Why would anyone go through the painstaking task of a lengthy application process where the result seems to be a bragging session about oneself and their company? Well, what may at first appear a little like practicing professional narcissism could, however, lead to something really good for your business in the long run: brand recognition and profits.
I want to share what we are doing and how we’re doing it. We are applying for and earning awards and other recognitions as an emerging business, as an emerging business owner, and as a women-led business. Why? First and foremost, we do it for exposure. As many emerging business owners can relate the biggest difficulty in growing your business is, getting prospects to realize you exist; rather than closing the deal once you have engaged with a potential customer. Awards and recognitions through varying associations is a great way to showcase your company, your products and your services in a very positive light. After all, you’re being recognized as an outstanding business (leader) in the community, and subsequently adding substantial brand equity (value) to your business –not to mention free publicity to possible new prospects.
Secondly, certain awards (such as the OMWBE and WOSB), if achieved, open pathways to state and federal contracts specifically allotted for certain types of businesses, including women and minority led businesses. We are talking potentially millions of dollars in added revenue here, depending on the type of business you’re in. However, don’t’ expect one of your clients, customers, or work partners to nominate you and do all the heavy lifting in terms of the application process, many of which are time consuming and require intimate knowledge about you and your business. So far, we have been primarily self-nominating (we have found that most if not all awards allow self-nomination).
When we first started we simply put out into the universe that we are applying for awards and recognition. What we found was that fellow business owners, clients, colleagues and our vendors recommended awards we should apply for and provided tips based on their own experiences. A few commonly heard suggestions are listed for you here:
1. Apply, apply, apply. That’s right, apply for as many awards and recognition programs as you can, at least initially. This will help you gain experience and polish your delivery. So, apply often.
2. Use stories. These programs love to highlight businesses and their owners who have a great story to tell. My story, for example, is often grounded in my earlier years as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. I grew up working 32-hour work days (yes, I said 32) in one of the most dangerous professions in the world.
3. Hire a consultant. For one of our first awards, we hired a consultant who helped us with preparing our responses, coached us about what the decision committees like to see in a submission, and much more. These consultants generally know members of the decision committee and what the committee likes to see.
4. Look for awards at the local, regional and national level. Check out your County/City Chamber of Commerce for awards and recognition programs, or look to news organizations like your regional Business Journals. Also, check out groups that support award programs for gender diversity, and even with the school(s) you graduated from as they often offer Alumni Awards. At first, leave no stone unturned when seeking awards and recognition. The more the better.
So there you have it. What may cost a little in sweat equity to begin with can ultimately pay off in an increase in profits and brand equity. Below we have a few awards and recognitions that we have applied for in the past and may appeal to you and your business.
Best in Biz
SBA InnovateHer Award
King County Executive’s Small Business Awards
Crosscut Courage Award
Puget Sound Business Journal Women of Influence Award
WIBLI (Women in Business & Leadership Initiative) Awards
INDUSTRY OR MEMBERSHIP SPECIFIC AWARDS
Women Presidents’ Organization Mary Lehman MacLachlan Economic Empowerment
Women Business Owners Nellie Cashman Award https://womenbusinessowners.org/nellie-cashman-award/
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
The Stevie Awards For Women In Business
Seattle University Alumni Award
“Awards and recognitions from industry and professional associations have lifelong value. Awards are easily leveraged in marketing and branding. But first, you must win the award. To do so, takes concise, passionate storytelling that clearly states why you and your company deserve to be honored.”
–Dennis Noland, President, Shiftpoint Strategies