Donna: For small business owners in Australia, right now, we are leaning into awards season. So keep your eyes open and you'll start to see lots of promotions for small business award nominations. If you have never entered or been nominated into a business award, then this is going to be a really powerful episode for you, because I'm going to provide you with some suggestions on how to catch the eye of the judges and make the most of the publicity that comes from being a nominee, a finalist or a winner.
So, it's midyear awards season here in Australia, not all small business awards happen at this time of the year, but there are a lot that do. So it's a pretty timely time to record a podcast and share what I believe is beneficial to you as a business in taking part, and trust me, it's not just about winning.
So, some business owners hesitate to enter into award applications because they doubt their chances of winning. Now, of course, winning a prestigious business award comes with a lot of significant value in increasing your visibility, your credibility and also your confidence as a business owner, but simply participating can also be really rewarding as well.
The benefits of entering into awards, even if you don't win, shouldn't be underestimated, which is what I'm going to tell you about today. So, perhaps you feel that you don't have time to enter into awards and I can understand why.
Some of these applications do take a lot of time and effort and they will push us out of our comfort zone a little bit too at times.
So, I want to share with you that this week I completed an application process, which involves submitting a video and sometimes the most difficult part of that is condensing all of the things you want to talk about into the set time limit for the video and I've been through many submission processes, interviews with judges, be it in person or zoom.
And I've also helped a lot of private clients with their submissions in the past to enter in business awards before as well and yes it's true, it takes a lot of time, sometimes hours of preparation, and it requires a lot of writing and reviewing your financials to find out some of the required information.
But this is really short term pain and it's going to have an incredibly huge difference in the long run and set you up for success, if you take the time to complete the process, even if you don't get shortlisted as a finalist or take out the win and here's why one of the benefits of doing something like this works, is that you actually take a hard look at yourself and where your business is at.
It's quite easy to forget what your achievements and milestones have been. We are head down, bum up, working all the time on our business in moving that needle forward and we can be really highly motivated to work on the next thing in our business and we forget what our achievements and milestones have been.
So, it's a really good practice in that sense and it's kind of similar to updating maybe your LinkedIn profile or your social media channels or practicing for like an interview, you start to remember and realize just how much you've accomplished and this also creates an extra spark of motivation for you as the business leader and that you can use this also to motivate your team, if you have one, by reminding them that the hard work is paying off.
On the flip side, taking this hard look at your business position may even surface some challenges, perhaps things that you've been casting aside for a while that maybe, you know you should be doing, but you just haven't invested the time into doing it.
You might have a light bulb moment when putting together the data and decide that there are things that you should be really leveling up on within your business. So it's a chance to really step back and look at the whole picture where your business is at, where it's heading and how you're sitting against your competitors.
The other thing here is in order to stay relevant in your business market, you'll already know that it's not just thinking about what your business is doing now, you also need to be planning for the year ahead and the year after that and sometimes five years down the track, at least that's how I like to do it and that's how I work with my clients in making sure that there is some forward planning that's happening.
Some of the applications when you're applying for awards really make you think about your future vision and as I said, I'm huge when it comes to forward planning and visioning.
I'm working with a client at the moment who is reimagining her future business model from a service based business that is a hundred percent reliant upon her doing the work with her clients directly, to really scaling her business and creating an agency where she manages the team who do the work so that she can then have more freedom within her business, but also create more profit.
So, I'm supporting her to create a strategic plan, an action plan to put that in place and then make it happen and of course that's not going to happen overnight, but the award judges like to see that you've thought your future business, that you've thought about the plan of your future business and that creating a sustainable business that supports the long game, rather than being a flash in the pan.
Some of the things that they want to be seeing; with my business coaching hat on, the quote that comes to mind when I think about that is failing to plan is planning to fail. So strategic planning is what will separate you from your competitors when you are making these applications for business awards, but it'll also prevent you from becoming a failed business statistic.
Of which I'm very passionate about, particularly for women in business. So regardless of whether you actually win the award or not, it's a really great process to be doing.
Now, a word about employee morale and retention. When your business wins an award, your existing employees are also likely to experience a surge of pride and increased loyalty.
Even the process of entering into awards is a really great team building exercise. When you're writing your submission, maybe you could do some brainstorming amongst the team. If you've got a marketing coordinator or maybe a marketing manager in your team, they might be involved in promoting your participation in the awards on socials.
You might even take some of your team members along to the awards presentation night. Now it's not always possible if you're traveling across the country to attend award gala dinners and things like that. But if it's local, I would definitely encourage inviting your team to come along.
I've had the experience of both attending interstate awards alone, and they’re nowhere near as fun as when you've got a team member come with you to celebrate that win. It's not as fun when you get an award and it's all just by yourself and you're having a glass of champagne alone, but also get the press involved into coming to your place of business. Have your team there, to be in the photos with you to create that beautiful, good news story.
Now, before I sold my previous business, which was a dance studio, when we won awards, we would circulate the awards through each of the classes and the teacher would talk about the awards to the students and let them know what we got them for and let them pass it around.
And it built not only pride in our teachers, but also in our students too, which was really great. But the ultimate internal result of an award win is the recognition that this might bring and that therefore leads to happier employees and happier employees are known to be more productive.
So, that will serve as a really great way within your business to keep your employees engaged and it also helps them to serve as a more effective advocate for your brand because they are brimming with excitement and they're brimming with pride and they're really keen to talk about that and be an advocate for your brand.
And it can also lead to attracting ideal candidates to your team as well because people want to work for an award winning business. It says a lot of good things about what you do.
For example, if you are winning an award for innovation, then naturally you will attract innovation minded candidates who will think outside the box or if you are winning an award for customer excellence, then you're gonna attract candidates who have those high level values for going above and beyond.
Now, the other thing that's really great here is brand awareness. So if your business is new or if your business is not particularly large, you may be struggling to generate awareness of your brand in the eyes of your target audiences and this is completely normal and it does take time, but this is a typical situation where when you participate in an awards program, whether you win or not, it can really help you to boost your brand awareness.
So, what happens is the award organizers and sponsors will have processes in place for promoting the nominees, the finalists and the winners and when you add your own marketing and public relations activities on top of this, which I 100 hundred percent encourage you to do, you can achieve exponential promotional results.
Simply being a finalist in an awards category. That includes other established brands amongst the finalists can also instantly increase the accepted status of your business. It gets your name in front of audiences that really count and it's something worth telling the world about, because the potential exposure is absolutely priceless.
And if you are lucky enough to win or be nominated for an award, be sure that you share it on your social media, put it in your email signature, make sure it's in your newsletter like the list goes on, take advantage of putting it wherever you can splash it everywhere. Having an award under your belt or a nominee and nomination under your belt can add so much credibility and customers will know straight away that you're a reputable and quality business.
So, this PR can be absolutely huge and it can really enhance and elevate your brand. Over the years my businesses that I've had, we've won lots of awards for specific programs that we put out into the world and that then had huge benefits and results for the people who took part in those programs and those awards that we won for those particular things really catapulted the enrollments that then I saw coming through for whatever that program was.
Not just in the short term when there was lots of hype about the award, but in the long term too, because we put it on our website, it's on our socials, it's in our newsletter footers, to make it visible. So, don't be afraid to promote your nominations and your wins because the judges have selected you for a reason and you've worked hard for those accolades. So, be proud and get them out there and show them off.
The other thing I want to touch on really quickly here is positioning. So, winning or just entering a prestigious awards program can position your brand and your business in the eyes of your customers as any prospects that you might have as stakeholders and as a leader in your business, it can really position you and give you an immediate competitive advantage over other competitors who fail to participate.
The third party endorsement of an awards program gives you that credibility that perhaps your competitors lack. The higher the prestige of the awards that you enter, the more status you will attain in the process and this builds your target audience's trust and confidence in your ability to deliver the products or the services that you sell.
They will see you as a business leader in your industry or your profession. So, positioning is an important consideration in terms of the awards categories that you enter. So, I just want to talk about this for a moment because I'm working with a client at the moment who's been nominated for two national awards, which is fantastic.
Often what happens when you get nominated? The next step in the process is that the business owner gets to select what category your business falls into for judging. It's not always that way, but sometimes you do get that option.
I was on a coaching call earlier with my client and we were discussing which category would make the most sense for her to enter in and for her, it was a decision between a general category in service excellence or to niche into a very specific category for online marketing services.
So, strategically, I guided her to consider what was the positional value of each of those and what opportunities could that open up for her? What credibility could that add to what she's already doing, so that she can keep leveling up in her business?
And so she decided to choose the category, which best aligned to her future vision as becoming the go to for online marketing. So she nicheed down into that specific category for her business.
So, whether the strength of your business lies in customer service standards, whether it's product quality, whether it's innovation, whether it's sustainable practices, there will be an awards program and a category that will enable you to position your business accordingly, so that you can then stand out from your competitors.
So, it's about looking strategically about how this is going to move your business forward and how you can use that to really catapult and position your brand.
Do you wish you had a business expert at your fingertips who can help you prevent business burnout? Plus teach you about the core business methods needed to grow and build a longstanding healthy business? Plus provide you with tangible tools, templates and guides to help you stay on track and help you to create a plan to positively transform your business, to bring you more freedom.
I can be just that for less than $10 a day, the 12 week Ready to Rise program will mean you have an award-winning business owner, that's me! At your fingertips. Helping you to transform your business and taking back control so that you can be more present with the people who mean the most to you and have time for self care.
If you want to live a heart centered work life blend that does not include burnout, head to the show notes to join the waitlist for the next round, so you don't miss out.
So let's recap, by participating in business awards, you're going to have clarity on your business purpose. It's going to lift your motivation and that of your team because you can see how far you've come.
It's going to give you the nudge to forward plan, if you don't do that already or review the future vision of your business. It's going to improve your team morale, your retention of staff and attract new team members. Plus it's going to boost your brand visibility and increase position credibility within your industry and alongside your competitors. Now, if you are listening to this in the car or you are walking, wherever you're listening to this and you're like, oh my goodness, I need to take notes. I have got it covered for you.
So, I have created a check list for you, that you can go through to ensure that you are putting yourself forward and doing all of the things possible to increase your chances of winning. Plus I talk in there about the benefits as well. So, if you go to donnahann.com/winner, you'll be able to pick that one up.
So a checklist for you to make the most of putting yourself in front of the judges, some tips in there as well as things that you want to make sure that you don't miss as part of the process, I'll put that link in the show notes as well, but it's donnahann.com/winner.
So, already you should be moving towards these opportunities rather than thinking of avoiding them, because they're going to take you too much time or because you think you won't win, even if you don't win, it is so worth it.
Here's some more benefits if you still need convincing. Networking with other successful business leaders. Now, for a start, your application will be seen by at least one judge, right? So they are likely to be a leader in the industry and this judge will get to know your business and its achievements in detail.
So, therefore you've instantly created a new relationship and a new professional relationship with a leader in the industry. Often there is a Facebook group that is put together by the event organizer and that's composed of all the nominees, so you can join that and start to build relationships there too.
And if you're an awards finalist, you can attend to go to the presentation or the gala event and that's another chance for you to network again with the judges who usually attend and also to network with other leading businesses and individuals and this is an amazing opportunity for you to establish relationships and to forge invaluable alliances for future collaborations.
It also enables you to observe your competitors at close quarters and you get to know them better, which means they're less intimidating. I know that for some business owners, particularly at the beginning of the journey in business or when you are levelling up, there can be this fear of, sort of, we compare ourselves to other businesses who are doing it really well, and that can be intimidating.
But let me tell you, when you go along to these events and you're sitting at a round table having dinner and absorbing the evening of people winning awards, there's some great opportunities there for you to open conversation and really get to know them.
And I will tell you that business owners are just people and they're not that scary when you start talking to them, it can be a really great way for you to start to build your relationships in that way.
The other benefit is customer acquisition and customer retention. So, the ultimate benefit of entering into an awards program and generating brand awareness and enhancing your brand positioning is the potential boost of sales, right? Customer acquisition and also customer retention and all of that returns to you in revenue and profit.
So, in an era where most buyers devote considerable time to comparison in the market. Thanks to online shopping, your business association with a prestigious award could be the factor that tips their purchasing decision into your favor. So, winning an award or even being a finalist, even being a nominee, a nominee offers that social proof to prospective clients that your business can deliver everything that it promises.
And for your existing clients, they're also likely to be reassured that they're well looked after and they'll feel rewarded that they've chosen wisely. So, the process really reinforces their trust in you, your products and your services and with that increased customer acquisition and that retention obviously, comes increased revenue and profit for you.
So, awards participation can translate directly to an improvement in your bottom line results. Now, there are not many marketing or promotional tactics that are as cost effective as participating in awards programs, so I'm talking about marketing costs here and the benefits of that.
Paid advertising, whether it is print or digital, it's expensive and although you can take the time to go and build relationships with journalists to capitalize on that free media PR, which is something that I covered in a previous episode about making the most of free media opportunities, that's great.
However, it can take lots of time and effort on your part to build those relationships. I do believe that it is worthwhile doing. However, participating in an awards program, even though there's often a fee for you to move your business through the process from a nomination to then submitting your formal entry and application questionnaire, it's the most effective way that you can really boost your visibility for your business.
Now, the fee that they charge you typically covers the cost of hosting the awards for the organizer. It's usually relatively inexpensive, but potentially has a big return with a relatively short time period to wait to see those results, especially if you win.
So, it is worth it.
Another cost efficiency from entering into awards is that the content from your application can be repurposed in other marketing areas. So, when you are creating why you are inspired to start your business, you can include that in your social media updates. You can add that to your website. You can add snippets of that into brochures and emails and newsletters. You can repurpose the time that it took you in creating the answers to the application. You can repurpose that as content for your marketing.
So, the last thing I want to leave you with is some do's and dont’s for impressing the judges.
So, here's some do's. First of all, most importantly, be you. Show your personality because this is truly what sets you apart from the rest. When I work with the ladies in the Ready to Rise program, and also with my private clients, we look at what is your ideal customer and how do you stand out to them? What is it that makes you different from everybody else? And what it always comes down to is you and your personality.
So, if you get shortlisted to a video interview, try and relax and let them see you and let them see the purpose behind your business and the passion that you have. Let that shine through. Also another thing is to back up your claims with stats for your business.
So, instead of saying you've had huge growth in your business, be specific about that. So what percentage have you seen in the growth of your business? If your passion lies with helping people like me, I love to empower and support women in business, so, what is the statistic that you are working to change within your industry?
So for me, one in three new business owners in Australia fail in their first year of operation and then two out of four by the end of the second year will fail and three out of four by the fifth year will fail. Now, it's my mission to prevent business burnout for women and to see those stats change to be much more positive.
So in my applications, when I'm talking about my mission and why I'm so passionate and what inspires me, that statistic is always in there because it's fact that that's how things are in Australia for small business and that's why I'm so driven to change that, especially for women, because it creates new opportunities for them to live the lifestyle that really lights them up.
And when we have happy people in the community, we have happy everything, right? And so make sure that’s part of your passion in doing what you do, find a statistic that supports that and how you are working to change that statistic or support that statistic. The other is to stick to the questions, answer the questions and follow the instructions.
You don't want to go through, actually, I'll tell you a story of what happened to me once. I was shortlisted for a local business award, I was really excited. This is going back. I don't know, maybe four years ago or something like that and I was so excited, I got a phone call to say that I'd been shortlisted.
I wrote down my interview time. I was completely a hundred percent prepared and on the day of my interview, I was waiting by the phone ready for the phone call and it didn't come, as they were doing them over the weekend. I then contacted them on Monday and said, hey, I didn't get my interview call. It was a Sunday and the number that I was calling wasn't picking up.
What happened? Can I reschedule? And she said to me, well, it was an in person interview, not over the phone and you didn't show up. So you've been disqualified and I was gutted. I was so mad at myself because in my excitement, I hadn't followed the instructions.
I had missed somewhere along the line. I had missed that it was an in person interview, not over the phone and so therefore I missed out on that opportunity.
So, make sure you're following instructions.
So don't stalk and DM the judges, all right? So the time to reach out to the judges is potentially at the awards presentation, when it's all been done and dusted, the awards have been judged, you can approach them and thank them for their time and start to build that professional relationship.
But don't do it while the awards are in the judging stages. That's just icky and in a lot of cases that can set you up for disqualification, don't leave it until the last minute to put your application together, that will then be obviously a rushed application and it's not going to be your best work.
And also finally, don't downplay your achievements. Shine bright, be proud. This is not the time to be meek and modest. This is the time to really shout from the rooftops, what it is that you do in your business and what you've achieved thus far and as a nominee, make sure you let people know how to vote for you.
If it’s part of the process, I know that I love to vote for my peers. I love to vote for my colleagues and the ladies that I work with in my programs and private coaching, any friends and family that are nominated for awards I'm in there and I'm voting. So, don't be afraid to create a social media marketing campaign, to show people, to lead people on how they can get behind you and support you.
And my main message that I'm wrapping up with today that I really want you to hear is the positive side effects of entering into awards. It can really improve what you do. Awards are a form of feedback. In not winning an award, yes. It's sad, yes. You feel a little bit down and disappointed, but in a positive way, if you look upon it as feedback from your peers of yes, maybe you're not award winning level yet, but what can you do to take that and get better and better and better.
Think of the awards as part of your continuous improvement metrics, your continuous improvement, uh, process and whether or not you even hit submit on the application, but I really hope that you do.
I hope that you go out there. If you've gotta put the time into writing it, then make sure you submit it, that there is so much value to gain from having a long hard look at your business by applying for awards.
So, jump on Google. Find out some relevant awards in your industry or within your location. If you're a local business and mark them on your calendar. Fantastic if you win and if not the insight and the experiences will be well worth it.
I hope that this has been really helpful to you in strategically positioning your business and showing the world what you have to offer. Don't forget to go and grab my checklist to help you with this. It's donnahann.com/winner so go and grab that and I will see you on the next episode of the She's in Business podcast.
And hey, if you enter yourself into an award and if you become a finalist, reach out to me and let me know, so I can celebrate with you, all right?
Bye for now.