A bit of healthy competition is a good thing in business.
However, like many people, I am definitely guilty of treating industry awards with a dollop of scepticism.
Let’s face it, there are lots of awards out there and the awards industry is just that – an industry. Events companies make money from running endless ceremonies and gathering entry fees. I think we’ve all occasionally raised an eyebrow at whether the latest winner of this or that spurious accolade is truly the best in their field.
On May 2, I spent the day offering such opinions to colleagues in my business, Alertacall, ahead of the Northern Housing Awards, in Manchester.
I definitely thought we deserved to win, but deserving doesn’t always equal success when it comes to awards. In fact, I was mainly interested in attending so some of the team could have a chance to enjoy a nice meal and a couple of drinks as a reward for all their hard work.
However, to my very genuine surprise, as well as having a very nice evening, we also walked away with the Supplier of the Year award.
Since the win we’ve been congratulated warmly by many in the housing sector, which is good evidence that the Northern Housing Awards are indeed held in high esteem in the industry.
It is the second award we’ve won in two years. In 2022 Alertacall also received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the category of innovation, a very highly sought after prize with an exacting judging process.
So, have these two awards changed my mind and made me less of a cynic? Maybe a little bit, but with some caveats.
Quality not quantity
Look at any local news website and you’ll soon be assailed by stories of businesses winning (supposedly “prestigious”) awards. The message is clear; there are lots of awards around. You could probably enter one every week if you like.
The real question is whether they are actually meaningful and resonate with your target market. Aside from having a nice trophy to put on the mantelpiece, will they contribute anything to your business in the long term?
We all know there are many, many great companies and individuals out there who have never won any awards. On the other hand, there are those out there that win them all the time. Does it mean one is actually better than the other? Does it really make any difference?
Do not just enter awards for the sake of getting an award. Make sure you choose those that are genuinely respected in your sector and will actually plant a seed in people’s minds that you’re the real deal.
If it’s easy, then it’s not worth it
I said at the beginning of this blog that healthy competition is a good thing for business. For awards to be respected they have to be just that: competitive.
A good example of this is the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, which Alertacall won last year. The initial application was in-depth and detailed, but the follow up questions from the judges really had us scratching our heads. In fact, they made us ask questions about the business that we had not considered before. In this way they were a genuinely useful tool in helping us learn more about our own operation to inform our planning for the future.
This is what you want from an awards entry. After all, even if you don’t win, at least there is still value in asking yourself some searching questions.
On the other hand, if you get a sense the entry is simply a box ticking exercise, if the questions are flabby, if the judges don’t seem knowledgeable, if it appears the winner is more down to pot luck than prowess, then maybe it’s not worth bothering?
Awards do not equal sales
No business I have ever owned has made a direct sale on the back of winning an award.
You cannot win an award – no matter how well respected it may actually be – and expect to see a spike in sales. All an award can do, like any marketing tool, is creating a fertile environment in which selling is easier. People are aware of your name, they have a memory of associating that name with something positive, maybe even something genuinely impressive. This may make them more receptive when they come to talk to your sales team.
There is no point winning an award unless you have the processes and people in place to capitalise on the increased awareness and positive buzz it may bring. If you haven’t, then concentrate on doing this first.
When it comes to industry awards, it is good to be circumspect. There are simply too many for them all to be worthwhile.
However, the right award can have an impact. As with everything in business, it is a matter of weighing up all the angles, potential values and pitfalls and then making a choice that is right for you and which fits your wider direction and purpose.
You should never enter an award ‘just because’. The onus should be on the award to win your interest and earn your entry.