There is nothing more frustrating that not making the shortlist after you've put what you feel is a lot of effort into an entry for an award event. So what exactly are the CRN SMA judges looking for? Find out below
Rejection is not an easy thing for anyone to contend with.
Particularly when you have spent a long time putting together what you think is a killer entry to an awards event, and you don't even make the shortlist. It is the ultimate mood Hoover.
But the thing with awards is, not everyone can win. Some entries just stand out more than others and win over the judging panel.
To give those entering an idea of what the judges look for, we asked a few of them to share their thoughts.
There are already detailed criteria set out for every award category on the site under our special SMA hub, and also a detailed Q&A answering FAQs about the awards process. By reading the ones that are relevant to you, the entry should basically write itself. The criteria are carefully constructed each year to provide the maximum information on what to include in an entry, so please do try and read them.
The CRN Sales & Marketing Awards (SMAs) have always been subject to a judging process: stage one, where the shortlist is decided, and stage two, where the winners are decided. The winners are then revealed on the night. This year it is taking place on 29 June at The Brewery in central London.
As head judge, Sara Yirrell, consulting editor to CRN, said she is often surprised by the missing reseller names each year and what can be described as an apathetic approach to marketing demonstrated by some channel players.
"In this day of increased competitiveness, I thought standing out from the crowd was even more important, and if your company is not marketed correctly, then how do you actually increase sales? Word of mouth only works so much," Yirrell said.
"Any channel company not setting aside budget for a proper marketing plan really does need to ask itself whether it intends to be around in the next three to five years. How do new customers find out about you? How strong is your web presence? Are you stumbled upon by accident because you just don't believe in blowing your own trumpet? If you are just content with keeping your successes under your hat and not appealing to potential new business, then there is not much we can do about that. But entering awards can always open new doors and every channel player should be proud of their achievements."
A major mistake a lot of firms make with entries is focusing entirely on technicalities and not making their entries human or tailored enough - these awards are about people as much as about companies, so include humour and personalise it - the judges respond well to entries they can relate to. Cutting and pasting bland corporate information is the quickest way to the rejection pile.
CRN asked some of our experienced judges what they are looking for in an award entry. Hopefully some of the responses will be helpful to those just starting the entry process.
Luke Budka, director at Topline Comms, said honesty is always a good starting point.
"First off, a good entry must prove return on investment - clear facts and figures are a must - but don't try and hide less than impressive numbers with percentages - make a year on year comparison," he said. "The entry also must be well written and presented. Always good to see different tactics being deployed to achieve results - particularly impressed with good examples of inbound marketing - I've seen a lot of VARs and MSPs producing content to build their sales funnels, but I've yet to see an example of this really working for them. Finally, if it's a UK award, don't talk about European results."
Budka's point about European results are valid. The awards cover the UK only, so entries must reflect business conducted in the UK and not further afield.
Graham Wylie, founder at The Marketing Bridge, said taking care over an entry will make all the difference as judges can tell when effort has been made to impress.
"The quality of entries has improved every year, but there are still some that cause the judges to look at each other across the table and ask ‘why did they bother?'. Typically these entries lack any kind of real differentiation - no new customer insight, nothing unique in the execution and only vague results," he explained. "Sometimes it seems there may have been something good there, but it got lost in a poorly written or rushed entry that shows up in two or three categories like a lost sheep; other times it's just a case of trying to put lipstick on a pig. These awards exist to recognise the best sales and marketing [innovations] in the channel. They should inspire, they should teach and they should make a clear and meaningful difference to the business. If your entry can show that, you are in with a good shot at winning!"
Richard Eglon, marketing director at Agilitas said telling a story through an entry was vital.
"I'm sure your company is fantastic, but spend most of your limited word count telling the judges how you have made your customers' lives easier and enhanced the value proposition to those customers," he said. "Try and tell a story with the submission so there is a flow and the message is articulated clearly and visually."
He also warned about going too far on the ‘gimmick' side of entries without backing it up with facts.
"We encourage people to use video and other digital media, but make sure there is still substance to the overall message you are trying to portray - don't just use it as a gimmick," Eglon explained. "Also try and keep everything related to your submission in the single document as it is very frustrating having to collate lots of supporting material - put links inside the document if necessary. Finally, make it fun, visual and engaging. Believe it or not, even us judges are humans and do consider personality as part of our judging criteria."
Long-time judge Peter Grundy, director at The Partnership, also supplied his advice last year in a blog on Channelweb.
His tips for entry success including the 'proof/pudding shocker', demonstrating that you can actually speak ‘customer', laying out an entry properly and getting the message across. To see the full blog, please click here.
"If you don't enter, what a missed opportunity to demonstrate proof, highlight your benefits, showcase your people and publicise how you want your brand to seen," added Grundy.
Darren Spence, founder of the Sales Gym, joined the judging panel last year.
In a blog after the event last year, he said: "Celebrating great achievements and efforts inspires us all to challenge our status quo. Could we do better? Could we improve how we operate? Could we be winning more business if we worked differently? Could we be hiring better salespeople? Are we really as good as we think we are? Are we benchmark material? Could we win an award?
"We all want to be the best, so the more we put ourselves forward for events like the CRN SMAs the quicker we'll get there and the more professional, sustainable and successful our industry will be," he said.