Win awards and boost your pipeline

Award season is looming and you’ve done some fantastic work which your team and your clients are proud of. You have your eyes on the prize but don’t fancy becoming the agency version of ‘Leo versus The Oscars’, so what can you do to maximise your chances?

To help you we’ve put together an Awards Entry Rulebook, to help you navigate the playing field and strategise an effective game plan to both win awards and weave them into your new business objectives.

1. Fits Like a Glove

With over 500 awards to choose from, it’s important you understand what is out there before entering. You wouldn’t find Manchester United entering the Six Nations so make sure you aren’t doing the marketing equivalent. Do your research.

Most awards can be split into four main categories:

  1. Creative: largely subjective, looks based.
  2. Results: based on growth potential and impact for clients.
  3. Business Impact: the effect work has had on a business.
  4. Sector Specific: often neglected but great for building client relationships and name in a specific sector.

Making sure you understand your Clio from your BIMA from your Transform will help you establish where your work would fit best and what suits your wider business development strategy. This will help you create a solid foundation to build on for success.

Check out our annual awards calendar, for a round up of the key awards and entry deadlines for marketing, comms, digital and creative agencies:

2. The League Table

As with any competitive field, awards can be tiered and it’s best to understand this framework before entering.

Premier League:
They’re the biggies – but by no means the best. These awards often have the most established networks apply and are (usually) best for teams with ample resources. Most applicants will have a few awards under their belt before applying. Think the Lovies and Cannes Lions.

Division 1:
Equally as good as the Premier League, they’ve been around for 5-12 years and have come from publications instead of individual organisations. They’re up-and-coming and starting to gain a lot of traction. Think Transform Awards.

Division 2:
Watch out for these ones. They are often in it for the money and hold little to no credibility. Rule of thumb: if they ask you to pay before entry, they’re a no go. Don’t chase awards for the sake of it.

Don’t neglect your Division 1’s for a Premier – whilst it’s fun to play with the big boys, Division 1’s are equally respected and aren’t as dominated by big industry networks.

"Many a top marketer sits on a judging panel. Reach out afterwards and start a conversation."

3. The Pros (and Drawbacks)

Before you start training for a marathon you weigh up the pros and cons to such a mammoth task. The same should be done when entering the awards arena.

The pros are as expected. Winning agency awards adds to your business development strategy: helping elevate your profile, boost morale, adds legitimacy to your work and strengthens client relationships.

However, do not neglect the fact that agency awards are both expensive and time consuming. Plus if there are no wins, it can leave your team and clients disappointed.

4. Team Sheet & Tactics

Like any good club you need to assess your team and your plays; planning meticulously before every game and taking time to consider your resources. When preparing yourself for awards, think:

Time: create a calendar of awards so you can see a timeline view, helping you manage your time and pipeline effectively. Have you thought of copywriting, visual asset prep and post awards marketing? The list goes on…

Costs: awards can be costly. Entry fees, production costs, copywriter/awards consultants, attending the ceremony itself. Not to mention the cost of your time. Make sure you’ve weighed up the costs and budgeted them in accordingly.

Responsibilities: in this case, hierarchy works. Enlist the help of senior stakeholders who will add to the application. Create a dedicated project management and creative resource team responsible for the whole awards process.

5. Training Camp

As with any task, preparation is key. You wouldn’t run the 100m sprint without doing a few trial runs beforehand. So don’t do the same when it comes to writing your award entries.

First off, check yourself before you wreck yourself. It might sound obvious but check those entry criteria – what are they looking for, what do they want to see? Don’t let your passion and excitement get in the way of meeting the requirements.

Judges often focus on what the brief was, the results achieved and whether they’re good for the sector and match what the client wanted. Whether you’re entering a division or Premier, results are your bread and butter when it comes to content.

Make sure you’re always linking closely back to what the client wanted to achieve. If the results don’t match the objective then move on.

Once you’ve done this you can start looking at your tone of voice and personality. Your agency will have a natural style of writing so make sure you inflect this in alongside the important points. Good copy never hurt nobody.

Now draft, draft and draft again. It’s as simple as that.

Then with all that said and done you can work on your executive summary. Present the most important details in a succinct manner, no more than three or four sentences which contain the key information. Judges will see many an award entry, so make it punchy.

6. Shooting Practice

Practice makes perfect. We’ve included a list of the little things you need to remember to ensure you avoid getting a red card.

” Understand and follow the entry criteria and rules. We know we’ve said this before, but we’re saying it louder for those at the back.
” Tailor each application. It’s likely you’re entering more than one award but copying verbatim each application won’t win you anything other than some time during prep.
” Anonymise your application to avoid prejudice based on preconceptions.
” Utilise your clients, they’ll prove invaluable when it comes to gathering and providing evidence.
” Avoid waste, give a creative flare with your copy but don’t waste time with flowery writing and unnecessary imagery.
” Don’t get hung up on supporting material, it can be a nice addition but won’t make or break your entry.

And finally, not to sound like your mother or secondary school teacher but for the love of everything new business, proofread your application! Circulate it to as many people as necessary, you’ll be surprised at what slips through the net.

7. Utilising Your Extra Time Right

It’s not over until it’s over, especially when it comes to incorporating awards into your new business game plan.

Roughly 80-90% of people won’t know about your wins, so to ensure you make the most of your effort, you need to market properly.

We’re talking:

” PR and thought leadership.
” Posting on your social media sites.
” Updating your website and email signature (this is great for the subtle, humble brag).
” Updating your online case studies, showreels and presentations.
” Updating client testimonials.
” Saying thank you: dress your office, reward the team, thank the client.

8. Home Stretch

You’ve had a good season and you’ve generated some exposure from marketing. But now what? It’s important you fit your awards into your new business plan and it’s so easily done.

Follow Ups:

Use your recent award win as a reason to follow up and get back in touch with people you’ve previously spoken to. It’s a great way to highlight what’s been happening since you last spoke and touch base to see if now is a better time to chat.

You’re going to have met many a face at the award celebrations – if they’re not competitors and there aren’t any conflicts, drop them a line after the event. The same can be said for judges – many a top marketer sits on a judging panel. Reach out afterwards and start a conversation.

Sector reach out:

If it doesn’t conflict with an existing relationship, reach out to fellow players in the sector you won your award for. You know more than anyone what exactly is happening in their sector and how to answer those challenges. Grab a coffee and chat through the challenges you won an award for. Plus, check if this challenge can be applied to other sectors – you might have the answer they’re looking for with the evidence to back it up.

Regardless of the outcome, investing in award entries is a valuable experience when it comes to your business development strategy. From helping with culture and developing pride in work, to generating future leads and collaborations which could lead to even more award winning work.

When done right, entering awards can be just the ticket to fuel your business development.

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