The window for entering the 2019 Professional Adviser Awards opened this week so we asked seasoned awards judge Kevin Carr for his top tips on penning a successful entry. Go on - there's no time like the present ...
Writing a successful award entry can be time-consuming. You need to write a compelling story that brings your business to life while also providing hard evidence of your success - and all within the stated word count. Once you get the hang of it, however, future entries - and success - can become second nature.
Winning a well-regarded category, and beating a few competitors along the way, can bring many benefits. As well as raising your profile, it can add credibility, generate new business and help with retention and recruitment.
What is also great about awards in the financial services sector - especially for financial advisers - is the entry process across the industry typically varies from one to the next. Some are based on votes, some require a written entry about the business, some involve a face-to-face interview while others need case studies.
I have read more than a thousand award entries over the years - and won and lost a few as well - and while some were good, unfortunately most continue to be quite poor. So here are a few general tips across the industry (along with some pet hates) that I know I share with several other regular award judges, on how to go about writing a winning entry.
1. Take it seriously
Read the criteria carefully and write a relevant entry. Each award will have its own entry criteria, which will often vary for each individual award. Take a bit of time to read it and revert back to it when checking the entry to make sure you have understood the entry process and have covered what the judges will be asked to look for.
2. Think about the client
Try not to focus too much on internal developments and instead think about what your business has done that has helped your clients. Whether it is outstanding advice, providing a service or anything else, an entry that does not mention the client will not impress many judges.
3. Be outstanding
If you have not got much to say you might not want to bother entering. But if you do, try not to promote ‘the average'. Sometimes entries make a big play about something everyone should be doing every day as part of their normal job. 'We expect our advisers to pass the necessary qualifications', say, or ‘We trawl the market to find the very best solution.' Well done, but is that not really your basic job? Think about what else you have done to differentiate your business and add value.
4. Get off to a good start
Write an exciting intro and make your best points first. Judges will often have dozens - if not hundreds - of entries to read and, while they really are all read, it can be a time-consuming process. As such, building up to your killer point, which might take a thousand words to reach, may not be the best strategy.
5. Back it up
Back up your claims with evidence and detail. It is baffling how many entries talk about a firm's good intentions without including any facts to back this up. Not every firm can be a ‘leader in social media' while, of course, every company claims it ‘puts the customer at the heart of its proposition'. Merely saying it, however, does not really mean anything - the trick is to prove it.
6. Stick to the truth
Judges will often know if you are embellishing the truth. ‘We are a leader in social media' - Really? ‘We regularly attend XYZ industry event' - OK. ‘We regularly contribute to ABC working party' - Honestly? ‘We regularly feature in the press' - Great. Now prove it.
7. Include feedback and endorsements
Independent feedback, especially from clients or industry participants can be very persuasive. Including a positive sourced quote or two from a client or service partner cannot really do any harm and could be the difference between two strong entries. That said, anonymous quotes may not carry much weight.
8. Avoid talking about the future
Steer clear of talking about things that have not happened yet. That big new shiny deal you are trying to win? Well, you have not won it yet, so save it for next year's entry.
9. Don't forget the basics
- Put your company name on the actual entry: a high proportion forget to do this and judges often need to read halfway through the entry before knowing who is under consideration
- Don't copy and paste a sales aid
- Don't send in an old entry that was written for a different set of awards
- Stick to the word count
- Don't miss the deadline
- Don't waffle and don't waste your words
- Avoid excessive punctuation
- Don't say you are unique (unless you can prove it)
- Avoid using a lot of links (they can get lost in an online 'entry management system' and the judges may not see them)
- Don't break confidences
- For face-to-face interviews, avoid using handouts and really do turn up in person. Don't dial in
10. And if at first you don't succeed …
Don't be put off if you entered before and did not win. Try, try, and try again.
In total, some 200 advisers, firms and providers were under consideration for the 2018 Professional Adviser Awards, which seek to reward excellence within both the financial advice community and among the broader financial services sector.
All the shortlists for the 2019 Awards will be announced in October, with the winners declared on 7 February next year at a black-tie ceremony in London. For more details on all the award categories and associated entry requirements, please click here
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PA Awards deadline is 28 September