Winning a recognised award boosts the credibility and profile of winning businesses while also giving a big lift to team morale, especially as winning an industry gong is no mean feat. First you need to have a product/service or project worthy of recognition and, second, you need to be able to convey your message effectively to show the judges why it is distinctive and better than the rest.
This can be more challenging for SaaS and technology companies, where finding a simple message about end-user commercial benefits often is difficult.
Having sat on the judging panel for The Lawyer Awards for eight years when I was working on its news desk, and then gone on to write several successful award submissions for a variety of law firms and businesses, I have learned some invaluable lessons about writing award entries.
Here are some tips that will put your award entry on the winning track.
Use language everyone can understand
While some technical language will be necessary to convey your story, it is important that judges reading your submission have a clear understanding of what it is about. It’s worthwhile checking who will be judging your entry, so you can amend your language to reflect their expertise.
It may be, for instance, that there is an eminent barrister on the judging panel and while they may be acquainted with legaltech, they are less familiar with developments in your particular sector. If you fill your entry will lots of techy jargon, for instance, you will lose them.
Understand the judging criteria
I’ve already mentioned that it’s worthwhile knowing who is sitting on the judging panel, another commonly overlooked factor is the judging criteria.
Sector leading awards are highly sought after and organisers can receive dozens of entries, although only five will make a shortlist. The easiest way for organisers to whittle down the number of entries is to instantly disregard those with detail that sits outside the criteria.
For instance, The Lawyer had a two-page limit for entries, and tougher judges would simply disregard any information outside the limit.
What’s the story?
It’s worth taking the time to get a clear understanding of the story you want to convey, so that you encourage judges to buy into your brand and the messaging behind it. This could include giving wider context about the story behind your business and how it has overcome adversity to deliver success. What element of your story shows your business to be not only better but also distinctive from the rest of the category contenders?
What makes you different?
It is vital that you demonstrate how your business differs from the rest of the market. As a judge, I have seen entries that simply list the entrant’s competitors but neglect to explain why it has been included.
Rather than simply getting a picture of where your business sits within a sector, what judging panels really want to know is how your product is changing the sector that it is operating within. That might be either on a local level, nationally or internationally, or you could be changing the way that businesses operate in a particular area by helping a client make huge operational savings. Whatever you are doing differently, you need to demonstrate the impact the product has had.
Give evidence to support your submission
Bold sweeping statements are a temptation for award entries, but these should only be included if you have evidence to support your assertions. If your budding tech company has saved a client significant money, ask them to support your submission by providing a quote or, better still, independently contacting the organiser.
Of course, sharing market sensitive information may not be possible, but detail that evidences why your submission is the standout contender for an award could be the difference between first and third place. If you are concerned about confidentiality to speak to the award organisers and find out the editorial parameters before you put anything on paper.
Build relations all year round
While low profile projects and teams can win awards, there is plenty to be said for raising the profile of your project and people, so it whips up some industry buzz ahead of entering. Industry awards tend to go to the trendsetters, those that have been open about the work they have been doing all year round – not just during awards season.
Writing award submissions that set you apart takes considerable time and investment. Yet, when a business is recognised by a panel of independent judges for its market-leading status it does much to boost a business; from increased brand recognition and helping to cement sales by demonstrating confidence in the business, to publicly rewarding the efforts of your team so that they feel valued for their work.