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Why awards should be at the heart of startup PR and marketing

It’s easy to become cynical about the value of entering industry awards. There seem to be more and more of them every year, and many now have hefty entry fees (and that’s before the cost of attending awards nights if you’re shortlisted).

However, if they’re run correctly, awards programmes deliver major benefits, particularly for startups in the tech sector. For example, one of CloudNine PR‘s clients, Nosto, has won three awards in the last nine months and been shortlisted 12 times.

Awards can help put a startup on the map and gain real industry attention. Overall, a successful awards programme delivers seven important benefits.

1. Creates instant credibility

Startups lack the history and credibility of established rivals. Early stage companies may not have long customer lists, meaning they don’t have the proof-points to demonstrate the real benefits they can deliver. Awards provide that third-party endorsement. In fact, some prospective IT decision-makers even look for awards wins when evaluating new tech solution providers.

2. Drives publicity and awareness

Winning awards raises your profile and provides the opportunity to broadcast your success through a range of content, as well as driving visibility on the award night itself. Alongside drafting and putting a press release on a newswire (which is indexed by Google and shows up in searches), you can blog about it, share on social media (both live from the event and later) and use award logos in marketing material, on your website and in emails.

3. Creates a buzz internally

Winning awards is great for staff morale and motivation, and shows that all their hard work is paying off. It really helps with retention – everyone wants to work for a company that is doing well and is going places. Bringing staff along to the award ceremony may not be cheap, but is a good way of rewarding them and building team spirit too.

4. Helps attract the best talent

Getting noticed, both at the awards themselves and afterwards, also helps with recruitment. Competition for talent is fierce, and the endorsement that awards provide can help you to stand out from other tech companies when you are expanding.

5. Catches the eye of investors

Startups always have an eye on their next funding round or eventual exit. Being shortlisted and winning awards helps attract the attention of investors or potential acquirers and shows them that you are making waves in your industry.

6. Provides industry networking opportunities

Award ceremonies are typically not cheap, but they provide an unparalleled opportunity for networking. Not only can you invite your customers along, but you can bring prospects or partners to see your success. Often the whole industry is in one place, giving you the chance to network with everyone from journalists and analysts to consultants and thought leaders.

7. Rewards important customers

Customers love winning awards as it demonstrates their innovation and endorses their decision to buy from you. Submitting entries on their behalf strengthens relationships and shows them that you really value their business. It can also be the start point for other marketing – once you have information for an award entry, it can easily be developed into a full case study, video or press release.

What’s the secret to a winning awards programme?

Here are three tips to help your create a successful awards programme.

  • Create a focused hit-list of awards to target

Build an ongoing awards calendar that you can monitor to avoid missing any deadlines. Start by looking at the types of awards you can enter, based on the assets you have:

  • Do you have interesting/happy customers?
  • Is your technology innovative?
  • Are you targeting a specific industry?
  • Do you have a visionary CEO/CFO/CTO?
  • Are you a great place to work?
  • Are you a leading light in your local area/region?

Use this to research your awards list, looking at all the potential opportunities and then taking informed decisions on which to enter.

  • Spend time getting the award entries right

Competition is fierce for prestigious awards. Writing winning entries therefore requires time and skill. So be sure of deadlines and give yourself sufficient time to not just write a strong entry but to get any approvals you need (such as from customers and partners). Pay close attention to the entry criteria and check previous winners so that you know what the judges are looking for – many awards now even run workshops or webinars to help you get your entry right! Remember, for awards for innovation or successful customer implementations, quantifying the hard business benefits can take you a long way. And finally, judges have to read hundreds of entries in a short space of time – make their task easier, by using bullets and descriptive headings so that they don’t miss any vital points.

  • Re-use and re-purpose

Once you’ve created an award entry, make the most of it by adapting it for other opportunities. Obviously, every award has a different criteria and format, but the core of your submission can often remain the same, updated with any new information. Taking this approach maximises re-use of material and should make it easier to get sign-off from customers and partners too.

In my experience not enough companies take awards seriously in their PR efforts or see the wide range of benefits they can deliver. At a time when standing out from competitiors is getting harder and harder, an effective awards programme provides the visibility and credibility that companies, particularly startups, are looking for. Take a fresh look at awards – and how they can benefit your business.