How to find and apply for local business awards

GrowCategory
8 min read
Alan Taylor

If you run a business, chances are you’ve seen advertisements for local business awards. You may have even seen a ‘Vote for us’ sign in your local retailer.

Have you ever thought of entering?

Maybe you’ve scanned the list of stellar nominations and thought you’d never stand a chance?

But have you considered:

  • How your business contributes to the local economy
  • How it creates jobs
  • How it’s changed people’s lives for the better
  • Why your customers keep coming back

When you prepare to enter a local business award, you begin to see the how your business has impacted the lives of your customers.

You start to hear great stories and you start to believe that maybe your business would make a stellar nomination too. But you still aren’t convinced you’ll win.

That’s the beauty of the awards, though. Winning really isn’t everything. Simply being nominated or shortlisted can put a spotlight on your business, bringing in new customers and partners.

Related: How and when to take risks in business

What are some examples of local business awards?

Rosemary Gillespie, Director of Proof Communications, which writes more than a hundred successful award entries each year for businesses, says multiple entities run local business awards.

“There are lots of different local business awards. Many local councils run business awards. There are also business awards organised by chambers of commerce. A good place to start is the Local Business Awards.”

Covering New South Wales, The Business Awards website includes the categories of:

  • Automotive services
  • Bakery/cake business
  • Cafe
  • Early childhood centre
  • Fast food/takeaway
  • Florist
  • New Business

In fact, each state and territory of Australia has their own local business awards.

The City of Melbourne runs its Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards for businesses with 20 employees and under.

Over in South Australia, the City of Norwood Payneham and St Peters celebrates local businesses within the categories of:

  • Hall of Fame (20+ years)
  • Best coffee
  • Best fashion retailer
  • Best pub/bar
  • Best independent small business

See their website for more categories.

Chambers of commerce and beyond

And as Rosemary said, your local chambers of commerce are another option when looking to enter your business for an award.

The Launceston Chamber of Commerce, with Spirit Super, run the Spirit Super Business Excellence Awards. Some of their categories include:

  • Marketing excellence
  • Exceptional workplaces
  • Excellence in customer service
  • Retail excellence

New businesses can also apply, with one category being ‘Excellence in a start-up.’ For a new business, this is a great way to gain recognition.

To find business awards in your area, check out your local:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Councils

Or just search for ‘business awards near me’ in your favourite search engine.

You can also look at your competitors and other businesses in your field to see which awards they’ve won. They may have won it previously, but they weren’t up against you.

This could be your year.

Two hands held high in victory
Photo: Jo Jo on Unsplash

Once you’ve chosen the award competition you’d like to enter, the next step is your application.

Related: A beginner’s guide to brand identity

How do I apply for a local business award?

Just as each state and territory of Australia has their own awards, they also have their own application process and criteria.

Often, you can enter your business or be nominated by a customer or supplier.

Completing your application can take considerable time, so be picky about your choice of awards to enter. You may find that you qualify for several awards; however, you also want the greatest return on your investment of time and effort.

The easiest way is to engage an awards writer. They can help:

  • Identify the right award for your business
  • Find out how you meet the award criteria
  • Write your application with an objective eye

They pride themselves on their success rates, so will do everything they can to present your business in the best light.

If you’d rather do it yourself, Rosemary has some tips.

“First up, carefully read the entry information. Get familiar with important details such as the different categories you can enter, the closing date, the questions you must answer, word count limits for your responses, and the judges’ evaluation criteria.

Once you’re clear about what’s involved, write your responses to the questions.

It’s essential to include facts and figures as evidence for your achievements. Judges are impressed by statistics that show growth, for example.

You can also use testimonials — positive personal reviews from your customers — and anecdotes. Lastly, write in the first person; that is, use ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘our.’”

Here are some other things to consider including in your local business award application:

Your staff

Are your staff happy? Do you offer reward and incentive programs?

How about employee leave above what’s legally required, like:

  • A day off on their birthday
  • The option to dip into their long service leave after five years of service

Start thinking about what makes your business a great place to work.

Innovation

Do your people brainstorm and implement ideas that your competitors imitate? Do you encourage new ideas? What do you do if an idea doesn’t work as expected?

Are you willing to discuss it, work out what went wrong, and try again? Share any standout stories you have.

Community

More business awards are focussing on how businesses engage with the community.

  • How does your business contribute to the community?
  • Do you use your social media to raise awareness of local charities?

Growth

Some awards look at business growth and sales.

Others focus on challenges, like how your business overcame the difficulties of COVID, remained operational — or even grew.

Now that you have your data, plan out how you’re going to use it.

Make a list of what’s required

Create a list of key points you want to include so that nothing gets forgotten, making sure you add the information required.

You may have more interesting points you want to add, but as great as they may be, you don’t want to leave out the essentials the judges have asked for.

Tell a story

Put yourself in the shoes of an award application reviewer.

Imagine having to read through applications that just stick to statistics and facts. Pretty soon, your eyes glaze over. But then you pick up an application that presents the facts in a compelling story.

Suddenly you’re awake and engaged with the way the business has:

  • Navigated difficulties
  • Grown, then hit more difficulties
  • Clawed their way back
  • Given back to the community
People working together in an office setting
Photo: Zest Tea on Unsplash

You find yourself cheering for this business that’s shown courage and heart. Anyone can provide Australian Bureau of Statistics-styled data but wrapping it in a good story can help your case. Just remember to stay within the word count.

Applying can be a lot of work, but the benefits are huge.

Related: 5 tips for telling a great story

What are the benefits of winning a local business award?

While marketing your business can get your name out in front of potential customers, winning a local business award can propel your business further. Nothing proclaims you’re the best better than winning an award — in any arena.

This differs from advertising your business, because when you advertise, you’re saying your business or your product is the best. And that’s expected.

Winning a local business award can bring your business to the attention of people your advertising doesn’t reach.

“Entering a local business award is a great strategy for growing your profile and that of your business. Being shortlisted or winning builds credibility. It’s a great plus to add to your company’s CV. And business award success is wonderful for team bonding, as there’s almost always a fun awards gala evening,” says Rosemary.

Local business awards: worth the effort

Winning a local business award can:

  • Increase your name recognition in your community and your industry
  • Boost your credibility
  • Give you an edge on your competition

And when you win, make the most of every opportunity to broadcast the news — on your website, shop counter or showroom, and on social media.

An award is marketing and publicity that you can’t buy.

And while there are benefits from winning, there are also benefits to just going through the process. Because when you do, you get a picture of the strengths of your business and what you can improve. Plus, the bonus of bonding with your team towards a common goal.

And that’s one of the great things about entering local business awards — even if you don’t win, you can’t lose.

Editor’s note: If you have a small business but no business website, now is definitely the time to get one. Build it yourself — truly no tech skills needed! — or let the pros at GoDaddy build one for you.