Now that we’ve wrapped up our special podcast series celebrating the 2021 NZ Tourism Awards finalists, it’s time to discuss how to successfully enter awards for your business.
Firstly, entering awards is not easy. It takes time, focus and an incredible amount of work behind the scenes before you even start. But if you do it right, it’s incredibly rewarding – and can help you benchmark your business against some of the best in the business.
So, what are my tips for entering business awards?
1. Start with a plan.
Yes, I mean a BUSINESS plan. Every business absolutely needs one. This is where you set out your short-, medium- and long-term goals and set yourself weekly, monthly, or quarterly objectives and tasks that will ensure you reach your goal. Once you have agreed upon your objectives, this will help set your focus for the coming year. So, what does this have to do with Awards? Well, it’s easy to get distracted by trying to enter Awards for the sake of entering Awards, but I think it's important that you understand WHY you’re entering and what you’re hoping to achieve from it.
Let me give you an example; if your focus for the coming year is all around developing your team, building succession plans, and training and development to improve your visitor experience, then you probably wouldn’t go and enter an Award for your environmental work. You’d be far better off looking for Awards that focus on people, talent, and your record as an employer.
2. Start Early
Don’t wait until Awards are announced to start the process. I’d always recommend you start a full year out as most Awards are run annually. Look at the Awards process, check out the categories and the criteria – most of the time this is available publicly online for everyone to access. Use the time to look at which categories are the ones that fit best with your business.
3. Choose one or two categories to target MAX
Any more than this, and you’ll be spread too thin. Remember, you are entering to be best in class and very few businesses are best in class at everything! Remember, there is no guarantee that the same categories will apply for the following year, but you can usually see from history how often they are likely to change or be updated.
4. Get your team involved.
Once you’ve decided on which category(ies) you’d like to enter, build an appropriate team around each of them. Make them responsible for monthly reporting on progress, for identifying the actions that lead to results, and any other research or feedback that you can gather.
Every Award I have entered has needed an ‘all of business’ approach so the best way to pull this together is by working together over time so the team can constantly look for innovations and improvements to achieve even better results. Empowering your team like this can have many other benefits – they will feel validated, appreciated and pride in what they do.
5. Read the questions!
You don’t know how many businesses I have seen over the years tell their entire history without answering the question. Or they will ramble about another project (that might also be great) that bears no relevance to the Award or question. Remember, the judges can only mark you on what you write down, and whilst your back story may be interesting, it’s not going to give them any tangible results of any project you’ve successfully completed. Make sure you understand the questions and what the judges are looking for BEFORE you start writing your answer.
6. Be Concise
Most times, there will be a word limit on your answers, so you need to be very concise and ensure that the most powerful results and outcomes are expressed. Start with bullet points if needed and flesh out from there. Drop all your highlights and results onto a page and then cull words if required rather than try to fill the page with needless words.
7. Share REAL results
Stories are great, but proven results will get you way further. The judges want to see what you’ve done, how you’ve done it and the difference that it has made. Why are you successful? Why are you the best in this category? This is not the time to be humble. If you don’t celebrate your success, the judges certainly can’t either.
8. Proof, proof, proof
Ask others to proof your work and explain your answers back to you if needed – and ask for honest feedback as to whether they feel you’ve answered every part of the questions being asked.
Check for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
Then check again!
9. Don’t expect to win first time.
This is something I learnt very early on in my career. I don’t have any hard evidence, but it feels like not that many businesses will win in their first attempt. This may be because they’ve made some of the mistakes I’ve listed above, but it might also be that businesses that have entered previously have the benefit of judges’ feedback and can tailor their applications accordingly. In saying that, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t win on your first attempt if you are able to demonstrate and articulate really great work in a particular area.
Hopefully these tips will help you enter and be successful entering awards – would love to know if you have any other tips you can share. And if you DO enter, let us know how you go! Destinate NZ can also help you with this process so drop us a line if this is something you’d like to discuss further. To listen to our podcast on this topic, click here.