Q: We’ve been working really hard to build the reputation and profile of the business, and I am now considering entering some industry awards. Do they have any gravitas with guests or are they purely a vanity piece? What’s your take on them?
Being a complete cynic, awards are most often a commercial money maker for those that organise them. Sponsorship, entry fees (sometimes), ticket sales, associated marketing spend; all can be gained through running an awards ceremony. That does not mean however that they don’t have value and in fact I regularly draft entries and submit clients into various awards. The trick is to invest your time wisely and know your own objective when entering. Let’s explore some of the benefits for entering.
There are two types of guest value that can be gained through awards and accolades. The first is validation and the second is new business. Validation comes at the point of purchase for your guests, when they are booking a stay, restaurant visit etc. At this stage, awards ‘validate’ the purchase and can provide reassurance that they are spending money wisely. Influence statistics vary, but on average results of research surveys find that about 75-80% of people admit to being influenced by award wins at the point of purchase.
New business can be obtained through certain award wins, but note the word certain. When considering what to enter, consider the profile of the awards. Some trusted awards will drive new guests to your business, intrinsically because they are well-known and well-respected by the general public. Largely (but not exclusively), the older, more prestigious and long-standing awards have more credibility, but they can also be harder to win! It’s also worth considering who is running the awards and what their day to day purpose is. For example, many Directory sites will run annual awards and then provide a year-round profile of businesses. Winning these awards adds an additional new business stream in that they are recognising those on their sites who do the very best.
If new business is your driver, go for the big hitters; if you’re happy with validation for your existing guests, then broaden your horizons and consider lesser known awards too.
Staff retention and business value
Awards are not just good for external value; they can have significant value for your team and business too. Your business will thrive with a stable, strong team and awards are a great tool for confirming how well you are doing. The entry process makes you stop and consider what you are already doing and if you are clever, help highlight where you can improve too! They also pit you against other businesses you might not ordinarily encounter and the award ceremony provides you with opportunity to network among similar peers and learn from them too.
For your staff, award wins come with kudos and a feel-good factor, particularly if you highlight and thank them for their individual contributions. Celebrate wins and getting to the finals and thank your team for playing their part. I was visiting a client recently, some of whose team was at an awards ceremony at the time; when they received the news they’d won, they immediately gathered the whole team together, announced it over the phone and the euphoria and feel-good factor in the team was immense. They’d all played a role and they all felt the benefit. It was fabulous. As an added bonus, consider which categories you enter – some, such as ‘Best Front of House Team’ will directly recognise your staff’s contribution to the hotel and these are great for retention too!
Learning and growth
The great thing about hospitality awards is that although the similar businesses in your category are technically competitors, there are other factors which contribute to a guest’s buying process such as location, reason for visit etc. This means that unlike other industries, it is unlikely you are directly competing for the exact same custom, at least not enough to impact your bottom line noticeably. This is where you have a huge opportunity to learn from others and set-up beneficial learning partnerships to help your businesses grow mutually. These partnerships thrive or fail on the basis of openness and honesty, so you need to be prepared to share, but over the years I’ve seen some work really effectively.
As long as you have the time to put into the entry process and do it justice, and can afford the related spend on tickets etc. there really is no harm in entering and there is quite a bit to be gained. Whatever you do, don’t forget to focus specifically on the judging criteria – a lot of businesses I have worked with over the years trot out the same stock phrases for award entries and then are surprised when they don’t win. Consider exactly what they are looking for and how best you can answer it, to give you the best chance of winning.
This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Hotel Owner