Winning a business award, being recognized by your peers for innovation and hard work is not simply satisfying, it is another way to raise your business profile in today’s noisy world. For many organizations, award submissions are planned annually and are included as part of an overall marketing strategy. Typically, an award win or finalist designation will include:

  • Specialized logos for your website / signature / business cards
  • Trophies / Plaques for your office
  • Press / media kits
  • Stories in magazines / digital papers
  • Opportunity to raise awareness through Social Media and other vehicles

Over the past seven years we have worked with multiple technology companies and have helped them win or become a finalist for an award more than two hundred times. Some of those companies have been very small – with less than 10 people in their organization. Others have been large global entities. We have learned that in most cases, the judging process is very fair. Most programs want to surface great stories of innovation. So how do you become a winner or a finalist?

The Secret Key – Tell a Story

There are several factors to consider to ensure your submission rises to the top of the judging pile. First, read the questions carefully and answer them accurately– don’t simply cut and paste content from your website. If the submission rules state “500 words and no pictures”, don’t submit a 1,500 word essay along with video links. Respect the judging criteria. Where possible use third party evidence to validate that what you are saying in your submission is true. This means customer quotes, published case studies, and links out to press or articles that confirm your statements. Finally, tell a story. This is really the best secret. Tell your story – the best way that you can.

What All Writers Know They key to capturing the attention of a reader and keeping them engaged is to use the technique that every great writer in the world has used. It is to tell a story using the four elements that make for great story-telling. These elements are:

  • A great opening line
  • A gallant hero
  • A villain who needs to be vanquished
  • A sympathetic victim – or “damsel-in-distress”

When you pull these elements together you have a story. A story that will capture the attention of the judges and keep them reading right through to the end.

A Great Opening Hook

In many awards programs, there are literally thousands of entries and only a handful of categories. In these cases, some judges will be reading hundreds of submissions. This means that during the first read through, the judges are looking for a reason to throw out your entry. That’s right. The first pass is about eliminating the ones that are weak or not up to par. Grab those judges up front with a strong opening sentence.

Example of a Weak Opening:
We worked really hard this year and we think that this is a great entry because our guys skipped vacations to get this solution delivered on time.

Example of a Strong Opening:
When John Doe learned about the shocking rise in homelessness for pregnant woman at the annual “Hacking Health AppDev” event, he knew he had found his community mobile project. “I remember the birth of my own daughter only a few months earlier and how small and precious she is,” he added. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for a young woman to be living on the streets with an infant.”

In the first example, nothing was really said except that you forced your employees to skip their vacations. You sound like a whiner and a bad boss. In the second example a problem, a hero and a challenge (or villain) that the hero needs to overcome is established.

A Gallant Hero

Every good story needs a hero. Someone who is humble, modest but who rides in to save the day. In your story, that gallant hero is you. Your company is the hero. You are the one with the answers, the resources, the skills and the innovation to slay the villain and save the day. Before you begin your story, list all of the qualities and capabilities that you bring to your clients. You may not use all of them in your entry, but get them down on paper. Your list will help you build the foundation of what you want to say.

A Villain Who Needs to be Vanquished

Who is the villain in your story? You cannot have a story without a villain. In your case, the villain is anything that is standing in the way of the hero reaching his goals. Examples of a villain could be:

  • The customer’s pain point (I have terabytes of data but can’t turn it into business intelligence);
  • The competition (this works especially well if you are submitting for a particular vendor – name their biggest competitor and how you won against them);
  • Budget – we have limited resources but our company has got to take better advantage of technology;
  • Corporate culture – aligning user buy-in to ensure the adoption of technology was threatening to derail the entire project.

Only you know the insurmountable odds you faced to deliver the results your client needed.

A Sympathetic Victim

This is your client. Everybody likes a victim that they can identify with. Who is your client?

  • A school board with students who need better access to technology to prepare them for life and 21st century learning;
  • A multi-national who is losing market-share because they have lost control of their data;
  • A charitable organization who is trying to increase donations but have not capitalized on the opportunities that social media can introduce;
  • A small company trying to keep pace without realizing that the cloud is their answer.

Understand and portray your client so that the judges can relate to them and their situation.

Re-Submit to Other Awards Programs

In our 7+ years of writing award submissions, we have never met with a partner who has not had a great story. You are in the business of helping people. You have terrific stories. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in business. The only difference between you and the partners who win awards is how you tell your story. But no matter how well you tell it, there is no guarantee of a win. That is why you should consider re-purposing your content into other awards programs or digital assets. Consider the following:

  • Chamber of Commerce Awards
  • Vendor Awards
  • International Business Awards (Stevies)
  • Local/Regional Awards Programs
  • Vertical Industry Awards Programs
  • Local Newspapers or Online Publications (often looking for great stories from local companies)

Getting your story out there and getting recognition – with a win or finalist designation as well as with other awards programs – is a great way of helping boost your brand. It says to potential clients that you are a leader, a hero, an innovator. It tells people that doing business with you is a smart choice. Tell your story. Tell it well.