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Hollywood has the Oscars. Music has the Grammys. What do entrepreneurs have? Actually, alot. There are many opportunities for recognition and celebration. Because there are national, regional, and city-wide award programs for entrepreneurs at all stages of business. Perhaps you’ve noticed these in your community – the gala ceremony, the local press. Are business awards worth it? Based on my own experiences with it, I have answers. So read on to learn if business awards should be part of your strategic planning.
Types of Business Awards
Generally, there are 2 types of business awards. Not in terms of categories or sector, but the method the award winners are chosen.
Most business awards are annual programs run by organizations like a local government, chamber of commerce, networking group, or lobby group. Though many are city-wide, there are also regional and national awards also, such as the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards. These are annual events managed by staff or volunteers. Usually, there are several categories. For example, “Best Small Business”, “Best New Business” and “Best CEO”. The criteria for each award is quite clear, with a set nomination and selection period. Finalists and winners are selected by a panel of impartial judges who carefully review the submission of each candidate. Then the winner in each category is announced at a gala event which is usually well attended by the business community.
Also, there are awards given based on the results of a public vote. One of the biggest is the Community’s Choice Awards, run in over 160 cities across the United States. Just like the American Choice Awards, there is a simple nomination process for business owners to submit their company. Then surveys are sent out to the public, and the ones with the most votes gets the award. Additionally, there is the Consumers Choice Award, with an award process that scrapes social media to learn what consumers think of the nominated companies.
Benefits of business awards
Obviously, given the popularity of business awards year after year, there are many benefits for participating. Are business awards worth it? Generally, the answer is yes. And here are the highlights:
Clearly, winning the top award is ideal. Then this can be added into marketing messages. After all, a logo saying “Best Company, 2024” looks pretty cool on a business card, flyers, signage, and vehicles. Leverage a win and include across all marketing channels and customer communication. For example, email footer, website, and social media profiles.
An award gives a business credibility. Either it’s an external, impartial assessment that your company has achieved excellence. Or, it’s proof that your business has done such an amazing job pleasing customers and developing a strong brand image that the public has voted it the best. Clearly, both options are a public and official title to show potential new customers that your business is credible and can be relied on.
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey. Building and managing a business takes a huge amount of energy, time, and effort. Being nominated, shortlisted, or winning a business award affirms that all that hard work is paying off. Having that recognition is affirmational. At the end of the day, this is an opportunity to pause and reflect on your accomplishments as an entrepreneur.
Any award that includes a gala is an opportunity for team building. Bring your team and enjoy the night as a celebration of everyone’s hard work. And not just key employees, either. Consider bringing suppliers and contractors you work with. For example, sales rep, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, or social media manager.
Are business awards worth it? It could be, just for the benefit of networking alone. Participating in an awards program creates many opportunities to connect with other business owners and decision makers. Clearly, the actual gala event is a night to schmooze and mingle. But even before that, the publicity around your company being shortlisted will generate interest. Don’t be shy about posting the nomination or finalist status on social media, in a newsletter, and on LinkedIn. Then expect people to reach out to get to know you.
Lastly, there is free PR. There is usually some level of publicity involved with being a finalist for a business award. The organization running the award program will promote it through local media and online. Also, there could be a profile or mention in the local news, or business publication. Anything that mentions your business or tags your company website or socials is valuable for SEO and brand awareness. So just reaching the finalist stage may be worth it for this benefit.
When I won the Businesswoman of the Year Award, I sent the details to my alumni association. Carleton University included it in the alumni magazine, and I was featured on the website homepage for a couple of weeks. So consider all opportunities to leverage being a finalist or winner of a business award, including where you went to school.
3 Tips for business awards
By now, you may have decided if business awards are worth it for your company. There are some quick tips for participating in a business award program:
1. Be deliberate
Don’t apply for every available award. Consider the options available and be strategic with what is going to benefit your business the most.
2. Plan ahead.
When you have an eye on a particular award, observe the cycle for this year. Attend the gala award ceremony, if you can. Review the award criteria, and then look over the profiles of the finalists and winners. This gives you a strong idea of what it takes to win. For example, if all winners are involved in a charity or community work, then plan ahead to start that in your business.
3. Plan the timing.
This isn’t the Oscars. Usually, an award can only be won once. So think about what timing works for your goals. For example, if you want to sell your business in 5 years, then consider going for Company of the Year in 4 years time.
List of business awards for entrepreneurs
As shown below, there are lots of options for business awards. This list is mostly national award programs in the UK, Canada, and United States. When it gets down to the regional and city level, the list is enormous. Just about every major city in all 3 countries has at least 1 business award program. They may focus on recognizing women in business, or be the local event for a major award like the Forty Under 40. Overall, there are lots of options. Start with these links, and also check out your local Chamber of Commerce, BBB, and networking groups.
Better Business Bureau Torch Award
Not every BBB organizes a Torch Award program, so check your local BBB.
Are business awards worth it?
It can be, yes. Especially for a prestigious, well respected award that gets a lot of publicity in the area a business operates in. Furthermore, for an entrepreneur with an exit strategy of selling, the recognition of a business award can help attract buyers. As shown above, there are many benefits for building brand awareness, marketing, and free PR. Additionally, participating in a business award program is an opportunity for brand building and networking. So if you’ve been wondering if business awards are worth it, now you can decide if this fits with the strategic planning to grow your company.