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How to make the most of your awards?

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

This year has been great to us in terms of recognition. We got through to the finals of FSB awards in Employer of The Year category, as well as 3 categories of the Best New Business awards in: Best Customer Service, Business Innovation, Business Woman of the Year. This has made us ask a question, how do we make the most of this?


We realised that as finalists, we were in an excellent company, with plenty of other experienced and dedicated business owners we could ask for advice, and so we did. Below you can read about their experience and their advice for your business.


While we have contacted them because of the FSB and BNB Awards, their success doesn’t stop there. Most of them have more awards than we would be able to list here - you can look them up on their websites.


Mark Layzell, MBA, FCIM, FCMI, BSc

Founder and MD of Web Works Well® www.WebWorksWell.com


Most valuable awards

We got most value from the awards related to our industry (for example Digital Leader of the Year by Digileaders) and FSB awards. The former are great in showing our expertise in our subject matter, while the latter help with credibility, as they are run by a recognised organisation.


Benefits of the awards

To be honest, we do not have as much time as we would need to make the most of our awards. We have managed to get quite a lot of publicity locally. One of the local papers wrote about us and others picked the news up.

Getting awards helps businesses stand out. It shows that they are a reliable partner. One of the additional benefits is that judges are often influential business people, and it might be your only chance to get your business in front of them.

To make the most of your awards, you should display the logos in a prominent place on your website, on your social media, your email signature.



How to get media involved

You should be contacting the press as soon as you have been shortlisted. This means you have 1 in 5 chances of winning and is definitely noteworthy. This strategy gives you a second chance for exposure, when you win.

Best way is to contact local papers and local networking organisations. The press release we sent to Cambridge Network gave us best results.

Your PR piece should be more of the story than self promotion. Talk about what makes you unique, what difference did the award make to your business, why it is relevant.  You can use the material from your application, let them know what was it that made you win.


Apply for success

Writing a proposal takes a lot of time, and as a small business owner you will have to be selective about which awards you enter. Some awards are free of charge, some cost a few hundreds to get into. In terms of filling in the application form you can either do it yourself, or work with a copywriter or a partner organisation.

We would always advise to take a strategic view of this and see which awards are available in the industry, which ones your competitors entered, plan for them in terms of timing. Once you have done one of the entry forms, others are easier to create.

Don’t forget that the content can also be re-used on your website, blogs and social media.

It’s all about the demonstrable evidence - everyone can say they are the best, but you actually have to provide evidence to back this statement up.


Winning strategy

The amount of knowledge we have about the industry, as well as the difference we can make to other businesses is what made us the winner. Even though we have been around for only a couple of years, we made some big ripples.



Patrick Horan

Owner of Bombinate Web Design https://bombinatewebdesign.com/


Most valuable awards

We got a few awards within 6 months of setting up the business and we have been going from strength to strength since. The most impactful awards were the ones directly related to the business, such as the best website of the year or digital awards champion.

Best new business was surprising for us. On the back of this we were contacted by Natwest bank to do some mentoring, which allowed us to be involved in other small businesses and to help them set up.


Benefits of the awards

Awards help you establish credibility and you should be sharing this information wherever you can. You need to start changing your mindset - if you have been nominated, you are an awards winning business. Be proud of being a nominee, it is not something everyone has. Even if you don’t win, being in the final 5 shows the commitment to your business and is a great recognition.

Make sure you let your clients, as wella s potential clients know. Your clients are the reason for your awards, and even a small gesture, such as sending them a personalised thank you email will show your appreciation. Even though it was not our goal, we had quite a bit of repeat business form the one we sent out - our clients decided to take up some extra work.

Share it on social media - not just your business page, but also on your personal profile. Don’t forget to add it to your website, you might even want to create a specific page dedicated to this topic. Awards reflect what you are about as a business. Write a blog post about your core values and the awards.

Award ceremonies are a great way of meeting like minded business owners, exceptional people with the drive and skills that 80% of the population does not have.


How to get media involved

We had a couple of articles in the press and even ended up on a radio station because of our awards. When you contact the press, make it easy for them. When you have written up a nice little article they might publish it.

Don’t be shy about the fact that you won. Be proud of it. Enjoy and celebrate, but make sure that you celebrate your customers more than yourself. Write the article yourself if you can and go back to where you started the process - look at your application. You have done something right there, so let this voice come through.

It might help to link it to a bigger cause than just your business. For example saying that you represented your local borough makes it about everyone, not just your business.


Apply for success

The biggest piece of advice is for people to take their time. If you rush it or leave it till last minute, you will not be able to get the right message across. Treat it in the same way you would you GCSEs.

Even if you don’t feel you are entirely ready, get yourself into the process, as even just applying helps you clarify your business goal and allows you to get to know your business. Once you stand in front of the mirror and get to know yourself, you will be better placed to tell your story. Stick to the truth, be genuine, share who you are - don't just say things to impress.

Let the unique voice come through in your application.


Winning strategy

What made us win was allowing our true voice to come through. We talked about what we care about and what makes us unique.

For example, we are passionate about dying bee population. To help those endangered species we donate part of the profits from all our design projects to the beekeepers association. This is one of the things we spoke about in our application - sharing this genuine story helped us win.



Sophie Hainsworth

Co-Founder of LoyalFree https://www.loyalfree.co.uk/

Most valuable awards

Theo Paphitis #SBS, Small Business Sunday award has been most useful so far. It did not require a long application process, but instead it helped us to get involved in a twitter community of small business owners. They tweet every Sunday and there is a winner’s hour every week, where winning businesses share their views. Their hashtag always trends and we got quite a bit of publicity from it.


Benefits of the awards

We are a very small business, so getting the awards really helps us to get more credibility.

We make the most of them by adding them to our website, email signature, and sales presentations. At the end of each one we have a powerpoint slide with our awards logos.

Of course we also share the news on social media and added the logos to the printed marketing materials and even a footer of our documents.


How to get media involved

When we were runners up for the Natwest awards we got quite a bit of press from that, as it was picked up by the Chamber of Commerce.

We normally go through the people we work with - business district and council. We create a press release and hire a journalist to help with the copywriting. Once you manage to get one article out, other papers tend to pick it up as well.

We have attended a very interesting event that helped us to structure our press releases in a way that works: Meet The Journalist, run by the enterprise nation.

We learnt that for the article to be printed you need to be the first, the best or the only, so your headline needs to cover one of those areas. For us it was being the first to do digital loyalty at markets.

It also helps to keep it local. The press is more interested if you are in the area.


Apply for success

Be succinct. Don’t always write up to the word limit - just write what you think is useful. It’s all about quality rather than quantity. Summarize it very well and put the numbers against your words. Proof, evidence and testimonials - those are your winning strategies.


Winning Strategy

As I mentioned before, it is all about being a bit different. For us it was the fact that it is just the two of us and we managed to build this business without any investment.



Clive Bonny

Director of Passiv Pod https://www.passivpod.co.uk/

Most valuable awards

Most of the awards I have been given are for the best practice in technology and design as well as well-being. Those are the important aspects of my business. Best Environmental Business of the Year Award by Seahaven Business Awards has been most useful so far. We are also very proud of the Innovation in Sustainable Accommodation Award by Corporate LiveWire Technology Awards. I think what makes those news worthy is that they are relatively new categories in our industry. Field of construction has not been giving awards for sustainability in the previous years. This is why these awards drove a lot of media interest as well as customer enquiries.


Benefits of the awards

The awards programmes not only boost market awareness of the best in class, but it also encourages other firms to benchmark with others and up their game. We make the most of awards by adding them to our website to attracts interest of potential clients and investors. We also sent the information about them to our clients. It gives them confidence in us and increases our credibility.

One surprising benefit that came out of the awards was that we have been asked by a crowdfunding platform to offer our shares to the public. This may lead us to selling shares in our business and encouraging public ownership.


How to get media involved

Due to the product that we offer lots of press has come to us of their own accord. They hear of us through the word of mouth and then they are happy to share the good news with their readers. We did not have to do much external marketing to date. This shows the importance of having a good quality innovative product with focus on sustainability and environmental protection.


Apply for success

Due to the specific field we are in, emphasis on sustainability was probably our key to success. The environment is not just a nice thing to have anymore, it is a must have. Sustainable products are critical to the survival human species as they enable us to safeguard future generations and use of resources. The awards of this nature create awareness education and behaviour change, that’s why it’s important to show this side of your business while you apply for awards.


Winning strategy

As I mentioned before, it’s all about the product you offer. High level of innovation combined with the very significant impact it will have on everybody’s quality of life.



Crispin Reed

Director of The Taunton Cider Company https://www.tauntoncider.co.uk/


Most valuable awards

There is no doubt that FSB Awards were very valuable for us - it is the recognition of the bigger picture, encompassing all aspects of the business. We got to the FSB national finals, where 13 companies were shortlisted, and we were delighted to have made it so far. It shows our stakeholders that we not only have a good product, but also behind it there is a company that although new, is run well enough to be recognised by the business award.

The other awards are equally important, but usually focused on the specific areas.


Benefits of the awards

We are a very new business, established in 2016, but we took a very conscious decision to enter awards from the get go. We strategically chose to focus on branding and design, quality of the product and general around success as a startup business.

We have a very modest marketing budget - we do a lot of things ourselves, primarily using social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn). Awards give us newsworthiness. They provide the awareness about our business not only among individual shops and partners, but also among big supermarkets, which really helps us to  build our distribution.

Nowadays there’s a huge amount of choice for consumers and for the leading supermarkets to choose from. Winning awards gives us credibility as a brand and as a company.


How to get media involved

We had some articles in local regional press. Also we appreciate FSB, who were very good at promoting us. The local MP Rebecca Pow has been very supportive as well.

The press was happy to pick up on it, but we also wrote a few press releases. My advice to anyone who needs to write one, would be to put yourself in the shoes of journalists. Think about why they would like to print this story on a given day rather than hundreds of others they can choose from.

If for example the journalist is writing about local events - use that angle. If they cover broader area, make it relevant to them. We have for example emphasized broader the story of british success. In the times when Tim Martin from Wetherspoons is talking about delisting champagne this was received very well. No one size fits all - you should think about what you can write that will be beneficial and will get printed.


Apply for success

Results are what matters most - being specific about your business successes, whether it is in sales, employment terms or achieving what you set out to achieve. Demonstrate ingenuity and let the personality of the brand and yourself come through. Tell the story of your first year or first few years in a business in a personal way.  We even developed a brand film on youtube, that we begged and borrowed favours to get filmed, in order to get the right message across.

So my formula for a successful awards application is: Results + Ingenuity (core aspect) + Personality.


Winning strategy

What made us win was probably the sales success that we achieved in the first year, and the way we achieved it, by coming up with innovative marketing. We had a very clear strategy from the outset. We focused on the South West of England. As the brand was relaunched we decided to make use of the familiarity in maximising the efficiency of our marketing efforts. We did not plan on getting into every pub in UK. And this strategy led us to success.



Sara Hunt

CEO at ALD Life http://www.aldlife.org/


Most valuable awards

Because we are a charity we enter some of the charity awards and we have previously won an award from the British Medical Association. They are very well renowned among the health service. So getting a commendation from them helped with our credibility.

However the FSB award has been the most valuable so far in the retail sector, due to its national perspective - it was the first time we entered and we were gobsmacked that we won the Triumph Over Adversity category


Benefits of the awards

We are doing our business plan just now, and this will be one of our key achievements for the year.

The awards up your reputation. You get nice little logos to put on the website and email. FSB is quite a well known organisation. Winning one of their awards gives people more confidence in you and is a great inroad into networking.

We also had a few articles in the local press and we boast to our shop customers - the certificate is displayed on the wall in our stores.


How to get media involved

We already have a very good relationship with South London Press. They supported my family since my son was diagnosed with the disorder and when we started the charity they have been brilliant with us.

On the back of the press release from  the FSB another paper contacted us and I even got an interview on London Live because of it.


Apply for success

My recommendation would be to choose the right category. As a small business owner you will know your business inside out and what your key achievements are. When you go through the list of available categories it should grab your attention straight away. You should feel - this is us and it should flow quite naturally. If you are not sure which one to apply for, you might not be ready to apply just yet.


Winning strategy

I think it was our personal story - we unfortunately have a bit of advantage as we have a some personal history of one of the disorders we are helping people with. I am glad we can catch others attention with that as providing the support is our priority. You should write about something people can identify with.



Summary

So in a nutshell, it is never too early to start entering the awards competitions and they will be of huge value for your business, in attracting customers, suppliers, employees and investors as well as in client retention.  

You should choose the awards you apply for strategically. If you have little time to spend on applications, make sure that you go for those that will have the highest impact in your industry and those that are most aligned to your values and what you are about as a business.

Be genuine, tell the story of your company and let your unique voice shine through. Back your statements up by facts and figures.

Once you get to the finals, start creating as much buzz around the awards as you can. Connect to the other finalists and make the most of the network. Share the news on your social media. Add the logos to your website, your email signature, and your printed materials. Send out a newsletter. Involve the press early on - you might even get a chance to be in the spotlight twice. Make the news about more than just your business.

What else can I add to all those excellent pieces of advice given by others? The information above is pretty exhaustive and all the main points have been covered. The only other suggestion I could add is to perhaps contact other award participants and feature them in the blog (see what we did there?). Hopefully this will help you to create links with other organisations on a similar level, that you could collaborate with and cross refer in the future.

I would also suggest creating a video about your journey and about your business. It is the type of content that currently generates most engagement and is favoured by all search engines and social media algorithms. Plus it is the next best thing to actually standing face to face with someone and telling them about your experience. If you need help with it, please contact us, we have a special offer this winter - and we can get it done for you for £450 instead of £500.


Kathryn Bhat