Marketing Awards: Are they worth it and, if so, 6 tips on things to consider before applying.

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There appears to be no shortage of marketing awards that businesses can apply for these days. Whether they are specific to marketing like CIM Excellence or ones that fit into a marketing category of an industry awards, for example the UK Broker Awards.

I guess like most things in life winning will make you happy. Add this to the glut of tangible benefits below and you’re probably thinking entering awards are a no-brainer.

Tangible benefits:

  • Make your boss and senior management think you’re doing a fine job (which I’m sure you are)
  • Generate positive public relations
  • You can inform your clients that they are working with an ‘award winning firm’
  • You can inform your prospects they could be working with an ‘award winning firm’
  • Its sticks two-fingers up to the competition who didn’t win
  • Staff can be thanked for doing a great job (this of course has additional business benefits as according to marketing professor Sally Dibb  ‘organisation performance is increased with satisfied, happy and motivated employees’)

However don’t just rush off and start downloading the application forms just yet as in my humble opinion, many business awards are simply not worth the effort.

Please don’t think my opinion is based on sour grapes (in fact I have been involved in projects that have won several awards, and in an act of shameless self promotion click here to take look at a professional marketing one) it is because there are so many awards that are totally obscure.

In addition the submission process can be lengthy and is often dropped onto the overstretched marketing team. However, if applying for awards is part of your marketing strategy, not to mention a true reflection of your obvious marketing genius, below are some tips on how to decide which awards are worth applying for.

Is the award ‘valued’?

Be honest with yourself. Before you read the finely crafted marketing communications piece tempting you to apply, had you ever heard of it? Usually if the answer is no, steer clear. To test an award’s value consider whether you would be impressed if one of your competitors won it. Would it make you envious of them and would you perceive the competitors brand to be enhanced by the accolade?

Also look at the previous winners. Have you heard of them and/or do you admire and respect them?

Does it represent a good return on investment?

Many awards charge a small administration fee to enter – and some are even free. Be warned though as this if often a bit of a ‘sprat to catch a mackerel’ strategy by the organisers. For instance, should you make the shortlist for the award you’ll no doubt want to collect it in person so you can have your very own Oscar speech moment. To do this you’ll need to be at the ceremony and most businesses tend to reserve a table for 10 guests; usually mixing some clients with your well behaved work colleagues. Costs can be anywhere from £100 – £300 plus per head not including alcohol. On top of this is the travel expensive which can be significant. To give you some idea I recently attended an award ceremony inLondon(traveling from theMidlands) with nine colleagues and the train and accommodation cost £2550 – and we didn’t go luxury as we stayed in the Premier Inn at Kings Cross!!!!

My rough math calculates that your marketing budget is already down £5,500 before you’ve even had a beer!

The Judges and sponsors – Who are they?

This might sound a little trivial but it isn’t. For instance there are legal awards whose judging panel consists of partners and senior managers from law firms. Now I might be accused of cynicism here (or undermining the professionalism) but in the real world, is your fiercest competitor likely to vote for you?

Have a look at who is sponsoring the awards too. Again if one of your rivals has ploughed marketing money into sponsoring the awards is it really likely that you will walk off with the prize?

Are you the current ‘holder’ of the award?

Several years ago I once entered a submission for an award that my firm was the current holders of. However we didn’t actually win the second time round and when I asked one of the senior judging panel why (it was about 2.00am and we were both pissed at the after-party) he simply replied “because you’re the holders, and it doesn’t look fair to the others if you win it two years running!”

Will it matter to your clients?

As mentioned above a tangible benefit of winning an award is having the opportunity to tell your clients. Not only is this a great topic for your client communications mix (although remember communications is about them not just you) this also reassures clients that they are working with a good firm. It is also an opportunity to invite them to the actual ceremony to further increase relationships – or just get drunk!

Will it help you turn prospects into clients?

On its own, no, of course it won’t. However it is another topic for your communications mix and if the award has value and is recognized by prospects it will certainly add to your quality perception and brand positioning.

Can your time be more effectively spent?

In my experience senior management often decide to apply for an award but the real work involved is pushed onto marketing. Award submissions can take weeks to get right; from drafting the application, researching and finding supporting poof, testimonials, sticking to maximum word limits and the endless re-writes and amends.

So yes, without doubt your time and money can be more effectively spent.

My conclusion

As long as you do your research before applying to evaluate the awards value, have the time and money to invest in the submission and organise a communications plan to announce your well deserved victory, then I guess some awards are worth winning.