Making the most of industry awards

First published in Fairfax NZ Unlimited 23 September 2014

The elections weren’t the only major event in New Zealand this weekend. While John Key and his fellow politicians competed agressively with one another, vendors competed equally fiercely for recognition in the 2014 Fonterra Global Vendor Awards.

As a guest of my Australian client Vacupack (a manufacturer of thermoformed plastic packaging for the food industry) I was on your side of the Tasman this week to witness the disappointment and the glory of the many companies that work with Fonterra.

These being the first Fonterra awards the family-owned business has entered, and given the power of the almighty dairy giant’s brand, it was a very big deal for the Vacupack team.

If you’ve ever contemplated or entered your own business into awards of any kind, you’ll know the process can be incredibly cumbersome and pretty costly too. And I don’t mean the cost to enter, but rather the cost of your time preparing for and filling out the submission forms, dotting the Is and crossing the Ts.

If your business works with consultants, I’d highly recommend you bat this one over to them. I’m not just saying that because I’m a consultant drumming up work for my peers, as I have to be honest with you, those submissions are no one’s idea of a dream gig. Jot down some bullet points and outsource if you can.

Awards are one of those intangibles that are difficult to put a true value on, but they certainly don’t hurt the reputation.

For New Zealand companies trying to break into Australia, any edge you can have over another company is worth pursuing. Let’s face it, we’re all a little impressed when we see a badge on a piece of collateral. It stands as shortcut code for these guys must be doing something right.

A number of New Zealand companies I speak to believe their brand is enhanced by winning, making the shortlist or even just being nominated for Australian industry awards. In fact, if you have the inclination and the reason to enter awards in other international markets, you should. It adds another layer and makes your business relevant to the local market you’re targeting.

However, like sponsorship, awards are only as good as the attention they receive.

It’s an unspoken rule in the marketing industry that you need to spend just as much promoting your sponsorship as you do paying for it. That means have a plan to promote the award at every stage, making the most of the co-branding opportunity with organisers, other worthy nominees and so on.

In Vacupack’s case, we kicked into action as soon as the announcement was made. Quick and easy wins that included an email to all clients and contacts through Vacupack’s newsletter, the website was updated straight away and a LinkedIn announcement was made.

Regardless whether we won or lost, we already marketed Vacupack’s selection as finalists in two categories with gusto. Being recognised by Fonterra speaks volumes, here and in Australia.

And guess what, we won!

So the story goes on to live another week and, in practical business terms and Vacupack’s work packaging Fonterra products in Australia has been validated by an important client to the industry and to all staff. That’s the kind of value that’s priceless.