Award wins can provide a huge boost to your startup’s image.
They can help build credibility for your company and leadership team. They can help catch the eye of potential clients and employees. And they can also help build morale across your startup by celebrating both your team’s successes and the accomplishments of individual contributors.
We were lucky to do a lot of celebrating over the last 12 months with our clients:
- Dr. Francis Wang, CEO of NanoGraf, a battery materials startup, joined the ranks on the prestigious Forbes Next 1000.
- Total Expert, a marketing platform for financial institutions, landed on the Inc. 5000 for the fourth year in a row.
- Dan Sagorka, CEO of mortgage servicing software company Sagent, secured a spot on the HousingWire Vanguard Award list.
- Saggezza, a technology consulting firm, made Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators list.
- Alex Frommeyer, Co-founder and CEO of Beam Dental, a digital benefits startup, landed on the Columbus Business First 40 Under 40 list.
- Oculii, which improves radar technology for self-driving vehicles, won a coveted Robotics Business Review Innovation Award.
And the list goes on.
But writing a winning award nomination is no easy feat.
While our clients boast super-impressive teams, products, and achievements, a lot of work happens behind the scenes to craft a nomination worthy of a win. It takes a lot of research, organizing, and deep-diving to figure out what will spark a judge’s attention and how to best present a startup’s accomplishments throughout a nomination.
Want to know how we get such great results?
Read on for a breakdown of the three-step approach that’s helped us land our clients more than 40 award wins over the past year.
Step 1: Know Your Award Type
Not all awards are created equal. Some focus on individual contributors influencing people and products at a company. Others reward those who solve pain points in a specific industry. Still others celebrate revenue or headcount growth for an organization.
And then there are the thousands of awards specific to various industries, publications, and geographies.
To begin your research, first identify the type of award you want to apply for:
- People awards
- Company awards
- Leadership awards
- Revenue growth awards
- Product innovation awards
- Community or industry influence awards
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) awards
- Company culture awards
Word to the wise: there’s also a genre of “awards” whose organizers reach out via cold email to try to flatter companies into applying.
They usually require a steep application fee and are, in most cases, shady marketing maneuvers. Stay away from these, as they’ll cost you money and time but won’t help raise your credibility.
Step 2: Identify Your Nominee and Metrics
Spoiler: You can’t win an award without impressive candidates or accomplishments. So it’s important to identify who and what on your team deserves recognition, and then uncover the story behind the metrics (more on that later).
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a good candidate for an award:
- Did someone on your team go above and beyond to win new business in the last year?
- Does a member of your executive team deserve recognition for their outstanding leadership?
- Did your organization soar past projected revenues or headcount?
- Do you have a product that’s truly disrupting your industry?
- Is your organization or product the very first of its kind?
Once you’ve figured out what makes your startup or people stand out, it’s time to dig into metrics. Specifically, metrics that show…
- Growth: Identify growth in revenues, employee headcount, customers, product integrations, and / or industry partnerships.
- Innovation: Detail how your product or people have solved new problems or solved problems in new ways.
- Impact: Go beyond the metrics to share real stories of people, industries, and organizations impacted by the work of your team and marketplace solutions.
Let’s dive into that third bullet a little more, as effective storytelling is key to a successful award nomination.
Step 3: Craft Your Narrative
While numbers show impact, they don’t tell a story. And as you probably could’ve guessed, we at Propllr are huge fans of storytelling.
(And we’re not the only ones: for a judge’s perspective, check out What Makes a Good Award Nomination: Advice From a Judge.)
Rather than just reporting revenue growth, for example, tell how your startup reworked its entire sales strategy to overcome stagnant numbers. Instead of just reporting how many new customers you won, mention the flubbed email campaign that triggered the ah-ha moment that transformed your marketing efforts.
By providing details of exactly what your teams accomplished – and overcame – in order to impact the organization or industry at large, you’ll craft a story that resonates with the judges.
There are a few ways you can accomplish this.
When nominating a person: Interview the nominee or peers who work directly with them. Ask them why they think the nominee deserves recognition broadly, then ask for specific examples of what the nominee did to succeed.
When nominating a company: Sit down with leaders and team members across the entire organization. Ask executives what strategies and unique approaches they focused on to reach the company’s goals. Ask employees which teams, processes, and individual contributors they think made a difference over the last year.
When nominating a product: Meet with the brains behind the product. Understand what thinking and unique approach went into building a product that resulted in an innovative solution for the market. Deep-dive into differentiators that helped the product stand out among competitors.
The Winning Strategy
One final note on awards – and really, award nominations. It’s possible to have an incredible product or the most impressive nominee in your organization – and still not win an award.
It’s not just about being the first, the best, or the [insert accomplishment here]-est.
The way you present your nominee in your awards nomination matters.
Startups can find success with their nominations by weaving metrics with supporting narrative to showcase how the nominee is truly a standout in their field.
If it sounds hard, that’s because it is. It’s an art. But you can do it – we know you can! (And if you know you can’t but you want those sweet, sweet award wins, get in touch.)
Photo credit: RODNAE via Pexels