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6 Steps to writing a winning award submission

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In the age of online and digital business, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to identify quality and trustworthy businesses. Consumers are very cautious when it comes to their finances and choosing a financial service provider. Finding ways to build trust and generate confidence in your potential clients is therefore vital to the success of your business. Winning an industry award is a cost-effective way to prove the standard of your professionalism and the quality of your expertise. An industry award logo on your marketing communications can really help you to stand out in a crowd of highly competent industry competitors.

But winning an industry award isn’t easy. Remember, you’re competing against hundreds of other professional mortgage brokers who want to succeed as much as you do. So, your award entry submission has a very difficult task to perform. It needs to convince the judges that you are worthier of recognition than all the other candidates. To help you make the most of your submission, we’ve put together six key steps in helping yours stand out as the winning entry.

To set the scene we will first look at how winners are selected, and what the judges look for in an entry.

 How do the judges choose a winner?

Industry award judges have varying levels of experience and expertise. Award organisers usually appoint people with good industry knowledge to participate in the judging process, but there’s no way of knowing how much each judge understands.

It is therefore fair to assume that your entry will be judged by how well you answer the questions on the entry form and how clearly you can articulate your responses with relevant information.

Here are our 6 Steps to writing a winning award entry.

1. Break down the question

One of the biggest mistakes award candidates make on their entry form is failing to address the questions properly. The questions are usually written in such a way that they pull out the information that the judges want to know. That means important clues to the information the judges want you to provide are right there inside the question itself.

To work out what information you need to provide, sit down and analyse the question.

Break it down into parts and use these to create subheads in the copy you write to provide an answer. For example, the 2017 Connective Excellence Empowerment Award posed this question:

Explain what you have achieved, how you perform as a role model for females in the industry, and why you believe you deserve to win this award.

This question has three parts:

  • What are your notable achievements?
  • How do you perform as a role model for other women?
  • Why you believe you deserve to win – what makes you stand out from the crowd?

If you don’t answer all three parts of the question clearly and confidently, then the judges will be unable to compare you against the award candidates who have done so. Many people are eliminated in the first judging round simply because they have not provided the information required for the judges to make a fair comparison between entrants.

2. Write a response that’s easy to read and understand

If you break down the questions into parts as illustrated above, you can not only organise your thoughts about what you need to say to answer the question properly, you can organise the way you present your answers, so the information can be easily understood and absorbed quickly by the judges.

It’s a good idea to use the question parts as subheads and make your answers talk back to them. This makes it easy for the judges to see that you have answered the question properly and it makes it easier for them to compare your responses against your competitors to give you a score.

 

Bonus tip: Keep your language simple

Judges don’t want to work hard to understand what you’re saying. It’s important to remember that the judges read a lot of entries, so if your entry is not easy to understand, they probably won’t waste their time trying to sort out what you’re saying.

Try to avoid using big words and convoluted sentences. If your sentence has a lot of commas in it, it is probably too difficult to understand. Short sentences also make information easier to absorb, so keep your copy short and to the point.

Avoid generalisations and unnecessary “fluff”. Most award entry forms have very strict word limits and you’ll need to make every word count. Whatever you do, don’t go over the word limit. Some awards instruct judges to score a zero for entries that do not obey the rules.

3. Focus on what makes you different

When entering a specific industry award, it’s safe to assume that every other entrant possesses the same basic skills as you do. That’s certainly the case when it comes to the Connective Excellence Awards – we know all of our members are highly professional, and are educated to a certain standard, so the judges of our awards will only want to know about the things that make you exceptional.

So, don’t waste your precious word count stating the obvious. Look for ways to illustrate your uniqueness and your success. If you’re stuck for ideas about this, go back to your business plan and review your goals for the last 12 months. Did you achieve your goals? Did you exceed them? By how much? What did you do that was different from the norm to get yourself where you wanted to be? Every year has its amazing moments – what were yours? What did you do that you feel you can be proud of?

4. Use data

It’s all well and good to say how great you are, but what can really sell an award submission is the cold, hard facts. Using data or statistics to back up your claims is not only compelling, it also moves the submission from being subjective (your opinion) to objective (unbiased).

Data can come from a range of areas and may include application and settlement figures, client feedback surveys, marketing tactic conversion and ROI or lead generation data.

Make sure you the data you supply is relevant to the award you are entering – it would be pointless to supply settlement information if you’re entering a community service award, however highly relevant if entering a marketing award to show conversion and campaign success.

Always remember to provide the source of your data!

5. Let your customers speak for you

Testimonials from happy customers are a good way to illustrate that your customers enjoy an exceptional service experience when they deal with you. All judges want to be sure that your customers are happy. This is the point of being in business, after all. Just be sure that any testimonial you use is sharply relevant to the question on the entry form.

If you don’t already have testimonials on hand, a great way to source these is to simply ask your client how they found your service post-settlement. This may be in the form of a phone call, personal email or survey. You may also like to invite some of your customers to provide a testimonial specifically for the award submission if needed.

6. Practice makes perfect

It is very difficult to write a perfect award entry. It’s a good idea to ask someone else to proof read it and talk about it with you. Ask them if they found anything in it that was boring or difficult to understand.

And take a break. Don’t expect to write an incredible submission, including a proofread and edit, in one sitting over lunch. Take some time to write it, then walk away and look at it with fresh eyes later. Sometimes what you think sounded punchy can sometimes be a little flat upon review.

Remember, each year you are in business gives you another chance to win an award. Entering awards helps you to focus on what you’re doing well and often motivates behaviour and practice improvements, even when you don’t win. You’ll also get better at writing your entry each time you give it a try. Why not start with the 2018 Connective Excellence Awards? Check out this year’s categories here.