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A business rival has scooped a ‘gong’ and left you with a dilemma. Will this give them a competitive edge over you, or not? Should you be digging out that email you received about another awards scheme and making entering a serious consideration? In other words, when it comes to business awards, what’s the point?

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says smaller businesses should definitely consider entering awards, if they have the credentials to realistically win, or at least be shortlisted. However, the UK’s leading small business support organisation and networking opportunities provider urges SMEs to make this a strategic a manoeuvre, creating a solid rationale for what they spend and which awards they put that spend behind.

These days there are many different awards available to businesses; regional, national, and role and sector-specific. There are even international awards for which you may be eligible.  Some are free-to-enter and some require payment of what can be a sizeable entry fee, which may apply per awards category. You need to decide which awards would be most advantageous for your individual business. Take that a step further and this implies that you should have a strategy sitting behind your award entries. What is it that you wish to achieve and why?

To help guide you through the thought process, FSB has some tips.

  1. Retain credibility

We’ve all heard the term ‘Mickey Mouse awards’, but they really do exist. Arranging awards can be good business, so there is not always credibility behind certain award schemes. Winning awards for awards sake is not necessarily going to boost your business’s reputation, so think carefully about whether there is any benefit to being a potential winner. Remember, however, that kudos is not solely attached to big national awards. There may well be perfectly credible smaller award schemes available, which you may stand a better chance of winning.

  1. Set your budget

The cost of your quest to win an award could run away with you, if you are not careful. The overall cost is not just that of entering, but the cost of attending the awards dinner, if shortlisted. Some award schemes will only consider businesses that take a table, which could eat up a sizeable proportion of a smaller business’s available income.

Consider where the final will be held and to where you will need to travel, to discover whether you have been successful. This may necessitate transport costs and an overnight stay. There are also extra costs to consider – drinks, photographs you may wish to buy, the cost of dinner suit hire and even beauty treatments, if you want to look your best. Your accountant will not allow all expenses, so you could personally be making a sizeable outlay, to attend the gala dinner. Factor all costs in when setting your budget, or when determining that your business can afford this exercise.

  1. Time and skills considerations

Entering awards can be time-consuming and may demand certain skills. A written submission is often required and you may have to make every word count, if there is a limit. Gathering ‘supporting evidence’ could disrupt your workflow and that of your employees. This makes being selective about what to enter even more important, but remember less can be more and you may be able to pay better attention to just one award entry than many entered on a scattergun basis.

  1. Weighing up the benefits

Once you’ve considered the ‘cons’, weigh up the ‘pros’. Winning an award could allow your smaller business to make a statement and get you noticed. It could open new doors and make your business attractive to prospective customers. Suppliers may be more willing to work with you, if you have this ‘third party endorsement’. Your reputation could soar.

Another business benefit is the motivation a team or workforce can gain from winning an award. Morale could be boosted, employees may become more loyal as part of a ‘winning team’ and you may find it easier to attract talent. This could be worth its weight in gold, even if your actual trophy is only glass!

  1. Tactical advantages

Winning an award could allow you to send a particular message, if you are tactical about what you enter. If you aim is to be seen as a business that supports its local community, winning an award for community engagement could be key. You may, however, wish to increase your work within a certain market segment. If, for instance, you are a marketing agency that wins an award for a healthcare campaign, you are likely to get on the radar of other healthcare companies. A ‘Best Employer’ award should definitely boost your standing in the local employment market. Think strategically and you could maximise your return from awards, whilst also being able to use them as a marketing positioning tool.

Remember, however, this could be turned on its head. If you wish to demonstrate your smaller business’s ability to handle large corporate accounts, winning a ‘Solo trader’ or ‘Small Business Team’ award may not necessarily do you any favours.

  1. Leverage

Plan to win and you could. Put in place a strategy of what will happen if you get the nod from the judges and quickly enact it, if successful. This may require you to have a budget for award maximisation, as you may wish to issue mailings and press releases, and boost social media posts, to market your ‘win’. You may also need to add material to your website, write blogs, and incorporate news of your award into letterheads and e-signatures. Don’t forget the value of networking, perhaps at FSB events, to spread the news.

If you’ve now decided ‘yay’ when it comes to awards, you may wish to keep an eye out for the FSB & Worldpay UK Business Awards 2017, for which there are regional trophies and national cash prizes ranging from £2,000 for each national category winner and a further £10,000 for the overall national winner. Open to all UK businesses with less than 250 employees, these prestigious awards really could tick all the awards-benefits’ boxes, so pop these in your plan and start strategising!

For more information visit www.fsb.org.uk and www.fsbworldpayawards.org.uk) or follow on Twitter @FSB_Voice

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