Why Small Business Owners Should Invest In Awards

Money will be tight in those early days, but if you invest early and attempt to do something worthy of a business awards, the returns could pay off quickly.

Life as a small business owner can be tough. Money and time are tight. Even so, it could be worth your while investing for growth, and one surprisingly lucrative investment could be entering yourself for a business award. 

True, for early stage businesses, entering an awards might seem like a luxury. It takes time, it takes money and both of those things are in short supply for small businesses. However, it all depends on what purpose you see awards serving. If you get this right, it can be an enormous boost to your business. Here’s why. 

  1. Good marketing

Every small business needs to spend money on marketing in order to bring in new business. However, data suggests 40% of all that spend will be wasted. Advertisements may be placed in the wrong place; they might not have the desired impact and a lack of data may make it difficult to understand which channels will deliver the best results.

If you think of awards as another piece of marketing, the investment makes much more sense. Even if you don’t win, the exposure can boost your brand in ways even the best advertisement can’t. It puts you on the map. It elevates you onto an altogether bigger platform placing you alongside some of the biggest names in your business.

Aside from all the free exposure, it sends a clear message to the world: yours is a vibrant, confident, forward looking business happy to mix it with the best.

  • Expanding your network

Networking is a key, if often underestimated, element of awards. Although Coronavirus has limited in person networking opportunities, there is still some value to be had from virtual awards.

In normal times, attending an awards ceremony will be more than just a nice evening out. It’s an excellent networking opportunity. You’ll have a chance to meet new partners, contacts, potential clients and all sorts of people who may help your business in many different ways.

Without the actual physical awards taking place, this networking opportunity is not as big as might previously be the case. Even in the virtual world, though, this will be an opportunity to expand your network by meeting and interacting with many different stakeholders.

  • Boosting credibility

Credibility is one of the most difficult things for a small, or new, business to achieve. All the marketing material and content on your website can only do so much. You need to build up a reservoir of evidence which shows people that you are a good company, with a great product or service to offer.

If you win the award, that credibility bounce could be transformative. You’ll be able to place the awards logo on your website and introduce yourself as ‘award winning’ in all your marketing material.

However, just being nominated is a testament to the quality and resilience of your business.

Win or lose, it tells people something positive about your business, the business model and you as an entrepreneur.

  • Understanding your business

Entering an awards competition is a great opportunity for you to take a look at your business, see where it is at and how it can move forward. It will help you assess your recent performance, such as how you have grown, how you’ve met your goals and how you have overcome your biggest challenges. It also helps you to analyse your businesses’ biggest strengths and weaknesses to see how you can optimise performance in the future.

Most of all, it’s an opportunity to benchmark yourself against more established businesses. Many of these will be highly successful businesses which represent where you want to be as a company.

These awards will be a chance to see where they are, what they are doing well and any lessons you might be able to learn from. Even if you lose out on an award, you can use this as a learning experience to come back stronger.

  • Attracting talent and boosting staff performance  

There’s a reason why managers say their best asset is their people. It’s true in any business, but particularly a small business in which a small, talented and tight knit team will make or break a business.

In a small team everyone is vital and will have a significant role to play in determining whether or not your business becomes successful. If that team is energised and enthused it will have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.

Equally, bringing in better people not only increases the talent pool, but it raises the bar and often gets the best out of your existing team. As a whole your team becomes more productive and effective helping you to deliver a better service to your customers.

This is one area in which COVID 19 has created opportunities. The need to control the spread and stay home has forced many businesses to embrace the concept of remote working. This has created all sorts of opportunities which those businesses might not have thought about at the time, including the ability to branch out their recruitment and involve talented people who may not be based within a reasonable distance of the office.

In this digital world, may teams need nothing more than an internet connection and a camera on their computer in order to collaborate effectively.

Winning an award, or even being nominated, can make you more attractive as an employer, which will help you bring the top people, wherever they are, into your organisation.

Invest for growth

The one thing standing in your way will inevitably be money. Aside from the cost of entering the awards there is also the time and effort preparing your application. However, as we’ve shown in this blog, that investment can pay off in many different ways further down the line. Money spent now can have a tremendous impact on your future.  

How a Business Award Can Supercharge Your Organic Marketing

Organic marketing is the holy grail of advertising and winning an award can be the best way to help you win it.

As the US inches towards their election both sides are pouring billions of dollars into advertising. But the kind of impact they are really looking for won’t come from their own ads, it comes from the kind of organic marketing which takes on a life of its own.

What’s true for the politicians is also true for businesses. While you will invest heavily in traditional marketing techniques, none of it compares to the impact which comes when people start talking about your business of their own free will.

Businesses come up with all sorts of innovative ways to get it, but one most likely strategies is to put you business in places where it will be talked about. That means putting yourself up for an award.

By organic marketing we mean coverage which is earned rather than bought such as someone writing an article about you or sharing your content.

Mentions such as these are the digital equivalent of word of mouth advertising and are incredibly valuable for your business. They boost visibility, improve click conversion and increase the credibility of your business. Best of all, they all come free of charge.

How awards can help

Smart businesses today are gearing their marketing to achieving that precious organic coverage, which is why many will put themselves up for a business award.

Every awards ceremony will come with its own marketing plan. Shortlisted businesses and people may be featured on their website; they may write blogs and profiles about some of the business, and the media may want to write features about the nominees.

Take, for example, the rather nice profile entrepreneur Victoria Cartwright scored in her local paper when she won the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for the North East in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Harry Parslow, meanwhile, who started his business TourLive when he was 18, scored a similar profile simply for being nominated for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. 

At the time of writing, these two were the top results when you search for news of the awards on Google, something which will do wonders for their own SEO rankings. Links from high traffic locations such as this make you increasingly attractive to search algorithms.

SEO gold

This, in the digital age, is one of the most important benefits of organic marketing. As both those entrepreneurs discovered winning the award saw them written about, mentioned and promoted by other people in high quality websites.

The more visits you get and the better the quality of websites you have linking to your own site, the more attractive you’ll look to search engines.

In the digital age, SEO should not be seen as an optional extra. The higher you climb on those search engines the more likely it is that you’ll gain even more organic exposure. The ultimate goal is to get into those top positions for your chosen search phrases so you will be the first port of call for potential customers.

Better conversion

Web visits from organic content is also likely to lead to better quality and warmer leads than other types of mentions.

They are doing more than just checking your company out; they are coming because they have seen content which genuinely sparks their interest. Either they want to find out more about your company or they are actively looking to buy.

The net effect will be to drive down the dreaded bounce rate; those people who come to your website but don’t stick around because they haven’t seen anything they particularly like. Bit by bit conversion rates will rise and you’ll start to see more bang for your marketing buck.  

The credibility game

One of the benefits from winning is the boost to your credibility. However, this goes far beyond simply allowing you to show the awards on your marketing material. It will also help to establish you as an industry leader who is talked about.

As a result, visits will start coming to you. Life for your marketing team will become much easier. Rather than spending their time trying to drum up visits to your website, generating new contacts or building your profile, people will start coming to you.

Because you’ve won an award, you instantly become more recognised and trusted. Potential customers will start seeking you out rather than the other way around. The more you build your profile, the more of these warm initial leads you’ll attract.

Making the most of awards

Those are just a few of the benefits, but they have to be earned. Simply winning or being nominated for an award won’t necessarily get the job done for you. Your marketing team will need to work hard to capitalise on this opportunity.

Here are just some of the areas you could look at:

  • Marketing materials: If you win, all your marketing materials should be updated as quickly as possible to include mentions of your victory.
  • Web and social media: As soon as the ceremony is over, you should work to get the word out. Post a news piece on your website, write a blog post, brag about it on social media, anything to let the world know that you’ve won.
  • Media outreach: Taking part in a reputable business awards is a great PR opportunity, but the journalists won’t necessarily come to you. You’ll need to generate press releases, make leaders in your team available for interview and reach out to relevant media outlets.

A successful awards strategy will be part of an ongoing, joined up strategy involving everyone in your business from those delivering the service, to those handling the application and those in your marketing team responsible for getting the message across. Everyone will have a part to play and should communicate closely in order to deliver on their part of their plan.

If you get this right, the impact can be enormously beneficial, especially if you’re in the early stages. Every business is looking for something to put them out ahead of the pack and get noticed. Winning an award would give you a great head start.

Get Ready for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards

The finalists of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards give us a glimpse at what it takes to become an award-winning entrepreneur.

September sees the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Held virtually, this year, they will as ever be a chance to celebrate everything that is great about entrepreneurship. 2020’s edition could be even more important than ever as entrepreneurs face an unprecedented challenge in the shape of COVID 19. By looking at this year’s finalists, then, we see examples of what it takes to succeed in the most difficult of circumstances.

“Given what we’ve seen over the past few months, the 2020 edition of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards is arguably the most important,” says awards founder, Francesca James. “Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we celebrate the achievements of the country’s entrepreneurs and their determination in the face of such adversity.”

So, what lessons can these awards offer?

Be good

Interest in ethical business has surged over the past few years, partly because we’ve been given so many examples of what happens when business behaves badly. Ethical consumerism hit record highs in 2019, according to a report from the Cooperative and businesses of all kinds feel the pressure to be seen as being ‘good’.

The last decade has also seen a surge in the number of social businesses. Run by ethical entrepreneurs these blend a financial return with a desire to do good. These firms have attracted plenty of interest with social impact investment, in which investors want a social as well as financial return, is growing faster than ever.

This year’s awards, showcase some fantastic and simple ideas such as Ed Bird, who can already call himself an ‘award winning entrepreneur’. His range of stylish sunglasses was created out of a desire to combine his skills as a designer with his desire to do good in the world.

For every purchase of his sunglasses, they will distribute solar light through their partnership with the charity Solar Aid.

“When I heard about the work Solar Aid were doing in remote communities in Africa, replacing toxic kerosene lamps with clean, efficient solar lights, I knew I wanted to work with them. ‘Share Your Sun’ is about business with purpose; sunglasses that look and feel great, and contribute to a more sustainable world.”

His vision was to create a ‘product with a purpose’ and his success in doing so shows how interested consumers are in purchases which will do a bit of good in the world.

Get things done

The entrepreneurial spirit award celebrates that intangible quality most successful entrepreneurs possess, the ability to get things done. The awards organisers say this category celebrates an entrepreneur who leads the way for their business – an individual who is all about getting things done and leading the charge.

This includes qualities such as having a growth mindset, spotting an opportunity and taking leadership through tough situations and this year’s finalists all, in their different ways, have this in spades.

Nick Lock, for example of Devon based Trevisick Pie Emporium has already been recognised by the Stelios Disabled Entrepreneur awards and was among the Great Taste Winners of 2019. As well as managing to push their business forward against the COVID 19 headwinds, they recently became the first pie bakery to be certified palm oil free. This represents an enormous undertaking in which all their ingredients have to be checked to ensure palm oil makes no unexpected appearances in the supply chain.

Their success shows that hard work, perseverance and determination, along with an excellent product, will take you a long way in this world.

Be a leader

Innovation is key for any successful entrepreneur and this year’s Disruptor award celebrates those entrepreneurs who have not only found a unique selling point, they have disrupted their entire industry.

One of these is early stage biotech company Crispr Biotech Engineering. Focusing on advanced genome engineering, it is looking to develop new ways in which diseases can be treated. It is part of a revolution in the so called CRISPR technology sector which uses genome editing to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

While you don’t have to produce something as high tech or disruptive as this, successful entrepreneurs will be those who manage to do something differently. This might be a brand new product which people didn’t know they wanted until they found out about it, or a new twist on an existing idea.

The market is crowded and, while there are plenty of very good companies out there, it’s the ones which are doing something nobody else is which will really stand out from the crowd.

Know when to pivot

The last category comes very much with Coronavirus in mind. With the global pandemic shutting many businesses around the country, entrepreneurs have had to think fast to avoid disaster.

For Charlie and Natalie Taylor the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time. The couple had quit their jobs to realise their dream of opening a wine bar in Bristol. However, barely six months after they opened their doors, along came COVID 19 and closed them again.

Rather than panic, they reacted quickly. Even before Government restrictions were put in force, they had launched KASK to your door delivering wine directly to the doorstep. A planned Spanish Wine tasting event went virtual which resulted in their hosting weekly virtual wine tastings for their followers.

The result was that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, they have emerged bigger, better and stronger out the other side. They even turned their struggles into a PR opportunity with a very nice feature in Vogue.

Theirs is a story of how entrepreneurs can use adversity to thrive. Events will seldom go to plan. The one thing you can expect is the unexpected; what matters will be how you react to the challenges which come your way.

These awards, then, will be a chance to celebrate the achievements of these entrepreneurs and all the other finalists, but for those watching on they will also provide inspiration which all of us can use in our business lives. Each of them, in their different ways, showcase some of the ingredients which set award winning entrepreneurs apart from the pack.

How to Build an Award-Winning Culture

How to Create an Award-Winning Culture

Some people and businesses seem to be a magnet for awards, but what’s the winning formula and how can you build that into your team?

In life, sport and business, some are just natural winners. Creating an award-winning culture within your organisation will not only help you win more awards, but it will also ensure your business is in the best possible position to win across the board.

A survey from Bain & Company of 365 companies in the Europe, North America and Asia found that 81% of people believed that lacking a high performance awards culture would doom a company to mediocrity.

Culture is vital but getting it right can be challenging. Fewer than 10% of companies actually succeed in building the culture they are looking for. Even so, there are a number of magic ingredients which most successful people and organisations share. Embedding these into your team will give you the best possible chance of becoming a serial winner.

Mentality and values

Research from Awards International suggests a common trait among winning sports people and CEOs was that they had a strong respect for their competitors and other team members. They recognise their own strengths, those of their team and what motivates them to be more successful.

Creating that winning mentality starts with embedding your core values. We’ve all seen companies which have laudable values and missions statements on their websites and the walls of the office but fail to follow them through.

To be useful, values have to represent what the company actually does and how it behaves. If you’re starting your own business, you can begin by thinking about yourself, what your values are and what drives you. Are you focused and driven? Do you believe in the concept of work hard play hard? Are you relaxed, but expect excellence? These can be the templates to create a successful company in your own image.

At the same time, though, you should seek to involve your staff as much as possible. Values which are shaped from the bottom up, rather than passed down from the top, are much more likely to be followed.

Ask them about the values they would like to include and the kind of organisation they want to be a part of. Empowering them to take ownership of the company’s direction will create a culture in which everyone feels like a vital part in the overall goal.

Use failure

Failure can be a stepping stone towards success. Every winning sports star, actor, or entrepreneur has had several setbacks along the way. Winners feed of failure, learn from it and grow, while others become crippled by anxiety and the fear of it happening again.

When you do fail, and you will from time to time, you need to embrace it for what it is, and use it as the first building block in future success.

This approach will help you build a company full of the kind of people who tend to be successful. Award winners tend to be those who are willing to step up and take a fall, to put themselves in the spotlight and risk being found wanting.  

Putting yourself up for an award can be a nerve-wracking experience. The odds will be stacked against you. The chances are you’ll be up against three of four of your biggest competitors. Only one of you can win, and if you don’t, you’ll feel as if you have put yourself up on a pedestal only to be told right there in public that the other guy is better.

You will need to be the kind of person who isn’t crippled by the thought of failure but has their eyes on the winning goal. For that you’ll need to try and focus on the process and the final goal rather than obsessing about all the terrible things which might happen if your lose. Fear can be a mind killer and a negative attitude will often become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Creating a balanced team

Great companies recruit great people but it’s not just about having highly talented individuals; it’s about hiring people with complimentary types of skills and personalities. Each of them will bring something unique to the table and you need to find a way of getting the most out of them.

For example, if your team is full of great innovators, you may need someone who can keep a hold of the detail and ensure the numbers are in place. Hiring a savvy financial officer could be crucial to keeping your company on the straight and narrow.

Many managers have a certain type of person they look for, but this can close you off to opportunities elsewhere. Diverse perspectives can be great for your business as long as everyone is pulling towards the same goal and share a passion to excel.

Communicate for the win

Bringing all those people together can be great but they need to communicate. Many businesses slip into working in a segregated way in which different departments slip into their own siloes. They can find themselves working towards their own agendas with the work of one department often working against the interests of others. All of a sudden, you find yourself with a civil war on your hands with separate sections of your business vying for supremacy.

To avoid this, you need to build communication between departments. This will help them understand that they are all players in a larger team working towards a larger goal. Sharing information and data between departments will reveal new insights which will help them become more successful.

Learn from others

In short, a successful award-winning business is one which has a clear idea of its core goals, which recruits the right people, helps them play to their successes, and facilitates smooth communication across all areas of the business.

All of which is easier said than done. So, it helps to learn from other examples. If you’re just starting out in business think about other companies in which you have worked. Think about the places you enjoyed working as well as those you did not. Remember your great managers as well as those who you’d be happy never to set eyes on again. Both, for different reasons, will have valuable lessons for you, your team and your business.