Ten Tips on How to Win Awards

Marketing is a creative enterprise and, when all is said and done,a highly competitive business internally as well as externally. To measure creativity, various organizations hold competitive award shows for the different projects marketing people do. For instance, web design, print ads and of course,  TV show commercials.

By the time most marketers have five years experience or more they’ve participated in, and maybe even won an award or two, from such an event. Of course, if you’ve entered and didn’t win you may be feeling a little discouraged about the whole experience. Perhaps you think you lost because the judges work for a rival company or because they knew the winner personally.

As someone who has judged a number of shows for organizations such as the Business Marketing Association and Direct Marketing Association, I can tell you that while both of these suppositions may be possible, they are highly unlikely. Almost all shows are set up to avoid any kind of favoritism. First, judges are asked to excuse themselves from judging work produced by their own company or by anyone they know well. And in most competitions individual entries are judged on their own merits not in comparison to others.

But there are real reasons an entry can lose even with a great concept and super execution. If truth be told, all too many losing entries are handicapped from the start because they were entered incorrectly. Below is a list of ten guidelines to help you make the most of every competition you enter and seriously increase your chances of winning.

  1. Enter the right show
    Most award shows are geared toward a particular niche in the marketing industry such as highly innovative design or business-to-business marketing that has produced measurable results. So before you consider competing with your peers make sure the piece you’re entering is suitable for that particular competition. No matter how funny that radio spot for a leading toothpaste is, it does NOT belong in a business-to-business marketing show. On the other hand, if you designed a killer trade show display for widgets, make sure the show you’re entering has a category not only for trade show displays, but trade show displays with budgets similar to yours. Furthermore, entering the wrong show is a waste of time, effort and money because your entry may be disqualified before any of the judges even see it. And even if it remains in the competition, the judges will be expecting it to be something that it’s not. However you slice it, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone.
  2. Enter the right category
    Every show has different criteria for each category, and if you don’t pay close attention to these specifications you may find yourself competing on an uneven playing field. For example, it would probably be a mistake to enter a multi-dimensional promotional piece in a competition for direct mail packages. Even if a note or response device has been included with the promotional piece, it still may be an inappropriate entry for a category designed for letter packages. When a piece is entered incorrectly it confuses the judges and this alone will cost you points.
  3. Make your entry statements brief, clear, and memorable
    As in almost all other aspects of marketing, when it comes to award show entries, less is more. Don’t try to impress the judges with your knowledge of industry jargon and acronyms. Just give them as much information as they ask for on the entry form in clear, succinct prose. If you must use acronyms, define them the first time you use them. (Keep in mind that different companies and industries may use the same acronym for two totally different things.) Tip: Include factual data about the positive results the entry has made to your client’s bottom line. It’s amazing how demonstrable profitability can add a patina of beauty to even the ugliest design.
  4. Answer all the questions
    In shows where results are highly valued, answering questions regarding sales outcomes can make or break your chances of winning. Of course, you may not always have results to submit either because they are not yet known or because the client never shared them with you. In the former case, include this explanation in your application. In the latter case, call the client and ask if they have any insights they can share. By the way, it is not enough to say “the client was pleased.” Or that “the piece met their expectations.” Remember, the point of the question is to give the judges an objective measurement of what your work accomplished. So share as much information as you can to help the judges understand why you’ve submitted this particular piece in the first place.
  5. Include all the pieces
    If you’re submitting an entry with several parts to it make sure ALL of them are included in your presentation. Otherwise it’s almost impossible to properly judge the entry fairly and your score will reflect it.
  6. Show the real thing, not photos of it
    Pictures may be worth a thousand words but a two-dimensional presentation is never as effective as one in 3-D. Unless your submission is a trade show booth, all parts of the ACTUAL piece should be included in your entry.
  7. Show “before” and “after” when appropriate
    If your assignment was to update a look, re-brand a product, freshen a logo, etc. show the  project“before” as well as the “after” you worked your magic. It’s much more impressive, especially if the piece you’re submitting isn’t all that creative. You can still impress the judges by showing how much of an improvement your work is over what had been done before.
  8. Take your entries seriously
    Award shows can help you cement current client relationships and develop new ones. After all, leaving a show with an award in hand not only confirms your expertise among your peers, it confirms your client’s good judgment in choosing you as their agency. (Not to mention that clients been known to switch their business from one agency to another based on which Creative Director took home an award!)
    Take some time and effort with your entries. Use the entry form to explain why your piece is better than all others. (Yes, it is extra work but so is a new business pitch.)  Have the folks who actually worked on the project fill out the forms. They know the full story of how and why a piece was created. Inside tip: Telling a good story about the development of your piece can help you win as much as the piece itself. Second inside tip: Brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s the key to producing winning entries. Third inside tip: Writers are generally better at this sort of thing than art directors/designers. If you’re a design shop and a copywriter wasn’t involved in creating the entry, you might want to consider hiring a wordsmith to help your designers tell their story.
  9. Neatness counts
    Type your entry form if at all possible. Remember the entry form is a marketing tool – use it well.
  10. Don’t hurt your own brand by entering junk
    Every piece you enter in a show is a reflection on the brand and reputation of your business. It’s better not to enter anything at all then to submit less than excellent work. Enough said.

Hope this helps make your next foray into the world of awards a successful one. Good Luck!

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.

Why Don’t I Rank? A Google Audit

WhyDontIRankPNGThis Presentation will:

(1) Diagnose common technical SEO problems with free tools
(2) Learn to separate technical problems from marketing problems
(3) Understand the basics of competitive SEO analysis

Speaker: Dr. Peter J. Meyers, Marketing Scientist, Moz

dr-pete-2015-smDr. Peter J. Meyers (AKA “Dr. Pete”) is Marketing Scientist for Seattle-based Moz, where he works with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content. He has spent the past three years building research tools to monitor Google, including the MozCast Project, and he curates the Google Algorithm History, a chronicle of Google updates back to 2002.

How to Network During the Holidays

Network for the Holidays!

The holidays are the perfect time to network for several reasons. First, people are more open to socializing with professional colleagues at all levels during this time of year. Second, on just about any given week from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, someone is throwing a party – including the Chicago AMA. (By the way, you can click here to register for the party now, if you haven’t already done so.) Third, the holidays are an ideal time to reconnect with past employers, colleagues, college friends, and peripheral people in your network via e-cards, traditional holiday cards and social media postings.

There are however, some cardinal rules to follow during all of these activities, whatever the season. Here they are:

  1. Make it Personal – the point of networking is to develop personal relationships with other professionals whether peers, vendors, educators, investors or potential clients. While you might want to avoid discussions on politics and religion, sharing views on just about everything else should be considered fair game. Family. Sports. Books. Food. Hobbies. Exchanging information about professional histories is fine as long as it doesn’t sound like your reciting your resume.
  1. Don’t Sell, Celebrate! – Making a sales pitch when networking is not only rude, its counter- productive. The idea is to make people who don’t know you well, want to know you better. Having someone try to sell you something in a social situation does not accomplish this.
  1. Give to Get – Make a point of going out of your way to help others in any way you can. If you ask someone what they do and find that they’re looking for work, ask them for a resume to see if you know someone who has an opening. If you do, you could help two people – the job seeker and the employer. If it turns out you’re unable to help them, let them know that you tried. The job seeker will appreciate that – and you.

There are two main venues to network during a holiday – parties and cards. Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of both.


Holiday Parties

  1. Drink very little and very slowly. Getting high during a business event is to invite disaster. So don’t do it. You might also try eating something before you go out. That way you can pick and choose what to nosh when you’re there and concentrate on getting to know people.
  2. Try to meet the company’s managers. If you’re new to the company or have never met its C-suite occupants before, look them up in the company directory and/or on LinkedIn before the party. When you meet, use their name, tell them yours and your connection to the company or group and make a positive comment. Here’s an example. “Hello, Mr. (name of CEO), I’m Jane Doe and I work in Marketing. Thank you for this wonderful party. It’s a lovely way to begin the holidays!” Be charming, positive about all things – especially the person you report to, your co-workers and your future with the company.
  3. If your co-workers are talking to people you don’t know, join them. Listen to the conversation attentively and, when it’s appropriate, introduce yourself. If you have something to add to the conversation, do so. If silence follows the introductions, ask the people you don’t know how they know the people you do Get them to talk about themselves, their history with the company, what they’ll be doing for the holidays, etc. Pretty soon you’ll be part of the gang and connected to a new group of friends.
  4. See someone standing alone? Smile and introduce yourself. Many of the world’s most interesting people also happen to be shy. If you approach them first you can make a friend incredibly quickly! Ask them about the food at the party (“Have you tried the Roast Beef yet? It looks delicious!”) Even better, ask them about themselves – “How long have you worked here, what department are you in, what do you like best about the company, and so on.” Then respond with information of your own. Asking people about themselves is the quickest way to convince them that you’re smart, interesting and someone they want to know.
  5. After the party send thank you emails to all the party planners and managers. If you’ve met them for the first time at the party, follow up with a snail mail card with your business card inside and a personal note about what part of the event you enjoyed most. If it’s appropriate, suggest that you meet them for lunch sometime in the cafeteria or for a drink after work to deepen the connection.


Holiday Cards

Sending a holiday greeting card is an easy way to reconnect with people whether you know them very well or barely at all. The great thing about cards is you can include a business card in them without seeming overly aggressive. You can also include a friendly invitation to connect in person for coffee, drinks or a meal after the holidays. Here are some options for you on how to use holiday cards to build, retain and deepen networking relationships.

  1.  Send digital nondenominational holiday cards to as many people as you can. There are several vendors who you can use. For example, Jacquie Lawson (www.jacquielawson.com) has an exceptional card selection for all types of occasions. For a low annual fee, you can send out as many cards as you like, as often as you like to an unlimited number of people, throughout the year. But try to send them to a personal email address since some business networks may not accept them.
  2. Design, create and send out your own holiday cards. If you’re a writer or designer this is a super way to remind all the people you’ve worked with, interviewed with and networked with throughout the year of how talented you are. Make sure to “hallmark” each card identifying it as your own work. Something as simple as “Card designed by (your name, 2015)” on the back should do it.

Whichever way you connect or reconnect with people during the holiday season, remember that the purpose of networking is to build long-term friendships that can help you in the future. The best way to start is to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Only do it first.” Happy Holidays!

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.