I once received an email from an awards organization letting me know a client had won an award titled “Best Asset Manager in Wisconsin.” The award-giver apparently overlooked the fact that this client is based in Massachusetts.

But not to worry! The awards program simply changed the title of the award to “Best Asset Manager in Massachusetts.” If I’d said the client was interested in attending a ceremony or buying a reprint or something else with a price tag attached to it, perhaps the award program would have changed the title to “Best Asset Manager Anywhere, Ever.”

That nonsense awards program is not one I’d submit for again. For it and some others like it, the answer to the basic question “Does this have any merit?” is a clear “no.”

Since awards are often time-consuming to prepare, we need some more questions in the decision-making process. I think these are useful ones:

  • “Is the award sponsored by a reputable organization that is meaningful to your customers or clients?” If sponsored by a news organization, the time and effort it takes to articulate why your firm or product should win an award can be time well spent as it could help open the media organization’s eyes to your firm’s good work.
  • “Does your organization have a shot at getting short-listed?” Getting short-listed gives you something to note on a website. It’s an honor in and of itself—particularly for a smaller company short-listed alongside larger firms.
  • “Does the category fit—and is this category possibly one in which a nomination you submit can stand out?” Especially for smaller, niche-oriented firms, we’ve found it’s helpful to zero in on award categorizes where competition may be less. Of course, you have to be able to tell a good story in that category.
  • “Will your organization’s audience recognize a win as a meaningful accomplishment?” Check to see who’s won in recent years. Same for those who’ve been named finalists. Have those organizations announced the award to an audience you care about?
  • “Does the awards program require finalists to attend an awards gala?” If so, make it known a representative is available and be prepared for the corresponding travel expense.

A true high-quality award win can provide powerful marketing support for a year or even more. It pays to select wisely and dedicate strong effort in the right category at the right time.