The ROI of Winning Awards

February 1st, 2010

A Short Story

It’s true. Winning is fun. Winning a lot is more fun. And winning big time is just a bit more fun even than that. When I got the e-mail that my submission had taken my Fortune 200 client from #32 to #1 in a prestigious global ranking, I shrieked. Jumped up and down. Ran around in circles. I’m guessing some of my clients did the same.

OK, so…what? What did it really mean to my client in terms of impact on their business? Can they trace any sales back to that one data point? Nope. Nor can they tie specific revenue to any of the other 15 awards I helped them win in the past ~15 months. So if an award falls in a forest and there’s no one there to measure it…

The value of these 15 awards really hit home when I was asked to revamp the division’s global sales presentation, and I got to the awards slide. I wrote an instruction to the graphic designer to make room for several more award logos, and changed the title to, “Trust the World’s #1 Learning Organization.”

That’s huge. A slide full-o-logos and a #1 headline is a powerful dose of objective affirmation. Does it guarantee a sale? Nope, but it’s a pretty good bet that it will move the needle on consideration. It’s hard to not take notice – and that’s true for prospective hires, partners and vendors, employees/morale and, lest we forget, the C-suite.

This company obviously understands that well. Not all do.

I was recently contacted by a tech company wanting help winning recognition for two important clients, by nominating the senior IT person at each for an up-and-coming CTO award. Mind you, the deadline was in two weeks. The woman said they usually paid $500 or $1,000 for a submission (I don’t know who agreed to that fee but they don’t think much of their own work).

I asked what the company’s win rate was for that award. Um, zero. Hmmm. Then I asked how much each of those clients spends annually. She didn’t know (hmmm), but agreed it was likely $1M+. In short, they were only willing to invest .05%-.1% of a client’s annual spend to strengthen that client relationship. And instead of delivering prize and pride, they made their clients and themselves, well, I won’t say it because it wouldn’t sound nice, but it’s the opposite of winners.

Do these vignettes get us any closer to understanding industry award ROI?  You tell me. Your comments are most welcome.

    • Jenna said:
    • My company invests heavily in industry awards every year. Our top competitors do, too. I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to stop applying! Actually, people feel a lot of pride about the awards we win. Yes, it’s hard to measure, but it’s just another intangible among many.


    • Sue O'Keefe said:
    • great post. We feel very strongly about the value of awards for companies as well. In recent articles on, we talk about ways to promote your awards successes both outside your company as well as inside (check out the “Advice” area). Jenna is spot on saying internal pride is a huge factor — it’s a great recruitment tool as well.


    • Deb Arnold said:
    • Jenna, you’re spot-on! I’ve had some client team members grumble about having to take time from their deliverables to provide background information, but when the awards roll in they are so excited and proud (award tip: before embarking on an award initiative, explain to you team the why and WIIFM – what’s in it for me – and introduce your award expert with an uber-supportive message). I am most gratified when I see those ecstatic e-mails from hard-working professionals whose efforts and expertise has been recognized so publicly and with so much prestige. I can see them beaming! It’s the best part of helping my clients win.


    • Deb Arnold said:
    • Thanks, Sue, and of course I love your site. What a great resource! You’re right on the money with your advice, too. The fact that there’s so much advice to give just underscores how challenging awards can be for the uninitiated (or overwhelmed with other priorities – wait, isn’t that nearly everyone?). And yes, awards are incredibly valuable for attracting top talent.


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