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The folly of awards

For everybody except the winners, industry awards are time-consuming waste of time. Or are they?

The folly of awards

Faced with the decision of (a) Working on an award submission that you might win, or (b) Working hard to hit budget, which would most people do?

It’s a brave or fool-hardy person who will opt to write the award submission over getting on with the task at hand of making their numbers. Compounding this is an occasional view that some awards are little more than the product of who you know and how much you spend. A giant, self-serving money-go-round with lots of losers. Parallels with the World Cup and the Olympics maybe? No, obviously not… Having been on the e-Consultancy Innovation Award judging panel I hold onto a belief that the right submission for the right award will win. Here, I set out the reasons why I think most (not all) businesses should carve out the time to enter relevant awards.
Frosty sunrise

Self examination

When confronted with the question as to whether or not to submit an entry, there’s a requirement to look in the mirror. What do you see? A business that’s doing something new and fresh? A young challenger brand taking on the establishment big boys? Innovation and drive? Or something a little less inspiring?

If it’s the last in that list, there’s every chance that your potential customers will be disinterested too.

This could be a necessary catalyst to innovate.


Good people can be hard to attract, particularly if you can’t pay top dollar salaries. Getting your name out there is a clear demonstration that you have passion, vision, and something worth shouting about. In isolation it won’t bridge a massive salary gap, but it will help narrow it.


Most people, and certainly the ones you want to keep, want to work for a brand that has a purpose and direction, and that will keep pushing. Being a finalist or winner in a major award category helps prove this.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) might not be an obvious inclusion in this list, but it belongs here, and this is why:

Short-listing/ Winning == Coverage

Coverage == Potential Links

Coverage == Content to write about

Links + Content == SEO

Have you ever tried to put a price against links? It’s not so easy as it was. Every piece of coverage and link is hard-earned and deserved.


The value of genuine earned PR coverage versus paid marketing coverage is clear, and they are complimentary. It’s true that most of the coverage gained will be in the trade press, so how does that help? Depending on your business sector, your customers may well read your trade press.


Most events end in conversations at the bar or in a club – polarised into celebrating victory, or deriding the pay-per-win culture. Earlier in the evening over arrival drinks, connections can be made or re-established. Business can be done.


Few brand have too many awards logos, but what a nice problem to have if you do! Whether a finalist or a winner, award logos can be used to support your product or service messaging. This can be across all media and channels (subject to usage rights).

Will these logos be the tipping point between success and failure? Most likely not, but they’ll do their bit.


If you’re unsuccessful, there are still opportunities to learn and develop. With a critical examination, just why didn’t you win (apart from not spending enough)? It might have been the way the submission was drafted, or maybe what you’re doing isn’t quite good enough, and needs to be developed.

As marketers, we’re programmed to test and learn.

It gets easier

The first time around, you may be finding your way, but writing submissions needs common sense, and the best view you can get regarding the evaluation criteria and what floats the judge’s boats.

Yes, but…

There can be some reticence about submitting commercially sensitive data. A submission that shows great business numbers is going to score more highly than one that deliberately skirts an uncomfortable truth about spend vs income. It’s old news, and if your competitors want to follow what you were doing a year ago, let them! They won’t learn much of any use.

That’s all well and good. Back to hitting numbers versus drafting award entries. How to find the time?

It’s a brand activity beyond all else. Brand activities always fight to find their place when competing against direct response. But, without investment in brand, success will be much harder to achieve, and more of your marketing £ will go on DR, most likely PPC…

Time for brand must be found.

Final thoughts

There needs to be a touch of pragmatism in the decision as to whether to fight the fight. It’s not a pasta throwing exercise. Submitting entries that have little or no chance will be demotivating for all concerned.

A final thought is this. Awards ceremonies are a lot of money for what you get. With a table at a major event easily costing £10K. Personally, I’d enter the award, but not buy a table.

If you win on merit, you’d hope to get a call in the run-up to the big day, encouraging you to attend. Then the cost of the table might make sense. As would booking the following day off work!

My experience

I have written, managed or collaborated on a number of award submissions, some of which are below.

On The Tools - Winner 2016

The On The Tools community is by far and away the largest tradesman specific community in the UK.

Being directly up against one of the country’s biggest insurance brands left us aware of the challenge..

Our efforts as a business were rewarded on the night with victory that we were truly delighted by.

The logo has featured across marketing and other collateral, adding weight to the David v Goliath contest.

UK broker awards
UK Broker Awards - Finalist 2016

In 2016, having driven the business forwards, it was felt that we had enough to support an award submission.

The UK Broker Awards are arguably the pre-eminent industry awards ceremony for brokers.

We were short-listed in 3 categories, with the awards being contested with many of the countries largest national brokers.

Appearing as a finalist amongst such distinguished company was reward in itself, appearing as we did in the run-up, on the evening and afterwards.

BIA 2016
British Insurance Awards - Finalist

As one of our first forays into awards at Trade Direct Insurance we were short-listed at the British Insurance Awards.

As one of the foremost insurance industry awards, we knew that we were up against stiff competition from much bigger players in terms of budget, industry clout, and marketing/ PR  teams.

Although un-successful on the night, the profile we achieved through the announcement of the nominations, on the evening and subsequently across multiple provided a worthwhile brand return.

On The Tools - Winner 2017

Having won On The Tools in 2016, and knowing that we had been locked out from the OTT community by a major competitor, we knew that winning again would be a big result.

With over 3M people following On The Tools, this was a high profile award, and winning would be a big feather in our cap.

We were chuffed to bits to win for the second year running.

The back-to-back wins resulted in a tremendous sense of pride internally, and has been used across all marketing channels.