Original post from Linkedin (posted on 20th Oct 2019)

AWARDS

My reply to an email from one of my punt investments who seem to have won many (4) awards and want me to vote for another

“Seriously xxx, a company’s success should not be measured by the number of awards won. I’ve run awards for three years and just being a judge of two. I know publicity matters, but it’s much better building a product that users are queuing up to pay for than winning awards.

Think about it”

If you are reading this, be careful about getting into self-congratulatory/self-adulation trap.

 

The post was well received with both sides (the award winners and supporters, and those who were sceptical about awards) having their say. In their hurry to respond, none of them questioned why I said what I said. Perhaps now is the time to enlighten those who wish to know my thinking at the time of posting on Linkedin.

 

Types of Awards

There are many types of awards, some are free to enter and the others are not. Some are based on public voting and others are not. There are even mysterious awards. Let me share three examples, I have experience of:

  • Northern Tech Awards from 2011 to 2013 which I ran. Companies applied for categories by paying an application fee. An independent judging panel made up of past tech entrepreneurs (with exits) and others (e.g Jon Bradford) judged. Those who were shortlisted were encouraged to buy tickets including tables. Techcelerate generated revenues by selling tickets and sponsorships. A very clear financial transaction between the organiser and the applicants. I held all three gala awards at the Lowry Hotel, Manchester.
  • Northern Tech Awards after 2013 under the management of GP Bullhound. Anyone who meets the criteria for a particular category can apply free of charge. Those who are shortlisted were invited to attend free of charge (over 100). Cost of organising the event is covered by sponsors. They are generally not looking to make a profit from the event, as the awards are a lead generator and not a core activity of the business.
  • Last year I was told that UnifiedVU which was mothballed at the time was shortlisted for an award by a London based organisation who was holding an event in Manchester. I questioned on what basis was my company shortlisted, especially given the status of it (we never achieved product/market fit). I was told they could not share as it was recommended to them.  Luckily I did not win, otherwise, it would have been a massive embarrassment to everyone concerned. I was curious and attended the event, but found no answer to my question. I do suspect that as UnifiedVU was listed on Pitchbooks, and they were one of the sponsors, this may have led to shortlisting UnifiedVU.

 

Above are just three types of many different types of awards.

 

Awards are transactions

Awards are typically run by an organisation which wishes to make a profit by organising them. Those who enter such awards, benefit from the publicity they gain from either being short-listed or won. A fair transaction in my humble opinion.

Typically, the responsibility to enter an award resides within the marketing role of the company. The costs of participating (application as well as tickets for attending) are typically budgeted, which means a company will usually only apply for a few awards of this nature.

Awards are very much a part of the marketing mix. If used properly, the publicity arising from it can greatly assist the company to win more customers and accelerate growth. However, if the company does not have a sought after product(s) and/or service(s), then any number of awards will not help your company achieve its vision.

 

So why did I say what I said

When I see “award-winning” next to a person or a company, I generally cringe. This arises from not knowing which award you have won and how credible and hard it was to win them. Let me explain this further.

Winning an award is very easy. There are so many awards out there. Some are even free. So all you need to do is find them, keep applying until you won one. Then you can add award-winning against your name.

Secondly, even with popular and credible awards, sometimes there will only be one applicant for a particular award. In these cases, you have won by default.

Do you now see why I don’t get too excited about awards?

 

 

 

Maximising from Awards

I’ve now been part of three Awards; these being Northern Tech Awards organised by me (old Techcelerate) and two organised by Prolific North.

 

MakeUrMove winning ConsumerTech Category award in 2012

 

Above shows smiling Alexandra Morris of MakeUrMove after winning ConsumerTech category award at Northern Tech Awards 2012. The team achieved a successful exit a few years after. Alex was reappointed, this time to run the acquired business.

 

Malinko winning a Northern Tech Award

 

Here’s Andrew Threlfall of Malinko accepting their award from legendary Jon Bradford in 2013. Since then Malinko has gone from strength to strength. Other notable winners included Apadmi, who were unbeaten from 2011 to 2013.

 

So here’s a list of items to consider when applying for awards:

  1. Make sure you have a budget to gain maximum exposure. This may involve paying for the application fee, buying the ticket(s) and attending the award ceremony, after drinks if any and gaining press exposure (paying for a PR agency if you do not have in-house capability).
  2. Know why you are applying for a particular award and how it will help you. This needs to be aligned with your marketing strategy, e.g. make sure your website is not full of broken images.
  3. Make sure your products or services are ready. No point gaining exposure and not been able to turn it into revenue.
  4. Most importantly, choose your awards wisely.
  5. When applying complete all the questions. Provide financial evidence and metrics even if not asked. Provide support material, especially a slide deck that easily describe your business and can be understood by the judges.

 

And good luck!

PS: Do watch out for the 2020 Northern Tech Awards, now run by GP Bullhound.

 

References:

  1. My original Linkedin post which has gained over 10,000 views in 4 days
  2. Marco’s post as a result of (1).
  3. Danny’s post as a result of (1).
  4. Ian sharing (1)
  5. My mini social media strategy for Linkedin