Expert Opinion

Expert Opinion: Horizon Works’ Top Tips for Award Success

At the AMF we have a wealth of knowledge and experience amongst our members from a range of sectors. To share this knowledge, we have formed an Expert Opinion Series where each month we will be asking different strategic partners for their expert insights on a particular topic to benefit our members.

There are a number of awards happening across the North East with submission deadlines over December 2019 and January 2020 – so AMF strategic marketing partner, Horizon Works thought they would give you some top tips on awards success to help you.

As with any marketing activity, submitting an entry for an award should be part of your overall marketing strategy for your business. What will entering, and hopefully winning, mean to your business? Putting your submission together takes time and effort, so it’s important to make sure that you use this time wisely and really think about what you want to achieve.

There are a lot of advantages – one of the main ones being it’s a great opportunity to put your business in the limelight. However, the judges will be reviewing a lot of entries, so your submission needs to stand out. There’s is a definite art to crafting a successful awards submission…

Be in it to win it or not at all

There are lots of reasons why you should enter the Awards, including:

  • Raise your company profile and generate some regional PR
  • Showcase your business and its performance and growth
  • Build trust and confidence amongst your stakeholders
  • Acknowledge your employees’ efforts and investment in staff
  • Promote your businesses key strengths and capabilities
  • Engage with the wider regional business community
  • Get recognition for your business success

Make sure your submission doesn’t let you down. Answer each question with a winning mindset and tell the judges why you are the best company to win the category you’re entering – showcase and demonstrate your success.

Success depends on good preparation!

  • Allow plenty of time to consider and develop your entry and plan ahead.
  • Consider the judging criteria when planning your responses. What information have they asked you to provide?
  • Set clear objectives from the outset – why, what, when, which.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to submit your entry. Most awards ask you to submit it electronically so make sure you send everything that’s required, and you leave enough time.
  • Put the deadline in your diary. This may seem obvious, but set reminders and don’t leave it to the last minute.

Do your research

  • Make sure you understand each question being asked, not the questions you think you are being asked.
  • Less is more, be succinct. Most submissions will ask you to answer in a set word count – and most of these are not high – so you will have limited words to convince the judges and answer the criteria set!
  • Take a look at previous winners and highly commended entries from last year’s awards winners – these should be on the awards website.
  • Search for Awards PR and also the winners’ own PR – there will be nuggets of information in them which will explain why they won the award. This could act as a great benchmark for your entry.
  • Read testimonials to find out bits of information that may have been included about business growth or investments, for example.
  • Big is not always better. Do not be put off if past winners are larger businesses than yours. Judging is not always about high turnover or staff figures! Let your innovations, commitment to talent, soaring profits and approach to new markets shine through.

Keep it clear and simple

  • Focus on what the judges have asked for in the category criteria and the questions they want you to answer.
  • Don’t just fill your submission with a ‘copy and paste’ from your website, sales presentations or marketing materials. This information isn’t answering the questions set.
  • Make sure your entry is succinct, clear and easy to understand.
  • Most of all, tell your business story – take the judge on your journey to success.
  • Get your facts and evidence together too. Great stats make for great reading and back up statements you give.

Answer all questions and answer them correctly!

  • This may seem obvious, but it’s where a lot of businesses fall down – not answering all points set out in the specific award criteria.
  • You will only have a set word limit to cover your answer – make sure the information is relevant and answers the criteria and question being asked.
  • Carefully read each point to have a better understanding of how you should respond before you start writing your response.
  • Structure your response so that you cover the right information – and be consistent throughout.
  • Think about each point and make a list of key points that meet that criteria and make sure the core message for each point is the first thing that the judges read.

Get your evidence together

  • At the start of the planning process, make a list of evidence, facts, figures, percentages – which will support your application.
  • Spell it out – don’t make vague generalisations about information – be specific and back up statements with evidence. This is more powerful.
  • Specific evidence and figures can make or break an awards entry – and will make it more compelling to the judge.
  • Some examples:
  • Impact of a new innovation – % increase in productivity or sales growth.
  • Sales growth due to entering new markets.
  • Efficiencies / savings due to better quality processes.
  • Stats on sustainability and environmental improvements.

Shout about your achievements

  • Don’t be shy – highlight your business achievements and successes. If you don’t state them, how will the judge know?
  • Prove you’re the best and be confident in your response – have a winning mindset throughout.
  • Always back up claims with evidence as mentioned in Tip 6, especially on innovation, ROI, strategic success, quality improvements, customer focus, leadership and social responsibility.

Tell your story and stand out from the crowd

  • Judges may not know how good you are until you tell them – so tell them!
  • Your responses should explain why your business deserves to win the award.
  • Include information on key milestones your business has achieved – such as a turnover, recruitment or investment goal.
  • Make your entry memorable and get across your business journey to success. Tell your story!

A few other pointers…

  • Get a team together at the start of your awards journey to discuss ideas of what you can put into your submission – different perspectives are important.
  • Be careful about recycling previous award entries – what worked for one award may not be relevant for another – judging criteria is different.
  • Avoid a PR disaster by submitting inaccurate information.
  • Ask someone objective to read your final submission – if they’re not impressed, the judges won’t be. Use this as an opportunity to improve it and make it more compelling.
  • Make sure your entry is checked by someone outside of the process – spelling mistakes and typos can ruin an otherwise sound entry.

And finally…

  • Learn from experience.
  • If you don’t get shortlisted, learn from the process and try again next year.
  • Use your entry as a tool for assessing and benchmarking your business performance.
  • Practice makes perfect and increases your chances of winning next time.
  • But first and foremost, don’t waste time and resource in entering unless …you are in it to win it!

There are number of awards deadlines coming up across the North East. Here’s a snapshot:

NEPIC Awards 2020

Award’s website:
Deadline: 18 December 2019
Awards ceremony: 17 January 2020

NEAA Awards 2020

Award’s website:
Deadline: 21 December 2019
Awards ceremony: 17 February 2020

North East Business Awards 2020

Award’s website:
Deadline: 10 January 2020
Shortlists announced: February 2020
Regional awards Ceremony: From 27 February 2020
Grand final: 30 April 2020


To read more about Horizon Works, visit the member profile here.

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