The Channel Awards' entry deadline is just over a month away, but we are aware that most people don't really focus on their entries until a couple of weeks before.
Every year, the judges are approached by disappointed (and sometimes angry) people who cannot understand why they didn't win or even make the shortlist, so CRN has made it a priority to provide as much information about the entry process as possible, to try to help.
Winning is not based on how much is spent with CRN during the year. The whole process is fully independent and based solely on quality of entry.
There is a full list of categories and detailed entry criteria on the dedicated Channel Awards hub, so please try to make time to read the criteria before starting an entry - it is there to be a guide and to help.
The deadline is 14 July - please bear that in mind because there will be no extensions.
The awards themselves are taking place on Thursday 16 November at the Battersea Park Arena and CRN is working hard behind the scenes to ensure it is as memorable a night as it always has been.
For some, however, it is more memorable than others, because they have won a coveted award on the night. But what makes a winning entry?
Some of our judges share their thoughts below.
Steve Cox, chief operating officer at Chess Telecom, said the formula is fairly simple.
"Make sure you stick to the criteria and cover all the points. Secondly, be creative and do something to stand out from the crowd. Remember that the judges read lots of entries so you need it to be memorable," he said.
Bob Tarzey, head of the vendor judging panel and service director at Quocirca, said it was important not to assume the judges are familiar with your company.
"Start with a concise description of what/why it is that you are entering and make sure the entry is UK-channel specific," he said. "Describe business and reseller value, not just clever technology, and be brief. Find the time to write a concise entry so the judges can quickly see the main points among the many entries they will be reviewing."
Finally, Tarzey stressed that it is important to be focused and that vendors select the category where they think they have the best chance of winning.
"If, as a larger vendor, multiple entries are justified, make sure each is category specific," he said.
Simon Meredith, head of the reseller judging panel, said it was important to stress that every entry is given equal consideration.
"If you put a decent entry together, it will be read and assessed on equal terms. A well-presented document always helps, especially if it makes the entry easier to read and highlights key points. Videos, when they are done well, can also help," he said.
However, Meredith stressed that simple text-based entries will also be given a fair hearing.
"What matters most is the content," he said. "While the judges are always looking for something that's perhaps a little different and innovative, and for clear signs of success, they are also looking for real enthusiasm, passion and belief.
"There is no fixed winning formula for an entry, but involving employees and customers - or at least including comments from them - can help."
However, the bad entries really do stand out, Meredith said.
"If you submit a poor entry, or it is clear that very little effort has been put into making it interesting and engaging, you cannot expect to go far. We do see some appalling submissions. If you are going to do it, do it well," he added. "Often the best entries are those written by the founder or leader of the business. If the entry can capture some of the enthusiasm, passion, dedication and pride they feel, it stands a good chance."
Sandrijn Stead, CEO at CView Technologies, said it is important to remember that the judges all have full-time jobs so it is important not to 'game' the system.
"If you are going to attach something like a PDF or Word file, or even a web link, make sure it is easy to open and not some special app that we have to download as work machines often won't allow this. It might sound dumb, but make sure you actually attach it," he said.
"Videos are great but they should still conform to the basic amount of info that we ask for and all the judges have a rule for how long a video they will watch. The shorter the better."
Stead said the judges want to understand the business - where it is going, and where it has come from.
"This is not a bank loan meeting. You need to prove you are the best at what you have entered for, not just doing it as a side project when you have time," he added.
He also re-iterated Tarzey's point that if a company is going to enter multiple categories, make sure each entry is different.
"The same people read the entries, and we will notice if it is the same," he said.
John Toal, sales and marketing director at Communicate Technology, said he got frustrated with vendors that clearly hadn't read the guidelines.
"We judge against the criteria and look for real (UK numeric evidence) that they are top of the tree for the year. The stories are all very similar, but what makes them different and really worthy of the award? Is it hyper growth, something innovative that they have done, or have they given back to the community?
"If some of the smaller vendors thought like this then they could overcome the marketing might of the giants."
It might seem like obvious advice to some, but it really is important to check the criteria and remember these are UK awards ONLY - so UK-specific information is absolutely vital - this is particularly important for vendors to remember.
By following the guidelines and heeding the advice of the judges, you could very well be one of the lucky few coming up to the stage to pick up an award this year. Start your entry here.
Stay tuned to ChannelWeb next week for some advice from the judges on what they are looking for in the stage-two judging presentations.
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