There’s a common impression that awards don’t really matter. The phrase “award-winning” is so ubiquitous it’s practically invisible.
SEO strategist Adam Sherk’s created a list a few years back of the 100 most overused marketing buzz words ranked by usage in press releases. “Award-winning” was number 11. Business writer and author Jeff Haden asserts that ‘award-winning’ is one of 9 buzzwords your start-up just shouldn’t use.
But as the owner of a business that has won numerous awards, I have seen the benefits of calling my company and my employees ‘award-winning.’
The issue isn’t the phrase. The issue is which award you’re crowing about and how it resonates with your target audience.
When Mark Faller of 6 Bears & a Goat Brewing Co. a veteran-owned craft brewery in Fredericksburg, VA, won the 2017 Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Award, he made sure his customers and potential customers knew about it. “We saw an increase in sales both at the brew house and in the wholesale market. The award is instant validation that our beer is very good. It obviates any risk the customer may have about trying it. It also allows a restaurant owner to make a decision about buying our product without thinking twice.”
In other words, winning the right award seen by the right audience can have the right effect on your business.
Given the manpower and time necessary to fill out the forms, do the research and coordinate the application, awards are not always at the top of the to-do list. Most business owners don’t even apply for them because they think they have no value.
But do not underestimate the power of awards competitions.
Consider these key benefits:
New customers. Researchers in Canada and the U.S. studying more than 600 quality corporate award winners concluded that 37% had more sales growth and 44% had higher stock price return than their peers.
For a small business, an award in a local market can bring attention to your business and sway prospective customers to choose you over your competition.
Lauri and Terry Town of London Bridge Watercraft Rentals in Lake Havasu City, AZ won a 2017 Success Award from the Arizona SBCD. That gave them an advantage in a crowded market and they saw an immediate uptick in business. “Customers have told us that they choose our company over 25 others like us because of the award.”
Recruitment. Awards are third-party endorsements of your business. By promoting this recognition, whether it be a win, a short-listing or even a nomination, you can attract the talent you need to push your business forward.
My company, Advantage|ForbesBooks, has grown dramatically over the past few years. Being in the business book industry, we’ve needed to hire people with very specific skills. Job applications roll in from all over the country and when we ask candidates why they want to work here, they almost always note our previous placement on the ‘South Carolina Best Places to Work’ list as a factor in their decision. It has helped us secure the most qualified candidates from across the country.
Authority. A crucial element in any company’s growth strategy is differentiating themselves from their competitors, not just to consumers but to business associates. By being named ‘the best,’ you are claiming a position in your industry that nobody else can claim – you’ve been deemed an expert in your field, a recognition that can be employed when dealing with landlords, suppliers, distributors and investors.
Faller of 6 Bears & a Goat Brewing says that his award “was the single biggest reason our distributor allowed us to expand the footprint of our authorized Area of Responsibility (AOR). Wholesale distribution in the craft beer market is a battle these days. Distributors must carefully expand AORs to keep the supply and demand dynamic sound. We recently doubled our AOR shortly after we won the medal.”
Employee motivation. Your employees work hard to support your vision. They also serve as your most potent ambassadors. Awards recognize their hard work and achievements. When Cody Tharpe of Tharpe Engineering in Savannah, GA won a Small Business of the Year Award in 2015 from the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce it “substantially helped morale. We were still making a name for ourselves and getting such recognition among a field of heavy hitters made everyone feel a part of something important.”
Marketing & PR. You can’t get your business’s name in front of your potential audience too often (well actually, you can, but that’s another story). An award is a legitimate excuse to send out good news via social media or press release.
So how do you find the right award? Here are some tips:
Your local newspaper and magazine are great places to start when you’re first experimenting with awards. For instance, each one of the American City Business Journal’s 43 markets, from Louisville Business First to L.A. Biz, hosts its own local awards.
And don’t forget the local ‘Best of’ features. You’d be surprised how many people keep and refer to those.
Follow industry websites, newsletters and publications. You should be doing that anyway. Only by reading the magazine of the AIA would you know about the Progressive Architecture Award or by following the ADA website would you know about the organization’s new 10 Under 10 New Dentist Awards.
Here are a handful of the nationally recognized business awards to get you started:
- National Small Business Week Awards.
- Dream Big Awards.
- The Stevie Awards.
- Best in Biz Awards.
- The Score Awards.
Study your competition
Why re-invent the wheel? 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.
It’s important to ensure you’re focusing on the awards that will grow your business. But if you’re strategic about it, you’ll be surprised and pleased by the rewards.