Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Becky S. Wilson, @WDSPRMaven.
Becky is the Chief Visibility Officer at WDS Marketing & Public Relations, a boutique agency based in Overland Park, KS. Becky and her team uniquely utilize media attention, accolades, awards, business milestones, events, social media and other prime public relations opportunities to help clients get known in the most positive, dynamic, profitable and highly enjoyable ways. WDS has assisted clients in receiving more than 200 awards and honors, including many Small Business, Woman-owned Enterprise, Minority-owned Company and Entrepreneurial Business of the Year designations. WDS clients have been featured in local, regional and national business magazines and newspapers. For more information visit:http://wdspr.com/
Smallbizlady: HOW CAN SMALLER ENTERPRISES STAND OUT IN A CROWDED MARKETPLACE?
Becky S. Wilson: It doesn’t really require a big budget to out-maneuver the competition, no matter the size of your business. There are public relations options that can draw attention to a small or emerging enterprise in a positive way. I suggest first establishing a winning attitude. Then, after mustering some moxie, owners and entrepreneurs should seek out and pursue awards, honors and recognition. They will soon discover that there is much to be gained by doing this.
Smallbizlady: IS IT REALLY ACCEPTABLE TO USE THIS TYPE OF SELF PROMOTION?
Becky S. Wilson: It is vitally important to promote your company professionally whenever possible. Don’t choose to fly under the radar. A business leader who shies away from awards is the best thing that can happen to a competitor. If you are more comfortable being modest, you are leaving the door open for rivals to walk across the stage into the spotlight. People can’t do business with you if they don’t know about you. Awards can bring attention to you in a unique and cost effective way.
Smallbizlady: HOW DOES WINNING AN AWARD GENERATE INTEREST?
Becky S. Wilson:
The activities associated with an award program can help in generating interest in several ways. There is usually an award ceremony that is highly touted by the organization presenting the honors. At the event, hundreds of people learn about the outstanding accomplishments of the honorees. Newspapers and magazines cover the story with profiles of award winners. Awards are often announced on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When people search for a business online, the news about their awards will be on search engines for several years.
Smallbizlady: ARE AWARDS IMPORTANT IN BUILDING A CUSTOMER BASE?
Becky S. Wilson: Participating in awards programs can help enhance credibility which is vital in gaining new business. Buyers on all levels say that they make their decisions based on information they find about the business through various sources. They may want to know about reputation, reliability and stability before they make a purchase. Seeing on a website or a LinkedIn profile that a business has been recognized with an award for achievements helps to reassure them in a subtle manner.
Smallbizlady: HOW DO AWARDS BOOST THE IMAGE OF A BUSINESS?
Becky S. Wilson: Building brand and a positive image are beneficial components of seeking awards. For example, when a company is recognized as an outstanding enterprise by the local chamber of commerce, it is then generally held in high esteem by the business community. Owner are often asked to speak at events or serve on leadership boards. Awards can bolster pride in-house, too; seeing the trophy on the shelf reminds employees that they work for a respected business.
Smallbizlady: WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS TO TAKE WHEN SEEKING ACCOLODES?
Becky S. Wilson: Before tossing the hat into the ring and applying for an award, the marketing department should determine the brand messages the business owner would like to convey and promote. Is what they are selling or doing unique or innovative? Are they proud of a high level of customer service? Do they want to be known for offering a positive work environment, or for inclusion and a diverse workforce? Are they altruistic in their business model?
Smallbizlady: ARE THERE OTHER AWARD ACTION ITEMS TO FOLLOW?
Becky S. Wilson: There should be written detailed descriptions and examples of each brand message that relates to how the business has excelled in it. I also recommend assigning someone to take professional photographs throughout the year of the employees in action. Ask clients or customers to write letters about their positive experiences, too. This level of preparation will lessen the stress when completing the award application.
Smallbizlady: WHERE CAN BUSINESS OWNERS FIND AWARD PROGRAMS?
Becky S. Wilson: Nearly every industry, organization, chamber of commerce, newspaper or business publication seeks to shine a light on outstanding enterprises, clever retailers, or brilliant entrepreneurs via awards. There are specific honors for woman-, veteran-, and minority-owned companies. Other award programs recognize sustained growth, innovation, leadership, diversity, customer service, and excellence in employee development. The Internet and public relations agencies are good resource for locating award opportunities.
Smallbizlady: HOW DO AWARD PROGRAMS OPERATE?
Becky S. Wilson: There are two options used to get award entrants; nominations and self-application. General business award programs (Small Business of the Year, Top Company Awards, etc.) usually ask people to nominate worthy businesses. The nominator provides them the contact information and the business is then sent an application to complete. Remember not to be shy! Ask your lawyer, accountant, or favorite client to consider nominating your business. When you receive the honor, he or she should be your guest at the award ceremonies.
Smallbizlady: WHAT TYPES OF AWARDS ASK FOR SELF-APPLICATION?
Becky S. Wilson: Many industries, such as marketing, advertising, technology, human resources, accounting, retailing, and architecture, ask for companies to apply for their awards. They will want documentation of outstanding campaigns or projects. There may be a fee to participate. Several national entrepreneur award programs also operate with applicants and documentation requirements. They then present their awards at highly publicized regional or nation enjoyable events.
Smallbizlady: ARE THEIR WAYS TO GAIN ATTENTION AS AN HONOREE?
Becky S. Wilson: Instead of just putting the plaque on the wall, businesses should take advantage of social media, events, and newspaper coverage or place advertisements to celebrate their honor. Also post photographs on Facebook of the owner accepting the award and make announcements on Twitter and in newsletters. I suggest hosting a celebratory reception for clients and employees. Public relations agencies can assist in building a campaign around the award, too.
Smallbizlady: IF A BUSINESS DOES NOT WIN THE AWARD, WHAT’S NEXT?
Becky S. Wilson: Not every business can receive an honor the first time he or she applies. Should your business be passed over for the award; don’t be discouraged. I advise revising the application, then trying again next year. On the plus side, there may be media attention for the award finalists, or opportunities to network with the candidates. Just by seeking the award, you are identifying your business as a winner, standing out from the crowd and getting noticed!
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
For more tips on how to start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.