Business Awards As A Marketing Strategy – An Interview With Founder Russ Fordyce

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Russ Fordyce, Founder of the Business Intelligence Group

Today we have something special for you – an interview with Russ Fordyce, the founder of the Business Intelligence Group. The Business Intelligence Group runs a variety of business awards programs, and, as you are about to learn, business awards might just be the marketing strategy your company has been waiting for.

Why? Let’s find out!

The Social Ms: Hi Russ, thank you for answering our questions! Tell us a few things about the Business Intelligence Group – and the business awards you run of course.

In 2012, we launched our first program, The Business Intelligence Group Awards for Business – BIG Awards – that offered general business awards. I refer to them as “the of the ____ year” awards.

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Our idea was to create what we call “crowdsourced business awards” to ensure that our judges have real business knowledge and can relate to the participating companies.

A few weeks after we launched in 2012, we had good traction on our website from potential nominees, and we started having real business experts joining our judging panel.

But, the most encouraging “win” from that initial program was when Gary Griffiths, the former President of WebEx when it sold to Cisco, reached out to us join as a judge. That single small success breathed life into the concept and made me double down efforts.

I knew I was onto something!

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The Social Ms: What makes your awards programs unique?

We knew we had to do more than pair great people, products, and companies with experts. So I thought long and hard about how we could increase the value proposition for both sides of our awards equation. The nominees and the judges both needed to “win” in multiple ways.

For judges, we realized that they want to give back, share their learnings with others and increase their own exposure. For nominees, I analyzed my own experiences and had an “a-ha” moment when I found that there was a missing feedback loop in almost every program I had been a part of.

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No program that I knew of let nominees get better simply as a result of participating, and there was nothing that let judges gain exposure for the wins they helped generate.

So we added a feedback loop closing that gap and setting us apart from nearly everyone else.

The Social Ms: How did you get the idea of starting a “crowdsourced business awards” program?

Early in my career I was in the publishing industry where recognizing and awarding companies was a regular topic. I couldn’t help but realize that their model of recognizing companies was solid but also flawed.

While many publishers have awards programs, most use their editors and writers as judges. Some specialized publications have reporters with decades of expertise who are qualified to pick winners but most general purpose magazines, newspapers and websites don’t have the real world business experience needed.

We wanted to update that model and crowdsourcing the judges allowed us to get the experts we needed and with scale.

The Social Ms: How do you measure the success of the Business Intelligence Group?

Our only measure of success is, for lack of a better term, customer feedback. Our customers are both nominees AND our volunteer judges, so we ask always both groups what went well, and what didn’t. Without that feedback loop in our process, I fear we will end up like the publications selling dead trees.

The Social Ms: Let’s talk about business awards as a marketing strategy: How can an effective marketing strategy based on business awards look like? And how do business awards relate to other marketing strategies?

You have to realize that business awards programs are a form of public validation for your company – and that validation is something that every company needs in order to grow! Potential customers look for validation of your products or services – like testimonials, online reviews, and business awards.

Business awards are an especially powerful form of validation because they are awarded by experts and they supply you with a “medal”, a badge, or a trust seal.

My best advice for companies is that they look for multiple sources of validation and diversity in those sources. Validation comes in many forms, and business awards are just one source.

Testimonials, online reviews and business awards should all be in your validation stew.

You should also look to diversify within each source. Especially with business awards.

You don’t want to win the same award for 20 years unless it is the penultimate award. You also don’t want to have one customer provide all your testimonials unless again it is the penultimate customer! Mix it up. Boost Marketing maintains a huge list of Business Awards you can research.

Source a variety of testimonials as well. Different customers validate different components of your business. Customers in different industries and customers who value your company for various reasons: product, price, service, support, experience, etc. The same is true for business awards. Look to win a variety of awards from multiple sources.

The Social Ms: How can winners and nominees turn the validation through business awards into a marketing strategy?

The great thing about business awards programs is that they exist in many different variants – from local business competitions to vast international business awards programs. And almost any aspect of a company can achieve validation in the form of business awards.

Most business awards programs run their own PR as well – and they will highlight their winners. Winning business awards gives you a lot more than just a shiny badge for your marketing material. Journalists like a compelling story for instance – and winning business awards might be your missing piece.

The vast variety of business awards programs out there make this a great opportunity – you can run in a few awards programs per year – and even if you do not win the first time, you can still fix your mistakes in the second run. Grab every opportunity for validation, feedback, exposure and PR the programs provide.

Through repetition, this becomes a hugely scalable marketing opportunity!

The Social Ms: What are the chances of winning an award once you enroll and what happens if you don’t win? Can you profit from losing?

Your chance of winning any award comes down to quality. The quality of your company within the category you are enrolling in, as well as the quality of your nomination. Both have to be excellent.

In our ebook “How to Win Business Awards and Influence Revenue” we detail how to achieve that high quality by both analyzing your own business to understand why and where your success lies and by making sure the nomination is completed in a way that allows for success.

And if you do not win, make the most of your efforts by asking questions of the judges and award organizers. Try to determine what led to the other guy winning. Then learn from that knowledge so that you have a better chance of winning the next program you enter.

The Social Ms: How can a company identify the best awards programs that they need?

When researching award programs, companies should evaluate the categories, judges, deadlines, nomination process, rules and past winners of each program to determine if any are a match. Companies should also determine what needs to be validated. While some companies need to validate their product, others might need to provide validation on their post-sale process, like customer service.

When I evaluate anything, I usually create a scoresheet in Excel so that as I research items I can put a checkmark or note next to each item considered. If there are unknowns, I always recommend sending a concise email asking all the questions you need answers to.

Business Awards As A Marketing Strategy-The Social Ms: Do you have advice for companies running in business awards? What do you often see nominees doing wrong?

As with any purchase, make sure to do your homework. Good awards programs are not pay-to-play, so you only have a “chance” to win. Doing your homework researching programs is well worth the investment in time and money.

The other advice I have for nominees is always…always have your nomination proofed by a word nerd. We use Scribendi for all of our proofing. Having a professionally edited document gives you an edge because judges aren’t struggling to read and follow your nomination.

Finally, before hitting “Submit” re-read the rules and make sure you follow them to the letter!

The Social Ms: Thank you, Russ, for talking with us!

Whether you run a startup or a huge corporation – business awards might just be the one element your marketing strategy has been missing. Russ already mentioned the Business Intelligence Group’s ebook “How to Win Business Awards and Influence Revenue” – and I want to highlight it here again. You should absolutely read these 32 pages of marketing education.

Russ has also been so kind to provide us with a bonus code for the Business Intelligence Group’s awards programs. Sign up for any of their awards programs with the code


to receive a $50 rebate!

What are your thoughts on using business awards as a marketing strategy?

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