News article

It’s award season – 10 practical tips to help you win

Three key awards are currently open for entry.

If you’re entering the Money Marketing, Personal Finance Society or Professional Adviser Women in Financial Advice Awards, you’ve got an important few weeks coming up with the deadlines (which we’ve included in tip #4) fast approaching.

Entering awards is hard work. If only it was possible to buy a table and win! Spoiler alert: it’s not, at least not for the awards that are worth winning. Your entry needs careful consideration, editing, proofing and then submitting.

That takes time. So, to increase your chances of success, here are 10 top tips to help you win.

1. Select awards you can win

No award entry is a waste of time. Each one helps you learn more about yourself, your business, and the entry process itself.

Naturally, though, your aim is to get shortlisted and ultimately win. Therefore, carefully select the awards you have the best chance of competing in.

Once you see the questions you will have a good idea of whether it’s the right award for you. And, when you start writing the entry if you’re struggling to use up the word count that’s also an indication that the award might not be for you.

2. Make the judge’s life easy

The most prestigious awards receive many entries, which all must be considered. With some entries more than 2,000 words long, that’s a lot of reading for the judges. So, make their life easier by making your entry easy to read:

  • Use short, uncomplicated sentences
  • Avoid unnecessary words and get to the point quickly
  • If possible, break your entry up with bullet points and sub-headings
  • Use those sub-headings to make your key points, so the judge is impressed even if they only skim read it.

3. Answer the question

Back in your school days, your teacher probably drummed into you the importance of reading and then answering the question. The same goes for awards. So, carefully consider the criteria and the questions you’re being asked, then respond directly to both.

It’s one of the reasons why you should never cut and paste your answers from a previous entry. As tempting as it might be to try and save some time, it’ll probably mean you don’t answer the specific question being posed.

4. Don’t be late!

There’s really no excuse for being late; the window for most awards is relatively long and you’ll get plenty of reminders.

If you’re late you could ask for an extension and some deadlines are pushed back. But don’t rely on either happening.

Here are the deadlines for the awards we mentioned earlier:

Money Marketing (Friday 25 June)

Personal Finance Society (Thursday 1 July)

Professional Adviser Women in Financial Advice Awards (Wednesday 7 July)

5. Work as a team

Your team will know parts of your business better than you do. Getting your team together to brainstorm a list of everything you want to include is an excellent way of getting the creative juices flowing. You can then take over to craft an entry based on the best ideas.

Once it’s complete, circulate the final entry to your team for their feedback.

Remember that, even if you’re a sole practitioner, there will be people who support you whose brains you can pick. Enlist the help of people you outsource work to or your peers. It’s a supportive profession and they will probably be happy to help.

6. Remember the word count

We’ve heard some people suggest that you can get away with exceeding the word count by, say, 10%. That might be true. We’d rather not risk it though. If you can, stay within the word count.

7. Provide proof

You won’t win an award by being average. You might by proving excellence.

If you’re going to make a claim, you’ve got to prove it with supporting evidence:

  • Your clients are happy? Demonstrate it through social proof
  • You’ve got great client engagement? Quote your retention rate, the number of referrals you receive or open rates on client communications, and so on
  • You’re growing by taking on new clients? Quote the numbers, show improvements in turnover and enquiry levels.

I recall judging an award last year. One entry stood out. Every few lines the entry was punctuated by client testimonials used as evidence to support the claims they were making. It was probably the best entry I’ve ever seen, and it was no surprise when the other judges thought the same way.

The inclusion of supporting evidence is the key thing that differentiates winning entries from all others.

8. Explain your achievements, not promises of what’s to come

Your entry should focus on your achievements during the relevant period, not promises or predictions of what might happen in the future.

Avoid sentences with:

  • “Planning to implement…”
  • “Working towards…”
  • “Intending to…”

Judges know that promises are cheap. Far better to focus on what you have achieved already instead of what might happen. If you find yourself struggling, your time might be more productively spent elsewhere.

9. Proof and edit your entry

If you have a strong entry, editing it to stay within the word limit without losing any of your key points will be hard.  We regularly spend longer editing an entry than we do writing it in the first place.

It might be tempting to quickly submit your entry, especially if you are up against a deadline, but it must be proofed before clicking “send”. Typos, spelling errors and grammatical mistakes make you look amateurish and provide an easy way for a judge to dismiss your entry.

Ideally, the proofing should be completed by someone who hasn’t been involved in writing the entry.

10. Use supporting documents carefully

An increasing number of awards allow you to submit supporting documents. This can be useful, especially if it allows you to include screenshots, PDFs, and images that you can’t include in the entry itself.

However, only include items that are essential to support specific points in your application. No judge will thank you for sending more than is necessary. Remember, they might have already had to wade through 2,000 words!

Good luck!

Awards are important social proof, to impress prospects and professional connections while reminding existing clients why they work with you.

If you’re entering, the deadlines are fast approaching. Now’s the time to start your entry.

Finally, let us be the first to wish you the best of luck. Hopefully, our 10 top tips will put that winner’s trophy in your hands!

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