Yeah, I Won—So What?
January 04, 2017
by Aundrea Wilcox, KOSBE Executive Director
10 Ways to Leverage Winning an Award
Each year, the Kingsport Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship (KOSBE) invites local businesses to enter its regional small business competition. Typically, we receive anywhere from 30 to 50 applications. This is huge, since most small business owners and entrepreneurs are the last to care what the rest of us—regular people who don’t own a business and don’t want to—think about how they do their thing. We are certainly not the boss of them, so why would they put their ego at stake in a local contest? One word ... Winning. In the end, there are winners ... and there are winners. There are no losers but let’s be honest, everyone can’t win either. So, the question I’m often asked is: Now that I’ve won my KOSBE Award, what do I do?
Well, here are 10 simple, cost-effective ways the winners can leverage their new award-winning status:
- Celebrate your win with your team. Throw a party for your employees and thank them for their part in your success. Nothing truly significant has ever been accomplished without the help of others. Be humble and recognize the support you have in your business. If you are a solopreneur, celebrate with your family and friends. They probably were instrumental in helping you get started—either promoting your business or sending customers your way. You may even choose to celebrate with a small business advocate, mentor or coach who helped you get where you are today. Treat them to a steak dinner.
- Tell your existing customers. I have been impressed with some of the award displays that I have come across in the 10 years that I’ve been doing this. I’ve seen business owners get really creative with showing off their awards. Some have designed special presentation cases and others have installed special lighting above their award. What you do with your trophy is up to you, but don’t stick your award in a drawer where no one will ever see it. Send your customers an email announcement or direct mail to let them know about your new award. Place it on your coffee table as a conversation starter. You will be surprised by the number of genuinely happy responses you receive.
- Write and distribute a press release. That’s right you heard me. Send a press release to your local paper. If you need help writing it, stop by your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development Center and ask for help. It’s very true (and sometimes hard to accept) that the local newspaper might not consider your news “newsworthy.” Most of the time, however, it’s how you write the release that renders this unfavorable decision. Make sure it is properly formatted, short and to the point, and the headline is attention-grabbing. From what I’ve seen in the past, usually the headline is too “fluffy.” Think of news not marketing, when you write it. If your release isn’t featured in the newspaper, you can still get the word out yourself. Use a press release distribution service such as PR.com or PRLOG.org. Both offer a free account, with upgrade features if you desire them.
- Add a tagline to your brand. Taglines are a powerful way to maximize your marketing message, and share the unique value that your business now offers. This might be just the thing that can set your business apart from competitors, when it seems like everything else is equal.
- Share your new status on social media. There are some wonderful tools out there, for creating terrific graphics such as Canva and Aviary. Snap a picture of your award and share it with the world! And don’t just share it once. Post it multiple times on multiple channels. Give it a break, and then post it again later on down the road. Social media is a remarkable animal. When you post, it’s like a snapshot. Think of all the people that weren’t online when you posted the first time who missed seeing it. How many times you post and when you post depends on your audience, so keep that in mind. But once is never enough.
- Reflect and learn from your experience. One of my favorite authors, John C. Maxwell, wrote a great book: Sometimes You Win-Sometimes You Learn. You always learn—even when you win. What did you learn from the process? What did you like about competing? What didn’t you like? If you had to give a presentation, were you nervous about it? Were you prepared properly? If you had it to do all over again, what would you change? I’m a strong believer in continuing to learn. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the judges to get some honest feedback. Don’t worry. They are not going to take your award away, so don’t fret coming off as insecure in any way. Let them know that you are asking for professional development purposes. They will be glad you asked and glad that you were selected in the long run.
- Pursue new customers. Now that you have your first win under your belt, go after some new BIG FISH. Every small business should have a list of 10 to 12 key accounts that they are hotly pursuing. Now, is the time to seize the moment, when you have a great icebreaker and something to talk about. Make a list of key persons at the account; explore ways to contact them (i.e., upcoming conference, professional networking groups, online forums and blogs); and just do it. If you don’t set a contact date, it most likely won’t happen. A friend once said to me: If you do ask, you might get the business or you might not. If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get the business.
- Encourage another business to enter. Success is actually about focusing on other people. Who can you support and help with their business? Offer to help write and submit application materials. Give them pointers and caveats regarding the process, application format, presentation, and award night jitters. If they really aren’t ready to apply, don’t push them. A lot of contest entrants discover their strengths and weaknesses at the same time—when the entry deadline looms ahead.
- Set your sights on your next award. Sure you can reapply, but don’t get comfortable being comfortable. Look for new opportunities that take you outside of your comfort zone. If your award is local, look to compete at a national or international level. When you get uncomfortable you grow.
- Become a sponsor. Stepping up and becoming a sponsor says a lot about your leadership and impact on other small businesses and the region as a whole. It also says that you believe in giving back by paying it forward. Give what you can give, and you will receive far more than you gave.
These things are not expensive or hard to do, but most people don’t follow through. As a result, they are left with a glass trophy and not much else to show for it. Remember, winning doesn’t mean you’re done. It means that you’ve just started being the best you can be. Congratulations! Now, get to work.