Entering an industry awards process is a time-consuming exercise and not something that is taken up lightly.
It is done knowing that there is no guarantee of winning, or even making the shortlist. We at CRN really appreciate the effort that is put into every entry, year after year.
But companies that spend their time wisely, and soak up the advice given by those that actually judge the awards before compiling their entry, will reap the rewards in the long run and are more likely to carry a trophy home.
For several years, CRN has run articles asking the judging panel for some top tips to entering the Sales and Marketing Awards (SMAs), and this year is no exception.
Our experienced judging panel, a selection of whom are pictured above: clockwise from top left: Sara Driscoll, former CRN editor and now freelance editor; Darren Spence, managing director of Boost Performance; Luke Budka, director of TopLine Communications; Gina Hough, owner of the Marketing Communications Company; Mark Waite, managing director of Cohesive; and Richard Eglon, marketing director at Agilitas, all share their thoughts below on what they feel could make a winning entry and one that will get them scoring highly on judging day.
These judges give up hours of their time to read through and score every entry, based on the extensive criteria supplied on the SMA entry page. All submissions are judged on quality of entry alone.
"I'd like to see more cohesion this year between channel sales and marketing teams," said Boost Performance's Spence. "Far too often they operate in silos which is not good for anyone. I'd like to see real integration and a ‘one GTM' approach that is considered, deliberate and effective. My advice would be to make sure entries are evidence based, telling the story from all sides, including the customer AND the CEO/MD of the company entering."
Topline's Budka explained business-related results will always stand out.
"Engagement, open rates, likes and rankings, coverage etc are great, but they are outputs," he said. "We are really looking for outcomes - what was the impact on the business? If you've engaged in an event or an email marketing campaign with a channel partner, then consider what makes it different, why does it stand out?"
Budka added that while "style may not trump substance", firms will be more successful with the judging panel if they can make their entry look good, read well and demonstrate ROI.
One judge is hoping to see some real innovation in 2019.
"This year I'll be looking for something different," said former CRN editor Sara Driscoll. "These awards are now firmly established in the channel calendar and companies should be confident to try something new, whether that is using new designs, new formats, or developing new style. I'll be looking for organisations that have developed new ways of conducting sales and marketing, new innovative types of campaigns, using new platforms or helping inspire their channel to look at new ways of doing things."
Driscoll added that proof really is the single most important thing to include in an entry.
"Did you do the best campaign or do you have the best marketing individuals or teams? Then use your entry to prove it," she said. "Add in facts, stats and quotes to bring it to life, and make sure the judges can see clearly why you deserve this award."
The Marketing Communications Company's Gina Hough said short and sweet was a good mantra when penning an entry.
"I have a plea for succinct, clear narrative. No waffle. Good examples and decent support material," she said. "Keep to the point. This will keep judges' attention and ensure minds don't wander. And please make the entry interesting. Encourage the judges to keep reading."
Agilitas' Richard Eglon said the quality of entry has definitely been improving every year, which quite rightly shows the importance of a good sales and marketing strategy.
"As always I will be looking for submissions that have accurately followed the award criteria, as this is often where many entries fall at the first hurdle," he said. "I also want to see what companies have done to transform their customers' businesses in terms of outcome-based solutions - highlight what differentiates you over the competition.
He also implored firms to share more than just a few revenue details.
"Sharing details around areas such as operating profits and investments are indicators of a quality business and help to build a bigger picture for the judges," he said. "Finally make the entry personable by including your teams; as it is the people who make a business successful."
Cohesive's Mark Waite asked entrants to really think about those that are reading the entry.
"Have pity on the reader! Write it like a story. Make it punchy. Make it succinct and make it visual. Remember, less is more," he said. "It is harder than ever to differentiate and grab attention in today's crowded and competitive market. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you've always got."
He also pleaded for a personable side to each entry.
"The channel is powered by people, so I'll be looking for the human element," he said.
This year's awards entry deadline is Friday 29 March. To submit an entry and read all the category criteria, please click here.
Keep your eyes peeled for the second part of this two-part feature on how to avoid falling at the first hurdle and not even making the shortlist.
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