Top tips for a successful IT award entry
With the date closing in on entries for both the CRN Awards and Computing Awards, two popular award ceremonies for our industry, we offer up some timely guidance to help improve your chances of a successful submission. And with just 7 weeks to go, there’s still time to spare to make sure you give the best possible account of your business.
- 20th May
Awards entries are a tough job – a big reason why so many people shy away from them. That said, if you are going to make an entry, be sure to do it properly and professionally. I make these observations having recently spent a huge amount of time looking at award submissions in my capacity as a judge in the CRN Sales and Marketing Awards for which I have been on the judging panel for the last 5 years. During this time, I have seen the bar raised massively on the quality of submissions I’ve had to review as part of my job. However, organisations from right across the channel – large and small – continue to put forward badly constructed submissions which get poorly judged or overlooked altogether.
So, if you’re new to the game or are simply looking for some tips on how to improve what ever you’re thinking about putting forward, here a few nuggets that you might find useful.
- Be sure you have a good case
Don’t enter an award for the sake of it, make sure that your claim is strong, and you genuinely have a case. If you’re not sure ask other people you respect from outside your business as it’s easy to look at all your achievements and think they’re great. Objectivity is essential.
- Remember who your audience is
The people judging your awards entry are from the same industry as you. Experienced professionals who have existed in your environment for many years. They give up a huge amount of time to judge and like nothing better than an entry that clearly and concisely captures the brief of the category. Submissions that go off-piste, are flabby with waffle, or trade off fact for fiction won’t make the shortlist let alone win.
- Stick to the word limit
My pet hate is people who exceed the word limit. I volunteer as a judge and I feel it is taking advantage when submissions go beyond the limit and expect to be judged on the same footing as someone else who stuck to the rules. Most judges will look unfavourably on anyone who does not respect this.
- Don’t over-do the rich media
The rise of video and other digital content creates a great platform for creativity in presenting your submission. Don’t over do it though. Last year I remember seeing one submission that consisted of a Managing Director monologuing to camera for 13 minutes. I watched the first 3 then switched off. Suffice to say, they didn’t win. Complement your submission with easy to consume evidence, but don’t let it get silly. Importantly, don’t supply thousands of additional words in your ‘supplementary evidence’ because you couldn’t stick to the word limit in the first place.
- Prove it
So many submissions I read make grand claims with no evidence to back them up. If you’re chronicling a good year of sales, show some insight into your revenues and margins, units shipped or deals done. Have customers, staff or partners make quotes on your behalf or even speak to camera to say great things. What you mustn’t do however is try and duck out from the task of substantiation.
- Choose the right category
Judging this year, I reviewed 40 or so entries and I would say there were at least 10% that were put forward into the wrong category. Sometimes this is just a simple mistake, but sometimes people try and bend the rules and stack the odds in their favour by entering a category they perceive may be easier to win. Make sure you check properly; if you’re in the wrong category you’ll generally be instantly overlooked for this reason alone.
- Be honest
Judges know what they’re looking at and can smell a rat a mile off. They’ll scrutinise what you’re claiming and take you out of the running if those claims are outlandish or can’t be substantiated.
- Check off all the criteria asked for
It never ceases to amaze me the number of submissions I read that don’t actually answer the brief or share information that satisfies the criteria of the award. That’s an own goal – make sure you can coherently supply all of the facts and figures asked for and make a strong case for why you should win.
- Show some personality
Theres nothing worse than reading a dull and boring award submission. At the same time going too crazy with your personality can suggest you’re masking the facts. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but try to offer some insight into what makes your business tick and the people behind it. Be confident with the evidence you present to substantiate your points.
None of what I’ve shared here is rocket science. A lot of award entries are just about using your common sense and being open about what makes your business successful. Stick to these tips and you’ll be in with a fighting chance.
These insights come as a result of a 5-year stint as a judge on CRN's annual Sales & Marketing Awards.