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The Power of Awards as a Marketing Strategy for SME Businesses

Business awards are an undervalued tool in the marketing armoury. I think there are a number of reasons for this:

  • Time is a scarce commodity in business, and the ‘risk and return’ equation may not favour preparing a properly thought through submission.
  • There’s too much modesty and not enough self-congratulation in British business i.e. delivering excellence is ‘just what we do and what our clients’ expect of us’.
  • Some how there is not a level playing field when it comes to deciding the winners.

I see frequently, that when a company decides to enter an award, they are doing so as a reactive activity rather than as a marketing strategy in itself. If an entry fails to get shortlisted, just blame the awards organisers. A strategy would involve assessing the awards landscape and selecting the most suitable awards and the most appropriate categories.

Awards are a good marketing strategy to pursue at the present time. Many businesses have done great things to help their clients, and others, during Covid. Awards evenings are able to connect the business community again, both virtually and physically. My sense is that there is an appetite for this kind of activity after 18 months of treading water (for many).

Research what award opportunities are out there.

As part of a business planning exercise, do some desk-based research and find out what business awards are available to your company. You might be surprised at the choice available. Awards tend to be organised regionally or by specialisation. Find out when the awards take place and what the timetable is, plus what the entry requirements are. Sometimes the entry requirements can be a little onerous, but often they are not. Awards organisers want to receive as many entries as they can. They have a tricky balance to make sure the awards have integrity but are also attractive enough for entrants to see the value in taking part. Where we are, in Fleet Hampshire, the main awards for businesses are the INSPIRE business awards

Drafting the awards submission.

You can choose to prepare the submission yourself or outsource the task to a copywriter. Returning to the question of risk and reward, outsourcing the task will cost more but the chance of success may be higher. Then compare the cost of outsourcing with the value of the achievement for your business should you win or be shortlisted.

Winning isn’t everything.

That might sound like a strange thing to write in a business blog. But again, savvy awards organisers understand the need to reward more than one high quality submission. That’s why many will announce several shortlisted finalists in each category, plus a winner and a highly commended on the night itself. This creates more PR opportunities for more entrants and not just the winner. In my experience, awards finalists can squeeze as much value from their achievement as the winner.

Awards are good marketing and good for SEO too.

What others say about you carries more weight compared to what you say about yourself and your business. The vast majority of business awards are well-run and credible. If your business can be recognised in this way, your clients will see the achievement as being positive.

The awards organisers will have their own website and will celebrate their own achievement and those of the successful businesses. Your business will be on their website, with a link through to your own website too.

Finally, if you are offered the opportunity of an awards logo, take it. Then arrange for the image file to be added to your emails. That way everybody who comes into contact with your business will see your achievement and you will be trusted more as a consequence.

Nick Shrimpton
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