Thinking

Gongs and growth: put a price on your awards efforts

Here’s a question I get asked a lot: is winning a creative or marketing award good for business?

There’s plenty to unpick here, and I guess the first thing to say is that an award is never bad for a business, provided it’s credible. Yet that still leaves lots to ponder, including the underlying question of whether all the time and effort that can go into trying to win an award is an effort worth making.

To answer this properly let us first step back a bit, because the context is crucial.

Creating value

When I’m speaking to independent agency owners about awards it’s nearly always in relation to the bigger question of the strategies and knowhow that are needed to grow the value and saleability of a business from top to toe.

So awards, and whether to try to win them, are a subset of this bigger question – how do I create value? Next to that question, whether or not to put in an awards submission looks like a small thing, but it still matters.

Six of the best

Here are six observations about awards:

1. In the months when an agency is going to market, and in the two or three years before a sale, high-profile award wins matter that much more. Gongs show that a business is in the right place: they show it is relevant and doing good work

2. What you want are awards that resonate beyond your peer network. There are hundreds of awards out there, and nearly every solid company could be in the running for an award of some sort. But some awards could be game-changing, so search out those. If an award validates your business when competing against others in a particular and important market to you, that’s an award worth winning. It might be harder to win than some others, but it could beautifully validate your business.

3. This one is a variant on the last point, but worth making. You should choose awards that reinforce your positioning and messaging. If you’re all about data and results, for example, then pick out an award that will support that. It will help you to demonstrate convincingly just why clients should work with you.

4. Award entries can be time-consuming, so choose wisely. Don’t waste many hours of effort on something that won’t repay the time investment. Also, make sure the submission is of good enough quality and has had input from senior people. In other words, this isn’t something to delegate to a junior who might not be well-placed to get a strong message across.

5. Think about the afterlife of an awards submission and an award win. You can use an award or even a short-listing to tell stories with added credibility. Very likely an award entry is a case study in the making, at the very least. Or you might be able to tell a bigger story that leverages the award – and get some real media pick-up into the bargain. There is tangible value in the right award: make it count.

6. Putting together a good awards entry is an art. Having been a judge on many panels over the years, I can tell you there is a huge difference in quality. Some look like they’ve just completed the entry for form in a hurry (complete with grammar and spelling mistakes); others go to town and make the entry sing using video, design and others tools to bring it to life. The two approaches are worlds apart. You know which way to lean here to make it count.

What benefits will flow from winning the right awards? Sometimes it can change everything for a company by generating lots of meaningful new enquiries that keep on coming. I’ve seen that happen. Others will have a less obvious impact but add to the developing value-narrative of the business in myriad ways. 

An end-to-end story

There’s one more important thing to say. Many would-be customers or employees would more readily choose an agency that’s winning awards over one that isn’t, but the rest of the company’s story still needs to stack up. Award wins that aren’t supported by other evidence don’t add up to much, in truth. Award wins can only augment a strong picture, in other words – not create that strength.

An award-winner that also has Investors in People status and other credentials, plus happy customers, looks like a player to a customer and also looks attractive to the talent looking for work. That’s a good space for a business to be in. The story can also be augmented by playing a strong hand with public relations, thereby making the most of all the assets and stories that have accrued.

Once you put it all together, the business will soon start to look a bit special to would-be buyers – and buyer excitement and buyer competition is where value gets created.

Good luck with those awards submissions!

by Miles Welch 
Partner at Waypoint Partners

Waypoint Partners are a leading growth advisory firm, working with shareholders and their leadership teams in the creative, marketing and technology sectors to grow and realise value. Are you planning for agency growth in the next 1-3 years? We would be happy to help you achieve your growth targets. Please feel free to give us a call on T +44 (0) 203 282 7598 or send us an email via angela@waypointpartners.co.uk. We look forward to starting the conversation.

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