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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Awards programs -- the great uplift

Corvanelli Home's "Pearl" model wins OCHBA People's Choice award

Third-party awards programs can be a powerful boost to your business, especially if your business is small, new, or dominates a niche. They will probably be a disaster to your ego if your business is large, mediocre, and wishes 'control' in your marketing plan (unless you elect to pay to participate in what are essentially 'pay for your award' marketing gimmicks.) Finally, if you are an association or publisher, operating an awards program can be truly rewarding for your group or business; creating good-will and often significant streams of additional revenue.

We will need to wait a few months to confirm whether John Corvanelli's Corvinelli Homes reaps significant benefits as the Ottawa Citizen People's Choice winner in the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders Association Housing Design Awards. My bet is his business will surge. He is a modest-sized builder, perhaps constructing 10 homes a year, in a rural area outside of Ottawa. I'd never heard about his business before he received the award.

He tells me he felt some shock at the price of the association members dues when he joined a couple of years ago. His goal, to obtain some recognition from his peers and a housing design award. He entered one home in the competition.

Ottawa's major daily newspaper sponsors a People's Choice award in conjunction with the Capital Fall Home Show where visitors can select from all the various candidates for specialized awards their favorite. Corvanelli's "Coral" model won the prize. For his business, it is the top end home, and at a price of more than $300,000 is certainly not inexpensive in the rural area he serves -- but in the more urban areas nearby, this price would seem incredibly low (and Ottawa is certainly not the most expensive housing market in Canada or the U.S.)

How many people will call him when his home is written up in the homes page of the daily newspaper; how many others will feel comfortable committing to purchase knowing that hundreds of others voted in favour of his model as their favourite? How much would he have to pay for this attention if he tried to purchase conventional advertising?

Yes, indeed, awards programs can be absolutely incredible if you are smaller or getting started.

But what if your business is larger, and you are the marketing specialist there? Then you have more difficult choices. There may be few things more demoralizing than when your team spends hours preparing an entry of its best work, then your company spends hundreds of dollars to pay for tickets to the awards dinner, only to find you don't win. And this happens with disturbing frequency. Simply put, many businesses achieve success and efficiency as they grow but lose some of the magic edge that makes them the truly best at what they do. And their employees' ego, reinforced internally by business scope and size, grows beyond the marketplace (and award judges) perceptions. Wham. Here, the awards program proves to be a powerful reality check.

The solution is either to specialize and truly lead in a niche (bathrooms or kitchens, for example) or buy your award. Yes, these types of awards programs exist. They'll take your money, set up a rigged survey, and then give you permission to market your business touting your award 'win'. I'm really cynical about these things -- sadly, I see some really good businesses apparently buying into these fake awards. I suppose they work but they don't seem right to me.

No, I prefer an honest award won by a business that is catapulted to fame and recognition because it does great work -- like Corvanelli Homes.

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