Business Awards: A Guide to Selecting an Award and Crafting a Winning Submission

Securing third-party recognition and validation of your efforts and achievements through business awards can be very valuable in helping establish credibility and a positive reputation for your business.

If you’re interested in trying to win business awards, the first step is simple: research. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different award opportunities for your business. To get started, you need to investigate your options and decide which awards make the most sense for your business. For example, if your business has seen impressive growth over the last few years, you may want to consider applying for Inc. 5000’s annual list of fastest-growing private companies. If you’re interested in getting recognition as an entrepreneur, EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year may be a good fit.

Beyond searching on the internet for different award opportunities, contact your local business publication. Most business publications offer awards that recognize fast-growing companies, startups, top executives and top employers. Additionally, trade associations and local business organizations such as chambers of commerce typically honor businesses with awards as well.

Create winning submissions for business awards

Once you select the awards you’re going to enter, you’ll have to craft a winning entry. Crafting award submissions is part art and part science. The artistic part comes into play when you have the opportunity to answer open-ended questions about your business or to tell a compelling story about your startup. Your goal is to craft a narrative that puts your business in the best light, similar to what you’d do with a news release or announcement. Science enters the picture when you have to follow a specific formula for the award process, such as entering data about your company’s revenue, employee count, location, etc. For the most part, most award entries will involve a bit of both components.

Related: How to Use Storytelling to Grow Your Business

Five tips to create thoughtful submissions:

1. Leverage data.

As numbers are capable of telling great stories, they also serve as one of the most important aspects in an award submission. When crafting your submission, look for areas in which you can include data points that tell a strong story. For example, instead of simply stating revenue growth, use percent change to show how much you have grown since the year before or since inception. Moreover, you may want to include industry averages to showcase your results versus those of your competitors (more on this later).

In addition, you need to look for data that reinforces that story you are trying to tell. For example, if you’re interested in winning an award that honors your philanthropic endeavors, don’t just include data on what you accomplished, share the data about the impact that your efforts made and what it means for the community.

Data can be powerful. Lean into the data that you have available to you and leverage it to help you tell the best version of the story you’re trying to convey.

 2. Provide supporting documentation.

Award submissions often allow businesses to upload supporting documentation or supplemental information. If you are afforded this opportunity, use it to your advantage to share charts, graphs, photos, videos and other assets that reinforce the information that you shared. Providing documentation can help support your entry, making important information even stronger.

3. Give comparisons.

In most cases, the awards that you are going to be applying for will pit you against businesses from all different industries. What’s important to understand is that the individuals reviewing your application are most likely not experts in your industry, or perhaps may not even have a background in business at all. They are looking at the application to see the story that it tells compared to how other applicants portrayed their stories.

To give you the best chance of having your submission selected, use comparisons for your industry and business. For example, your business may have grown by 25% between 2019 and 2020, but what makes an even stronger case for an award is if the average growth in your category or industry was only 10%. Using comparisons for your industry will help give the judges an idea of the competition that you were truly up against, rather than just looking at your business compared to the others in the stack of submissions.

Remember, the reviewer of your entry may not know anything about your industry, so plan accordingly.

To give you the best chance of having your submission selected, use comparisons for your industry and business.

4. Don’t procrastinate.

Creating an award application or crafting a submission will take a fair amount of time. Even the entries that are simply looking for you to input details about your company will require you to have information ready. Waiting until the last minute to gather information and compile details will create unnecessary stress, ultimately setting you up to make a mistake, forget something or decide to scrap the entire award entry. Before you commit to applying:

  • Create a document that outlines all of the components needed for your entry. Walk through this information now, and if you can delegate responsibilities to anyone, do it now and set a deadline for delivery.
  • Add reminders to your calendar to give you a friendly push a few weeks and then days before the deadline. Calendar appointments can also be useful for setting aside dedicated time to work on your submission.

5. Ask for a review.

If you’re submitting your business for an award, you most likely already think you deserve to win, but sometimes we can be too close to a subject to be objective. And submitters often have a lot of background and inside knowledge that the reader of the submission is not going to be privy to.

Related: 10 Ways to Promote Your Small Business Awards to Get More Customers

To ensure that your application is telling a clear, cohesive story, ask a business mentor, family member, or friend to review your submission and give you honest feedback. Ask your reviewer to look at the entry as if they are judging it without knowing you. Do they understand what you’re trying to convey? Do they have follow-up questions? Does the story impress them?

The feedback from your reviewer will help you better understand if there are holes in your submission or areas of improvement. Not to mention, a fresh set of eyes will hopefully catch any spelling, grammar or silly mistakes.

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Awards can be powerful tools for your business, but every minute you put into an award application or submission takes a minute away from something else you could have been doing in your business. While winning an award is nice, it’s important that you focus on obtaining awards that will help your business in the long run, not just give you a moment of celebration.

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