By Katrina Olson
Last April, I judged the tED magazine Best of the Best Awards for the 9th consecutive year. I know we say this at the awards ceremony, but the entries truly do get better and better every year. The entry forms reflect a greater commitment to strategy. Gone are the days of “hit-or-miss” campaigns and product launches that took a shotgun approach to marketing.
Today’s strategic marketers are conducting research, identifying specific target markets, creating customer personas, establishing goals, outlining objectives, supporting their goals and objectives with effective tactics, and evaluating the results of their efforts.
What does a good marketing effort look like?
Over the years, the judges (past and present) have developed specific criteria to evaluate marketing efforts submitted to the Best of the Best Competition. These criteria are based on solid marketing principles and the experience of judges who come from academia, electrical distribution and professional marketing firms:
- Clear goal, objectives and strategy
- Materials are focused on the customer, not the company
- Copy is well-written, easy to read and offers clear benefits to the customer.
- Good execution, clean design, well organized and easy to follow.
- Reinforces the company brand
- Includes a call to action, contact information or other way for the customer to follow up.
- Content is relevant and valuable to the target audience.
- Includes value-added user tools and information.
- Websites are easy to navigate.
In addition, the judges also consider the following:
- Takes a less-than-glamorous product and markets it well.
- Offers a unique approach to solving customers’ problems.
- Uses resources well; capitalizes on strengths and opportunities.
- Responsive to trends in the marketplace, industry or world.
- Effort is based on research.
Why do some of the same companies always seem to win Best of the Best awards?
The answer is pretty simple: because they’re good at marketing.
Every year for the past nine years, I’ve received calls from someone at tED magazine asking why company X’s entry didn’t win an award…because someone from Company X called tED magazine to ask why they didn’t win an award. Often, these callers have theories about why they didn’t win—all of which are pure fiction.
So, before the competition even starts this year, I’d like to debunk some of those theories.
The Best of the Best competition is not a beauty contest.
Over the years many entries have won primarily because of their strategy and results. Yes, of course the execution has to be professional, clean and pleasing to the eye, but the research, planning and strategy behind the effort is just as, if not more important.
It’s not about who has the most money.
As in past years, many of last year’s entries were produced in-house, by highly competent and committed marketing staff members. In most cases, the judges do not know who, specifically, worked on the marketing effort. Further, hiring an agency does not guarantee success. If an agency doesn’t take the time to get to know your industry, company and customers, their efforts may miss the mark.
Likewise, advertising expenditures in tED magazine do not affect who wins awards. The judges don’t know how much advertisers spend in tED and we don’t care. We’re judging entries solely on their own merits.
It’s not a popularity contest.
In fact, judges have voluntarily recused themselves from evaluating an entry or participating in a discussion because they had a relationship with the company submitting the entry. At least half of the judges are from outside of the electrical distribution industry, but are chosen for their marketing expertise.
It’s not about handing out as many awards as possible.
No matter how many entries are submitted to a category, if the judges don’t feel any of the entries are deserving of an award, no award is granted. This maintains the integrity of the competition and encourages participants to continue raising the bar.
Not winning a Best of the Best award doesn’t mean an effort was bad or ineffective. It simply means someone else’s was better. As I told my nephew once when he was complaining about a friend’s new car, “Someone is always going to have a nicer car. Someone is always going to have a prettier girlfriend. Someone is always going to have a bigger house. Be happy with, and proud of, what you have, and keep trying to do better.”
Are you trying to improve your marketing efforts every year? Are you talking to your customers to find out what they want? Are you taking courses or reading books or articles to develop your marketing skills? Are you tapping people inside or outside of your organization who have the specialized skills you need to produce stellar marketing efforts? Are you learning about new marketing tools and technologies to make your marketing more effective?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you have some work to do. And I wish you success in all of your marketing efforts, whether or not you win any awards. The reward is increased sales and profits for your company; the awards are just icing on the cake.
If you think your company’s marketing efforts do deserve an award, learn how to enter the 2016 Best of the Best awards competition at tEDmag.com/best.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at email@example.com via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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