have deep knowledge of the handful of vendors in the category.

When you receive a call or email from the research firm informing you that your company won an award—but you need to pay a licensing fee for you to promote it—you are actually paying for the analyst’s time and efforts writing about your company.

Still think it’s a scam? Sure, there are those “research firms” out there who absolutely are.

However, even if you do not pay the licensing fee, that research report naming you as a category leader is still available to that research firm’s customers in an annual subscription or research bundle. As such, your company name does live on—even you choose not to pay for it.

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 or customer engagement.


You wouldn’t expect Forbes, Fortune, or the Wall Street Journal to give you free advertising, would you?

Well, in the same vein, you cannot expect an awards organization to give you marketing and promotion for free.

Here is where you can pick and choose which awards programs are truly worth your marketing dollars. There should be a strong correlation between the money you pay to participate, sponsor, or license an award and the brand value of that organization.

An organization you’ve never heard of asking you to fork over $10,000 to “license” an award is an immediate red flag.


Example: Red Herring

Red Herring, for their Top 100 series of awards, has an interesting take on asking for payment. First, you receive an email inviting you to participate in the awards program by asking you to fill out a questionnaire. Then, you receive a request for a one-on-one interview between the editor and the company CEO or founder.

Then, you find out you’ve won! However, in order to advance to the final round, you must pay a “membership fee.” Cleverly—and transparently—this is how Red Herring handles the business of companies paying for awards (This is taken from their website):

Red Herring does not accept sponsorship of its events to avoid conflict of interest.  As a result, all participants wishing to attend and present at the regional Top 100 Forums are required to purchase a membership to the event. The fee to attend an event, which is run independently from the publication, is fully disclosed and agreed upon by all companies. The Red Herring Top 100 membership fee is applicable to all participants and companies participating in the final phase. The fee covers conference membership and materials, lunches, evening cocktail receptions, and the award dinner.

Two years ago, this membership fee was $2,900. I didn’t think it was that bad, considering the prestige of the award. I certainly advised the client that this would be money well spent.

Kudos to Red Herring for clarity in the icky discussion of payment in the awards process!

Making your money work harder

As we’ve written before, you have to wring as much ROI out of the award spend as possible.

While most fees to sponsor, participate in, or license an award are unavoidable, you can align other marketing performance to the award.

Of course, it all starts with shortlisting the awards most relevant to your company. We can help: we’re offering access for free at the moment.


Did you experience sticker shock when deciding to pay for an award? We want to know!
Drop us an email at: hello@technologyawardslist.com.

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