I’ve just completed my 4th year as Head Judge of the North of England Wedding Awards. And while judging is hard work, it’s also incredibly rewarding reading all the glowing testimonials the finalists have received from their couples.
Awards don’t always get a good press (although it’s usually the people who didn’t win making the most noise) – but they can be VERY useful for your wedding business.
They can raise your profile, get you valuable publicity, help you grow your network – and make you feel just great. And you don’t need to actually win to benefit from awards.
Entering awards is all about marketing your business. So like any marketing activity, make sure you plan and prepare.
Check out the fine print before your start
Before you decide to enter an award do check the entry requirements, the categories and the judging criteria.
Every award is different and the judges will look for different things. For example, some awards require you to collect votes via social media. If you have 20 Twitter followers and last updated your Facebook page 6 months ago, this probably isn’t for you.
The North of England Awards are specifically for outstanding customer service. My job involves reading every piece of feedback received by the finalists and looking for examples of outstanding service and “going the extra mile”. Being the most talented florist or running an exquisite venue isn’t enough. The winners are those who consistently make their couples feel like their best friends.
I’ve read some great stories in my time judging – I still remember the make-up artist who happily changed a nappy for the bride’s baby. But the criteria I work to does mean that online businesses struggle to make an impact.
So choose your awards carefully – entering can be time consuming and there’s little point if your chances of making the shortlist are low.
Look beyond the wedding industry
When thinking about entering awards, don’t just stick to the wedding industry, check out other small business awards. There are often local awards run by the press or business organisations.
Do it properly (or not at all)
You are going to need to put some effort in if you want to win an award. Some awards charge for entry and going to an awards event doesn’t come cheap. So don’t do it unless you are prepared to make the investment.
Take time to complete your entry and tailor it to suit the judging criteria. If you need to collect votes/feedback from clients put some care and thought into how you approach this.
And if you do get shortlisted, go along to the event. Use it as a reward for your team (and yourself) but don’t ignore the business opportunities. Use social media (most events will have a hashtag) and do make the most of the chance to network.
Be prepared to win
Winning (or being shortlisted for)an award is a great PR opportunity. The local press are always looking for good news stories from local businesses.
But you don’t want to be scrabbling round for the details of your local reporter the morning after the awards dinner (when your head may be just a bit fragile).
Tempt fate and think about how you will promote your win before the day itself. Be ready to call your local press, write a blog post and get shouting about your success on social media.
Don’t be a sore loser
Uh oh! You didn’t win. You managed to keep it together through the ceremony with your best fixed smile but you’re bitterly disappointed.
What you need to do is get over it, dust yourself down quickly, learn from the experience and move on.
What you definitely don’t need to do is bitch to everyone about unfair criteria and biased judges. Or scribble a scathing email to the organiser as soon as you get home. Or get onto social media and have a rant (especially if you’ve had a glass of fizz too many).
Nobody likes a sore loser and the only person you’ll hurt is yourself. Remember that most award organisers and judges do this for the love of the industry and they are human beings too. Their choice may not be your choice but they had good reasons. Sometimes the margins between winners and runners up are tiny.
If you do feel strongly that something could be done better, then by all means offer feedback, but wait a few days and always do it in a polite and constructive manner.
Play it to the max
Of course, it’s amazing if you are a winner, but being a finalist or shortlisted is still an achievement you can be proud of. So don’t be shy, let future clients know just how great you are.
Whether you are a winner or a finalist, display the badge on your website and use it on promotional materials. This all helps you build credibility and trust.
If you have a certificate, frame it and incorporate it into your display at wedding fairs or in your studio.
Finally, awards are meant to be enjoyable, so relax, have fun and celebrate your successes. Good Luck!