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Why Winning Awards Doesn’t Help You Win More Business

Why Winning Awards Doesn’t Help You Win More Business

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Promoting your tech company as award-winning can be backward marketing. Here’s what to do instead. 

Years ago, I headed into a restaurant for lunch with my coworkers. In the parking lot several cooks were barbecuing and smoking ribs. In front of them a large banner read, “Award Winning Ribs.”

My witty coworker asked, “Who voted?”

Winning an award by a third party does not indicate in any way the work helped the client grow. There is no shortage of organizations offering an award to businesses, as long as you pay them for the recognition. This is so backward. For $2000, I can make Creative Stream Marketing a Top 10, award-winning marketing agency, top web design firm, graphic design firm, or anything else I want.

People love recognition and are, sadly, willing to pay for it.

I happened to get an email from a representative at a (maybe) wonderful company. His email signature included a statement that it was an award-winning X type of company. Ironically, that statement was hyperlinked to the company granting the “awards.” It clearly stated that for $2500, you could receive an award and be listed in the top 10. I can’t get those red flags out of my mind. It made me question that company’s credibility and competence.

Most buyers of technology solutions and professional services won’t bother to investigate these awards. In part because they know these awards are meaningless and don’t bring them value. In part because they care about what you can do for them, not your award.

Even if you might receive a legitimate honor, here are three reasons why it’s backward to use “award-winning” in your marketing.

Disclaimer

Most of the “awards” I’m referring to here are those you pay for. They are offered as packages you can purchase. The larger the package, the more supposed benefits you are given.

There are legitimate awards or recognitions granted by objective, third-party research firms. In these cases, an objective team of analysts studies the various technologies and solutions available in the industry. They then publish a list of top tech solutions.

When an objective party says your technology or solution is the best, you can, and should, promote that. It can open doors not previously possible for your company.

The difference is you can’t buy that recognition.

3 Reasons Why Promoting Your Business as Award-Winning is Backward Marketing

1. Marketing should be about your customer, not you. 

You’ve won a legitimate award, meaning, not one you paid for? That’s wonderful. Celebrate with your team.

A former boss once told me he was irritated with the ad agency our company used because they had a shelf full of awards but he felt that same agency didn’t do much to help increase business. Isn’t that what your business should be about? The most effective businesses make everything about their customers, not themselves. I’m not interested in any company’s self-aggrandizement. What can you do for me?

2. It’s the wrong way to build credibility.

Awards should be reserved for restaurants and pies, not used to build credibility by a tech company or marketing agency. Ironically, some of the best restaurants in any city are not award-winning. The food is so good, word gets around. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant simply because it won an award? Maybe, but awards are never the primary driver of restaurants, let alone tech companies.

Most of my family and many friends have been buying pizza at an iconic pizza place in my town for over 50 years, in spite of an overabundance of authentic pizza shops. This hometown favorite ships pizzas around the world (frozen) because once you taste it, no other pizza comes close. They may have won awards, but most locals wouldn’t know that.

This is obvious but worth mentioning. Have you noticed no one ever bought a Mercedes because it’s an award-winning company? Did you buy your iPhone because Apple won an award? Does Tiffany & Co. sell award-winning diamonds? Exactly.

3. It’s very 1980’s-ish.

Marketing yourself as award-winning is very old-school. It disregards social media, the internet, and the thinking of current culture. Who hasn’t Googled a restaurant or hotel, or read a product review on Amazon? That’s what buyers (who are people) do today. Award-winning really means nothing. Have you ever heard a friend say he booked a certain hotel because it won an award? Me either.

Did you find shoes you love on Amazon? What matters more, that the shoes are award-winning or that numerous reviewers said the shoe was really comfortable and didn’t wear out like other shoes?

3 Things to Do Instead of Promoting Your Business as Award-Winning

1. Share a client testimonial.

This can be a simple, one-sentence quote or a 30-second video. When I say simple, I mean free, fast, and not a major project.

Maybe your client is willing to take her phone a record a quick testimonial like this: “Hi, I’m Jenny from ABC Company. We had a challenge with X and looked to XYZ Company for help. Within three months, our efficiency and profit dramatically increased. They are true partners with us.”

You can add a strong quote to a graphic and post it on social media. Share it on your website for longevity.

2. Create a case study or success story.

Case studies can be powerful opportunities to share your success stories. In fact, many companies now refer to case studies as success stories. It’s less stuffy and a bit more positive. Further, success stories can be brief without page after page of details. They can be an interesting recap of how you helped a company improve in some way.

Case studies can take many forms and can be presented in various formats. Typically, case studies present a problem/solution story. Many times, your client won’t give permission for you to mention their name. You can still tell your success story in a way that resonates with your prospects.

3. Design an Infographic.

Infographics are a modern way to present facts. They tell, in visual form, stats you’re proud of. They can include stats like this:

  • How many minutes it takes to sign up
  • How much money a customer can save in a year
  • How long (or short) it takes your customer to see ROI
  • How much time your solution can save a mid-sized business
  • Number of tasks or dollars you manage for your clients

Note the items above are about your customer, not you. That’s how it should be.

To me, most of the time I see a company promote itself as award-winning, it’s a red flag. Follow the points above. Make your marketing about your customers, not yourself.

As for credibility, your work should speak for itself. When our clients tell us they’re seeing results of our work, that’s far more satisfying than paying to be recognized.

How to Write a Case Study When the Client Won’t Give Permission

How to Write a Case Study When the Client Won’t Give Permission

Reading Time: 2 minutes
This is an unfortunate but common B2B marketing story. Maybe your business has landed a major client, such as Walmart, Best Buy, Lowes, or some other Fortune 500 company. It’s a big deal to you and your company, and you want to boost your credibility by letting people know a client this large trusts you.
What are the chances that large company will let you write a case study about them? Probably zero.
I’m going to explain the reasons this is usually the case and provide practical advice on how to make it happen.
  1. First, large companies don’t have the time or interest to help a tiny company gain credibility.
  2. Second, case studies often reveal a weakness or other lack, and large companies don’t want investors to know they have a weakness.
  3. Third, corporate legal departments. Enough said there. We all understand it’s their job to reduce risk, but if you’ve ever worked with a legal department, you already know the answer is no. The answer will be no tomorrow as well.
  4. Fourth, a common scenario is that the larger the company your client is, the less of their business you can affect. For example, I provided marketing to a tech company that created a software solution for Walmart. To be specific, they wrote software for Walmart’s human resource department. To be more specific and more honest, they wrote software for one small segment of the HR department of Walmart. Basically, most of the HR department didn’t even know it needed help or that my client existed.

So how can you share the story of your work and boost your credibility?

  1. Write the complete case study. Make it as strong as possible of a success story, but don’t go so far or reveal so much that it causes your client to reject the entire thing.
  2. Write quotes from your company and a quote from your client’s project lead.
  3. Design it. Don’t just send a messy Word document, but a well-designed PDF suitable to post on your website. Show the client you will present them professionally.
  4. Write your content so it presents your client in a positive light. Obviously, if they didn’t have a problem they wouldn’t need a solution. But you don’t need to give the dirty details. For example, if you provided a software solution to prevent fraud, you don’t need to say that one of their employees stole $85,000 from them. Simply say, “The client was seeking a software solution to improve business efficiency while putting in place the strongest security measures available.”
  5. If the answer is absolutely no, ask for the next best thing. Ask if you can use it internally for a sales person to share with a prospect. You might get a yes for that. We did this for a client, and across the top of the PDF, it was clearly marked, “Confidential. Internal Use Only. Not for Public Distribution.” That gave the large company a little more comfort, and it wasn’t posted on the client’s website.
  6. Be anonymous. If your client absolutely refuses to let you do a case study, write it without naming them. You’ll need to be creative because you definitely don’t want to offend your client and risk the hurting relationship. Keeping a strong client relationship matters more than your case study. Instead of naming Walmart, you might say, “An international retailer with over 11,000 locations in 28 countries…” Most people might guess that’s Walmart, but if your client is smaller, most people won’t know. You could say, “Our client is an electronics retailer with 84 stores in 28 states.”

A client is more likely to approve a case study that’s well-written, accurate, not embellished, and presents them in a good light.