How to nail your award application

How to nail your awards application

Applying for awards can take time, but the rewards for being listed as a finalist, let alone a winner are numerous. Clients of ours have reported more leads, better prospect conversion, increased client retention and the ability to justify higher fees as by-products of being successful in their award applications.

In our experience, a lot of the struggle for an adviser in applying for awards comes down to their mindset. They tend to feel awkward talking about themselves and ‘blowing their own trumpet’. Advisers also often lament that the quality of their work should speak for itself and they don’t require external validation of their quality as a professional.

I cannot argue with that, but I also think winning awards is less about you and more about your current and future clients. Social proof matters to people. We doubt our opinions and look for things like online reviews, word of mouth referrals and awards to justify what our gut feeling is telling us. This also applies to your clients.

So before you apply for your next award, consider that this award may just be the thing that makes a nervous prospective client confident enough to engage in life-changing work with you or an existing client confident enough to stay on track and keep working with you. If you don’t give clients enough of this certainty, they stay indecisive in their financial life or worse still, work with an inferior competitor who puts them in a worse position.

In this respect, applying for awards is more altruistic, rather than self-serving. There is no benefit in being the best-kept secret in your market and industry.

Focus on submitting a strong application and give the people you serve what they need to make a decision that will make their life better.

Here are some pointers that will help you nail your award application, based on dozens of successful applications which I have been part of.

Keep it simple

Given many awards are offered by magazines and other media, the judges of your award may not have the deep industry knowledge that you assume they do. So avoid jargon, and write your application in a way such that a teenager could understand the points you are making.

Tap into the brains around you

It is often hard to see what makes us valuable, unique and award-worthy, but our colleagues are often in a great position to see angles for our application that we can’t. Tap into their ideas to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward for each question.

Use numbers to justify your key points

Saying all the right words is important, but backing up the success of your actions is critical. Use as much data as you can to provide evidence that the work you are doing is indeed great. Whether it’s client numbers, revenue, profit, client satisfaction scores or the number of five-star Google reviews you have received (I could go on), do whatever you can to move your answer out of the category of ‘opinion’ and into the category of ‘fact’.

Become a master storyteller

Storytelling is a powerful way to illustrate your key points succinctly and be memorable. Where possible, use client and colleague stories to illustrate the difference you are making in your business. The best stories follow a predictable structure which I recommend you use (this is called the ‘SCARF’ principle).

Situation – what was happening before you got involved?
Conflict – what was the challenge you or the other people faced?
Action – what did you do?
Result – what was the result of taking this action?
Feeling – how did this result make you and the people around you feel?

Use testimonials to strengthen your stories

As mentioned before, social proof is an essential way for people to validate their opinions, and this includes reinforcing the opinions of the judges who are reviewing your application. Use Google Reviews, client testimonials or words from client surveys to build more credibility in your application.

If you don’t have these testimonials already, I suggest you ask a few relevant people to provide some; you’ll be surprised how willing people you have helped will be to help you in return. If you do go down this path, make it easier for them by giving guidance as to what they should be focussing their testimonial on, based on the specific criteria for the award.

There’s not much traffic on the extra mile

Imagine being a judge poring through dozens of award applications. Eventually, every application blurs into one. However you can, you need to find a way to stand out from the pack.

Attaching videos, brochures, PDFs, social media screenshots, testimonials and other relevant collateral to your application can help the judges get to know you, showcase your great work and help you soar above your competitors. Don’t assume the judges will seek this stuff out online; attach as many examples of your work as possible, while being respectful to the limited time of your judges. As long as your attachment is easy to digest and relevant to the criteria of the award, I recommend you attach it.