by David Lawrence on November 25, 2019 | Digital Marketing Strategy

Here at Rocket, we’re big fans of entering marketing awards. Being an award-winning agency, or even being a finalist in a prestigious award, is a powerful asset for us to have when working on our own marketing. 

It’s also a well-deserved pat on the back to the entire team and gives us a great chance to celebrate our successes as a team.

There are two things you need to know before reading on:

  1. You won’t win a legitimate award unless you’ve done something award-worthy. It sounds obvious, and it is, but before you go through the steps below make sure you’re doing things right in the real-world.
  2. Legitimate awards are typically a lot of work. If you cut corners you probably won’t have much success. Entering an award the right way takes time. But in our experience, it’s totally worth it.

The Goal

When you enter an award you want to make it to the shortlist of finalists. Winning is amazing, but not essential to getting solid benefit in terms of attracting potential customers and helping to close sales.

Rocket Award Winners at SEMRush 2019Part of the Rocket team, fresh from winning the “Best B2B Campaign” and “Best Advertising Campaign” at the 2019 SEMRush Awards.

Our Process For Winning Marketing Awards 

Own It

Make one person in your team responsible for the awards program. If no-one owns it, it will never be a priority.

Build a List

Create a list of every award you think might be appropriate for you over the coming 12 months. Typically, these will include awards for your industry. There will possibly also be awards for other industries that feature categories for what you do. There will also be regional or national awards celebrating outstanding businesses of all types. The most important detail at this stage is the deadline for submissions. You need to start work 6 weeks before this date. Build your list now or I can almost guarantee you’ll find awards you just missed the deadline for.

Select Categories

6 weeks before the deadline go through the award and select all the categories you think you have a chance of being a finalist in. You can get pretty creative here. Don’t be afraid of entering similar submissions into multiple categories if they are appropriate. It’s more important to enter your best work into each category rather than new work each time.

Don’t restrict yourself to a single category if there are other appropriate categories. We were finalists in 10 categories at the recent SEMRush Awards. Our Luna Park campaign was entered into 4 categories.

Decide On What to Put Forward

This is critical. Most awards exist to help promote the organisation that runs the award. It’s an important part of their own marketing. You should review previous finalists and winners and get a feel for what’s been successful in the past and the sort of entrants you will be competing with. For example, if it’s an award always won by a huge brand then there is probably very little point in entering a tiny business no-one has ever heard of.

Develop a Story

Winning an award is all about influencing people to get on board with your story. It’s the same as any other marketing you do. Before starting work on a submission you need to think very carefully about the story you can tell with the available facts. If your award is just a list of bullet points it’s going to struggle. You want to tell a story which helps illustrate why your submission is special and deserves to be recognised. You might want to get a copywriter involved at this stage if this is not a strength of yours. You should also have solid facts and achievements to support the story or it’s just fluff. The judges are going to review a lot of submissions and they need something to really stand out.

Clear it With Any 3rd Parties

If you’re entering the award using a client case study or other third parties, then let them know before you start work. They need to know the award, the direction you’re taking, any information you’re likely to include and that they’ll need to sign-off the application before you submit it. Once you explain how effective this could also be for their marketing they’ll almost certainly jump on board. But don’t surprise them at the last minute!

Whenever we enter an award we make sure our clients are as excited as we are. It’s also a great promotional opportunity for them.

Initial Draft

Most awards are very particular about how submissions should be received. Before you start writing, make sure you are 100% clear on the requirements. You will not impress anyone by making life harder or more time consuming for the judges. Remember that to them you are not all that special at this stage. You are just one of potentially dozens or hundreds of submissions they need to review to get to a shortlist. Using the format they have requested, start building your submission as a series of bullet points or rough paragraphs. Focus on getting the story and the facts right.

Apply the Polish

This is critical. Once you have a draft ready to go you need to give the whole thing to a writer who is ideally experienced in writing award submissions. They will have two advantages. They won’t be as close to your submission as you are and they will be able to see it as the judges will. Writing is also what they do for a living and they will almost certainly do a better job than you will.

Internal and Third-Party Sign-off

Once you’re happy with the submission you need to get it signed off by any third parties featured in the application. Don’t leave this to the last minute or you will create stress and possibly rushed changes.

Submission Time!

You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to enter it. If you’re concerned about whether you got the uploading or submission right, check with the awards people for confirmation. You’ve done too much work to mess it up now.

Extra Tips for Awards Success

Depending on the award and what they’ll allow, we suggest the following:

Use video in your submission: Any relevant video is good, but a custom video to support your story can be very powerful. If your submission features a third-party then having them in the video is also very effective.

Promote early: Don’t wait for the results to get an award into your marketing efforts. You can use submissions and the stories you’ve developed in your website and social media content. It can also be great content for press releases and mentions.

Have a solid marketing plan: In the event you are a finalist (or a winner), have a plan for how and where you are going to share the good news. You have to be careful not to be too self-congratulatory though, people can be happy for you, but ultimately everyone’s looking for ways to solve their own problems and not hear about your victories alone. Here’s an example of us announcing a recent win on LinkedIn.

Here’s the Proof

You might be thinking that the above looks like a lot of work and money. And you’d be right! But it works, and in our opinion, it is well and truly worth it.

Here’s a list of the awards we were shortlisted in throughout 2019. We’re incredibly proud of the team and the amazing work they did for our fantastic clients.

What’s next? We plan to repeat our efforts in 2020 and beyond and keep getting better as an agency - and as serial award-entrants.


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