#1: Don’t forget the basics
No one knows your business better than you. This means that it’s easy to rush in and talk about all the amazing work you have been doing, and forget that the judges have probably never heard of your business before. Take a step back, and start at the very beginning – with the basics – when and why did you set up the business, and what did you hope to achieve?
#2: Don’t be vague
It’s easy to gloss over some of the details in your entry – we get it, the word limits are fairly tight – but being specific and including facts and figures is important for the judges. If you are talking about supporting other rural businesses, give us a number and tell us a little bit about them, or if your are describing training a group of staff, tell us how many! If you want to tell us that your business is award-winning, instead, list the awards you have already won – this will be far more impressive!
Bonus tip – if you are struggling with the word limits use our additional information section to upload a presentation or word document to make sure you have the chance to include everything you want to tell the judges.
#3: Back your claims up with evidence
Entries that back up their claims are always more impressive. If you can support your entry with evidence – do it! This is especially key for questions that ask about your business’s impact on the economy and the community – if you want to talk about fundraising for a local cause, mention how much you have raised, or if you want to talk about bringing visitors to the local area, estimate how many.
Again, uploading supporting documents can be really important here – if you want to tell us that you offer great customer service, include some reviews or customer testimonials praising it! Or, if you want to tell us how profitable your business is, include some financial information backing that up.
#4: A picture speaks a thousand words
We always recommend uploading at least 3 to 5 images to your entry – more if your business is particularly visual. This is for several reasons. First, adding pictures helps to make your entry stand out, and grab the attention of the judges. They also convey details that are difficult to do with words alone.
We also recommend uploading images as we often receive photo requests from journalists following shortlisting. If you have already included images in your entry, this process is quick and easy, and makes you much more likely to receive media coverage.
Lastly, we may use your images in our own marketing activities. If you would like to feature on our social media channels, or in our fortnightly newsletter, include images in your entry. We also require an image of people related to your business for our event programmes.
#5: Share your customer reviews
An important way to wow the judges is to include your customer reviews. Whether you simply screenshot them from facebook, google or tripadvisor or add them as a word document, they are a really effective way to demonstrate the success of your business. One of the categories the judges scores entrants on is customer engagement, so including testimonials can make a really noticeable difference in your overall score.
#6: What makes you rural?
We may be stating the obvious, but we are the Rural Business Awards. To really do well at judging, you need to demonstrate what makes you rural. Pay lots of attention to this question, as well as the ones on your impact on the rural economy, community, and way of life, as they are very important when it comes to scoring your entry.
If you are drawn to the Rural Business Awards in the first place, chances are you have lots to talk about here! But, a few ideas could be your location, and why you chose to be based rurally, how your business or product serves rural people, communities or businesses, and whether the product or service you offer promotes or celebrates aspects of rural life.
If you are stuck for ideas, just get in touch with the team via firstname.lastname@example.org or 01163 800525 – we’re happy to talk over your entry with you!
#7: Address all the category criteria
Have you seen our entry guidelines? They are essential reading when putting together an entry. They list all of the different areas that the judges will score your entry on, so you need to make sure you are ticking as many boxes as possible!
Depending on which category you choose, your entry should look very different. For example, a farm shop would fit both Best Rural Retail Business and Best Rural Diversification Project. For a retail entry, you would emphasise things like customer service, how you source your products, the way you market your business etc, while a diversification entry would need to address the farm business as a whole, and the reasons for and process of diversifying.
If you aren’t sure which category to enter, just get in touch with the office, or why not enter several different ones? Each category is judged separately, so your entries won’t influence each other’s success – plus, you’ve got two chances of winning!
#8: Include financial information
Every year, the judges tell us they wish more entrants would include financial information. This can be really basic – just an overview of your turnover and profit would be ideal. However, one of the categories each entry is marked in is financial evidence – if you don’t include any information, the judges can’t give you any points.
It’s such a shame for a really impressive, detailed entry to be let down in this way – scoring a zero can have a big effect on your average score, so please don’t risk it and include some financial information!
If you are worried about sharing this kind of information, firstly we take your security seriously and all of our judges and staff members sign a non-disclosure agreement. Secondly, this information is often in the public domain anyway – on Companies House. If you still feel really uncomfortable, you could just share your information in terms of percentages of growth.
#9: Tell your story
Telling the story of your business can be a really engaging and memorable part of your entry. It is a chance for the judges to really connect with your business on an emotional level, and some of the best entries tell us how and why their businesses exist. For example, in their entry Cotswold Distillery told us all about how they grew their business through crowdfunding, and this has led to them being featured in April’s edition of our magazine, In Your Field.
Make sure to talk in detail about your vision for the future, too. It’s a great way, especially for smaller businesses, to prove that your business has the potential to grow.
#10: Show off your brand
An element that entrants often forget to include is branding. You’ve probably spent a decent amount of time developing your brand and how your business appears to customers or clients – it’s an important part of your business strategy and so should be addressed in your entry in some form.
It might also be helpful to think of the judges as potential customers – you want them to remember your business so make sure you show off your branding.
A good way to do this is through a presentation – branding tends to be very visual, so you can explain your strategy alongside relevant images. If you’re not the most computer savvy person – don’t worry! You can always put the information you would use for a presentation in a word document and upload that instead.
Don’t forget – we’re here in the office to help with the technical side of uploading and adding documents to your entry – just get in touch.
#11: Ask for help when you need it
The Rural Business Awards team are all on hand to help you through the entry process. Because we don’t have any impact on the judges we are free to give you all the help and advice you need to submit your entry.
If you need to ask any questions, want to talk through how to answer a particular question, or want us to check your entry for you just get in touch. Call 01163 800 525 or email email@example.com
#12: Add a presentation
Including a presentation is another good way to make your entry stand out. They are ideal to demonstrate the story of your business, as they combine text and images in an effective way. By uploading additional documents like presentations, you can talk about all the strong points of your business without being constrained by the questions and word limits of the entry form.
Some entries almost entirely use the form, answering the questions in great detail, and only uploading a few supporting documents, videos and images. Others answer the questions concisely, but include a wealth of supporting documents and presentations. Both approaches can score highly with the judges – it’s up to you and what best suits your business.
#13: Send in a sample
This option is only available after shortlisting (as that is judged remotely), but if you really want to take your entry to the next level, send us a sample of your products. This really important for food and drink entrants, but is worthwhile for any business that offers a physical product. We’ve received everything from beer to goats cheese, greetings cards to scarves, dog toys to portfolios of work!
If you want to send something for the judges to see (or taste!) drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we are happy to return products to you following judging, so just make sure to tell us you want it sent back in your email.
#14: Let your passion shine
It’s your passion for your business that makes it unique, and if you can give the judges a sense of that, it will ensure you stand out from the crowd. Remember that your entry doesn’t have to be completely dry and serious – try to infuse it with some of your personality! Now is the time to boast about your successes, and let your business really shine.
#15: Remember to click Submit!
Now that we have removed our entry fee, it can be easy to forget to press this all important button! If you haven’t submitted your entry, the judges won’t be able to see it on the system, so PLEASE don’t forget!
As you can still edit your entry after you have submitted it, it might be worth submitting at the start of the process (just fill in the required fields with a single letter), and then going back and filling out the form in detail.