Meet the 2023 SMA Judges Part One: What makes a winner?

clock • 6 min read
Meet the 2023 SMA Judges Part One: What makes a winner?

With just eight weeks to go before the Sales and Marketing Awards deadline, a few of our judges share some hints and tips on how to get ahead in the process in this first part of a two-part article

It is not an easy job being a judge for any awards event.

Not only does it involve a lot of time, effort and commitment, but often the judges have to listen to claims that the awards have been fixed or bought, year in, year out.

Fortunately, the dedicated panel of judges (pictured) that work on the Sales and Marketing Awards are passionate about what they do, have been involved in the judging process for many years between them, and know just how independent the judging process really is.  They also have very clear ideas of what sets an entry above the rest. 

CRN caught up with a few of them to discuss what they look for in a winning entry and also how they feel winning will make a difference to the businesses that lift the coveted trophy.  To see the full panel of judges and their profiles, click here

In this first part of a two-part article, we asked some of our judges what people get right with their entries, and also where they should be focusing on when crafting an entry; plus why it is important to actually enter awards.

Luke Budka (top right corner of picture), director of SEO and PR at Definition Agency, said standing out from the crowd was key.

"Any new ways of doing things with proven results are always interesting to see - even if the results aren't as good as the traditional way of doing things," he said. "ABM for example, has been around for a million years, so how are you doing it differently and what's been the result? What other channels or new parts of existing channels have you been using?  We've seen some great B2B usage of newsletters on LinkedIn and Substack recently - we're as interested in the experimental as we are the established."

He added that at a time when the tech world is in a state of flux, it is very important to celebrate achievements to remind teams how important they are to a business.

Gina Hough (middle left of picture), owner of marketing agency MCC International said simplicity is also vital.

"Keep it focused and to the point," she explained. "Make it easy to read, not walls of text. Supporting videos or testimonials are so important to back up what you say in the entry, we can't just take your word for it! Don't get bogged down in the minutiae, make sure we can read it swiftly, take it all in and believe it."

Hough added that marketing teams often get overlooked when it comes to praise, so it is important to show them they are important too.

"Winning or making the shortlist gives the marketing teams such a boost and is great for staff morale. Often the marketing team is forgotten in the praise order within their organisations - despite doing a fantastic job that makes a real difference. Fortune favours the brave - go for it."

Former CRN editor, now freelance journalist/editor Sara Driscoll (bottom line of picture, middle), said taking time when compiling an entry is crucial.

"If you've entered the SMAs previously and been unsuccessful, it's important to reflect on what you did last time and not just do something similar, hoping for a different outcome (sounds obvious but we see it a lot)," she said. "My top three tips would be to keep it simple, make an effort and be different."

When asked why it is important for companies of all sized to enter, Driscoll said: "Everyone needs a differentiator. Something that makes your company stand out and become the partner of choice for a decision maker. Winning and being shortlisted for awards contributes to that differentiation: it creates an impression, builds brand presence and means the right people take a second look at your company."

Agilitas' CMO, Richard Eglon (centre of picture), said he always looks for authenticity in entries.

"This allows me to judge the entry based on a level playing field, regardless of the size of business," he explained. "This allows me to judge the entry based on a level playing field, and it means companies of all sizes can compete with each other, knowing that if their entry is strong enough, it has the chance of winning, whether the company is five people or 500. I want to see solid statistics that hold up under stringent due diligence, company investment in their people, client testimonials and a focus around the customer experience to name a few.

"Over the years the submissions that frustrate me the most are the self-centered ones which are about how fantastic the company or a person is over what they have done to support their customers and teams. Another faux pas is around the presentation of the entry and its supporting content. So many times we see word after word of spelling mistakes, bad grammar or issues around its design layout."

Eglon said the way the awards are structured means companies of all sizes are treated equally which is why they are such a good awards to enter.

"The feedback we've had from previous winners over the years includes it having a really positive impact on recruitment, employee loyalty, customer confidence and most of all team morale. It can also really help businesses to build momentum with their own growth ambitions. The submission can also act as a fantastic barometer of the progress your business has made over the past 12 months as you have to purposely go and hunt the information."

Darren Spence, CRO at (bottom left of picture) said there is definitely a pattern to winning entries.

"Over the seven years I've been judging these awards, I've probably seen over 500 submissions and in nearly every case the winning entries have been concise, they've been presented in a way that's easy to read and follow," he said. "It is not necessary to write War and Peace, just a well thought-out submission that tells the story and engages the judges. A video is also helpful, but by no means essential."

Spence added that it is important for firms of all sizes to enter awards because of three key reasons: firstly it helps with talent retention, secondly, it helps with talent acquisition and finally it helps to win business.

"Who wants to give their business to a company that doesn't have any aspirations or doesn't look after its employees? Prospects [always] have a choice of where to put their business," he added.

Stay tuned to for the second part of this article, where the judges get a little annoyed by the question!

The deadline for SMA entries is Friday 31 March 2023. To find out more and submit your entry, please visit the official website here.  The very best of luck!

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