How entering (and winning!) awards can boost your business

Looking for a way to celebrate the superstars in your team? Or maybe you're branching out into a new area and want to demonstrate your credibility? These, and many other business goals, can be supported by entering and winning relevant industry awards.

While having a heaving cabinet of trophies and being able to boast about your recent wins can be reason enough to enter awards, people are often surprised by the many other ways that winning awards can help their businesses.

Awards are a great way of raising your profile, whether that's within the wider serviced apartments industry, in a specific geographic area or among a particular target market. Even just getting through to the shortlisting stage of a prestigious award can provide real clout and increase your credibility both among your peers and with consumers.

If you've recently rebranded or set out to reposition your business, awards can form part of a wider marketing strategy to support that. Being seen on the shortlist of the right awards can put you on the map for whatever you want to be known best for.

The internal benefits of awards shouldn't be ignored either - being nominated for an award is a huge morale boost for individuals and teams and can have an impact on enthusiasm and productivity. It can also help with recruitment drives; being an award-winning company makes you a more attractive employer especially if you're entering awards that focus on being the 'best employer' or having the best training schemes.

Choosing the right awards
So, with so many awards out there, how do you decide which to enter?

There are a few things to take into consideration when planning your awards strategy. First of all, think about what your objectives are and which awards and categories will best help to meet them. Then you need to look at the criteria for entering the award and objectively assess whether you would have a strong entry - remember, it's not enough to just tick the boxes of what you're supposed to do, an award-winner is a person or business who really goes above and beyond.

You also need to consider the time and money that goes into entering and attending awards. Award entries can vary in the number or questions and the amount of information that's needed but it is a time-consuming process and if you're likely to need supporting evidence and testimonials that may take additional time.

When looking at the cost, it isn't just how much it costs to enter (and many awards are free to enter) but also the cost of attending; there's no point entering your team for an award if you can't afford to take them all to the ceremony.

Looking at past winners can also be a helpful indicator of which awards to enter, as it shows the calibre of companies entering and if your biggest competitors are named then chances are it would be a good place for you to be seen too.

Writing a winning entry
The elements required to create a winning award entry fall into two categories: the essentials and the things that make you stand out from the crowd.

One of the most important essentials is to stick to the rules. Any word counts, minimum or maximum pieces of supporting evidence required, specified file types, etc. must be strictly adhered to or all your hard work could go to waste. And make sure you're on time! Don't miss the deadline, and don't count on there being an extended entry deadline; even though this does sometimes happen, the judges may start looking at the first round of entries first, putting any latecomers at a disadvantage.

Most awards will offer guidelines for entry - this should be thought of not as a guideline, but as a rule book! Any bullet point lists of what judges are looking for should be used as a tick list of essential information for writing your entry.

Supporting evidence is often crucial to an award entry to substantiate why you're saying you should win. The type of evidence required varies between awards, but may include the following:
• Financial information - turnover and profit, sales figures, spend per head, year on year increases
• Customer data - booking figures, booking trends, customer demographics, booking enquiries, satisfaction ratings
• Website data - visitor numbers, domain authority, online enquiries, online sales
• Anecdotal evidence - customer and colleague testimonials, reviews, guest feedback
• Commissioned research, internal or external

After you've got the essentials covered, it's time to think about what will make you stand out from the crowd.

Judges are often looking at hundreds of entries per category at the end of a long day of work, so you really need to work hard to make your entry stick in their minds for the right reasons.
Good award entries always tell a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Start with the problem or the challenge, talk about your solution to the problem and then talk about your results. If you can elicit an emotional reaction from the judges, whether that's a humorous anecdote that raises a smile or a heart-warming element of human interest, it will be a lot more memorable than just listing facts and figures.

When it comes to your supporting evidence, photos and videos will really help. A 30-second video, even if just shot on an iPhone, can often show far better what you've achieved than anything you can put into words.

Finally, remember presentation matters. Even little details like adding subheadings to break up a long piece of text make it easier to read and can help make your successes stand out.

Maximising the value of awards
After you've put in all the hard work and got through to the awards shortlist, it's time to start shouting about your success!

You don't have to wait for the awards to be announced as even being shortlisted for a prestigious award can make the news, particularly in local press. Send out a press release, and then start getting social - share your success on social media and join in conversations about the awards (if the awards have a hashtag, like #saawards, that's a great place to start).
When it comes to the awards ceremony, make sure you enjoy it. It's a fantastic opportunity to celebrate your team's hard work and, win or lose, it will be a fun night and an opportunity to get together with your industry peers.

If you are successful and win an award - congratulations! This is brilliant news that can be shared both externally and internally. Be realistic about press coverage; if the awards are organised by a media publication then they probably won't be covered by any of its competitors, but that doesn't mean local press won't pick it up.

Make sure you add any awards badges to your website, email signatures and marketing materials where appropriate so that your clients, customers and guests can see that you've been successful and reinforce the credibility that brings.

Lastly, share the good news internally - as mentioned previously, winning an award can be a huge morale boost and the effects of winning will be seen in the increased motivation and enthusiasm of your team. Send a thank you note to everyone involved and celebrate your superstars, then get planning for next year's awards!

The entry period for the 2017 Serviced Apartment Awards runs until February 7th 2017. Click here to visit the awards website for more information.


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